A/N: Basically, it's a feel good teen drama. Don't expect too much and you won't be disappointed. Chapters to be released bi-monthly. They will hit my personal website, subsequentvisions dot com, on about the first of the month, and Fiction Press around the 15th.
Characters and Story are property of me. No Stealing.
Prelude: Lip Gloss & Hair Dye
Alex frowned at his reflection in the mirror. "Do you think the orange lipstick is better, or the pink?" he asked his older sister.
"Neither," Leah answered, pulling her long auburn hair back into a sloppy bun. "You're only fourteen. I don't want my baby brother looking like a whore. There's some strawberry lip gloss in my purse. Use that."
"If I can find anything in there," he answered before rummaging through the over-sized khaki messenger bag. Leah attended art school part time, and on top of that she had a penchant for carrying a little bit of everything at all times, so her purse was more like a beach bag or small suitcase. When she wasn't at school, she worked at their parents' salon—Renaissance Hair and Nails. The salon catered to the upper class; it wasn't the kind of place you'd go for a seven-dollar special. Being surrounded by rich snobs is how his parents managed to support three children after their father lost his accounting job to company downsizing. It wasn't always easy, but everyone helped out.
Mr. & Mrs. Devon took Sundays off and left Leah in charge. After her last appointment for the day, the twenty-two year old had agreed to help her youngest sibling with his most recent problem. She was willing to get into some trouble with their parents later if it came down to it, because there was just no way she was willing to miss the chance to see her little brother in a pleated skirt and knee socks.
"Twennythreeminnits," Alex answered in regard to the strips of foil pinned into his short, chestnut hair as he put the lip gloss on far too cautiously. He capped it again and made a face. "This stuff is slimy," he complained.
"Being a woman is painful," Leah answered, moving to start removing the foil. "This is going to look so cute," she all but squealed. She was adding a few light red highlights. It was subtle enough that no one would think twice about it on a boy, but would make him that much more convincing as a girl. It wasn't unusual for Alex to end up the victim of one of his sister's hair experiments.
"You're way too excited about this," the boy frowned, wiping his finger off on a tissue in disgust.
"Well, Trish doesn't let me doll her up anymore, after all," Leah joked.
"You're absolutely positive that Trish is at Lacey's until tomorrow?" Alex reaffirmed. The middle child at 17, Trish would absolutely never let him live this down.
"Of course! I wouldn't lie about something like that!" Alex wasn't sure whether he should trust her or not. "Are you going to shave or wax?"
Alex didn't answer. He was too horrified by the very idea of having smooth, hairless legs.
"Being a woman is painful," Leah repeated her earlier words cheerfully.
"I'll shave," Alex sighed at last. "I've seen you make grown women cry with hot wax. Men too. Devil Woman."
"Is that any way to talk to someone who's helping you out?" Leah griped.
"Don't even try it. We both know you're only doing it for your own twisted amusement," Alex answered.
"Lean back and let me wash this out," his sister said, changing the subject and spinning the chair around.
Alex eased his head back into the sink as if he'd done it a thousand times. On weekends, he was the hair-washer. That's all he did every Saturday—he washed people's hair and swept the floor until 6 pm. He could find his way around the salon in his sleep, and speaking of sleep, for all of her smart-assed, big sisterly commentary, Leah had gentle hands that could lull him right to sleep.
He let his eyes drift closed, but just as he was starting to doze off, the silver chime hanging on the door jingled. Every muscle in his spine that had just relaxed knotted into tight coils.
Leah dropped a towel over his face casually and said, "Go on and get changed, darling. You don't want to be late, right?"
Alex nodded dumbly, using the towel to cover his made-up face and newly highlighted hair and escaping to the back room while he had the chance. He knew there was a reason Leah was his favorite sister; she'd just saved his ass.
Jess shifted awkwardly, adjusting a bra strap and stumbling a bit as one of the heels on his sandals found the tiny lip in the doorway. "How do girls function in this crap?" he muttered under his breath.
"Very carefully, I guess," Danny answered quietly. "You sure you wanna go through with this?"
"Danny, I'm wearing capris." Jess hadn't even known what those short pants were called before today. "With flowers on them. There is no way I'm going to lose to some blue-collar brat," he finished tersely, cutting off the conversation as Leah approached. "You take walk-ins, right?" he asked.
"Well, not always," she answered honestly. "But Sundays are slow. You're lucky. I just finished my last appointment. What were you looking to get done, hon?"
Jess tugged a little on the overgrown layers of blond hair falling into his eyes. "Ah, something, a little more...you know..."
"Feminine," Danny finished for his friend when he noticed Jess struggling with the word.
"Not too feminine," Jess amended quickly. "Just sort of..."
"Something cute," Leah nodded in understanding. "No problem." She gestured to the seat Alex had been in a few minutes earlier. "Come on in and have a seat."
Two Days Earlier at Canterbury Rhodes Preparatory Academy:
Marcus Doyle raked his fingers through sloppy brown hair. His lips creased into an irritated frown.
"I know, Tom. I'm thinking." He crossed his arms over his chest. On the one hand, the dean's son was actually a really good player. On the other, the scholarship student had the potential to be great. But Jesse Morgan may have already reached the pinnacle of what he could achieve without a very firm push. Either freshman was wasted warming the bench and Marc was certain neither would accept substitute placement anyway. They only needed one more midfielder to fill the positions last year's seniors had left empty. If it were a normal situation he'd quickly have made his decision; he wanted to see what this Alexander Devon could do with the proper training, but the dean's son trying out for the team was not a small affair, especially given that the freshman had some actual skill. "I hate politics," he muttered after a long pause, raking his fingers through his hair again and shifting his weight. "If only there was a way to convince one of them to step down on their own..."
There was an extended silence before Tom, the vice-captain and a year his junior, smirked mischievously up at him. "I have an idea," he said. "Just a little prank to test their determination."
Mark knew that look was usually dangerous, but for lack of other options nodded slowly. "Tell me then."
Across the field, Alex shifted his weight nervously. Soccer was everything! He didn't really care where he went to school, but he was smart and studied hard to please his parents, so when they seemed so excited about him getting a scholarship to the nearby prep school he couldn't bring himself to disappoint them.
He watched the Captain and Vice-Captain speak in hushed tones for almost ten minutes before Captain Doyle hissed something out between his teeth and threw his arm as if he was firmly against whatever had just been suggested.
Jess's nervousness came out more aggressively than Alex's. "Hey, Midget. Isn't there a sweat shop in China looking for you?"
Alex glared up at the blond teen. Just because he hadn't had his growth spurt yet and wasn't some rich snob didn't mean he had to take being treated like a second class citizen. "I don't know. Why don't you call and ask. I'm sure your daddy owns them all, just like he owns all of your friends."
Jess grabbed Alex by the collar without warning and slammed his fist as hard as he could into the smaller boy's jaw. Alex answered by tackling Jess to the ground with an angry yell.
"Hey! Cut it out you two!" one of the upperclassmen declared, rushing to try and pull them apart and getting knocked on his ass in the first attempt.
Marc turned his head and something just snapped. "YOU TWO IDIOTS GET OVER HERE RIGHT NOW!" he demanded. There wasn't even a moment's doubt about which two idiots he was referring to and his tone snapped them right out of their rage. Both freshmen scurried to their feet and hurried across the field. "Yes, Captain!" they said in perfect sync.
"I'm going to be straight with you," Marc said with a frown. "There is no way in hell I can put the two of you on the same team." They'd already suspected as much. "You're more or less on the same level as players," he continued. "So Tom and I have come up with a little bet, if you both agree to do it."
When both boys remained standing stiffly, waiting for him to continue, he did. "St. Teresa of Avila Girls Academy," he said slowly. "We want you to infiltrate it."
"I-infiltrate?" Alex answered timidly. What kind of prank, exactly, did these guys have in mind?
Marc looked to Tom, who was more than glad to explain. "Basically, we want you two to pose as girls and join that horrible soccer team. The first one of you to get caught loses, the other will take the last midfield position on this team."
Jess's brow twitched. That was outrageous! "And if we refuse?" he asked.
"Then neither of you will make the cut," Tom said flatly. "There are plenty other people who want that position. Are you okay with passing it up?"
"I...I'll do it!" Alex answered more abruptly than he thought he was capable of. "If it means I have a chance at making the team, anything is okay!" he insisted.
Not willing to be showed up in soccer, courage, or even foolishness by the smaller boy, Jess declared angrily, "me too! There's no way I'm going to lose to someone like you!" he glared at Alex.
"Good luck, Bigfoot," Alex replied scathingly. "They'll pick you out the second you walk in the door."
Tom and Marc exchanged a look. They'd both agreed? In theory, one would agree, the other would decline, and the one that agreed was the one who was serious and would make the cut. But in actual practice theories don't always pan out. Marc somehow managed to keep his legs underneath him, but raked his fingers through his hair again. 'Oh shit...' He gave Tom a stern look as the two freshmen started to bicker again and said, "I'll leave the rest to you," before turning and leaving the field. Wasn't senior year supposed to be easy and uncomplicated? 'What did I let that troublemaker get me into this time?! I could be expelled if Dean Morgan finds out about this!'