Kat sat on Violet’s bed shoving handfuls of peanuts into her mouth. Elegance, she had once decided, was situational and subjective, and therefore not applicable to large chunks of her life. Helping her friend figure out advanced magical theory just a few weeks before cramming for exams began in earnest while simultaneously doing research on her own thesis was one of those situations where being ladylike had to take a backseat to stuffing her face with peanuts. Priorities, she felt, had to be kept straight. She had three separate books in front of her. Two of which were her own notebooks, and the third was one on warlock-to-witchcraft spell conversion.
While technically warlocks and witches were gender-neutral professions, many people tended to choose the one that, historically, fit them the best from a presentation perspective. Especially since a recently popularized show had ruined the masculine word for ‘witch’. A lot of the guys at school who’d decided to pursue witchcraft had been pretty miffed about that. Similarly, feminine warlocks existed but were exceedingly rare, which Kat blamed on gender-roles. A little voice in the back of her head piped up, reminding her that she, too, was a witch, but she squashed it by pointing out that that was only because the coursework was much more in her ballpark.
And now Violet wanted to switch to witchcraft, which Kat couldn’t blame her for. Wanting to feel validated in her newly-accepted femininity by pursuing feminine hobbies wasn’t necessarily ideal, but especially early on, every last crumb of euphoria was one she was willing to grant her friend. Her happiness was already positively impacting her grades, and now that she was no longer draining herself by keeping up an enchantment, she was likely to do even better. Kat wouldn’t be able to hold up the spell herself indefinitely, either, but she liked to think her use of magic was a lot more refined, and her grasp of the actual mechanics a lot stronger. The strain on Kat wouldn’t be too high, and hopefully they’d find a more permanent solution soon.
But in the meantime, there was some conversion to do. Switching courses happened -- teenagers had a tendency to experiment -- so they weren’t exactly breaking new ground here. Witches tended to lean on the more practical, physical aspect of magic use, while warlocks leaned heavily towards the more theoretical and, Kat felt, flashy parts of the arcane. Ask a warlock to build a fence and they were likely to draw glowing circles in the air, crafting the fence from the very foundations of reality itself. A witch, by contrast, might ask her neighbour to do it in return for an ointment that helped with the shoulder that had been hurting. Warlocks got things done quicker and more explosively. Witches had a tendency to live longer.
Some books had been written on the subject, and Violet had been studying them, so in between the flying crumbs of peanut, Kat tested her on the basics of applied empathetic psychology and its relation to animal husbandry. To Violet’s credit, she was doing quite well. She’d never been a great warlock, and she’d probably never be a great witch either, but the more grounded nature of witchcraft was a good way to get her out of her own head, which she needed right now.
Violet had been worrying about April, and probably with reason. April was supposed to come out to her parents tonight, and so far, Vi hadn’t heard from her. Millie was apparently out to dinner and a movie with her parents, so she wasn’t available to be on standby. So Vi tried not to check her phone every five minutes while she recited the literature, and Kat tried not to worry too much about her friend while she figured out if offering to grow levitating potatoes -- levitatoes -- would get her chased out of her teacher’s office. It was raining softly outside, and the sound of rain against the window was helping them both concentrate a great deal. She’d cracked open a window ever so slightly to let the earthy smell of petrichor in.
Violet’s dorm room was quite large, one of the perks of being an ‘officially’ low-income student. It was a traditional two-person room converted for a single person, including a very small kitchenette. It wasn’t much, but Vi didn’t need much. She wasn’t sure yet how the administration would deal with her transition, and whether she’d be moved to an all-girl dorm, and for right now, she wasn’t too worried about it too much. For the most part, the other kids in the dorm tended to keep to themselves, not usually disturbing each other. Kat was washing down her last industrial load of salted nuts with an energy drink when someone knocked on the door. Unusual, but not impossible.
Kat raised her eyebrows at Violet, who had been starting to get up, and shook her head, and then nodded at the books. Violet took a deep breath. Rather than open the door physically, or do something as crude as to use full-on-manifested magic to open the door, Kat wanted her to use a branch of magic almost unused by warlocks, that almost every witch had access to. She hadn’t exactly mastered it herself, she was barely a novice, but Vi needed to train herself in the witchy art of Dramatic Magic.
Violet raised her hand, and snapped her fingers. For a second, nothing happened. Then, quite dramatically, the door clicked out of the lock and slowly swung open. Kat was about to congratulate Violet when they both saw April standing in the doorway. She was soaking wet, her beautiful blonde hair clinging to her face. Even with her rained-down appearance, it was clear she’d also been crying. She didn’t say anything, just standing in the doorway with bloodshot eyes, shivering slightly. Violet was the first to respond, jumping up and running towards her, worry easily visible on her face.
“What happened?” Violet demanded as she gently pulled April inside. The poor girl was dripping onto the carpeted floor, and her bookbag almost slid off of her without her doing anything. She opened her mouth to say something, closed it again, and began to cry. Kat had also gotten up, but felt like she would be getting in the way. Luckily, Vi had already wrapped April into a big hug, not caring one bit about how wet her own clothes were getting. April was starting to sag through her knees and Violet held her as she descended, rather than letting her crash her knees on the floor.
April cried for a bit, while Kat sat on the edge of the bed, ready to jump in if necessary. Finally, April took a deep breath and leaned back a bit. “I ran away,” she said quietly.
“Fuck,” Kat said diplomatically.
“Yeah,” April agreed.
“What happened?” Violet asked again, quieter this time, taking April’s hands in her own. “Oh, fuck, you’re freezing!” She began to quickly help April take off her jacket, and then seemed to realize she was practically stripping her girlfriend and leaned back, blushing. “Y-you should get out of those clothes,” she mumbled. April smiled at her bashfulness, which was a definite plus, and she complied, taking off her jacket and sweater.
Violet quickly scrounged for a skirt -- which was technically a skirt Kat had lent her -- and offered it to April, who seemed unaware of the fact that there were other people in the room. Kat turned around with a blush before April could flash her, and she noticed that Violet had done the same.
“Why are you turned around?” she asked Violet. “She’s your girlfriend!”
“I -- because -- shut up!” Vi whispered back.
“I’m decent,” April said quietly behind them, and they turned around again, Violet immediately running forward to hold April again. This time, Kat felt it was appropriate for her to do the same thing, pulling in both of them. She briefly wondered if them smelling nice had been a side effect of the magic, and then shooed away that thought. Finally, April pulled away again and sat down on the bed, Violet right next to her. Kat crossed her legs on Vi’s desk chair. “They didn’t take it well,” April said, holding Violet’s hand as if her life depended on it.
“Mom was quiet. I told her first, when I got home. She was listening and asking questions, but like, the hard ones. ‘Are you sure?’ ‘Where did you pick this up?’ I didn’t want to make her upset or turn her against me, so I was just trying to be honest, that the contest had just made me realize things that I’d always repressed, and she did a lot of pacing. I think she was starting to accept things when Dad got home.” Something about the way she’d said that last part made Kat dread what she’d say next.
“Dad was mad. Really mad. He -- he thought the idea of the bet was hilarious, but when I told him I wanted to stay that way he was furious. It was just yelling at first, a-- about -- about--” April was starting to breathe more and more heavily, and Kat could tell she was starting to have a panic attack, so she got up and knelt in front of her.
“Hey, it’s okay. You’re safe,” she said. “Did he hurt you?”
April shook her head, and then seemed to hesitate. “Well… n-not really…“
She paused again. “He s-said I was his son w-whether I liked it or not, that he wasn’t going to let me throw away my future. Then Mom started to cry and said she didn’t want to lose her b-baby boy and -- and --” April began to cry again and Violet held her close as the tears ran freely. Kat was carefully squashing down the bubbling rage inside of her. She’d find an outlet for it later. Right now was time for comforting. April took a breath and Kat gritted her teeth. There was more. “D-dad, he started shaking me,” April said. “He was yelling and I didn’t understand all of it. Then Mom pushed him and told him to stop and he yelled at her too and I ran out the door.” She lowered her head. “I never even took off my backpack. I -- I hope Mom is okay.”
Violet and Kat made eye contact for a moment. Kat nodded. Violet nodded back. She didn’t know what they’d both agreed to, but they’d agreed to it together, and right now, that was what mattered.
“You can stay with me for now, April,” Violet said. “I’ll… I’ll prep the couch,” she added sheepishly. Kat repressed a faint smile. April only responded by leaning against Violet again.
“I’ll see if we can talk to the counselor tomorrow,” Kat added. “I’m sure other queer kids at school have… well, I’m sure she can help.”
“Okay,” April said quietly. “Thank you.” Violet reached up and squeezed April’s hand.
“Of course. Girls have to look out for each other, you know.” That earned her another little smile. “Do you want me to message Millie or are you gonna?”
“Dad took my phone,” April said meekly. Kat was just about ready to turn a motherfucker into a frog. It was a bit of a faux pas and leaning a bit too heavily into the stereotype, but some motherfuckers gotta be turned into frogs.
“All right, don’t worry too much about it. I’ll let her know.” She turned away to grab her phone, and also to hide the look of fury and rage that had crept its way up to her face and that was becoming too hard to hide. Maybe she should have signed up for after-school kickboxing after all. The urge to kick the absolute shit out of a bag of sand was tangible.
April turned back to Violet and whispered another “Thank you.” Violet made it clear to her that she had nothing to thank her for, and comforted her. She didn’t use words to do so, although Kat saw very clearly, before she turned away blushing again, that Violet most definitely used her lips to soothe April.