What the Spell?
It totally sucks being invisible.
Sure, if you had your pick of superpowers, you might wish for invisibility, but when you actually are invisible, the novelty of it all wears off pretty fast. Take my word for it. I’ve been invisible for the past fifteen years of my life.
Not physically invisible, of course—that would be a different story entirely—though I’m sure there’s a spell for that. No, my ability to walk through life practically undetected is more of a social curse. And the truth is, being so average that you don’t fit in with the nerds or the popular kids sometimes sucks beyond belief. Because in that case, you don’t fit in anywhere.
But tonight my non-life as I know it will be over and everything will change.
“Ooof,” I choked as my shoulder was nearly taken off by a member of our school’s football team slamming past me. “Hey!”
Brad Pinkerton, who’d scored more than half the team’s
points at last week’s football game, looked back at me curiously before turning around and continuing on his way. My mouth fell open as I realized his eyes had focused on the space right above my head and not even on me. Chances are, he forgot about running into me almost as soon as it happened; I wasn’t even a blip on his radar.
I rubbed my shoulder and thought about how there was a reason football players wore padding. That bump was really going to leave a mark.
Happy birthday to me.
Turning back around, I shuffled on down the hallway, listening to the lively chatter coming from the cafeteria. The mixture of conversation and laughter made my heart race as I got closer and closer to the hub of the school. I stopped just outside the door and surveyed the scene.
There were all my classmates, having fun with their friends, eating their lunches, catching up on gossip. Each table was like its own little stereotype. There were the jocks, the alterna-kids, the drama group, the band geeks, the metrosexuals, the losers—every type was represented, and everyone fit somewhere. Only, one group in particular stood out above them all.
Just the name alone was enough to make you wish you could be a part of it. They were the ones who ruled the school, set the status quo, decided who was popular and who would be social outcasts. The Elite were both revered and feared. It was a widely accepted fact that its members were as dangerous as they were beautiful. Whatever they wanted, they got—no matter what rules or laws stood in their way. Of course, no one knew anything for sure, but there were enough rumors
floating around—blackmail, cheating, and stealing, to name a few—that I couldn’t assume they were all made up.
But their supposed run-ins with authority seemed to only add to the attraction, because they were put up on pedestals around here. Literally. Their table was the only one located on a slightly raised section at the back of the caf, which was probably a makeshift stage at one point but now acted as prime lunch real estate. The Elite were like teen royalty, and just like Kate and William, they had a loyal following.
I studied the group’s two leaders, Gigi and Camden. They were Clearview High’s golden couple. Both were seniors, both were ridiculously good-looking, and both were from wealthy and powerful families. The two even looked alike. It was almost narcissistic—like they’d sought out the opposite-sex version of themselves. Blond hair, big blue eyes, amazing bodies—if they weren’t always locking lips, you’d wonder if they were related.
The Queen G herself looked every bit the part. She had perfect posture and walked around with her head held higher than anyone around her. This not only made her seem like she was about ten feet tall, but it gave the feeling that she was always watching over you. She was impeccably dressed and perfectly coiffed, and when she smiled, you couldn’t tell if she was truly happy or planning something devious. As the head of the debate team, Gigi could argue anything—and you didn’t want to be on the other side of that disagreement.
And of course every queen has her king, and Camden was it. He was president of the student council, played on the school’s lacrosse team, and apparently planned to go into politics one day. Either that or he’d follow in his father’s footsteps and end up running his own Fortune 500 company or something. The fact that he looked like he’d just stepped out of an
Abercrombie & Fitch catalog didn’t hurt his cause either.
I was still watching them when Camden leaned over and planted a kiss on Gigi’s cheek, causing the whole student body to let out a collective “Awwww.”
The moment was immediately broken up by the two guys to Camden’s right, Rhodes and Wheatley, who exchanged a comment under their breath and then laughed loudly. Wheatley used to be on the football team but was kicked off for being too rough on the field. Apparently he’d averaged at least two concussions per game—giving, not receiving. Standing an intimidating six foot three, he was considered the muscle in the group, which meant that most people left him and the other Elite alone. And if they didn’t, Wheatley took care of them.
He and Rhodes were a package deal, though the two were complete opposites. Where Wheatley was aggressive, Rhodes was easygoing—and definitely the brains in the group. He had a photographic memory and could recall just about every fact he’d ever learned. People around school called him the walking computer, because there wasn’t a single topic he didn’t know about. Word was that Harvard had been recruiting him since he was a freshman, and if you’d ever seen the guy in action, you’d know why. This was probably why he was a part of the group—being able to hack into any system on the web no doubt came in handy. And the fact that he was as good-looking as he was smart didn’t hurt either.
My eyes swept over to the only other girl in the group: Eliza. It was hard not to envy Eliza. Her dad was the bona fide movie star Kyle Rivers; sure, he seemed to be doing more behind-the-camera work these days, but he had his own star on the Walk of Fame for God’s sake. As Kyle Rivers’s only daughter, Eliza was your typical rich kid. She always had the newest Louis Vuitton and upgraded her sports car every year. What
she lacked in brains, she made up for in dramatic interpretation. The girl was obviously her father’s daughter and could cry on a dime, which made it difficult to trust any emotion Eliza showed to the rest of us.
Together, the five of them reigned over the student body. They were treated better than anyone else because they’d convinced us they were better than everyone else. And of course no one challenged them for the throne. To be honest, why would you want to? They were pretty, popular, and powerful. They were elite.
And I wanted desperately to be a part of their group.
Sighing, I headed toward the cafeteria’s shake station to pick up my drink of choice: the Monkey Business. A combination of banana, chocolate, peanut butter, and fro-yo. It was the opposite of healthy, but it was the epitome of deliciousness. And it was my daily treat to myself for weathering another day at this school. Besides, I didn’t exactly have anyone to impress.
Been there, tried that.
The first couple of weeks of my freshman year, I’d had the misguided impression that I was going to be able to start fresh in a new school. Middle school hadn’t been entirely good to me; I’d had a friend for half the time I was there, but Kai was an exchange student who barely spoke English. And if I was really honest with myself, we were more like loners who chose to be alone together rather than friends. But when she returned to Europe, I went back to being on my own.
I was hoping that graduating to a new school, one where only a quarter of the people there had any chance of knowing who I was before, would be my chance to reinvent myself. During the first few weeks, I tried my best to dress like the other kids in my class, fix my hair like the girls in Seventeen
magazine, and mimic the actions I thought would gain me a gaggle of friends.
It was when nobody noticed the change in me and I was left with no more friends than I’d had before that I made my biggest discovery thus far in my short life.
You can’t will yourself into popularity. It is bestowed upon you if you are found worthy enough to have it. You either are or you aren’t. And it had been decided by the powers that be that I wasn’t.
After that, I sort of gave up trying. What was the point if things weren’t going to change?
And the alternative was worse as far as I was concerned. Other wannabes tried to force themselves into the circles of popular kids at our school, and it was like watching a train wreck. They tried too hard, offering to do the bidding of those with a higher social standing in the hopes that they’d edge their way in. But all they did was embarrass themselves as the popular kids treated them like slaves and then laughed at them behind their backs.
So, in a way, I guess there was a fate worse than invisibility.
I paid for my shake and then began to walk back across the cafeteria, taking a huge slurp of my Monkey Business. My eyes gravitated toward The Elite. Eliza was cutting an apple into smaller and smaller halves, and Gigi was sipping her Diet Coke out of a straw. I bet neither of them had ever had a shake in their lives.
How sad is that?
I was so focused on The Elite that I wasn’t paying attention to where I was walking, and before I knew it I was falling. Moments like this always seemed to happen in slow motion in movies, but for me, it all happened incredibly fast. I let go of my Monkey Business and reached out in front of me. A
second before my hands hit the floor, the shake made impact and exploded. All over me. It was like a chocolate tsunami and there were no survivors.
As I attempted to lift my upper body from the linoleum, I could hear people laughing around me. Without opening my eyes, I knew that they were probably pointing, cell phones out, ready to capture the moment and then post it on the web later.
“Omigod, who is that?” someone asked not so quietly.
“Hard to tell now,” another responded.
“What a loser.”
The conversation grew around me and I wanted to curl up into a ball and disappear. If there was ever a time when I’d welcome invisibility, this would be it.
I pushed myself up onto my knees and wiped at my eyes. Monkey Business dripped off my lashes and onto my lap. I looked around to see that everyone was still staring, some in horror and others with amusement.
I had to get out of there.
Leaving the remaining contents of my shake on the caf floor, I grabbed my bag and ran out the door as people began to clap behind me.
I went back and forth between walking fast and jogging, not wanting to get stopped along the way by any teachers before I reached my safe haven. In less than a minute, I burst through the guidance counselor’s door and tossed my bag onto a nearby chair before sitting down in the other.
“Oh. My. God,” Ms. Zia said as she hopped up out of her chair and reached for the box of tissues on the edge of her desk. She took a few out and handed them to me.
“Thanks,” I said grudgingly. There was chocolate everywhere. In my hair, my ears, down the front of my shirt—I’d be cleaning it off me for the rest of the day. Starting with my face,
I sopped up the brown liquid the best I could and then looked at her miserably.
“Who did this to you?” Ms. Z. asked, handing me a few more tissues. I placed the used ones in a pile on the corner of her desk.
“Me,” I said. “I did this to me. My clumsiness struck again.”
She looked at me sympathetically. “Oh, Brooklyn. What happened?”
“I wasn’t watching where I was going and tripped over something. Maybe a chair, or it’s possible it was over my own feet. Lord knows that happens often enough.” This was just one more way that I seemed to be socially cursed.
Ms. Zia leaned forward and wiped a bit of banana off my cheek. “And this is . . . ?”
“Oh.” Ms. Zia handed me the box and then went back behind her desk and sat down. “Sounds like you’re having a rough day.”
“Aren’t I always?” I grumbled, taking off my stained shirt to reveal a significantly drier tank top underneath. Reaching into my backpack, I grabbed the clean tee I kept in there for emergencies—believe it or not, spilling on myself happened more frequently than I’d like to admit—and pulled it over my head. I used the ruined shirt to soak up the rest of the milk shake from my hair before twisting it into a messy bun.
“I’m guessing this was just the tip of the iceberg, then?” Ms. Zia asked.
She pulled out a Tupperware container full of what I knew without looking was some sort of elaborate, healthy salad. I’d never seen her eat anything but a salad for lunch. Sometimes it had walnuts and fruit in it, other times it was heavy on the veggies. But it was always a salad. I looked down at my own sack
lunch, which contained a PB&J and chips. It wasn’t exactly the lunch of champions, but Ms. Zia never judged. That’s why I always spent my lunch hour in her office. That and the fact that she was my only friend at Clearview High. Lame, I know, having a teacher for a friend, but Ms. Zia was actually really cool. Unlike the rest of the student body, I felt like she really got me.
She was like the older sister I never had.
“Brad Pinkerton practically tackled me in the hallway, and it was like he didn’t even feel it. I swear, it’s like I’m—”
“You’re not invisible, Brooklyn,” Ms. Zia said firmly.
“How can you be sure?”
“Um, because I can see you.”
“Yeah, but how do you know that you don’t just have special powers that let you see invisible people like me? Or maybe I’m a ghost and you’re the whisperer. I bet this place is full of them. Kids are probably dying of boredom all the time,” I said.
“Ha, ha,” Ms. Zia said sarcastically, placing her salad container on the desktop. “Look, we’ve talked about this. High school isn’t really reality. All the people who are popular now and all the things that seem important won’t be when you leave this place. I know you think life would be better if you had different friends—”
“If I had any friends.”
“—but none of that’s going to matter once you graduate and go out into the real world. I’ve told you what happened to me,” she said, lowering her voice a bit. “Please just trust me. Popularity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and in the end, nobody’s going to care who you were in high school. And by this time tomorrow, everyone will have forgotten about your milk shake mishap.”
That was easy for her to say. She had no idea what high school was like for me.
Ms. Zia picked up her lunch again and took a dainty green bite. Silently, I unwrapped my sandwich. I knew this topic was a personal one for her, since she’d experienced it herself. Only, she’d been popular growing up. Quite possibly the most popular girl in her school. With gorgeous dark hair and a figure to die for, Katerina Zia turned heads everywhere she went. She’d been the homecoming queen, had the athletic boyfriend, dictated what was cool, and pretty much ran her school.
And then she graduated.
When she got to college, nobody cared who Katerina Zia was. Suddenly, her good looks weren’t enough to let her continue coasting through life, and people no longer focused on a social hierarchy in which she was at the top. After a tough transition freshman year, Katerina decided to study education and psychology and eventually became a guidance counselor. Now, as Ms. Zia, she’s come to look at high school differently.
And she was constantly trying to get me to do the same. Sometimes she took the older sister thing a little too far and I couldn’t help but get annoyed. But in the end, I knew she did it because she cared. And the thing we argued about most often? My school situation. She thought she knew better because she’d lived the life I wanted.
But I wanted the chance to be popular on my own terms.
“It matters to me,” I said quietly. “You of all people should understand.”
Ms. Zia remained silent as my statement hung in the air. Both of us—one a has-been and the other a wannabe—were haunted by our teenage selves. It was sort of tragically poetic when you thought about it.
I stole a glance at her and once again marveled at how beautiful she was. She was older than me, of course, maybe in her mid- to late-twenties, but she still looked young enough to be
a college student, with skin like porcelain and thick brows like you saw on runway models these days. Gorgeous didn’t even begin to describe her, yet I wondered if she even knew it.
Though Beauty and the Beast was exaggerating a bit, I knew that my looks paled in comparison to hers. My hair hung just past my shoulders and was a blah brown color that neither shone in the light nor did anything for my skin. My cheekbones were prominent, but not quite in the right way, and my face was bumpy to the touch thanks to a mild case of keratosis pilaris, a fun little skin condition that ensured I’d never have smooth, model-like skin. I was skinny, but tomboy skinny, and longed for some of the curves that my classmates had. Bottom line: it wasn’t like I was ugly, but I wasn’t really anyone’s idea of pretty, either.
“Well, I hope you get everything you want,” Ms. Zia said, sounding like she meant it. Suddenly, she reached down underneath her desk. “And to help those wishes come true, and to make up for what should have been a much better day, I’ve got a little something for you.”
After some shuffling, she popped back up, this time holding a single cupcake with a candle on top.
“Ms. Z.—you didn’t have to do that!” I squealed, grateful that no one else was around to hear how excited I was over getting baked goods.
“Happy birthday, Brooklyn,” she said with a big smile. I blew out the flame and watched as the smoke swirled up into the air, making designs as it lifted and then disappeared. Ms. Zia took out a plastic knife and cut the cupcake in half, letting me choose my piece first. I reached out and grabbed the chunk closest to me, shoving half of it in my mouth at once. It was chocolate with a peanut butter filling and buttercream frosting. I nearly fainted with delight as I licked the leftovers from my fingers.
Ms. Zia delicately pulled a piece off her own section and popped it into her mouth. How did she manage to make everything look effortless? I made a note to try to be more like her when I was eating.
“So, any plans for the big day?” she asked, changing the subject. “You having a party or just taking a spin now that you’re officially a licensed driver?”
“Nah, we’re not really doing anything big,” I said, waving off the idea.
My parents actually had offered to throw me a big party in honor of the occasion, but then I would’ve had to invite people. And when nobody showed, my parents would’ve found out that I didn’t have any friends, and that was a conversation I really didn’t want to have. So I’d said that I just wanted to spend the night with them. They didn’t question me about it, since they knew they couldn’t give me my birthday present when people were around anyway.
“Do you think there’s a set of keys in your future?” Ms. Zia asked, suddenly sounding like a giddy teenager. “Man, when my parents gave me my first car, it was like love at first sight.”
I laughed as she got a dreamy look in her eyes. “They might let me take the old Ford around the block once or twice,” I said.
“I’m telling you, Brooklyn, you’re going to enjoy your freedom,” she said. “It’s going to change your life.”
I nodded, because it was true. My life was about to change—but not for the reasons Ms. Z. was thinking.
The truth was, I came from a family of witches, and up until now, I hadn’t been allowed to use my powers. But my parents had promised to unbind my gifts the day I turned sixteen. I knew through witching chat rooms that most magically inclined kids learned how to cast around the same time they
learned how to walk. My parents, however, were beyond strict about magic. Their reasoning behind binding my powers was that they thought I should be mature enough to handle the responsibility it took to do magic safely. I think that, to them, magic equals freedom and my parents just weren’t ready to let go. They probably still weren’t ready, but they’d promised me that tonight was the night I would come into my heritage. After so many years of wishing I could use magic, I was itching to take my powers out for a test run.
And I already knew what my first spell was going to be.
“I think you’re right, Ms. Z.,” I said. “I have a feeling things are about to change around here.”