The Mettgil home sat on a hill surrounded by forests. They had no neighbors save for squirrels, swamp frogs and snakes. It took Maris an hour and a half to get to school and two getting back. Mother always warned her that walking too slow risked being sucked into the bog and moving too fast would draw the ire of predators.
By now Maris knew the way back better than the back of her hand. She had the small satisfaction that Kari would suffer the whole way there. Her hopes were dashed when she arrived home to see Kari waiting casually at her front door, holding the latest model flying broom. With its streamlined curves, to her it looked more like a vacuum cleaner.
“The landing was a bit tricky. I’ll have to show you how to do it when I get you one.”
Maris scowled at her. “Get me one? Brooms cost hundreds of dollars. I would be in debt for the rest of my life.”
“That’s right. So I suggest you get part time work. I have an old one I can lend you in the mean time. I’ll have it delivered.”
Maris let out an annoyed grunt and walked past Kari. She fiddled with the front door and stepped inside. Without a first class flight, the trudge left her feeling smelly and foul. More than anything she wanted a bath. “I’m home, mom.”
“Welcome home, Maris!” mom said. She stood in their cramped little living room, with a familiar smile and greeting. She still had her work suit on, with a silly little apron over it. “Who’s your friend? She’s been waiting some time for you.”
“That’s Kari. She’s helping me with some class work. I had to stay after today… my presentation didn’t go so well.”
“Oh, how terrible. Invite her in. Marvin made cookies.”
“Marvin?” Kari said.
Maris lowered her voice. “That’s dad. He’s a baker.”
“Oh, I think I know him. My family orders batches from him.”
Kari chuckled. “Well, when we aren’t worried about impressing anyone at least.”
Maris shot her a dirty look while slipping off her robes. Underneath she wore a simple white blouse with black slacks.
“Oh, you’re cute. A bit skinny, but that’s to be expected. You’re poor after all.”
Strike two. Maris tossed her robe on top of a laundry basket. “L-listen, Kari. If you’re going to insult me that’s fine. But don’t insult my family.”
“Insult? I just said the truth. You are poor.”
“True enough,” mother said with a smile. “Poor in wealth, rich in heart.”
“See, your mom gets it.”
Mother left the room and Maris lowered her voice. “Mom is just impossible to get angry. She’s a greeter for the Pumperton office suites. You’re not going to find a more pleasant person than mom anywhere.”
“And what about you?”
“What about me?”
“Am I making you angry? Do you want to hit me or something?”
Maris backed off. More than anything, she hated conflict. What’s the harm if mom doesn’t care? “No. I just… I don’t want to be a loser.”
“That’s why I’m here. I think you deserve more.” Kari flounced onto the couch testing it with her hand. “I heard your family used to be important.”
Maris took a seat next to her. Even in the swamp, Kari managed to smell amazing. It was a superpower or something. “Grandpa on dad’s side.”
“So why don’t you take the fame back?”
Easy for you to say, Princess Moneybags. “I’m not that good of a witch. I mean, I know stuff and I can do stuff… when no one’s looking.”
Kari shrugged. “Then pretend no one’s looking. I don’t think of anyone but myself when I use magic.”
“You? Think about yourself? No way.” Maris flinched with the realization she said that out loud. It just slipped out.
“You just digged on me? You’re learning.”
Mother came with a plateful of steaming chocolate chip cookies and set them down. Maris snatched one up, crammed it into her mouth and savored its warmth. “Wait. Why are these hot? Isn’t dad at work?”
“Well… they cut his hours again. It was a short day for him.”
Kari took a cookie and took a dainty bite. “This is really good. I can pay for the ones I eat if it helps.”
“No no,” mother said. “It’s no bother at all. Just enjoy them.”
Part of Maris wanted her to take her up on it.
Kari leaned close and whispered. “Don’t worry. I’ll take it out of your tab.”
Tab? Ugh… this girl really is the devil.
Maris took Kari up to her room. She kept it clean but the emptiness of it left her feeling self-conscious. Maris had no posters on the wall and her bed, chair and desk were all made of plain wood. Kari took a seat on her bed. It made Maris blush.
“This bed is really stiff. No wonder you’re exhausted when you come to school.”
“It’s not so bad when you’re used to it.”
Kari unbuttoned her robe and pulled it off over her head. Underneath she wore a black vest over a pink shirt and a matching pink miniskirt. She wore expensive looking loafers that probably cost more than half her house. Maris couldn’t help but stare– Kari was stunningly pretty with healthy round features and real allure.
It surprised Maris that Kari was actually not that curvy. She just assumed ‘perfect’ people just hit all the typical benefits. The most beautiful part about her was her long legs.
“You’re weird,” Kari said. It snapped Maris out of her daze. “You act like you want to punch me one moment and now you’re checking me out? You into girls or something?”
“No,” Maris said. At least I don’t think so. “I just… you’re really overwhelming. I’d never be able to wear stuff like that.”
“Depends. You could probably be prettier than me… if you had to money to make it happen.”
Maris gaped at her. The idea just made her head spin.
Kari got off the bed, reached out and lifted some of Maris’ flat brown hair. “You just need conditioner and a few treatments. If you ate better you’d probably fill out a bit. I bet you’d really turn some heads, too. Not smelling like swamp’d help too.”
“I can’t fix any of that stuff! I’d have to resort to a glamor.”
“Start with a glamor then, once you get the money to do it right, then you’ll cash in. I know a place. It’s nothing sleazy or whatever. They just want cute witches to serve desserts. You think you could go a few hours without tripping over your feet? I have a friend you can talk to. Plus the glamor can actually challenge you. God knows globes of water won’t. Recall!”
Kari summoned her wand, a high tech ‘Castmaster 9000’, and pointed to the air next to her. A little readout appeared showing a simple rendition of Maris. “So here’s the plan. I’m going to use the system to estimate the results of a few month of healthy eating, cosmetic attention and some good ol’ confidence. From there, you build your glamor based on it.” She twirled the wand and the image of her changed. It was still her, but she saw the differences. She put on a bit more weight, looked healthier and more alluring and her hair looked amazing– better than Kari’s!
“Is this a trick?”
“Nope. but it’s just an ideal. It’ll only work this well if you can pull off a glamour. I’ll lend you a nice new robe to match the new you. All goes well, I’ll let you in on the circle. Just mooch off the warlocks that come chasing after you, you won’t regret it.”
“And what do I have to do to pay you back?”
“Just tell everyone who asks whose idea it was. I want you to gush about my brilliance. Think of me as your agent.”
“Whatever. I can handle that much.”
“Good. Though, I need you to sign this.” Kari waved her wand and produced a contract. “Take your time to read it over. If you don’t like it, rip it up and continue your life as a loser for all I care. Heck, you could even take my friendly advice and use this image to try for popularity on your own. I’m sure that will go sooo well.”
Maris swallowed back the lump in her throat. “Fine. I’ll look it over. I’ll give it to your tomorrow in school– if I decide to do it.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Kari twirled her wand, dissolving the digital image. Her wand vanished into thin air.
“If you sign it before bed, I’ll send you a little gift– I promise you’ll like it.”