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Black Leather Dress
Okay. I said I'd tell you, didn't I?
I know I've been holding out. I've been lying in my bedroom with the blinds pulled down, chain-smoking; probably giving myself lung cancer. And thinking.
I'll tell you what happened on Tuesday. But first, a few words about me. I'm a senior at Lloyd Valley. I play football, I have blond hair, brown eyes, and…oh, crud. I sound like I'm writing my own obituary. Never have been a good writer. And the mild concussion from that game last month hasn't been helping. It's basically gone, but I still have a dizzy spell now and then.
Anyway. It was Tuesday. I was in chem class, texting under the desk to Ashton as usual. The bell rang after about ninety-four years, and I was standing up, shoving papers into my backpack. Then I dropped my pencil.
That, I've decided, was when things started going bizarrely. I was having one of those second-long dizzy spells right then. But I never drop things. Besides, I'd been using a pen during the quiz, and I clearly remembered tucking it in my backpack after the bell. I'd never seen that pencil before.
“Hey.” I started embarrassingly at the voice. Fingers closed around the pencil on the floor, and I followed them to a girl straightening up, shaking white-blond hair out of her eyes. “I think you dropped something.”
She had a strangely elfin look about her—not pointed ears, I mean. But in a black leather dress with a pleated skirt and no kind of backpack, she was definitely unusual.
“That's not my pencil,” I said when she tried to hand it back. “I didn't drop it.”
And then she smiled. I closed my mouth before I could gasp. Both sides of her lips slid up, her eyes glinting in wicked excitement. I moved my hands behind my back, pinching a finger to see if I was dreaming.
But she didn't disappear. Neither did the classroom with its lab tables and posters tacked on the walls—the room that was suddenly empty and dead silent.
“Alright, maybe I dropped it.” Tucking the pencil into her hand, she turned slowly.
“Wait! Don't just leave. Where am I?”
“You're in my world, Harlan.”
There were people filing into the classroom, the teacher writing on the whiteboard. But I wasn't seeing things in the usual way. I rubbed my eyes. Everything looked…sparkly. Okay, not sparkly. I'll go with unreal—but seriously, I saw some sparkles.
The girl walked between lab tables, peering over students' shoulders.
“Who are you?” I blurted.
She turned again, sliding into another sexy smile. She had a lip piercing; a double gold ring. “You can call me Braith; I work with with a few others. We…change lives.”
Another wicked smile before she turned away. Can you get high on a smile? I don't care if it's possible; I was addicted to hers.
Braith perched on the lab table next to a kid who sighed every few seconds, rubbing his eyes, tapping the back of his pencil against his notebook. The class was taking the same quiz I'd finished before my dizzy spell; obviously, this guy wasn't having a good time with it.
The elfin girl took out the pencil and wrote a few words on his notepad. Then she reached over another boy's shoulder; this time she erased. But neither of them looked up; it was like Braith didn't exist.
“What are you doing?” I demanded.
“This is what my friends and I do.” The teacher was going around the room, collecting quizzes. When she came to the boy's chair, his jaw dropped. But he quickly tore off a page that had been almost blank a few seconds ago. Now, in neat handwriting, every question was filled in. “We help people.”
In the next chair, the other boy groaned, handing in a messy, scribbled sheet. Not even half the questions were answered. He twisted around, talking to the girl behind him. “I don't understand. Usually I blow these chem quizzes away, but today...”
I looked at Braith, shocked. “So you steal from people who've actually done the homework and give a lucky break to kids who haven't? How is that fair?”
“What we do is called everyday magic; and whoever you ask will tell the truth. It's fickle.” She shrugged in her black leather dress, unconcerned. “You humans have ways to amuse yourselves. Why shouldn't we?”
The classroom was emptying out again after the bell. Braith moved slowly toward me. “When you wake up, Harlan, you'll think this was a dream.”
She smiled one last time. “I'll prove that it isn't.”
Wrapping cold fingers around the back of my neck, she kissed me. She tasted fizzy, like ginger ale; fast and exciting. But under it was the unmistakable warning of danger. Braith was ginger ale laced in vodka.
I gasped for breath, pulling away, and opened my eyes on the floor with my classmates gathered around me.
There it is. I wish I could say I feel a weight lifting off my chest, but the weight is only heavier. My lingering concussion must have let the elfin girl bring me to her world—it didn't make me hallucinate, though. I know she was real. And now I can't stop imagining where these strangers are and how they're playing with our daily lives. I can still feel her kiss on my lips, ginger ale over vodka.
I grind out another cigarette. So for the next few days or my entire life, you'll find me in my room. Blinds down, chain-smoking, terrified by the thought of picking up a pencil to study for the English quiz. Don't tell me I should be trying to find Braith again or making sure she stays the hell away from me. This is just the way I deal with something difficult.
What would you do?