There’s a trick to being a Seeming, one that I think only Seemings know. We can look just like our actuals, or we can look like what they want to look like. We can project confidence and display all of the knowledge that our actuals have. But we aren’t them, and we always know it.
As I sat in the car with Penny’s Mom, I pretended to be busy reviewing my Science notes from the day before. Outwardly I was calm to the point of boredom, just like Penny would have been. Inwardly, I was tingling with the dread of being discovered so much that I felt like I had a battery attached to every nerve ending.
“Do you have a quiz today?” Penny’s Mom asked, as she put the car into gear and backed out onto the street.
Penny lived close enough to walk to school but in the mornings she usually caught a ride in with her mother so that she wouldn’t be late. That was convenient for Penny but a pain for me. I knew I could pretend to be Penny better than anyone in the world, but her mother probably knew her better than anyone except Rosie so if anyone was going to pick up on the switch it would be her.
“It’s supposed to be a surprise,” I said. “Ms. Leavitt gave us a few hints though.”
“What did she say?” Penny’s Mom asked.
“She said, and I quote, ‘there will be a surprise quiz on this material, you’ll want to know it for tomorrow’.”
“Not much of a surprise if she warns you,” Penny’s Mom said.
“It’s the same warning she gave us last time and half the class failed anyways,” I said.
Keeping her thinking about school felt right. Penny had done well on that last quiz, one of the highest marks in the class, and if Mom remembered that, she wouldn’t be thinking about comparing the girl who sat beside her to the one she thought she was driving in to school.
“You were up late talking with Rosie last night weren’t you?” Penny’s Mom asked. “Did you have enough time to study?”
“Yeah,” I said. “We were studying together.”
“What I heard didn’t sound like studying,” she said.
Seemings don’t have bodies like our actuals do. We’re illusions in a sense. That didn’t stop my non-existent heart from skipping a beat though. I knew what Penny and Rosie had been talking about. It wasn’t a conversation anyone else should have overheard. In a sense it was why I was outside of the mirror world at all. I was meant to help protect Penny and keep her secret’s safe. Or at least that felt like what I was supposed to do.
“Or do you study for Science in whispers now?” she asked.
I refrained from breathing a sigh of relief and reacted how I knew Penny would react.
“We weren’t whispering,” I said.
“Was it about a boy?” she asked.
“Mom!” I said it in exactly the tone of voice that would convince her that I would never admit to it being about a boy while at the same time absolutely confirming that it was about a boy.
Penny’s Mom smirked the knowing smile all adults seem to get when they see a kid thinking their first romantic thoughts. Those smirks were rarely correct of course. Penny had been thinking romantic thoughts for quite a while already but there was an enormous gap between thinking about romance and actually doing anything about it.
“I hear the Harvest Dance is coming up soon,” Penny’s Mom said, changing the subject not at all.
“Mmnn,” I said, going non-verbal just like Penny would have to resist allowing the conversation to proceed further into uncomfortable waters.
“When’s the last day to get tickets?” Penny’s Mom asked.
“Friday,” I said. If I could have answered in a monosyllable I would have.
“Did you want to go shopping this weekend?”
‘For a new dress for the dance’ was the blatantly obvious subtext there. Penny had little interest in that. No one had asked her to the dance yet, and Rosie wasn’t likely to go, so she was planning to skip it and keep her best friend company instead of gluing herself to a wall while loud music that she didn’t know played in the school’s gymnasium.
As Penny’s Seeming I had two duties though. On the one hand I needed to keep people convinced that I was Penny so they wouldn’t wonder about what she was really up to. On the other hand though, I needed to appear the way Penny wanted to be seen by others. I could be a little prettier, a little smarter and a little more extroverted. I wasn’t really any of those things. I was nothing more than a fake, but as long as I could keep people from seeing through that I wondered if I might be able to do something solid and real for Penny.
“Sure,” I said, brightening my voice a little. I didn’t know when Penny would be getting back from her journey into the mirror. I hoped it wouldn’t be long, but either way, if I could go shopping for her, I could pick out a nice outfit for dance and maybe even stand in for her there. With music and lights and movement, people would accept a different view of Penny than the one they normally saw at school and I might be able to win her a few more friends.
“Do well on that surprise quiz then,” Penny’s Mom said.
“I’ll ace it.” I said, and knew I would.
“Say hi to Rosie,” she said, pulling up to the curb in front of the school.
“I will,” I said as I hopped out and looked over the press of students heading into the building.
I didn’t see Rosie, but what I did see made me want to hop back into the car before Mom pulled away.
Penny had always looked on her classmates with human eyes. My eyes weren’t human though. They were magic, so I saw things a little different than Penny did. I thought I was going to be the only magical creature in school. I thought I’d be able to fool everyone else easily. I was very wrong.
In and among the regular human students there were dozens of ‘kids’ who were like me. Seemings, illusion covered monsters and transformed creatures that still radiated magic. I was far from alone and that was not a good thing.