At long last, the fated day arrived. It was a Saturday like any other in October, but there was hardly anything ordinary about it. Today marked Pierce Private Academy’s grand ‘open-house’ festival, an annual event meant to raise money for the school and attract new students, including many student-made craft projects, game booths, plays, and a small carnival to tie everything together. It was a day our hero wasn’t particularly excited for when his dad called him down the stairs.
“Come on Jess, you don’t want to be late,” the burly man called.
“Well it’s not like I have to be there at a specific time or anything Dad, it’s just to set things up.” Jessie joined his dad, unenthusiastically walking out the door to the car.
“But you’re going to have fun with all of your new friends, right? What is it your class is doing again?”
‘‘Friends’ eh?‘ Jessie thought to himself. ‘The only friends I have are that crazy over-excited girl and that boring guy from class that I talk to sometimes.‘ While Jessie hadn’t managed to really make any new friends over the course of his first few weeks, at least he hadn’t made any enemies like at his last school, he figured.
“We’re just doing a carwash. It’s nothing special.”
“Oh, right. Do we need to stop somewhere and buy supplies? I’d be glad to help,” he offered.
“No, that’s ok. We have everything we need from the school.” Jessie left it at that and stared out the window at nothing in particular, letting silence fill the car.
Jessie’s father always seemed to have a hard time talking to his son, but he never knew why. Surely Jessie didn’t hate him, right? That couldn’t be it. The only thing he could think to do was try to bring up a topic that the boy might be interested in, something they’d have in common, but Jessie seemed completely disinterested in sports or cars or guns. He’d even enrolled Jessie in the boy scouts, but that didn’t last very long. Nothing seemed to take.
It hurt a bit knowing that he had no real connection to his first-born son. With the boy in high school now, he knew their days together were numbered and he didn’t want them to act like strangers whenever he came home for the holidays from whatever path life takes him on. It hardly even felt like they were family. To him, it felt like Jessie was distancing himself as far as he could from his family and he could never figure out why. The more time they spent together, the less Jessie seemed to like him.
“Well, uh…” he said, clearing his throat. “What about school? How’s that going, champ? Kicking ass in gym class?”
‘heh, if only you knew…‘ Jessie thought. “I’m doing alright. Nothing special.”
“What about any girls, hmm? Got anyone you’re interested in?”
“The girls don’t mix with the boys, usually. We’re on separate sides of the school.”
“What about that one we saw on your first day? The one with the ponytail? She seemed cute.”
“That lunatic? I guess we get along, but I’d be sorry for anybody who dates her.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Let’s just say she needs less sugar in her diet.”
“…I see. Well, I’m sure you’ll find someone you like eventually.”
“Not bloody likely.” After all, why would anyone? Jessie had never really been interested in anyone, and the one time he tried, she simply told him that she wasn’t gay. It was only made worse by the occasional boy at his schools who would ask him out and then beat him up once they realized Jessie was a boy. As far as he was concerned, he would rather just be alone forever.
“Well it looks like we’re here. I’ll see you around five, ok?” Jessie’s dad parked. “Try to cheer up. Why are you always so mopey?”
“I don’t know, I just am. See you later.” Jessie got out of the car without so much as looking at his dad.
“Bye then…” his father called, but it went unheard over the sound of the door closing. Watching his son walk off towards the gazebos set up on the lawn, all he could do was sigh before taking off.
“Aren’t you going to at least wave goodbye? That’s a little cold, don’t you think?” A familiar voice called from a few feet away. Jessie looked up to find the long-haired lunatic hopping towards him; a look of concern on her face.
“It’s fine.” Jessie said, turning away from her and continuing on towards the field.
“But that’s your dad, right?” she asked, falling in step behind.
“So you should be nicer to your family! He looked pretty hurt there.”
“The only thing he’s hurt about is that I’m not into cars or playing football or anything he likes. He always forces me to do those sorts of things and I hate them. I just want to be left alone to read or something.”
“Sounds like he’s just trying to bond. I like sports, my dad and I watch the football highlights every Sunday night. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“That’s beside the point. He’s always trying to get me to do this stuff because he wants me to be some ideal son of his that’s manly and into manly things and that just doesn’t interest me. I hate having him force that on me.”
“Wait, what? Why would he do that to begin with? I’m not questioning his parenting but that’s… an unusual way to raise your daughter.”
Jessie paused in front of the supply shed and turned on his heels and was about to yell at Ash once again to remind her that he was a boy, but he was cut off by the laughter of a blond-haired boy and his two best friends.
“Yeah, that is strange, isn’t it guys?” The boy’s friends chimed in agreement. “Look at her, she’s even wearing the boys’ uniform! Looks like this one’s daddy issues run deep. She’s even pretending to be a boy to please him!”
“I am a boy! What do you care, anyway?” Jessie growled at the boy.
“I’ve seen you around school and just wanted to confirm the rumors for myself. If you’re really a guy, why do you look like that? You got a hormone imbalance or something?”
“I.. I don’t know. Just leave me alone.” Jessie tried to walk past him to get into the shed, but the boy held his arm out to block him.
“Not so fast, missy. Where do you think you’re going?” The look in the boy’s eyes sent a shiver down Jessie’s spine. He had made it three weeks without being bullied for his looks and now it seems to be starting all over again.
“I’m getting supplies for my cla–”
“Let him go, Duncan!” A voice cut him off; a voice coming from a somewhat tall brown-haired boy Jessie recognized from his class. With a frown and a stern stare down at the boy, Duncan moved his arm.
“What’s it to you, Eric? We’re just asking questions, nothing more.” Duncan never broke his gaze with Eric.
“Go back to your own class before I get someone who’ll make you. You don’t need to get suspended again, do you? How’s sexual harassment going to look on your record?” Eric held his gaze firmly. Ashley stared in anticipation. After a moment of silence though, Duncan lowered his eyes.
“C’mon boys, she’s not worth it.” He called to his two friends. “But I will see you later, missy. Next time you won’t have your boyfriend here to protect you.” With a glare from Jessie and a twitch of his eye, the bullies went on their way.
“Thanks Eric. You didn’t have to help though, I could have handled it,” Jessie said, embarrassed to look Eric in the eye after what Duncan had said.
“It’s alright. I was just on my way for more buckets and couldn’t just stand there and do nothing.” Eric replied, shooting an unimpressed look towards Ash.
“Oooooon that note, I should probably get back to the office. I’ll catch you later during free time, k?” Ashley and Jessie waved each other goodbye before the girl took off down the path ahead of the boys, checking her watch as she ran.
“Friend of yours?” Eric asked, watching the girl run ahead.
“Something like that. She certainly seems to think so, but we’re not that close,” Jessie replied.
“Well good for you, man. Didn’t think you were into girls, honestly. No offense.” Jessie couldn’t help but look up at Eric and frown, but he quickly brushed it off. While he wanted to argue that Ash wasn’t his girlfriend, at least there was one guy here who saw him as normal.
The two made their way back to their class’ gazebos with another set of buckets and scrubbers, but several of his other classmates felt the need to burden him with such backhanded compliments like ‘Great idea, princess!’ and one guy even suggested Jessie wash cars wearing a bikini, of all things.
“It’ll draw the crowds for sure!” Jessie was not having any of it.
“This carwash is for our parents. That would be disgusting. Disturbing, even.” Jessie slammed the buckets on the table before turning to the guy he’d not yet learned the name of.
“Not for us! If anything, it’ll answer some questions, ha!” The guy took a bucket and went off towards the hose to fill it, leaving Jessie to fume.
“For the last time, I’m not a damn girl!” Jessie shouted after him, flush in the cheeks, but he was already gone.
“Try not to let them get to you, dude. It’s not like you can help the way you look,” Eric said, seeing how Jessie reacted.
“Thanks, but I wish I could. I just wish I could be treated like a normal person. If something magical could just happen that allowed me to live my life comfortably, the way I want to, as myself, with nobody questioning what I am or trying to make me something I’m not…” Jessie sighed, trailing off. “If only there was some way.”
“Don’t worry too much about it. I’m sure things will mellow out eventually if you give it time. You’re just a late bloomer, that’s all.”
“I guess.” With a sigh and a half-smile at his new friend, Jessie got to work running the hoses with the rest of the class and hanging their signs.
Over the next couple of hours, cars began lining up with parents eager to see what their kids were up to. Some gladly helped out the class by offering their cars up to be poorly washed by students, but more often than not, they were guilt-tripped into it by a small group trying to play on sympathy. At least, they were until Mr. Schroeder yelled at them. Things went rather well and after a while, Jessie’s group was allowed an hour of free time to explore the festival and enjoy the carnival.
With a yawn and a stretch, Jessie decided to see what other classes were up to before checking out the rides. The night had already started pretty badly, so he thought it’d do him some good to calm down and relax a while before he had to be back at the carwash. Making his way past the office building and around the corner, he came to the boys’ side of the gym and soon found himself in the field beyond.
It looked like a few classes banded together to hold a miniature carnival of their own leading up to the rides. Built in sections along the pitch there were a handful of food stands, plenty of games to play like the ring toss or rubber-band gun target shooting, and even a few craft stands off towards the girls’ side of the field. It seemed like lots of classes from the boys’ side and the girls’ side were working together to make this strip of stalls.
As he walked down the strip, checking out all of the stands and taking in the smells of all of the food being prepared, he happened across a peculiar stand with a single girl and plenty of books strewn across the table in front of her. A sign was hanging above that looked to be drawn with markers and crayons, saying ‘The Misadventures of Luna Sparkles’. He decided to check it out. As he got closer, the girl behind the desk was getting more and more excited, bouncing on her heels.
“Welcome, welcome! You’re my first customer of the day!” she was still bouncing with excitement. “My name’s Luna Sparkles, if you couldn’t tell from the sign, but you know me better as Mary Sue Smith. Even my mother calls me that, even though she knows it’s wrong! Can you believe it? Nice uniform, by the way. I’d never get away with that. Your name’s Jessie, right? I’m so glad we finally got a chance to talk! I’ve seen you around school a lot but never figured out how to find you.” Mary was nothing but smiles.
“Yeah, I’ve seen you around here and there too. Nice to meet you, I guess. What are you selling here all alone? Why aren’t you with you class?”
“Long story. See, I wanted to sell my comics here! These comics are all auto-biographical by the way. They’re about my adventures at my old school, Woghearts, and my relationships with my old best friends, Perry Hotter and Herman Measely. You probably haven’t heard of it. Can you keep a secret?” She whispered, looking around cautiously.
“Uh… yeah?” Jessie said, leaning in.
“I’m really a witch! Woghearts is a school for special snowflake magical-type peoples like me!”
“Wait, you mean like in those books? …are you serious?”
“Super serious! I got expelled from Woghearts because I was too good of a witch and they thought I was showing up the headmaster. I still talk to my friends online in chat rooms all the time and we write down our adventures together, so I drew them out in these comics here and I’m trying to sell them! Don’t worry about anyone finding out my secret identity though, ok? Since nobody calls me by my REAL name and everyone calls me Mary Sue here, nobody knows that the character of Luna Sparkles in these comics is really me!” Finally drawing a breath, she just smiled, so happy she’d found someone with an interest in her auto-biographies.
“Uh huh. So if you’re a witch, can you show me some magic?” Jessie said while flipping through some of the poorly-drawn comics.
“Totally could, but I can’t! See, when I got expelled from Woghearts, I was forbidden by law to ever practice magic in front of a fogle, that is, non-magical-type-people, or I’ll get sent to the most scariest and evil of witch prisons: Alcaban!”
“You… really believe this, don’t you?” Jessie tried to say as nicely as possible, setting the comic down and backing away slowly.
“Believe it? I lived it!” She said, still proud and smiling.
“Now I can see why your class let you have a booth alone…” Jessie muttered, mostly to himself. Just then, he heard a shout.
“Jessie! There you are! I’ve been looking all over for you!” A certain taller girl with dark brown hair up in a ponytail ran up to Jessie from behind, throwing her arms around his neck, which caught him by surprise.
“H-hey Ash! What’s up?”
“Just scoping things out, seeing if anything really shouts out to me. Still rockin’ the guy’s uniform, huh? Even after we were all kind enough to pitch in and buy you a proper one? That’s not really considerate to us, you know. I meant to ask you about it earlier but with what you were saying about your dad, I kind of understand why you do it. I guess. But then that whole thing with Duncan happened too and I had to get back and… how on earth did you bribe the school into letting you do that, anyway? You gotta tell me your secret.”
“Excuse me, Ashley, but Jessie here was about to buy one of my comics!” Mary Sue said, frowning for the first time in what Jessie thought may have been her entire life.
“Sorry Mary, I don’t really have any money, I was just looking….”
“I don’t think she wants to read any of your Harry Potter fanfics, Mary Sue.” Ash said curtly.
“They’re NOT Harry Potter fanfics! They’re my own, ORIGINAL biographies about Perry Hotter!” Mary shouted.
“Whatever. Jessie, you’re still kind of new here, right? There’s something I want to show you out back.”
“Uh, ok.. and I’m not a gir-”
“AND THEY’RE NOT FANFICS! THEY REALLY HAPPENED!!” Mary shouted, cutting off Jessie. Jessie and Ash just walked away.
“Don’t mind her, she’s nutters. Let me guess, she told you she went to Hogwarts, right?”
“Woghearts, but yes. Yes she did.”
“Lots of us have been in the same class as her since elementary school, and she was normal enough back then. She kinda got hooked on Harry Potter about a year ago and started making things up like that. We just ignore her crazy the best we can. Hopefully she’ll grow out of it someday.”
“Yeah, here’s hoping. What did you want to show me, anyway?”
“Oh, you’ll see…” she said with a mischievous grin. Ash and Jessie had wandered far from the stalls on the pitch and through the woods towards what Jessie assumed had to be the very back of the school’s property, and after a few minutes, they happened upon a clearing.
“Here it is!” Ash proudly presented an old cottage that had looked abandoned for a century. It was almost completely overgrown with ivy and had started collapsing in some places. There was even an old stone well in the center of the clearing. The well was surrounded with several logs presumably used for seating, and the trash laying around showed that they weren’t the only visitors to have come by recently.
“What’s this stuff doing on school property?” Jessie asked, walking up to the well and peering inside. The darkness made it hard to see very far inside, but if the rotten bucket and rope were any indication, Jessie thought that it must have dried up years and years ago.
“Well this used to be a Catholic school, right? This here is what’s left of the old chapel that was built here like a hundred years ago, but I think it was abandoned in the ’20s? Hard to say, but it’s old. Technically, this is off limits to students, but people come back here all the time to sneak away. Lots of couples come back here to make out.”
“Is this well dry? I can kinda make out the bottom but it’s hard to tell.” Ash wandered over and leant against the stone wall alongside her friend.
“I think so, it’s pretty old. So whaddya think about this place? Neat, huh?”
“Yeah! Who’d have thought there’d be something like this at a scho-OOOOOOL!!!” The well’s stone edge finally gave way under the weight of the two and Jessie had fallen to the soft muddy cave below.
“OH EMM GEE, Jessie! Are you alright?! Can you hear me? JESSIE!”
“I- I think so Ash.. I just.. ow…” His head was throbbing and his vision fading fast. After struggling to stand up, bracing himself against the slick muddy stone walls, Jessie finally collapsed in the mud unconscious.
“Jessie, I’ll go get help! Stay calm, ok?! I’ll be right back!!” Ash tore off through the woods back towards the pitch as fast as she could.
“Who are you?”
“Who are you?” the voice called again. The voice seemed to echo in Jessie’s head, but he couldn’t make out where it was coming from. He couldn’t make out where he was. He couldn’t see anything but a gray haze. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t even think straight.
“I’m- my name’s Jessie Oliver,” Jessie called out to the disembodied voice.
“Why are you here?” The voice asked.
“I… I don’t know. I don’t know how I got here. What is this place? Where am I?”
“You are here, with me.”
“And who are you?”
“I am the spirit of the well.”
“The well? What well?”
“The well in which you fell.”
“I don’t remember falling in a well…”
“You need not worry about it. It will all be clear to you soon. I sense a lot of trouble within your heart, child. I can help you with that. Ask of me one wish and I shall make it happen. Think hard about your wish, for you shall only receive one.”
Jessie thought the voice was insane, but in his half-conscious state, he took it at face value. What would he wish for? What could Jessie possibly want? It only took moments before he realized the obvious answer. Of all of his troubles in the world, the one that nags at him the most is that everyone thinks he’s a girl. He hated his nickname, hated being confused for someone he wasn’t, and hated the awkward stares of confusion even more. If there really is a wish-granting well spirit, there’s no more obvious answer than to end that torment. He had to take this chance. “I wish…” oh, how to word this right… “I wish my body were normal, so I can live a happy normal life like everyone else!”
“Hmm… This wish feels somehow… familiar. Your wish is for complacency with your body? To have your heart and body as one?”
“Yes!” If there was one thing Jessie had ever wanted in life, it was this. No more stares, no more questioning, no more annoying nicknames… Everything would be perfect if only Jessie looked like a normal person.
“Your wish is granted. I hope you have a peaceful and happy life.”
“Thank you, whoever you are~” The gray mist slowly faded back to reality as shouts from Ash grew louder and louder.
“The janitor has a rope ladder! Can you climb up? Are you hurt?! Jessie, speak to me!”
“I’m fine, I’m fine!” Jessie coughed. “Just throw down the ladder!”
With the rope ladder down, the mud-coated Jessie climbed up. As Jessie got to the top, Ash ran in with a hug and teary eyes.
“Thank goodness you’re alright! I was so worried! Are you hurt at all? …you’re really muddy.” Ash backed off of Jessie, realizing her arms and chest were all covered in mud now.
“I’m fine, my head just hurts a lot. And I was having this strange dream but I can hardly remember it now…” Jessie’s head was throbbing.
“What were you kids doing back here in the first place? This area is out of bounds and those ruins are dangerous! What the hell were you thinking?!” The janitor yelled, rolling up his rope ladder.
“We’re sorry! We didn’t know! Y’see, Jessie just transferred in and I thought it’d be cool to show her…”
“There’s nothing ‘cool‘ about it! You better get to the nurse’s office and get looked at. And don’t you think I’m not telling the dean about this, either! Run along now!”
“Yes sir…” Jessie and Ash said together as they began to walk off. ‘Man my head hurts. Just what was that dream anyway?‘
Once at the nurse’s office, the two took a seat on one of the beds. “What happened to you?! How could you get so dirty?”
“I uh… I fell in the well way back in the woods there…”
“That place is dangerous! It’s out of bounds for a reason, y’know!”
“We know.” They once again said in unison.
“Here, let me look at you… are you hurt at all?” She took Jessie’s head and began sifting through muddy hair, looking for a would, and then checked Jessie’s eyes. “You might have a slight concussion…”
“Yeah, I bumped my head pretty good when I hit the bottom, but it was all muddy so luckily I didn’t break anything. I’m just really sore.” Jessie winced.
“Well that’s good. Here, there’s a shower in the next room. Clean yourself up and I’ll get you some spare clothes.”
“Ok… sorry to trouble you..”
“It’s no bother, I’m just glad you’re alright.” The nurse said as Jessie walked off, tracking mud everywhere.
“Jessie has a spare uniform in the locker room, I can go and grab it if that’s ok. But, umm.. May I use your sink to clean up first?” Ash asked, feeling guilty. She couldn’t help but feel like this was all her fault for dragging Jessie back there. She’d never be able to forgive herself if they were both expelled over this.
“Sure, but make it quick. I’ll grab the uniform on my way to get the dean. What’s the locker number?”
“242,” they both replied.
“Alright, I’ll be back in a few minutes. Go get cleaned up.”
As the nurse left, Ash followed Jessie into the next room and began using the large sink to get the mud off her arms and tried her best to wipe mud off her sweater, but eventually she just gave up, opting to take it off and wash it later. ‘It’s a good thing I decided to wear a sweater over my uniform today!‘ A moment later, Ash heard a small scream from the shower.
“Jessie, is everything alright in there?” Ash said, knocking on the door.
“I’m… I’m a girl!” Jessie yelled through the shower door.
“What do you mean, ‘duh’?! I’m supposed to be a boy! I was wearing a boy’s uniform and everything!”
“And it wasn’t fooling anybody,” she replied with half-lidded eyes.
“But I’m enrolled in the boys’ side of the school!” Jessie said, getting out of the shower with a towel wrapped around her.
“You are?! Why?” Ash said in shock.
“Maybe I can answer that one…” The nurse chimed in, back with Jessie’s proper uniform. She tossed Jessie her clothes and began explaining the situation while Jessie got dressed behind a curtain. “I’ve got your medical file here and it turns out you’re listed as male in your medical records. Oops.”
Realizing just how well she fit her top now, Jessie decided to button the blazer for once. Her newfound protrusions weren’t exactly big enough to make her stand out, but they were noticeable enough to be embarrassed by them and the possibility that other people might see them poking through her top. ‘Been a girl for thirty minutes and already I have a sense of feminine modesty,‘ she thought to herself in shame.
“I went ahead and fixed the error in your medical records for you. No idea how that happened. Did your parents enroll you as a boy or something?” The nurse plopped back down into her chair and began absent-mindedly pulling her hair into a ponytail.
“Well yeah, they always do!” Jessie snapped.
“Well if that’s what your parents want, I guess that’s their deal. I couldn’t find the dean earlier, but I guess she’d already know about a special situation like yours. I’m still going to have to report that you two were out of bounds, though.”
“So what does this mean about her classes?” Ashley wondered. “Now that you know she’s a girl, shouldn’t she be on the girls’ side of the school? And– WAIT!” She turned to Jessie. “You’re not in the dorms, are you?! That’s dangerous as hell!”
“No no, I’m not in yet, they don’t have any openings!” It wasn’t quite enough to calm her friend’s concern, though.
“Like I said, Dean Winters probably already knows about this and she put you where your parents wanted for a reason. It’s not my problem to worry about. Who’s your teacher, anyway?” the nurse asked.
“Schroeder?! HA! Oh wow, I want to be there when he finds out about this, that’s going to be classic!” Jessie shared a brief look of confusion and worry with Ash. “Alright, you’ve been here long enough. Go enjoy the festival and I’ll have Dean Winters discuss your detentions with you sometime next week.”
With the girls both surprised and relieved at such a lenient punishment, they took off towards the front of the administrative building and began making their way to the parking lot ahead, where Jessie’s group had already resumed washing cars.
“So your whole class thinks you’re a guy, and yet you change in our locker room and wear our gym uniform. What.” Ashley spat.
“Look, everything just sort of happened on its own. I don’t even know how things got this crazy. I don’t even know how to approach them! What if they all make fun of me?! Wearing this uniform is even more embarrassing than last time!”
“Well they’ve seen you in the gym uniform before, what’s so special about this? You SHOULD be wearing this uniform, anyway! You rock the boyiform well and I’m pretty jealous you’re allowed to get away with it, but this should be your default. How long have you been going to school as a guy anyway?”
“My whole life, because up until now I have actually BEEN a boy!” Jessie stopped to shout at her friend in front of the grand fountain in front of the school.
“…you can drop the act, you don’t have to pretend to be a guy around me. I’m not your dad.”
“I’m not pretending, that’s what I am suppose to–” Jessie was cut off by the sudden appearance of a certain blushing boy from her class who froze in his tracks once he realized the cute auburn-haired girl was actually his friend.
“J-Jessie! I’ve been looking all over for you. Why.. are you dressed like that?” Eric’s gaze pulled an awkward blush from Jessie as well.
“Hey Eric, um… well… it’s a long story. My uniform got trashed and I just ended up with this.” Jessie looked away. “Please don’t laugh.”
“Why would I laugh? It really suits you. Like, really. You somehow seem… prettier than usual, too. You should dress like that more often!” Eric laughed to try and play off his blurted blunder as a joke. He couldn’t believe what he was saying, but he wasn’t lying. Jessie looked absolutely beautiful to him, which, if anything, just made him confused about himself.
“Alright, you’re getting a little too creepy there. What’d you want, anyway?” Jessie wanted to put her foot down on the matter before it got out of hand. It was bad enough that the guys all called her ‘princess’ but she’d be damned if she’d let herself be the object of their desire, too.
“Well, your group’s break was over a little while ago but you didn’t show up, so I was sent to get you. Some of the guys were pretty upset you ditched. The carwash was your idea, afterall.” The trio began walking back towards the parking lot. “Oh, and your parents are here. Your dad said he was looking for you.”
Jessie stopped dead in her tracks, frozen in fear. “W-what? Where are they?! If my dad saw me like this, he’d kill me!!”
“They were just at our tent a few minutes ago,” Eric said. Jessie began nervously looking around until she spotted her parents making their way up the path to the field, stopping at a table to see a brochure. Jessie immediately bolted in the opposite direction. She had to hide, and quick. She could only imagine how her dad would scream at her for wearing girls clothes, but she was deathly afraid to find out what would happen if he found out she was a girl.
‘I have to find a place to hide!‘ Jessie thought, running down a lane of booths. After a moment, she saw her parents walking hand in hand slowly down the aisle, so she ducked aside a booth for cover.
“Umm… what are you doing?” A girl asked. Jessie looked up, dumbfounded at her. She was holding a wooden rubber-band gun and leaning over the side of her booth.
“N-nothing. Ignore me.” Jessie took off.
“Weirdo,” the girl said, almost under her breath.
Jessie ducked and dodged trying to keep a close eye on her parents while staying one step ahead. ‘I have to make it somewhere safe, somewhere they’d never look…‘ and then it hit her. ‘Of course! The old well in the woods! I have to get the spirit to change me back anyway!‘
Jessie ran back through the final row of booths and managed to sneak back into the woods. Within minutes she’d found the clearing and the old well once more. Luckily the janitor had left his rope ladder dangling down and Jessie climbed down without hesitation. Careful not to muddy her shoes, she called out from the last rung of the ladder into the echoing caves.
“Hey, ghost! Spirit! Whatever you are! Come out here!” She yelled. In a moment a gray mist appeared once more and a blue silhouetted figure appeared within it. The sight alone sent shivers down her spine, but she had to be strong.
“What is it you ask of me, young one?” the spirit called as if from within Jessie’s own mind.
“Change me back into a guy!” She yelled.
“That, I cannot do. You are only allowed one wish.”
“Well why the hell did you change me to begin with?! I didn’t wish for this!” She was beginning to panic. Was there no way back? There had to be!
“Oh you most certainly did. You just may not realize it yet. Farewell, young one.” The figure then faded and the mist cleared once more, leaving a frustrated girl swinging on a rope ladder against a mossy stone wall.
“Hey, you can’t leave me like this! What am I supposed to do?!” Her voice echoed in the caves to no avail. “Damnit!”
Jessie was on the verge of tears as she climbed back up the ladder. No way to turn back? One wish per person? What the hell did the spirit mean by that? This wasn’t what she wished for at all! All she could think to do no was sit on a stump in front of the well and wait for time to pass, but after several minutes, a noise made her jump behind some bushes.
From her hiding place she saw the janitor with a flashlight coming out of the woods. ‘Damn!‘ she thought. Rather than stick around waiting to get in trouble again, she decided it best to make it back to the festival and soon found herself at Mary’s booth, where she was fast asleep and a boy in a weird uniform was poking her gently.
“Jessie, there you are!” A voice called. She whipped around in a panic but was relieved to find it was only Ashley. “We’ve been looking all over for you! Eric’s tailing your parents right now… what’s with Mary?” she walked up and shook the girl awake.
Mary awoke to tell them of a fantastic tale of magic and zombies, but was soon distracted by a certain someone wearing a Japanese high school uniform and thick coke-bottle glasses. The conversation seemed to turn in an even stranger direction with Mary completely enamoured by what the strange boy had to say, but all Ash and Jessie could do was back away slowly and leave.
“What was she on about? Something about a ‘unicorn wizard’?” Ash asked as they made their way toward the carnival section. They’d spotted Jessie’s parents soon after leaving Mary and decided to run in the opposite direction. Maybe there would be a place to hide down there.
“I don’t know, it didn’t make a lick of sense to me. I’m just glad that otaku didn’t recognize me, I think he’s in my class,” Jessie said.
“But it’s a bad thing I recognize you.” A voice called from behind, sending a shiver up Jessie’s spine. It could only belong to one person. One little bastard. Jessie turned to face her demise which took the form of a twelve year old boy holding a candy apple. “I see you’ve decided to dress the part, sis. Suits you,” he said with a laugh.
“J-Jason! You can’t tell anyone you saw me like this, especially dad!” Jessie stammered.
“But why not, Jessica~! You look so cute in your little brown skirt,” he said with a grin and a chuckle. A look that was lost on Ash.
“He’s right, you do look pretty cute in it. Almost like it was tailored!” she said with an innocent smile, sending Jason into a further fit of laughter.
“You’re NOT helping!” Jessie yelled to Ash. “You have to help me hide! They can’t see me like this!”
“Hmm… I guess I could, for a price…” the boy said coyly.
“How much.” Jessie knew where this was going and didn’t like it one bit.
“How about twenty bucks?”
“No way! That’s way too much!”
“Well I gueeeess I could just tell Dad right now, I mean, he’s only right behind you. Dad, come take a look at this!” he yelled. Jessie whipped around in a panic but found nobody there. She let out a heavy sigh.
“Alright, alright, fine. I’ll give you the money later though, I don’t have any on me right now.”
“Deal. Why don’t you start by hiding in the house of mirrors? I’ll send Mom and Dad the other direction for you.”
“Thanks, I guess.” Jessie said in a sarcastic tone.
“Anything for my big sister~!” Jason laughed. With that, the duo were off, running into the house of mirrors, with Jason sauntering calmly in the other direction. It wasn’t long before he bumped into his parents.
“Hey there, sport! Seen Jessie around anywhere? We’ve been looking all over for him.” His dad had stopped at a booth because his wife wanted to see the birdhouses a group of girls had made, but his interest was waning.
“Nope, I haven’t seen my sister anywhere!” he laughed.
“That’s not nice Jason, you shouldn’t make fun of her because of how she looks. HE! I meant HE!” his mother said, ashamed at her own mistake. “Now you’ve got me doing it! You should apologize when you see her. HIM!” Her blunder only caused a look of sadness from her husband but a riot of laughter from her son. “Sorry…”
“Don’t be, Joyce. I know he can be a bit girly but he can’t help it. We just need to push him to do more manlier things, that’s all. He’ll come around eventually!” her husband said with conviction.
“Well if I see him I’ll let you guys know. Why don’t you go check out the carnival though? The mirror place is actually kinda cool.” Jason took a big bite out of his apple.
“Oh dear, that sounds like fun! Let’s go! We’ll find Jessie afterwards, ok?” the mother was practically beside herself.
“Oh, it will be. I guaaaarantee it. In fact, I’ll go with you! I wouldn’t want to miss out on the fun!” Jason said in a tone that made his father suspicious. He thought the boy was up to something, but there was nothing he could do except go along with it.
Inside the house of mirrors, Ash and Jessie had finally found themselves a corner where they didn’t reflect on any of the mirrors. A brief moment of solitude.
“We can’t just hide out in here all night! You’re going to have to confront your parents eventually. You’re a girl, you should be allowed to wear the girls’ uniform if you want,” Ash said, adjusting herself in the tiny corner.
“It’s not that easy. And I don’t want to wear the uniform… wait, why didn’t I just go find a change of clothes somewhere?” the realization had finally hit her.
“Where from? The nurse’s office wouldn’t have anything.”
“We’ll just break into the locker room and I’ll borrow some! I’m sure Eric won’t mind if I borrow his uniform! Come on, let’s get out of here. This is stupid.” Jessie took Ash by the wrist and the girls began making their way out of the house of mirrors but is was then she heard a familiar voice.
“Look honey! This mirror makes me look all fat! Isn’t that silly?” Jessie turned to find her mother making funny belly dance moves in front of a mirror just ahead. In a panic, the girls turned and made their way further into the maze.
The small family unknowingly followed. Every few mirrors, the mother would hear a few muffled voices and catch a brief glimpse of brown running by in several mirrors, and she decided to follow it. A moment later though she’d been separated from her husband and son completely. She rounded a corner, and then another, but after a minute she felt as if she’d been running in circles. Luckily, she heard some voices from around a corner arguing about where to go, and decided to follow. One of them seemed somewhat familiar. It wasn’t long before she found a girl talking seemingly to no one.
“Excuse me, are you lost too? Who are you shouting at?” she called to the girl. She practically jumped when she turned and saw who was calling her, though.
“I found the exit, it’s just over here,” another voice called from around a bend, but when her friend didn’t respond, she looked around to find Ashley’s reflection down the hall face to face with her mother. Jessie ducked and hid around the corner.
“Oh uh, be right there!” Ashley. “See, my friend was just trying to find the exit. We got a little lost.”
“Me too. Mind if I follow you out?,” the middle-aged woman said with a smile.
“Sure, don’t see why not. I’m Ashley by the way, but everyone calls me Ash.”
“Nice to meet you, I’m Joyce Oliver. Where’d your friend run off to?” she said, noticing that nobody was there when they rounded the corner.
“Oh, YOU’RE Jessie’s mom?! I can definitely see the resemblance, she looks just like you. Wow,” Ash said. She was really taken aback by the uncanny resemblance. Jessie really did look like a younger version of her mom, she thought.
“You know Jessie’s a boy, right?” she asked the girl.
“Riiiiiiiiight, yeah, my bad. Totally a boy. Here’s the exit.” Ashley and Joyce made their way to the dark opening and down the steps, pausing for a moment on the grass. “Well, if I see Jessie, I’ll be sure to let he-, er, him know that you’re looking for him. Good luck!”
“Thanks. I’m still waiting for my husband to come through– but look! A caramel apple stand! I can’t pass up something like that!” Without so much as a glance back, the auburn-haired woman was off in the direction of a booth fifty feet away.
“Good thing she’s easily distracted by sweets,” Jessie said, coming out from behind the corner of the building.
“It’s a good thing you got away in time. I was worried there for a second,” Ash replied, surprised by Jessie’s sudden appearance. “Your mom seems like a nice lady though, but she really takes the ‘boy’ thing seriously.”
“Of course she would, I am a boy! Or at least, I was…” Jessie recited once again. She was getting really tired of reminding her friend, but she was more upset remembering that she couldn’t turn back. ‘There has to be a way, I just need to find it somehow…‘
“So you keep saying. You really look just like her, though. Like mother like daughter.”
“Oh please, I’m not her daug-”
“What the hell is this about?!” A voice boomed from behind, cutting Jessie off. Jessie slowly turned with wide eyes as her father stood over her from the top of the steps, glaring at the sight before him. Her heart sunk and time seemed to freeze as she seized with fear.
TO BE CONTINUED