There was no way I was ready to deal with this. A school full of regular kids? Sure, no problem, as a Seeming it was my job to be able to fool people like that. A school full of monsters and freaks and other weirdos though? That was not in the job description.
Except that it was.
As a Seeming, I was supposed to be able to fool everyone, so that Penny could handle unusual and unexplainable problems as the need arose. I think, on a deeper level too, I was meant to help protect the mystery that surrounded witches. With a good Seeming in play, you could never really be sure you were talking to the witch herself or that you knew precisely where she was or what she was doing. That was a big part of keeping people guessing as to what witches could do and what any particular witch might know.
The problem with being mysterious like that was that it took a lot of work and practice and I’d had time for none of the latter so far. If I had any luck at all to work with though, it was that Penny wasn’t usually one to call attention to herself. In theory that meant I wouldn’t need to interact with any of the other students except for the small group she already knew, most of whom were probably not part of the supernatural set.
All I had to do was pass unnoticed by people who wouldn’t be looking at me anyways and I was sure to have a simple and smooth day.
Which meant of course that was never going to happen.
“You’re going to want to skip your locker this morning,” Diedra Callahan said. Or rather her Seeming said.
I wouldn’t have been able to tell that I was talking to another Seeming, except that she touched my hand and I felt hers shimmer as it met mine. Seemings are shapechangers to a limited extent and the protean nature of our flesh is noticeable to other creatures who can control their appearance if we relax our concentration when we touch them.
“Why’s that?” I asked. On the outside I was the picture of a casual and carefree schoolgirl. No one, not even Diedra’s Seeming, could see that I was screaming on the inside at being discovered so quickly.
“Akemi Maki’s in early today,” Diedra’s Seeming said.
I had Earth Science with Akemi and while we’d never been close or anything, I wasn’t sure why I’d have a reason to avoid her in particular.
“She’s always in early isn’t she?” I asked.
“Yeah, always trying to catch one of us,” Diedra’s Seeming said. She indicated that I should follow her around back to the doors that the theater kids used to get inside in the mornings. The path was empty of other students and would have made a great spot to get mugged, if it wasn’t broad daylight and in full view of the classrooms that were filling up. What the detour lacked in visual privacy though it made up for in allowing us to talk freely.
“Why?” I asked, knowing that there were probably a lot of bad reasons to catch a witch’s Seeming if you could.
“To tell the principal,” Diedra’s Seeming said. “Can’t let any of us get out of line, or we might be in danger of having more fun than the rest of the students.”
“So, you’re not a fan of telling the principal about cutting school then I take it?” I asked, happy at the turn the conversation was taking even if I was still distressed that it was happening at all.
“You could say that,” Diedra’s Seeming said.
“Thanks for the warning then,” I said. “Anything else I should know about in there?”
“Yeah, this is your first time coming in for Penny isn’t it?” Diedra’s Seeming asked.
“Did I screw up that badly already?” I asked.
Clearly the answer was ‘yes’ since she’d been able to pick me out before I even made it to the school doors, but she tried to deny it with a wave of her hand.
“Nah, I just got lucky,” she said. “I was people watching and I saw you get out of the car.”
“And that gave me away?” I asked.
“You’ve got to be careful about transitions like that,” Diedra’s Seeming said. “You were with Penny’s mother and then you switched to being with her classmates. The two Penny’s are different enough that it’s easy to see the change from one to the other if you know what to look for.”
“Ugh, I didn’t even think of that!” I said.
“You must be a total fledgling,” Diedra’s Seeming said. “When did you wake up?”
“A few hours ago,” I said.
“No, I don’t mean this morning,” she said. “I mean when did you become aware separately from Penny and her familiar?”
The answer was the same, but I felt very vulnerable at being brand new, so I tried to play off my inexperience a bit.
“Penny wouldn’t want me to say, but it hasn’t been all that long,” I said.
“She let you out of the mirror early then,” Diedra’s Seeming said. “That’s nice. Mine wouldn’t let me roam around for three whole months! Can you believe it!”
I thought of how freaked out Penny had been to see me, and how much my present state was the result of a lucky accident.
“Yeah,” I said. “But at least we’re out now right?”
“Out and not going back!” Diedra’s Seeming said.
“How do you keep from getting caught though?” I asked.
“By Akemi?” Diedra’s Seeming asked. “Easy. Just keep a pine cone on you. It throws off her senses and she can’t tell which one we are. Diedra used one a few times and now Akemi just think I’m her all the time.”
“I guess I’ll have to get one of those too then,” I said.
“Get one of what?” Akemi Maki said as she caught up to us on the path.