“That bastard,” Mark fumed as he dusted himself off, patting down his new anatomy with trepidation. Kat grinned. She couldn’t help but grin. Of all the horrible things Roland could have done to her friend, this stuck out to her as positively benign. It didn’t exactly colour her perception of Roland in a positive light, if he looked down on the possibility of being a woman so much he’d consider it a curse, but this was, at least, doable. At least Mark still had a reasonable number of limbs.
“Oh, calm down, Mark. Being a girl isn’t so bad,” she said, and patted him on the back. That earned her a withering glance, and she could tell Mark didn’t find this nearly as amusing as she did. Her friend’s eyes were red like he was ready to cry. “Hey, are you okay?”
“I just hope my incantation hit him too,” Mark said, his new, soft voice shaking a little bit. He was clearly trying to keep it together, but not really doing a great job of it. Not sure how to feel about this development, Kat crossed her arms and frowned. Maybe Roland hadn’t been the problem here; maybe the Mayweather kid had simply known Mark secretly thought women were a curse.
“You challenged him, remember?” she said. “Why are you so upset about this?” Mark looked at her, his eyes bloodshot. She barely managed to prevent herself from taking a step back. Her friend seemed genuinely upset. He grabbed his bag and started walking back toward the little plaza where they’d had their fight without saying another word.
Kat glared daggers at his back, but waited until Mark was out of earshot to let out a frustrated yelp before jogging after him. He was so frustrating. But she felt sorry for him. And this was partly her fault for suggesting it, though she would probably only admit it under threat of torture. Maybe. Her friend was more than a little susceptible to her (terrible) ideas, and she had on more than one occasion considered the possibility that Mark looked up to her. Now he was easily three inches shorter than her, so he had no other choice than looking up. She grinned to herself.
There was still a small crowd in the plaza. That was odd. She’d expected it to disperse after the two antagonisers had ejected in opposite directions. But clearly, Roland had already returned, because a new circle had formed itself around him. She didn’t know who else it could be. Mark was trying to wrestle himself to the center of the crowd, but people didn’t recognize him, and he didn’t have quite the musculature he had before. Kat followed suit, dispersing the crowd a lot easier than Mark could. Mark glared up at her, but she didn’t dignify that with anything more than sticking out her tongue at him. “Just say thanks, dillweed,” she said, loud enough that he could hear it, but it was in vain, because they’d reached the center of the circle. Kat frowned and looked back and forth between Mark and Roland, not sure who to slap first.
Mark, looking like a short girl with mousy hair, stared in triumph at Roland. Kat only knew it was Roland because of the girl kneeling next to him. A lot of rumours had gone around regarding Roland and Millicent, but Kat had taken them as seriously as she had Millicent’s name, and clearly ‘Millie’ had felt much the same way, sparing at most a single elegantly raised finger at people who jeered or whistled. Millie was cool, in that torn-jeans leather-jacket kind of way, and she owned ‘Millie’. Right now, however, there was no consideration of looking cool, largely because Roland was in a bad way.
He was sitting on the ground, sobbing into his hands. Kat hazarded a guess and assumed it was because Roland was now a leggy blonde, still easily six foot tall, but with beautiful golden hair cascading down his back, and Millie was carefully rubbing his back. When Kat and Mark approached, she looked up. Kat immediately threw up her hands defensively, but Millie looked concerned, rather than angry. However, she clearly recognized Kat and extrapolated from that who the seething girl by her side was, and shot Mark a glare.
“Him too, huh?” Kat said, kneeling down. Where Mark had been close to crying but focused on his Righteous Vengeance, Roland had clearly collapsed under the agonizing weight of femininity, something Kat was going to have to learn not to hold against him. She’d managed all her life; why was it such a hassle for him? However, the jeering from their fellow classmates wasn’t, in her opinion, warranted.
“Yeah,” Millie said. “That Mark?” She nodded at Kat’s smug-looking friend. Kat nodded. “You’re his friend, right?” Another nod. “I want to be mad at him for what he did to Roland, but uh…”
“Yeah,” Kat said. “Same.” There was a sniggering from the crowd. Some of the larger guys were looking down on the two girls with contempt. Kat wasn’t in the mood for this. She raised herself up to her full height (which, granted, wasn’t spectacular, but still) and held up her hands. Warlocks often used grimoires, tomes in which they collected the knowledge of the ‘infernal’ (hah) magic they conjured up. Witches found it easier to connect to a plane of existence where the magic they sought knew itself. Sure, they had to do studying, but they were, for all intents and purposes, wildly different ways of approaching magic. Most boys chose to become warlocks and most girls chose to become witches, but that was probably as much a result of branding and outdated gender roles as it was practicality. But it also meant she could pull a stunt like this.
“Everyone but the four of us leave or I’m testing out my new Brown Note Incantation.” For effect, a few muddy looking symbols appeared in the air, and the gathering of students dissipated after that. Now that things were more quiet, Roland’s soft sobbing was more easily heard. Kat couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. Mark still stood grinning over them until Kat shot him a look. For all of the attempts at foul glances he shot at Kat, a single one of hers brought him, in this case literally, to his knees. A small part of her smiled at the knowledge that her opinion of him mattered that much to him. A bigger part of her wanted to smack him. So she did.
“Ow! What? Ow?!”
“Why, pray tell,” Kat said, waving a finger in front of his face, which he had to go cross-eyed to look at, “do you think being a woman is such a punishment, hmmm?” Kat hissed between her teeth. She wanted to do the same thing at Roland, but she couldn’t slap a crying girl. Although, going by the thick tears rolling down Mark’s face seemingly out of nowhere, it looked like she had, inadvertently anyway. “Oh, what the fuck,” Kat mumbled, and she looked at Millie for… something? Support, probably. Millie could only shrug and keep one arm over Roland’s softly hiccuping form.
Roland slowly raised his head. When he and Mark made eye contact, it was like hearing a powerline go live. There was electricity in the air. Kat rolled her eyes again. They could be so damn dramatic. Slowly, a smile spread across Roland’s face. Comparing the two of them, Roland was what could be called more “classically” pretty. Roland’s new face was sharp, his already handsome face now positively angelic. In comparison, Mark was… well, Kat wasn’t one to judge, to her all girls were pretty. But Mark looked more like he ought to be wearing an oversized sweater and sipping hot cocoa in front of an open fire. Kat shook that little fantasy out of her head. That was no way to think about her best friend. She turned to Millie and found not fantasizing about the cute punk girl just as hard. She groaned internally at the horror that was her life, suddenly surrounded by beautiful women.
“Both of you,” Millie said. “Chill your shit. You’ve got your little bet. Congrats. Now what?” Mark and Roland shot a look at each other.
“I’m not giving up,” Roland said, undercutting his bravado with a sniffle and a wipe of his nose. “Not unless Mark is.” Mark shook his head with what Kat assumed he thought was bravery.
“You wish,” Mark said, and just a cursory glance between the two of them confirmed to Kat that they both wished they hadn’t taken it this far. But she also knew they were both too stubborn and too proud to walk any of this back. She knew Mark well enough for that, and knew boys in general well enough to come to a similar conclusion with regards to Roland. “I’m going all the way,” Mark said, and Kat knew in her heart of hearts that he thought he sounded cool. “I bet you can’t even last a month.”
“You’re on,” Roland said. “And we’re making this interesting.” The way he said that made the hair on Kat’s neck stand up, and she looked at Millie, hoping the cute punk girl would do or say something to make her friend shut up, but she was just as stunned as Kat. “And no asking the teachers for help. You have to be your new form until you give up.”
Mark took only a second to consider this until he nodded his head vigorously. “Deal! You’re going down, Ro-- wait, no. You need to use a girl’s name, don’t you?” he said, his voice dripping with malicious glee. Roland, however, seemed completely ready for that.
“So do you, but it looks like you already have one, don’t you, Rose?”
Mark shook his head, and Kat almost expected him to tut. “Tssk, no, if we’re doing this, I’m going to choose your name for you.”
“And I’m choosing yours?”
“That seems only fair,” Mark said.
“Alright then, Violet, you’re on.”
“Violet Rose?” Mark-now-Violet balked. “Really?”
Roland grinned, a tiny victory won with much more satisfaction than was clearly appropriate. But this ridiculous battle of tiny wills wasn’t over yet. Violet took a step forward.
“One last condition,” Violet said, and Kat was so close to tackling this idiot to the ground. However, a morbid part of her brain told her to hold off, to see where this was going to go. If things got out of hand, she could always tell a teacher, right? Violet kneeled in front of Roland. “I’m not going to bother with any of that he or him stuff. You’re a girl now, after all. Aren’t you, April?”
“April Mayweather?!” April seethed. Violet grinned. “Deal.” They shook on it. Kat and Millie made eye contact with a resigned sigh. Their friends were idiots, and Kat and Millie knew it. But at least they agreed on something. It was, well, something. Then, both the newly christened April and Violet both went their own way. Both of them looked at their respective best friends, but Kat shook her head.
“You go on ahead. We’ve got stuff to talk about.”
Violet and April both shrugged and left. April, she assumed, would be going home to her parents for the weekend. ‘Violet’ would probably be staying in her dorm. Although it was entirely possible that she would be assigned a new room as a girl. She wasn’t actually sure yet. Whatever, it wasn’t her problem right now.
“I’m Kat,” she said.
“Millie. That turnip is your friend?”
Kat nodded. “The tall hot one is yours?”
Millie raised an eyebrow. “Hot one?”
Kat shrugged. “You saw her.” Millie relented with a nod and a smile.
“Yeah, Roland and I go way back. Sorry, April.”
“Now what?” Kat asked.
“No clue. Let’s just try to keep them from doing anything dumb and killing each other?”
“Deal. Although…” Kat wondered aloud.
“Well, I think we should strategize. Meet once a week, see how well they’re doing. I don’t trust Ma-- uh, Violet, not to do something stupid if she gets desperate. If you and I stay in touch, we can keep them from imploding or something.”
“Does hhhhh-she ever talk about April?”
“All the time,” Kat said with a resigned sigh.
“Same here. Never shuts up about her.”
“Well, wanna meet up in the cafeteria on Monday? We can talk strategy then.”
Millie raised an eyebrow and Kat could swear there was an invisible little grin playing around her lips. “Alright, Kat. Good to meet you. Glad your idiot of a boyfriend bothered my best friend.”
Kat laughed so loud it upset a nearby set of pigeons. “You could have just asked, Millie. ‘Violet’ isn’t my boyfriend. Or my girlfriend, for that matter.” They shook hands. Kat was acutely aware of the fact that they held hands just a second too long. Millie’s fingers were slender, cool and very soft, and, trying to save face, she winked. “I’ll see you Monday.”
“It’s a date,” Millie grinned, and walked off too, leaving Kat to overthink the entire encounter.