In the following week, Kat had several brushes with Millie. Technically, April and Violet had been there too, but she was a little preoccupied by the goth girl. She wasn’t completely oblivious to her friend’s seething, of course. She did what was required, holding Violet’s arm while the latter pretended to need holding back to keep from fighting April. Millie did the same thing, but both of them couldn’t help but make eye contact while this happened.
On Wednesday, they had lunch together again, this time on the roof of the main campus building, having sandwiches while they talked about absolutely nothing and everything, both of them stealing glances at each other while they thought the other wasn’t looking (wrong, every time) and smiling when they caught a glimpse. Their position high up also allowed them to keep an eye on their wards, which turned out to be necessary when Violet and April seemingly ended up in a screaming match in the center of the campus grounds for no reason. To give each other the strength necessary, to make sure neither of them failed, they held hands during the levitation spell as they descended, and that was the only reason they held hands. That Kat’s skin tingled for the rest of the day was purely coincidence.
The screaming match was easily broken up, largely because April’s voice kept cracking and Violet seemed to be on the verge of tears. Both of them blamed the other for their difficulties, Kat noticed, but seemed largely unable to really pin down what those difficulties were.
“It’s your fault that… that… You’re cheating!” April screamed, and she seemed to be rooting around in her book bag for her grimoire, unable to find it, ready to start slinging hexes at Violet without a moment’s notice. She wasn’t aware of the fact that she’d almost forgotten it in class, and that it currently resided in Millie’s backpack. Instead, April found an apple and chucked it at Violet -- badly. It only succeeded in scaring off a pigeon that had been around to have a curious ogle at the two noisemakers.
“M-my fault? I… I can do this, Mayweather! If you think I’m not strong enough to do this without cheating I -- I’ll…” Violet, realizing what April was looking for, also started digging around in her backpack, but she didn’t succeed in pulling out her own grimoire, because Kat walked up behind her and put her hands on the now-smaller-girl’s shoulders, which Violet pretended to be shocked and annoyed by, but Kat knew she was secretly grateful for the interruption. Violet had been on a hair trigger at every interaction.
On Friday, it almost came to a head again when they’d both sat down in the cafeteria and one unfortunate student getting up revealed that they were sitting opposite one another with only a single table between them. They stared at each other all through lunch, trying to eat menacingly at the other. Millie and Kat had spotted their friend staring, followed the line of fire to the other table, and waved at each other sheepishly, and then both sat down opposite their respective best friends to break line of sight. This also meant sitting with their backs to each other.
“I hate her so much, Kat.”
“Shhhh,” Kat said, and ate her mashed potatoes. They were good mashed potatoes, she noticed with pride as her friend visibly seethed. She couldn’t bring it up, of course, but she was actually top of her class in botany, and she’d been helping the school’s kitchen staff with growing their own vegetables. It was cheaper, and considered good practice for the promising students.
“You know, I thought the hardest thing about this challenge would be the fact that I would have to be something else for a month, but I didn’t think…” Violet paused, probably looking for a way to phrase their next sentence in a way that didn’t sound like a compliment. “I didn’t think it’d be so hard to look my arch-rival in the face,” she finally said.
“Oh?” Kat wondered out loud. She probably shouldn’t have. She knew better than to encourage her friend’s obsessive rambling, but she had been curious to find out why Violet and April’s relationship had become even more testy as of late.
“She’s just… I mean… look at her!” Violet pointed at the other table with her fork, but Kat refused to give her the satisfaction of looking around. Besides, she’d only be looking longingly at the back of Millie’s head, and that wouldn’t have benefited anyone. “As Roland, she was already, you know, the typical ‘oh-ho-ho look at me, I’m tall and attractive’ jock type,” Violet said. Kat disagreed -- internally -- with that assessment, strongly. April had been tall, sure, but never a jock. And for personal reasons, she hadn’t really given the girl a lot of consideration as to attractiveness. Not pre-transformation, anyway. “But now she’s all… she’s like the queen bee, you know?! I didn’t think it’d be so hard to look at her, but it’s like she’s sculpted!”
Kat raised an eyebrow. “Are you saying the challenge is harder because you made your opponent too pretty?” she asked, trying not to laugh. This was, of course, exactly the kind of thing Violet would do, up to and including complaining about her own hubris. She wasn’t going to give her friend the benefit of pretending like it wasn’t. Violet angrily shut down and ate the rest of the better-than-expected meatloaf.
The next Monday, Kat and Millie had another sneaky lunch at noon, sitting back to back by the small brook that ran through the campus grounds, listening to the quacking of ducks while they both tried to focus on studying. After a while, consciously or otherwise, they had synchronised their breathing, and they were both acutely aware of the other shifting behind them. Millie had taken off her leather jacket -- it was too hot in the sun anyway -- and the black top she wore was of a thin fabric. So thin, in fact, that Kat was acutely aware of the fact that the other girl apparently went braless, something she was terrified of bringing up but could in no way, shape or form put out of her head. They compared notes about class, sitting shoulder to shoulder, and Kat tried not to be aware of how Millie smelled like old books and lilacs. She didn’t know that Millie was trying not to memorize what she smelled like, either. If she’d known, she might have made a noise, and she was already blushing heavily, though she lied to herself that it was because of the sun.
That afternoon, she had botany with Violet again. She’d been working with the teacher more to grow magically-enhanced vegetables, something she’d been getting exceedingly good at. It also didn’t annoy or bore her to be doing the same thing over and over again, getting slightly better every time. It was just very satisfying work, for her, and whispering soft magic into the roots of glowing plants and feeling their gratitude was all the encouragement she needed. This was in stark contrast to Violet, who was having trouble keeping a succulent from bursting into flames.
Kat had rushed over before the teacher could see the smouldering leaves and pinched out the little embers. “What the hell did you do?” Kat asked, a little incredulously.
“I was thinking about April,” Violet replied. Her face was stoic, but her voice betrayed the fact that she clearly felt guilty for having been caught.
“Plants don’t catch on fire when I think about people,” Kat reprimanded, and blew a little life into the plant. Not enough to give Violet a good grade, mind, but enough to keep her from blowing the class.
“I’m just so angry at her! And Dykstra was being a Dickstrap in class again, and he doesn’t even understand what we’re trying to do! And she looked so sad that I felt sorry for her. I felt sorry for my arch-rival, Kat!” Violet frowned as she recalled the events of class. It had, indeed, been a shit-show again. Dykstra had done his thing again, but seemed to have chosen to single out April this time, calling her Roland over and over again, calling her to the blackboard several times, scoffing at her inability to answer questions that, Kat knew, were too advanced for them. She wondered who she would have to report that too.
“I get being mad at Dickstrap,” Kat said, “but what did April do?”
“She’s just… she keeps saying I’m cheating and I hate it because this is actually really hard! And the accusations just make it harder, because she clearly thinks I’m not good enough, and it’s all that entitlement all over again. Spoiled brat.”
Kat’s head spun trying to keep up with the mental acrobatics going on, but she did her best, for her friend’s sake. “You’re saying you’re mad at her for -- from where I’m sitting -- being envious of you?”
“Yes! No! It’s the accusation! I’m having a hard time and I hate it when people tell me I didn’t get here on my own merits.” Violet paused. “Oh my god, do you think she’s taking pity on me?”
Kat remembered their latest interaction, which had resulted in the two girls almost fist-fighting in the halls again, foreheads pressed together. Kat could have sworn she’d heard the sound of cats hissing as they mumbled insults at each other. “No, no I don’t. Try not to kill your plant again, Vi, I’m not going to keep saving your ass every time.”
“What did you call me?” Violet asked, her frown dissolving like snow in the sun as she looked at Kat.
“Vi? Short for Violet?”
“Oh,” Violet said, and smiled a little bit. “I like that. It’s… ah… uh… cute.”
“Yeah,” Kat said, trying not to smirk as she looked at her smaller friend. “It is.”
The next day, she and Violet ended up re-studying their notes near the trees where they usually sat. Exams weren’t close, but they both knew that Violet wasn’t exactly a model student and could use all the help she could get, and Kat was a good enough student that she could afford to take the time out of her day to help her friend out. In Violet’s defense, she always paid Kat back with lunch desserts, something Kat had tried to resist for four months before she’d relented. Violet was clearly very grateful, especially lately, since her practical magic had been suffering, probably from the constant distractions she was suffering.
Violet sat up against the tree, going over Kat’s notes and comparing them to her own, when she heard April’s voice behind her. Even before, Violet had complained about April’s frustratingly charismatic voice, but now that she was blonde and beautiful, it had apparently been exacerbated. April’s voice was low and husky, like she was at all times recovering from a cold, and even Kat had to admit that it was a very attractive voice. “Studying hard, Rose? I know you need it.”
Violet didn’t look behind her, instead focusing on trying to look smug. “I’m only trying to stay ahead of you, April Mayweather. Not that it’s hard.”
“Taking new classes for witches only is a brave choice, Violet Rose, but trying to get your bad grades away from me won’t work,” April replied, walking closer.
“Oh, I know, I saw that you enrolled in the same ones I did. It’s brave, but foolish. I’m just doing it to prove that even as a witch I can beat y--” Violet’s voice caught in her throat as she turned to face her rival.
April was dressed in a beautiful summer dress, her hair was loose and blowing softly in the warm afternoon breeze, and a lot of time in the sun had apparently blessed her with freckles. She looked, Kat admitted to herself and nobody else, gorgeous. She noticed that Violet was blushing furiously, and she wondered if this was her being angry again, at the fact that she was finding it really difficult to be angry with the pretty girl in front of her. Not that she could blame Vi; she couldn’t find herself even thinking angry thoughts about April when she looked like this.
“W-why are you looking at me like that, Rose?” April demanded, self-consciously tucking her hair behind her ear and raising her book-bag in front of herself like a shield. “What are you planning?”
“I -- what? I’m not planning anything! Why are you… You’re doing this to distract me, aren’t you?” Violet stammered.
“I’m not trying to distract you! But maybe I should!” April began to raise her voice, though probably unintentionally. “You’re cheating again!”
“What do you mean, I’m cheating?! You’re the one who looks b-- g-- ridiculous!” Violet demanded, and began to get up, but April already stormed off in a huff, her cute flats kicking up little tufts of grass, and Kat and Violet both found it really hard not to keep looking at her until she was out of sight.
“What the hell was that about?” Kat mumbled, and looked over at Violet, who was pretending not to cry and failing, in large part because she was getting teardrops on Kat’s notes, and Kat was preoccupied with comforting her friend for the rest of the day.