This version has had some long overdue editing. Thanks to Puddin' for the help.
Amelia and Stu turn into a teen train wreck. No one comes near but neither can they look away. The story revolves around them to spin a modern tale of magic and love.
(There's a hint of transgender in this part but the main transgender element doesn't start until near the end of the next part. Please stay tuned.)
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The Magic of Love
by Terry Volkirch
The next morning was nearly identical to the previous one, including the rain, only this time Amelia came prepared with an umbrella, a real one.
As she walked to school, she couldn't stop thinking about Stu. She still had no answer as to how she'd deal with him. There was an obvious attraction between them but she couldn't figure him out. Boys could be so frustrating.
Stu was nowhere to be seen as she settled into the chair in her first class, but he followed soon after and his eyes glued themselves to her. She tried frowning at him and even mouthed the words, "Please stop." He just added a little grin and kept on staring. What a creep!
She tried shrugging it off but it distracted her so much she couldn't concentrate on the lecture. It had to stop or her grades would suffer, and she might be too tempted to take the easy way out to solve her problem.
Then inspiration struck.
"Excuse me," Amelia said, raising her hand.
"Yes?" Mr. Johnson called on her, frowning. He hated to be interrupted.
"Is something wrong with Stu? Does he need medication? He keeps staring into space."
The class erupted with laughter and Stu blushed.
"Young Lady," Mr. Johnson sneered. "I don't know how they did things in your old school, but here we show respect."
"I'm sorry, Sir. It won't happen again."
Amelia had no trouble paying attention to the lecture after that. She won the battle, but at what cost? And what would she do tomorrow? What would she do in her next class? She just had some success with words and a little brain power. Perhaps words were the key.
She continued thinking about her problem while immersing herself in her teacher's lecture. She let the words of justice and government flow through her and it wasn't long before she felt a little kernel of an idea forming, along with a smile on her face.
When class ended, she took her time getting to her next class, making it easy for Stu to catch up to her.
"What was that?!" he yelped.
"What? You mean putting you in your place?"
"That wasn't cool," he maintained.
"Neither is staring! Whatever happened to an occasional peek? Or were those just words?"
"Come on. You like the attention. Admit it."
"No, I don't. I don't like it any more than I imagine you would."
"Hey. You can stare at me anytime, Babe."
Amelia had to bite her tongue but felt some satisfaction that he took the bait. She was determined to correct Stu's behavior without using her gift.
"Let's test that then," she said. "Let's switch seats so I'm behind you. I'll stare into the back of your head for the two other classes we have together."
"Okay. You're on."
Just like they agreed, they switched seats. Stu kept turning his head to smile at Amelia but after two reprimands from their Calculus teacher, Mrs. Packwood, he faced the front and tried to follow along.
The minutes ticked by and little by little, his found his concentration faltering. He couldn't stop wondering if Amelia was still staring at him. He had that strange feeling of being watched and spent most of his energy trying to keep himself from turning around. One more reprimand and he'd be sent to the principal's office.
When the bell finally rang, he let out a sigh of relief. He made it through the class. He didn't remember much of the second half of the lecture but he made it.
"Well? How was it?" Amelia asked him.
"No problem," he lied. "I loved it."
"You're lying," she growled. She could tell by the way he squirmed in his seat that he'd been uncomfortable. Then she thought of a way to prove it. "So what was the last thing we covered in class?"
"Huh?" That caught him off guard, but he refused to answer.
"I bet you don't know. You couldn't concentrate, could you," she demanded.
"Whatever," he bluffed.
"Well, we still have another class together after lunch. Let's see how well you do in Art. I'll be watching."
"Fine," he said as they separated for their next class.
Stu usually looked forward to his computer class, but after his exchange with Amelia, he couldn't stop thinking about what she said. He hated to admit it but she was right. It wasn't cool to stare. He really did it more out of spite than anything else, and that certainly wasn't cool.
That girl bothered him. He'd never met anyone like her. She was pretty, smart and had attitude. She had it all, yet something seemed off about her. Was she too good to be true? No, he still felt she had far too much ambition to be perfect. So why couldn't he stop thinking about her?
The bell rang and Stu wandered into the lunch room. He bought a few snacks from the vending machines but he didn't feel much like eating. He needed to get Amelia out of his head. He needed a distraction.
"Hey Gordo," he said to his best friend as he sat down next to him. "Where's Fred?" Gordo's real name was Gordon but everyone shortened it long ago in grade school. The two boys always sat together at lunch and had great fun wasting away the lunch hour.
"He'll be here in a couple minutes," his large friend replied. "He's checking out the cheerleaders again. They'll get rid of him soon."
Sure enough, Fred, the smallest and most timid of the three dateless wonders showed up looking somehow dejected and satisfied at the same time. He'd obviously gotten an eye full before he was sent away.
"Fred!" Stu shouted. "When will you learn?"
"When cheerleaders stop wearing those uniforms," he said dreamily.
The three friends were together again and everyone nearby made sure they were well out of range of the inevitable horseplay.
"Look at those idiots," Nancy said, pointing to the three boys across the lunch room. "I wish they'd grow up."
Nancy was one of the two girls who gave Amelia her school tour so, having nowhere else to go, Amelia found herself sitting with the girl and the girl's best friend, Teresa.
Teresa snorted, being too preoccupied with eating to do much else. The large girl's mouth always seemed full of food so no one was surprised by her weight problem. She usually spent the entire lunch period slowly eating her usual large meal of assorted comfort foods.
"I agree," Amelia said without looking.
"I take it you've met at least one of them," Nancy said.
Amelia glanced over at the boys and then looked long and hard at her new friend. Nancy wore thick glasses and didn't seem to care much for fashion, but with a little work, she'd look stunning. The Gifter imagined giving her a magic makeover until she felt a hand on her forearm.
"Hello? Anyone home?"
"Oh. Sorry, Nancy. Yeah, I met Stu. I have him in three of my classes."
"Now I'm sorry," Nancy said, earning another snort from Teresa.
"He's been staring at me and driving me crazy."
"Yeah, he's famous for it. Good old Staring Stu."
"Well, I turned the tables on him at least," Amelia said with a smug grin. "But I'm not sure if it's working." The grin quickly turned to a frown.
"What? How? What did you do?"
"I switched roles on him. I got him to let me stare at him to see how he liked it. I'm sure it bothered him but he won't admit it. He's so stubborn!"
"What?!" Teresa suddenly shouted, spitting a little of the food she was chewing.
"Ewww! Teresa!" both girls shouted together.
"Look at those goofy girls," Gordo pointed across to Amelia and her new friends. "The dumpy one just spit food all over the table! Ha!"
"She sounds like your kind of girl," Stu teased.
"Very funny. I like the blonde. She's hot."
"I don't think you'd like her if you talked to her."
"Who said anything about talking?" Gordo said, waggling his eyebrows.
"I'm serious, you idiot. I have her in three of my classes."
"What? No way," Gordo said with awe in his voice.
"It's not that big of a deal. She's too high maintenance."
"It's only the second day of school! How do you know?"
"I can tell. We've already had several conversations. Just give up on her."
Gordo's eyes widened. All he heard was what he wanted to hear.
"Dude! You should ask her out."
Stu slapped him alongside the head. "Did you even hear what I said? She's high maintenance. H.M.!"
Gordo rubbed his head and thought about his friend's wasted opportunity, but before he could think of more words of encouragement, their little lunch party was interrupted.
"Hi Stu. Hi guys." Someone who looked to be a much smaller and slightly younger version of Stu stood on the opposite side of the lunch table, facing the three boys.
"Hey Squirt," Stu said. "I thought I told you to stay away from our table. Seniors and sophomores don't mix. Beat it."
"My name isn't Squirt, it's Stan." The small boy rolled his eyes. Big brothers could be such a pain. "And I'm here to deliver a message from Mom so you better listen."
That got both Fred's and Gordo's attention.
"You better listen to him," Gordo said. "He might tell Mommy if you don't." Then Stu's two shadows laughed.
Stu scowled but he knew better than to ignore his mother.
"What's the message?"
Stan rattled off a list of a few grocery items they needed for dinner and promptly left, glad to be rid of the three older boys. He wouldn't hang around them even if they begged him. He went back to his own little circle of quiet friends and happily faded into the relatively safe background.
Since the father of the two brothers died, life had been hard for the Benson family. Their mother worked long hours to support them and she needed all the help she could get. Since Stan seemed most eager to own a cell phone and since they could barely afford one, he got it. That meant he was the one who got the text messages that his mother sent from her computer at work. It also meant he got the unpleasant task of relaying the occasional message to his older brother.
Being the oldest child, Stu didn't mind doing some of the shopping and household chores to help out, even though he thought they were strictly women's work. He had his priorities straight at least. He loved his mother and, though he'd never admit it out loud, he loved his younger brother.
Stan pretty much followed his older brother's lead, but he seemed much happier about it, almost too happy. There was something odd about that boy, but blood was thicker than water so Stu looked after him the best he could. Being so small for his age meant that Stan got picked on a lot and needed protection. The small boy was an easy target for bullies.
Lunch time drew to a close, and the lingering students scattered. It was time for Amelia to resume her battle for a perfect senior year, one already marred by a certain boy who seemed determined to get in her way.
As soon as she got to Art class, she squeaked. Stu had beat her to the room and already sat in his old chair behind and to the side of hers.
"Hey," she said, quickly marching up to him. "We're supposed to switch seats. Come on. Get up."
Stu slowly looked up at her and shook his head, leaving Amelia speechless. She sputtered and huffed but didn't have time to argue. She returned to her original desk and plopped down hard in her chair, just as the bell signaled the start of class.
Class actually went surprisingly well. Stu stopped his staring, and once Amelia realized it, she relaxed and got into some serious drawing. Time flew and the bell rang, startling her. She quickly gathered her things and rushed over to Stu to begin the inquisition.
"What happened? Why did you sit in your chair? Why did you stop staring?"
"You're welcome," he said with his annoying smirk.
"You think I should be thanking you? You started it by annoying me!"
Just before the argument had a chance to get going, Mr. Stevens came over and put an end to it.
"Not in my classroom, please."
"But ...," Amelia started.
"Just go," her art teacher pleaded. He hated to see the petty arguments of his students. He was much too old to put up with such nonsense.
"Men!" Amelia wanted to say more but she was too upset so she stormed out of the classroom. The two males watched her go and then turned to face each other.
"Good luck," Mr. Stevens said to Stu, earning a confused look from the boy.
Amelia ambushed her mother in the kitchen for the second day in a row, and once again covered the same subject.
"He's impossible!" Amelia complained, after she nearly ran out of breath explaining the situation with Stu.
"But didn't you say he stopped staring? That's something," offered her mother.
"Yes, but he shouldn't have expected me to thank him. And my art teacher threw us out of the classroom. It's so unfair!"
"Amelia, calm down. Just try having another talk with the boy."
The teen stood a moment, tears of frustration streaming down her face. She'd always gotten her way. Everything always fell into place and worked out the way she wanted. Of course, she used her gift to help, but why shouldn't she? Why have it if she didn't use it?
She wished she could use her gift on Stu somehow. She wished she could just make him go away, but that would be wrong. It would also be against the third rule of Gifting: do no harm. She was stuck.
"It's pointless. I'm doomed," the girl said in a quiet voice. She scuffed her feet as she left the kitchen and ended up lying on the sofa, sulking. A single boy destroyed her perfect senior year before it could even get started.
Cassandra followed and looked down at her.
"You really like him, don't you." It was more a statement of fact than a question.
"I don't know," the girl whined. "Maybe."
"Please, Amelia. Keep trying. If you can't win him over with logic or charm, then use grit and determination. Don't let him make you miserable. That's not like you."
"Hey! What did I tell you about that phrase? You got him to stop staring. You can get him to start being nicer."
"I don't know," the girl said, giving it a little thought.
"You were very clever turning the tables on him. I wish I could've seen him squirm in his chair when you stared at him."
That got a giggle out of both of them.
"Okay, Mom. You're right. I won't give up. But I feel like I'm chipping away at an iceberg with a toothpick."
"I know, Honey. I know."
Day three arrived and Amelia dragged herself to school. Though she normally liked the early part of the day and liked to walk, she couldn't bring herself to appreciate anything about that morning, not even the fact that the rain had stopped.
The girl trudged towards her first class and paused at the door to let someone else enter first. It was Stu. It had to be him.
"Hi," she said, testing the waters.
"Oh. I didn't see you there," he said. He quickly moved ahead of her and plopped down in his usual seat behind hers, leaving her to slowly follow.
"Can I please ask you a question?" she said when she'd caught up.
"You mean a second question?" he said, playing the smart aleck.
"Please," she said quietly.
"Okay. Fine. Shoot."
"Why did you stop staring at me?"
"Because you asked me?" he said, getting confused.
"You didn't stop right away the first time I asked you. Why stop now?"
"Good question. Would you like me to start again? Don't tell me you miss it." He was actually serious.
"No! I don't miss it. Crap! What's with you?!"
The frustrated girl marched back to her seat, leaving many of their classmates either snickering or staring in wonder.
Mr. Johnson noticed his two pupils going at it and shook his head, thinking that teen angst should be added to the list of certainties in life. It ranked right up there with death and taxes.
The lecture began and for the first time that school year, everyone in class paid attention. It wouldn't be the only day that happened but it would come to be a rare occurrence.
Two weeks went by with much the same result between Amelia and Stu. Amelia's behavior confused and slightly annoyed him so he did the natural thing and tried to avoid her. That just made her pursue him all the more, resulting in the slow escalation of tension between the two of them.
Teachers and counselors might have helped, except it was too early in the battle. The two teens stubbornly refused to consider any outside help. They might complain to their mothers, but they both always insisted on solving their own problems. They were too alike for their own good.
Lunch became an oasis for the pair. They separated and sought refuge with their small group of friends, the only friends they really had and the only friends they could get. Most of their classmates couldn't help notice the tension between the two teens, thanks to the frequent verbal sparring, so everyone avoided getting involved with either of them.
"Hi Nancy. Hi Teresa," Amelia chirped as she sat down for lunch. She was always happy to see her friends, even if she did think them a little odd.
Teresa grunted her usual response as she continued eating.
"Hi Amelia," Nancy responded. "Any luck with Stu?"
"His name is not to be mentioned in my presence today. Please. Let's talk about something else."
"Anything!" Then the blonde got a gleam in her eye, making Nancy a little nervous. "How about we talk about Teresa's eating disorder?" The gifted girl never did learn a lot about tact since she'd locked herself away in her room for hours on end. Her private studies meant more to her than anything else, except her mother, and sadly, it showed.
Teresa actually stopped chewing and slowly looked up at Amelia. The large girl showed no emotion except for a slightly wild look in her eyes. She seemed ready to bolt.
"Teresa," Amelia persisted. "All you do is fill your face while Nancy and I talk. You're obviously overweight and I'm very concerned. It's not healthy!"
"Amelia!" Nancy gasped. "What the hell are you doing?!"
"I'm serious! I can't stand to see someone slowly kill themselves by overeating."
"She's only 17. She's not going to die anytime soon."
"Hey!" Teresa spoke up. "I'm right here, you know."
Amelia gasped. It was the longest sentence she'd ever heard from Teresa. But she quickly recovered.
"You do have a voice. That's the first time I've really heard you say anything." Then she looked up at the ceiling. "See! There's still hope!"
The two old friends rolled their eyes at that, but the blonde had their attention.
"Come on. Please. Come with me. Both of you."
"Huh?" the other two girls said.
"We're going on a walk. We've had plenty of time to get enough nourishment and now it's time for some exercise."
Teresa groaned but she got up, and she groaned louder when Amelia threw away all of the remaining food. The large girl had never been on a diet, never considered one. Food was her best friend, with Nancy a close but definite second.
"Come on," Amelia said. "It'll be nice to get outside and get some fresh air. You'll see."
Nancy wasn't hard to convince. She didn't appreciate spending all her free time in the lunch room. She only did it to stay with her best friend. Teresa was the one they had to convince, and she understandably resisted until Nancy and Amelia each took an arm and led her out.
After walking a short distance towards the baseball field, the large girl shrugged off her escorts and continued on her own, slowly but surely. The three girls walked a lap around the field before she said anything.
"Okay. I've had enough," she puffed. "I'm still hungry."
"Hey. We're just getting started," Amelia said. "You can't quit now."
"Yeah," Nancy added. "We spend too much time indoors. This is nice. It's not exactly warm but it isn't raining. We should do this more often."
Teresa didn't say anything but her stomach rumbled in protest. It wasn't used to such treatment. The girl never exercised, and her heavy breathing and sweat pouring down her face proved it. Still, she didn't want to disappoint her friends so she kept walking.
Amelia couldn't help notice her new friend's discomfort and felt a little guilty. She hadn't exactly thought things through for her spur of the moment plan to forget about Stu. She just felt the need to get outside and walk.
Staying in good shape was important to her so she normally walked to school back in Denver, snow or no snow. She also liked to occasionally take walks at lunch. Having school was the only way she could get any exercise. She spent most her time at home in her room, doing homework and learning to use her gift.
She probably could've used more exercise, but she used her gift to beautify herself and keep herself in the best of health. With exercise and her ability, she'd live well into her 90's and possibly much longer. The Gift allowed some to manipulate themselves at the cellular level, enough that they could slow the process of aging to a crawl. If she kept up her studies, she could easily be one of those long-lived Gifters.
As she thought about her gift, she looked over at her suffering friend and suddenly wondered if she shouldn't use her gift to help the girl lose weight. Amelia had never had any close friends and never learned to be too concerned with the welfare of others. So it came as a bit of a surprise to her that she thought to try helping.
Of course, she had somewhat selfish reasons. She wanted to help but she mainly thought it would help herself feel better. Fighting with Stu drained her emotionally and she needed a lift. She could also use some practice with her gift. The more she thought about it, the more she liked the idea of a magical weight loss program for her friend. She just needed to make sure it wouldn't violate any rules.
The rules of the Gift had been taught and frequently repeated to her by her mother over the years, with the third rule being emphasized as the most important. "Do no harm" seemed easy enough to grasp but did it include getting someone's permission to do something for them? Cassandra had mentioned the importance of getting a person to knowingly agree to getting special help, but Amelia felt it didn't apply with her friends. Her only goal was to help them. Why would she need their permission? Besides, she'd be giving away her secret if she told her friends.
Keeping the Gift a secret wasn't exactly a rule, but it had been firmly ingrained into Amelia at a very young age, for her own protection more than anything else. It was an important lesson that had only one exception. Life mates could be told, though even then things could end badly. The girl still cried when she thought about her father. He left when she was very young. He could handle a gifted wife but not a gifted, willful daughter, so he left his family, never to be heard from again. If she found someone to love who didn't have the Gift, she vowed to do everything possible to keep that person from finding out. The lesson of secrecy had been learned the hard way and learned well, so she never considered telling her friends. In her mind, that left her no choice but to use her gift on them without their knowledge.
As the three girls walked, Amelia made her decision. She put her hand on Teresa's back and used her gift to suppress the appetite of the large girl. She also included a permanent boost to Teresa's metabolism to help burn away the fat. The body sculpting had begun, and unfortunately for her, it didn't go unnoticed.
Since she didn't think of herself as doing any wrong, the gifted girl thought herself safe from spying eyes, but she was wrong. Even actions with short-term benefits could very well develop long-term problems and thereby break the third rule. The importance of secrecy and possibility of harm couldn't be overlooked.
The universe automatically enforced the first two rules of the Gift since they were physical laws, but it couldn't ensure that all Gifters used their power wisely. Only Gifters themselves could hope to control their own kind, and they did so by adding the third rule along with a set of guidelines that warned of the many hazards they might encounter. The guidelines were only suggestions. It was the third rule that was all important, so much so that a small group was given the task of monitoring some of their own. Few adults were deemed a risk but teenagers seemed especially prone to abusing their power, so many teens were monitored.
The Council of Elders had long ago identified Amelia as selfish and spoiled. They knew of her tendency to magically beautify herself and figured she was likely to use her gift on others, so they kept a close eye on her.
One of those charged with monitoring Western Oregon was using remote sensing to monitor Amelia during the time she used the Gift on her friend. So the abuse was detected, but no lightning bolt struck. Nothing extraordinary happened at all. Her unseen monitor merely made note of it and swore under his breath. It was the first time the girl had used her gift in such a way, and as such, it warranted extra duty to watch her, and nothing else. The Council didn't want to overreact. A one-time or rare occurrence shouldn't be punished. Exceptions were tolerated. They just wanted to make sure it wouldn't escalate further so they increased the rate of monitoring.
Amelia's monitor raised the girl's status to "high risk" and had to set up constant monitoring during the girl's waking hours. After three incidents of using the gift on someone else, the monitored teen's mother would be notified and punishment would be required. The severity of the punishment would of course depend on exactly how badly the teen abused her power.
*** to be continued ***
© 2008 by Terry Volkirch. This work may not be replicated in whole or in part by any means electronic or otherwise without the express consent of the Author (copyright holder). All Rights Reserved. This is a work of Fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional and any resemblance to real people or incidents past, present or future is purely coincidental.