Maris perked at the sound of her name and stood rail straight next to her desk. Her textbook fell to the ground with a loud thump, followed the the clatter of her pencils.
The room broke out into quiet sniggers.
She flinched at the final snap of her favorite pen snapping in two against the floor. She’d miss that one.
Miss Putterbon tugged at her simple oak wand, starting down Maris with her cold yellow eyes. “Please proceed with your midterm presentation. Assuming you actually have something to show.”
“Y-yes Miss P.” Maris stepped closer, careful to avoid the scattered stationary on the floor. She reached into the sleeve of her pale blue robes, only to grab at thin air. Panic ran up her spine with the realization her wand was nowhere to be found. She patted her other sleeve and her body.
Melvin, her faithful black cat, let out a surprised yelp and fled from her sleeve. He turned to her and let out an annoyed hiss.
“Is there a problem, Miss Mettlegil?” Miss Putterbon said.
“N-no miss P. I just–” It came to her all at once. She flushed a deep red, reached out and whispered a single word. “Recall.”
Her simple, snaggled wand appeared in her hand. In her panic she’d forgotten her mother’s suggestion.
The rest of the class chuckled. Everyone hid their wands like that these days.
Maris stepped to the front of the class, fiddling with the familiar ivory handle of her family heirloom wand. She held it out, swirling it to warm up its latent magic.
Kari Tutchelton, the most popular witch in the school, leaned over to whisper to her best friend Patty Tookiss. They giggled in unison. Both of them were the epitome of the typical skinny, perfect, pretty little witches Maris saw on the cover of magazines– everything Maris was not. Kari twirled a finger around her curly blonde hair and glanced back at Maris with her baby blue eyes.
“Miss Tuchelton, did you have something you’d like to share with the class?”
“If you insist,” Kari said, wearing a warm smile. “Maris should have warmed up her dusty old wand before her presentation. I think she should lose points for being unprepared. She’s wasting everyone’s time. If you can’t afford a modern wand, you really should take extra precautions.”
Maris let out a small whimper. Kari was right of course, but digital wands were so pricey– her mother and father couldn’t hope to afford such things.
“True,” Miss Putterbon said. “Please get on with it, Miss Mettlegil.”
Maris weaved the water symbol in the air, drawing out a collective groan from the class. She tried to ignored them and snapped her wrist. A swirling ball of water manifested before her, maintaining a perfect sphere. It took all her focus to keep it from wobbling, but she had to get it just right. She muttered ‘hold’ under her breath and carved the earth symbol in the air next to it.
To her horror, Kari waved her hands in a mocking fashion, working in complete tandem with her spell.
Kari stopped her mockery and put a hand on her cheek, speaking in a deliberate drawl. “And here’s the part where you make the continents. Seriously, Maris, you’re sooo boring.”
Boring. The word broke her focus and the sphere of water fell to the floor with a noisy splash and drenched the bottom of her robes. The kids in the front row slide backwards to avoid the mess. The earth incantation fizzled out and drifted into the air.
Maris gaped at the ground, trying to work through what she could do to salvage the project, but her wand didn’t have enough power right now. She’d have to warm it up just to clean the mess.
Miss Putterbon let out a noisy sigh, raised her wand and twirled it in the air. The water levitated, twisted and swirled away like someone installed a little sink in the air. “See me after class Miss Mettlegil. Next.”
Maris sat at her desk, hanging her head in utter defeat. She fiddled with her pencils and taped her broken pen with a scrap of scotch tape. Anything to delay the wrath of Miss P.
Most of the students filed out of the room, chatting happily and showing off their presentation badges. Strangely enough, Kari hung back twirling a finger on her desk.
“Catch you later!” Patty said.
Kari didn’t even wave back.
With a wave of Miss Putterbon’s wand words appeared on the board. I will be better prepared for class. She turned and tapped it. “Miss Mettlegil. You will write this ten thousand times or until it covers the walls of the classroom. Do I make myself clear?”
Maris sighed. “Yes miss P.”
Miss Putterbon left the classroom, pausing only to give Kari a passing glance. She snapped the door shut.
Maris’ heart thumped hard in her chest. She didn’t dare look up. Kari would mock her at a moment’s notice, she was sure of it.
“You should get started,” Kari said. “Even a witch as powerful as you will have a hard time with this.”
Kari loomed over her desk. Mari glanced up enough to notice the top button of her robe was undone. It showed off her perfect neck and a glimpse of the the smooth skin between her breastbone. Maris had a hard time not staring. Kari’s words sunk in. She looked up at KArin to see her smiling– a real smile, not the fake ones she’d come to notice.
“Y-you’re wrong. I’m not any good.”
“Don’t say that Mari. You’re just underappreciated.”
Annoyance prickled at the edge of Maris’ mind. IT must have reached her face.
“Go on. Speak your mind.”
Maris shook her head. Kari was the most popular and probably most powerful witch in her class! She couldn’t bring herself to talk back to her. She curled her hands into fists. It doesn’t mean she should be able to get away with being a jerk.
“You made fun of me,” Maris said. “Are you making fun of me now?”
“I did in class, but I’m not now. I helped you in class, and you should thank me for it.”
Maris gaped at her. “T-thank you? You made Miss P mark off points.”
“Points she would have marked off already.” Kari pointed back to the board. “You think she didn’t notice? HAve you even looked at your grade judgement paper?”
Maris glanced down at the grade paper. In truth she didn’t see anything beyond the red ‘E’ on the paper. She humored Kari and pulled it out from under her textbook. Miss Putterbon’s immaculate handwriting filled the page. On top she wrote:
Water magic is incredibly volatile to contain. Maris’ use of it is masterful but she is too easily distracted by outside influences. Had she used a simpler element like fire I suspect the outcome would be different.
Kari tapped the desk. “Do you get it now? Your pride got you in trouble, not your lack of skill. Maris, I want to help you.”
Maris looked up at Kari and couldn’t stop the flow of tears. “W-why would you want to help a loser like me?”
“Honestly? I stand to benefit.” Kari shrugged. “Sure I could just mock you, and kick you when you’re down, but it will make me look even better if I make you a star.”
Maris’ heart sunk. Of course she doesn’t want to just help me. Everything costs something in this stupid world. “I see. Well, I can’t afford to pay you or–”
Kari laughed. “Pay me? You can pay me with results. I can’t afford to be seen with a loser like you, but I can help you get to the point where I’d be proud to have you by me. Are you interested or not?”
Maris clenched her jaw. It felt like a deal with the devil. A very pretty devil. “Fine.”
Kari gave her a smug little smile. “I know where you live, Mettlegil. I’ll stop over tonight. We’re starting right away.”