My sister Lottie has something on her mind. She texted me this morning about it, so here we are. We're sitting at a table in the canteen facing each other. She cups her face in her hand and sighs.
"So L, what's eating you?"
Lottie pushes her long blond hair away from her eyes. "I want Jason to like me."
"Lottie!" This is gross. She's talking about Mr Risk – a teacher… yeahhhh…
At that moment, we're distracted by some boys gawping at Lottie. When Lottie's with me, they gawp at her, not me, and Lottie doesn't mind. She's the beauty of the family, not me. She has long golden hair, I'm the redhead. I have a face with a ton of freckles, but she only has a picturesque smattering over her nose and cheeks. She has pouty lips, and her boobs have got bigger… mine haven't. But her eyes are like mine. So blue. Like a spring sky.
I touch her hand. "Lottie, you really can't think stuff like that. Don't get squicky thoughts about the teachers."
She sniffs. "A lot you care Astrid. You have a big ego, because you were Dad's favourite."
Well I'm angrier about her saying that than I should be. I don't think I've been all that stable emotionally since Dad died two years ago… I was his favourite and it hit me hardest and no one should try and be funny about that … And she can see me glaring so she backtracks. "I'm sorry… I can't help how I feel. Guys make you say stupid things."
I touch her hand again. "Try to get Mr Risk out of your head, L."
Whatever Astrid says, I'm not going to give up on Jason. He's such a hunk. Wavy black hair, dreamy brown eyes, beautiful smile… God, I can't stop thinking about him. I want to impress him by doing extra research. I'm rooting through the library shelves and I come across this very old exercise book. What is it? The pages are yellow and crackling and there's a waning moon symbol on the cover. Weird.
The pages are blank. No they're not. One of them has spidery writing in pencil. For your heart's desire follow the green moons. Okay. That was a dud. Wait though. I can see a green full moon hovering above the library door. I head out of the library and I see a gibbous green moon by the stairs. I follow that and there's a green half-moon past the lockers. This is getting weirder. Now there's a green quarter moon by the boiler room steps. In the boiler room there's a green sickle moon by a new door. Was that always here? I go down another flight of steps. It smells down here. Really musty. I'm in a bare, stone room, and there's a weird green light.
A ghostly voice startles me. "Stop. Who are you to burst in on me like this?"
The light's coming from a mirror. I get a really creepy feeling when I see a ghostly green girl's face in the mirror.
"S-Sorry. I'll just be going now," I stammer.
"Wait. You must have come here for a reason. Do you not have a forbidden desire?"
"I suppose I do." Oh dear, why am I admitting that to the creepy mirror girl. I don't think she's to be trusted.
"Well your heart's desire can be yours. Look in the box."
There's an old wooden box at the foot of the mirror. Hmmmm. "I don't think so." I tell her.
"If you open the box you can have anything and any man you desire. If you would do anything to get what you desire, then you will prove it by opening the box and gaining the power. If you would not, then you must leave straight away. Hurry up and decide."
I think of Jason. Against my better judgement, I open the box. There are vines or something inside. Suddenly they surge out of the box and wrap themselves around my wrist. I cry out in shock, my heart pounding and my head spinning. A bunch of tubes from the vines stick themselves to my wrist and bite,,. I scream.
Lottie's sent me an urgent text again. I hope nothing's really the matter. I meet her round the back by the dustbins. What on in the world! My sister has a bright and shiny yellowish green face that I could see a mile off. How? Has she just been painting her face? And her hands? Her hands are green too. Her blue eyes are wide, and her blond hair is dishevelled. I suppose this is a prank.
I'll play along, although who knows what she's thinking of? "Hi there, Frog Princess. Good to meet you. Where's Lottie?"
"Not funny!" She's glaring at me and breathing hard through her nose. "Something serious happened. It turned me green! I – I - " Her mouth opens and closes. Her lips are a darker green. Almost black. If it's makeup, then it's done incredibly well…
"You were trying to make me jump or something? Well you get an A for effort."
"I'm not! Can't you be serious?" She snaps at me. I can tell when my sister is agitated and something's wrong...
"Alright, L. Why don't we go somewhere where we can quietly discuss it?"
We go to the coffee shop around the corner. It's about to close and there's just the one waitress there. Lottie shows her student card for getting discounts. The waitress narrows her eyes. "This is a joke? I can't tell if that's you. Your face is green."
Lottie's going to snap at her, so I drag her to a table and hold her green hand in both my freckly ones. "Tell me calmly what the matter is and what you're playing at, OK?"
Lottie glares at me and then her blue eyes look afraid. The sunlight streaming in through the window shines off her green nose and cheeks. "I found a room under the boiler room. It's in a sub-basement or something. There's some weird magic there. A freaky mirror that talks. If you don't believe me, come and take a look for yourself."
I'm ready to humour her, but first she wants to go to the bathroom and scrub her face. She rubs her green face in water at the sink, but nothing happens except she gets wet. What sort of makeup is this? She pushes her sopping hair back and stairs at herself. "I was beautiful. Just look at me now… Frog Princess."
"Frogs are kind of cute," I tell her.
She turns round to glare at me again. "You don't believe I'm serious, do you? Well let's get to the boiler room."
The boiler room's not really the place I want to snoop around, but whatever. It's dark and smells kind of funny. There's another door leading down. Hey, what's this. A TV or computer? It does look like a mirror with a freaky green face in it.
"Greetings, witch and non-witch, magic and mundane," says an echoey voice.
"What're you calling us?" I'm getting the unreal feeling you get at a very high temperature.
The face in the mirror stares back at me. "Your sister gave herself over to witchcraft by proving she would do anything to get what she wants. Even forbidden love. You have done no such thing. She has magic in her blood and you do not."
"There. You see? This weirdo did this to me," says Lottie, folding her arms.
"You can use your power to get the man you desire," says the mirror. "You are who you are now. Why don't you make the most of it?"
I turn to her. "Lottie… this had better not be about your obsession with poor Mr Risk again. I told you – teacher and schoolgirl romance is a no-no."
I have to wonder now, is magic real? Has Lottie really gone to awful lengths to nab the teacher?
Lottie stares back, her blue eyes wide. Her green face looks even weirder in the ghostly light of the mirror.
"Prove you're magic," I tell the mirror. "Change Lottie back."
"I can't," echoes the voice. "There's magic in her as well now. But you… Is there nothing you desire? What length would you go to, to see your father again. You were his favourite. I'm sure he must miss you terribly as well."
It's like someone punched me in the gut. She's got me where it really hurts. I'm actually forgetting Lottie going green and the squicky stuff about the teacher at this moment.
The mirror speaks again. "Anything becomes possible with this kind of power. Even raising the dead. If you would give yourself over to magic, then open the box and receive the power. If you would not give yourself over to magic, then don't."
If there's a chance I could get Dad back, then I want the power that Lottie has. I don't care if I go green.
I leap for the box as Lottie calls my name and I open it. Vines wrap around me and tubes fasten onto my wrist, but I let them. There are green lights all around me. Lottie tells me to stop, but she can't seem to walk into the light. Ow... it's putting something in me. Something warm. I grit my teeth. My hands are going green. The warmth spreads down my arms and into my stomach, spreading to my head, making me giddy… spreading lower and making me feel… other things. I close my eyes and the vines let go. The lights go out. It's just that ghost girl in the mirror still glowing. God… my hands look really green. What have I done?
"Oh Astrid…" says Lottie sadly.
I turn to her. "We look like two peas in a pod, eh? Well for me, I don't care. For you, perhaps we can reverse it. But what's important is that I get Dad back. I've made up my mind." I turn to the mirror. "Where do we get spells from?"
"The old book behind the panel in the wall," croons the mirror.
I slide the panel aside and find an old book in faded green leather. "Great. Now what do we do about you?"
"This room can only be found by those who seek magic and who are worthy. Don't worry. Only you two can get in at this time."
I stick the book in my school bag and take Lottie's hand. "Come on Lottie."
We attract some weird looks on the way back. This lady gapes at out green faces. Lottie stands and looks hurt, her mouth open and her eyes tearing up. I pat her arm to comfort her, but at the same time, I urge her to get a move on. I'm thinking ahead. Daddy won't care if his favourite girl is green. And it's nothing to have to put up with if I get him back.
Back home, our sister Gabriella runs to greet us. She goes to middle school. She likes Lottie better than me, and she runs up to glomp her, her long blond hair swinging behind her.
"Gabi!" squeals Lottie, perking up at the sight of her favourite sister. They hug and kiss. It's sweet that they're so close.
"It's a bit early for Halloween," says Gabi. "Are you practicing?"
"We're having trouble… we can't get these witch costumes off," says Lottie, her dark green bottom lip trembling.
Gabi doesn't get it. She stares up with big blue eyes and smile. "Awww. Well you're a beautiful witch. You're always beautiful. You're Lottie. And you Astrid... Being green does suits you."
Upstairs I have to take a look in the mirror. I do look weird. My vivid green face and bright red hair are such a clash of lurid colours. The whites of my eyes and my teeth make a weird contrast with the rest of my face. But I've got to be the strong one. I won't obsess over my green face.
Later, Lottie and I are poring over the book. It's handwritten and the handwriting is terrible. Lottie has more trouble deciphering it than I do, and it makes her cross. But now I've found a chapter I want – The Art of the Necromancer. Talking to the dead.
"I wanted to find out how to not be a witch anymore," says Lottie, folding her arms.
"I will help with that, but first, you know I want our Dad back. OK… there is a spell to raise the dead. What's that say?" I can't pronounce it. "Emoc stirips emoc…?"
The lights grow dim. "What is it?" cries Lottie. Her green face looks weirder in the near dark. There's a whispering all around us. Shadows are materialising in the corners of the room…!