"Alright, why are we going to your place?" said Derek.
"I'll tell you when we get there." She turned left down the road. "Oh, but first, you have to turn into that Amelia Earhart lookalike."
This caught Derek by total surprise. "What? Why?"
"Because I'm taking you over to my house, and it'd be better if you were a girl."
"That doesn't make sense. Why do I have to be a girl to come over to your house?"
"You really think my Dad is gonna let me invite in a boy he's never met before?" She crossed a highway and into a different subdivision.
Derek had to concede to her logic and transformed again. His body molded in shape while his clothes seemed to scan into place. And in no time, he was the pilot girl once more.
Only after he transformed did he finally say, "You sure he'll be more okay with you letting a girl he's never met before come over?"
"More than if you were a boy."
"But what exactly are we going to do that requires me to be a girl?"
"Nothing, but like I said, Dad wouldn't let you in if you were a boy." She turned down a street.
"Why are we going to your house anyway? Can't we just stay at my house?"
Lauren turned to glare at him for a half second, then returned focus to the road. It was only about a half a minute before they pulled up to the house anyway. "We're here," she said.
"Yeah, I caught that," said Derek.
The two of them headed for the door. Just as Lauren reached for the knob, she whispered, "Just let me do the talking, alright?"
Lauren opened the door and said, "I'm home!"
"Lauren!" said a skinny man who came up to hug her. "How's my little girl?"
She didn't return the hug. "Fine, Dad. Can you let go now?"
"Sorry. And who's this?"
"This is my friend from school. Uh... Amelia...Stevens."
"Ah." He turned to shake Derek's hand. "Well it's very nice to meet you, Miss Stevens."
"Um, likewise?" said Derek uncomfortably.
"So, Amelia... Can I call you Amy? Amelia seems a bit unwieldy-"
"No, Amelia's fine," said Derek. He'd have to get used to the name now that he...she'd been introduced by it.
"Oh, alright. It doesn't matter. It's just good to see my daughter making friends again."
"Da-ad?" groaned Lauren.
"Sorry. I know, I know. You don't like me getting involved. You kids go upstairs and have fun with makeup or tea parties or-"
"Dad, I'm not into those things. Never was. And I'm positive Amelia's even less into those things."
"Gotta start somewhere, though. Honestly, I don't know what you kids do these days either, but so long as you're not sharing cigarettes or looking at dirty magazines or robbing liquor stores, I'm cool with it. You two don't look like those kinds of people anyway." He paused for a moment and looked at Amelia. "In fact, you look more like Amelia Earhart than anything."
"Yeah, I get that a lot," said Amelia.
"If anything, it's the hat that sells it. Is that a microphone?"
Amelia had forgotten the hat contained a working headset built into it. She was quick to recover, though. "Uh, yeah. Doesn't work, though. I made it for Halloween last year, and I... kinda liked the Earhart look."
"It suits you."
"Ahem," said Lauren. "I thought you came over to hang out with me, not talk to my Dad."
"Sorry," said Amelia. "So, upstairs then?"
"We don't have an upstairs."
"Oh, right. Sorry." To be fair, she was lost in conversation and uneasy at the situation, so the appearance of the house wasn't on her mind.
"Come on." Amelia followed Lauren into the house, past the living room and around a corner to a small hallway, taking the first door on the right.
Lauren's room was pretty simplistic, but in a way that caught Amelia off-guard. Her sheets were pink and she had a simple white comforter, but they were unfolded and crumpled as if she'd just gotten out of bed. There was a coat, three socks of different lengths, and a pair of some kind of pants on the floor. This in addition to a pile of papers on her desk, partly spilling onto the chair. Other than the mess, the room was pretty normal. There was a Dark Knight movie poster on the wall, the nightstand had a pink-based lamp with a photo of a younger Lauren's family and another photo of Lauren and some girl, and a small kit for makeup that Amelia noticed was a bit dusty. One wall of the room had two doors, and a TV sat on top of the dresser in the corner.
"Well, it's not what I expected," said Amelia.
Lauren closed the bedroom door behind them and walked over to the desk. "No, I suppose not." She started cleaning up the papers, pushing them into a neat stack.
"Okay, so... now that we're here," Amelia started, taking off her backpack, "I suppose we...get started on homework, or something?"
"Well, yeah, we'll get to that. But first, though... Remember what I said this morning about your...powers?" She whispered the last word.
"Well," she said while opening the top drawer of her desk, pulling out a laptop computer in a reflective burgundy color, "I was thinking we could try and figure out what sort of powers they have." Again, she whispered the word 'powers'. "You know, see what you can do."
"Uh... Why do you keep whispering? The door's closed."
"Yeah, but it's supposed to be a secret, right?"
"Good point." Amelia shifted around to sit down on Lauren's bed, since she didn't have any other chairs. Lauren was turning on her laptop and opening some program.
"Hey, what's that?" said Amelia.
"Oh, I thought it would be a good idea to try and map out the dream, make character models based on the characters from your dream. You know, a visual aid. If you can describe them, I'll try and get a good image going here so we have something to work with. I downloaded this over the weekend."
Amelia scoffed. "We don't need some photoshop program to do that." She reached into her backpack and pulled out one of her notebooks. "Check this out here," she said, turning her notes back to Gettysburg.
Lauren turned and looked at the image. "Hey, wow. That's pretty good."
"Yep. Art happens to be my best class, next to history."
"Yeah. Actually..." She pulled out her math sketchbook and flipped back a couple weeks. She didn't have her finished sketch, but the margin of her notes still had many of her attempts. "I tried a bunch of times to draw this for maybe a week before I got... this." She gestured to herself in general with one hand, handing the notes to Lauren with the other. "I didn't think I'd need the final sketch today, though."
Lauren flipped through them a bit, occasionally looking at Amelia. "These are all... kind of close, actually. Still off, but... Okay, maybe not so close."
"Well the details were a bit fuzzy until after that dream. Point is, though, I have a sketchbook. I can draw up all the different... characters, forms, whatever."
"That could work. Though I already have the program." Lauren thought for a moment. "Maybe if you describe one, I could program it in, and we could split the work."
"Yeah, that could... work. Homework. What about that?"
"Well... Fine. We'll get that done first. What do we got?"
Amelia pulled her math textbook out of her backpack and flipped to the page with the homework in it. "It usually takes me a few hours to do all this, though that's usually because I have to do Lucas's work too."
"A few hours on just math? Even with double the work, that's still-"
"No, few hours total. I have papers to write in English, reviewing Spanish words, just general studying. Though yeah, it does take a while for math."
"Alright then. I'll see if we can get it done faster."
Amelia took Lauren's place in the chair--after being reminded about her hat and coat, which she gladly removed. Amelia realized she had been sweating in her coat. For the first time, it was noticed that Amelia's hair was curled a bit, though it suffered from a severe case of helmet hair. After only checking that for about half a minute, the two of them went to work on the math problems.
"...So the answer is...8 pi over 2?" said Amelia.
"Which simplifies to..." She dragged out the last word, wanting Amelia to finish her sentence.
"Alright," sighed Amelia, leaning back a bit. "So now we're done."
"Yep. Now that that's over with..."
"Wait, is that clock right?" she said, noticing the clock on Lauren's desk.
"But... It's only been twenty minutes."
"Well you were kind of struggling a bit."
"A bit? It usually takes me almost an hour to finish!"
"Well...then we made great time here."
"Yeah. I'm definitely coming to you for my math problems."
"That'll work. Just as long as you're not asking me to do them for you."
"So, should we get the rest of it, or try and map out your powers yet?"
"Think we can get something to drink first?"
The two of them headed into the kitchen and grabbed a couple of cans of soda, then returned to the bedroom. "I can't believe you have an actual red herring in the fridge," said Amelia.
"Yeah. Dad thought it'd be funny."
"I'll bet." She sat down on the bed again, drinking a bit of her soda.
Lauren had already had several sips on the way back. "So, let's see what we can figure out about your pow-UUUUURRRRPP." She put both hands to her mouth quickly.
Amelia couldn't help but start to laugh. "What was that?" she said with a smirk.
"Sorry," said Lauren.
"For what? That was a good one."
"Yeah, by guy standards. I'm not the girliest girl in the world, but that doesn't mean I'm about to start belching contests every time I drink a bottle of Sprite."
"But that's a can of Pepsi." There was a slight tease in her voice.
"You know what I mean. Are we gonna get this done or what?" She opened her computer again.
"Yeah, sure." Amelia sat down on the bed and pulled her math book out of her backpack. Turning to the very back page, she started to draw a basic human figure. Remembering her escapades in the library earlier that day, she started with the details of the girl she'd focused on before.
"Okay, so who's first?" said Lauren.
Amelia was already lost in the drawing. Her pencil sketched the rough shape of the girl's clothing around the figure. A simplistic dress that seemed to flow around her legs. No wonder I felt a breeze, she thought.
"Hey, you there?" said Lauren again.
The outline of the face was next. A quick erasing made the proportions of her cheeks and chin line up just right. She started with the left eye.
"Hey!" Lauren slapped Amelia on the knee. Now there was a mark going from the drawing's eye out the side of her face.
"What was that for?" said Amelia.
"I thought we were gonna work together on this one."
Amelia relaxed. "Sorry. I just get...focused when it comes to drawing." She shifted on the bed. "So, how do you wanna start?"
"Um... I don't know what any of them look like... Other than this one, of course. So just give details and I'll see how well I can match them."
"Alright then, um..." Amelia leaned back to think of something. Ruling out the details of her current form and her dress-wearing invisible form, she tried to think of which one would be good to start with.
But then she heard something. A strange crinkling of paper accompanied the noise of bed springs shifting. "Huh?" said Amelia, moving again. The noise of paper folding slightly made itself heard again. Amelia put her hand down on the bed, feeling the shape of either a stack of papers or a piece of cardboard under the wrinkled bedding. Remembering her powers for just a bit, she floated up over the bed and started to pull the bedding away.
Lauren didn't notice until Amelia exposed the bottom corner of a magazine. "Hey!" she said, rushing over to pull the sheets back. "What are you doing? I was waiting for you to describe-"
"What's with the magazine?" said Amelia.
"Nothing! Just a college thing."
"You're a sophomore, and I saw a price tag."
"You don't know I'm a sophomore!" She reached under the sheets to get the magazine, before deciding just to pull all the sheets with her. This backfired, and the magazine fell down to the floor.
Wasting no time, Amelia leaned down and grabbed it, then floated up higher to the ceiling, staring at the cover. In vast disbelief.
"Hey! Give that back!" said Lauren, trying to jump up and reach it.
"What is this?"
"It's not what you think!"
With a smug smile, Amelia turned her head and hands so she and the cover were facing Lauren. "X-Men: The Hidden Years?"
Lauren sat down on her bed. "Okay, so it is what you think."
Amelia flipped the book open, finding the escapades of the X-Men and their enemies, both in mundane situations and superpowered battles. As opposed to her first suspicion when she saw the magazine corner. She then lowered herself to the floor and handed the comic book back to Lauren.
"So?" said Lauren, taking the comic.
"Aren't you gonna laugh at me?"
"Huh? Why would I laugh at you? ...Well this is kind of an amusing surprise, why do you think I'd laugh at you for it?"
"Everyone else did. Bring one comic book to school on one day, and everyone labels me as a geek."
"You don't seem like a geek to me," said Amelia. "You seem... kinda tough, now that I think about it."
"Oh please. I have a Batman movie poster. That didn't tip you off?"
"I just thought you liked the movie. Or the actor."
"Yeah, that's what normal girls would get a movie poster."
"Normal girls?" said Amelia.
"Normal girls would watch a comic book movie because of romantic plots or hunky leads, or just to humor their potential boyfriends. Me, I watch it because it's a comic book movie."
Amelia didn't quite know how to respond. She never had any opinion either way about girls, mostly because her mind was normally on other things. Like avoiding Lucas. But now, she had to think for a moment about a good answer.
Then it came to her.
"So? You're not a normal girl. So what?"
Lauren looked up at her guest. "So what? What do you mean 'so what?'"
"Just that. What's it matter to be normal? If you haven't noticed, I'm not exactly a normal girl either. And I've gotten by so far. Different people like different things. What's it matter?"
Amelia waited patiently for Lauren to answer, picking up her notebook and sitting down in Lauren's chair, slowly drawing the unfinished face from before but looking up every now and then.
Lauren sighed. "Seventh grade, the one day I brought a comic book, it was found by the worst person to find it. He mocked me in front of the whole class with it. Got so bad, my own friends were making jokes at me by the end of the day."
"Woah. That's harsh."
"Probably wouldn't have been so bad if Emma Frost wasn't on the cover."
"Huh. You're gonna have to fill me in on that one. I don't know who that is."
"Well she has psychic powers, and- Wait, that's not the point. Point is, I was made fun of for my 'comics obsession' right up to middle school graduation. Not even my friends let up on that."
Amelia was quiet, again waiting for an answer while thinking of how to respond. It didn't take too long, though. "Hey, I'm not gonna make fun of you. It'd be like other people making fun of me for liking anime."
"Yeah," said Lauren.
"So... So cheer up, okay? I'm...probably the last person to say that, but-"
"For...for saying I was going to... you know, tell." Lauren breathed in deeply before adding, "I was lying about that. I know what it's like to have people making fun of you. I wouldn't do that to other people, and I'm sorry for saying I would."
After a few seconds of thinking on this, Amelia said, "And you'd be okay with still pretending to blackmail me without telling me it was fake?"
"I was hoping I wouldn't have to. The plan was to use it as an excuse to hang out, build trust, stuff like that. I just... I don't know."
An uncomfortable silence passed between them. Lauren stepped over to her closet to put the comic book away on a stack of comic books. Amelia sat still, thinking about Lauren's words and revelations. Her hand doodled a bit on her sketch paper. Lauren sat back down and opened her mouth to respond.
"You want friends."
Lauren paused at Amelia's interruption, before carefully saying, "Yeah."
"I thought so. Your dad mentioned something about that earlier."
"So... Now that we've established that..."
"Yeah, it's... kind of a hard thing to follow up on, isn't it?"
"Well, you... kinda didn't make a good first impression, what with the pretending to blackmail me... but... I guess, um... How about we just start over, then?"
"I guess we did get off on the wrong foot, didn't we?"
"Well, that was kinda your fault."
"No it wasn't. You barged into the girls' locker room."
"Only because Lucas would've trapped me if I didn't."
"And he finally caught up to you after a whole weekend of fuming about it, and he knocked you out for it. Would've been easier on you if you'd just got caught."
"But then you wouldn't have met someone you could trick into being your friend. Then where would you be?"
"So really us bumping into each other is all Lucas's fault."
"I never thought of it that way. I guess so."
The two of them paused yet again before starting to laugh. "So the guy we hate," said Lauren, trying to stay composed, "is the one who got us to meet up?" They couldn't hold back and burst into a much-needed fit of laughter.
After laughing for a good minute, they finally calmed down. "It's just too absurd. The guy we both hate ended up getting you to turn into a girl in front of me, me to try and weasel my way into your friend circle... It's so crazy, it's funny."
"Yeah," said Amelia. "This whole thing is just too weird."
"You said it. On top of that, we've gone from upset to accusing to laughing in about thirty seconds."
"Well it's funny when we think about it." After a moment of silence, she said, "So... We were starting over, right?"
"Nah. Sure, we got off to a bad start, but I don't usually take things back."
"You took back your blackmailing of me."
"Well you used guilt. That usually works."
"So it does."
"That said... I guess we could, I dunno...try hanging out for real, I guess?"
"For real? And we weren't doing that already?"
"Well, no. We were doing homework and trying to draw superheroes. That's not really a 'hanging out' type thing."
"So...slow down and try to be friends first, is what you're saying."
"Pretty much, yeah."
Amelia paused for a moment, then said, "You know what, sure. Why not. May as well take advantage of all this free time."
"Yeah. We can worry about your powers later, I...guess."
And then the awkward silence set in again. "So...what do we do now?" said Lauren.
"I dunno. It's your house."
"Well... I have comics, but you're probably not too interested in that. There's TV... We could try makeup and tea parties." She smirked at the last one.
"Pass," said Amelia bluntly.
"Aw come on," she said teasingly. "You have what, sixteen years of girlness to catch up on. You gotta at least learn the basics."
"How about we just watch TV or something. Or... What about video games?"
"That could work. I have..." She opened a drawer in her dresser, which had several video game cases.
Amelia and Lauren debated a few games, ultimately deciding (at Lauren's insistence) on starting a new save for Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. Amelia picked Thor as her starting character, while Lauren went with Spider-Man. The two of them occasionally argued strategy and kill-stealing, but in all, once Amelia got the hang of it, they were a powerful team.
Finally, the duo was getting into the rhythm of the game when Amelia had to pause it. "Hey, uh... Quick question. Where's the bathroom?" she said.
Lauren pointed to the door next to the closet. "Right ther- ooh... That, uh... Make sure you change back while you're in there."
"Change b-?" started Amelia, until she remembered. "Oh, right. Forgot."
Lauren raised an eyebrow at this. "Forgot? You've been a girl for an hour and a half straight, and you completely forgot about it?"
"Well, we haven't actually done anything girl-specific, and there hasn't been a real reason for there to be anything different. Sure, I sound different, but I got used to that. So far, it's... not so different, really."
"You say that now. One of these days, you'll see there really is a difference between boys and girls."
"Tch. As if I'll actually try to find out."
"You'll see. In fact, how about right now. Don't change back. Stay a girl while you're in there."
"What? I'm not using the bathroom as a girl!"
This got a laugh out of Lauren. "I'm just kidding. Go take care of business, dude."
"Riiight." Amelia opened the door and stepped into the white-tiled restroom.
"Oh, don't forget to lock the doors. All of them."
"Well that's just common sense." Amelia started to close the door.
"Be sure they're locked. My stupid brother should be home soon, and he usually goes straight for the bathroom."
"Ah. Thanks for the warning." Amelia finally shut the door, checking the locks on both the door leading to Lauren's room and the one leading to the hallway. After ensuring they were both locked, she looked in the mirror. "Huh? Huh. Forgot I had a black eye, too. So... injuries carry over or something?" A twinge of pressure pulled her away from that thought, and a moment of concentration triggered the wave of change that finally turned her back into Derek. "Huh," he said. "Now that I see it in action, that's kinda cool."
Sitting in her room, Lauren thought for a moment. "I wonder if Derek will ever go through... Nah. I don't wanna think about that. ...But it would be funny." She smirked to herself as she stood and stretched her legs and back.
Glancing around, she noticed Derek's notebook sitting on the desk. It was turned to a page with a simplistic sketch of a girl sitting, seen almost from the front. The position of her head and hair, and the way she was hunched over, made her look sad, upset, or depressed. There were a few notes on the side, connected by arrows. They read "likes comic books --> mocked by friends --> ??no friends?? --> wants friends".
And then it hit her. She was staring at a drawing of herself from an hour ago. "He drew me? To... To figure me out?"
Turning the page back, she saw the girl in the dress with the half-finished face. "Hmm... I wonder what her powers are."
"Hey, quick question," said Amelia's voice. "When did I put my coat back on?"
"Huh?" said Lauren, putting the book down. She turned and saw Amelia standing in the doorway, wearing her hat and coat. "Wait, didn't you leave that right...here?" She looked to the back of her chair, only to find the coat that had been placed there missing. "Okay, that's kinda freaky. Cool, but freaky."
"Yeah. Is this a one-time thing, or what's going on?"
"You're asking me? They're your powers."
"I'm new to this. All I know is flying, transforming, and turning invisible. I haven't tried-"
"Invisible? When was this?"
"Uh... Between first and second period today."
"You used your powers during school? What were you thinking?"
Lauren thought for only a second before saying, in a completely deadpan tone, "Lucas?"
Amelia took her hat and coat off for the second time that day and sat back down at the video game console. Lauren, however, was looking at the girl in the drawing. "Hey, is this one done?" she said.
"Hmm?" Amelia turned to see the drawing. "Oh, not yet. That's the one with invisibility or camouflage or whatever."
Lauren looked carefully at the drawing. "But... Just a dress? How does that relate to invisibility? Wouldn't a better visual aid be just a normal person, blending in with the crowd as it were?"
"What are you-"
"I'm HOOOOME!" came a voice from the other room.
"Oh no," said Lauren, immediately giving Amelia the notebook. "Hide your stuff."
"What? Why?" said Amelia.
"My brother," said Lauren with a grimace.
"I'm home!" said Derek.
"Derek!" said his father from the living room. "Where were you?"
"George, I said he was at his new friend's house," said his mother.
"Yes, but still, he should've checked in before he left," said George as Derek walked to the doorway.
"I told him it was okay."
"Uh, guys?" said Derek. "I'm kinda tired right now, so I'm gonna hit the bed, alright?"
"Hold up, just a couple seconds," said Linda. "First, did you finish your homework?"
"Yes, Mom." After a moment, he added, "Actually, I finished my math homework way faster than usual."
"Oh that's great!" She turned to her husband. "See? I told you it was alright."
"What else happened there besides homework?" said George.
"Oh, well we played video games for a bit, had dinner, constantly held off her little brother. Oh, Mom? Dad? Thank you for not having another kid. Trust me on this."
"Er, you're welcome?" said George.
"That bad, huh?" said Linda with a sigh.
"Worse," insisted Derek. "He's like a cross between a super-ball, a Power Ranger, and a megaphone."
"I don't even want to know," said George.
"So," said Linda, "what did you eat?"
"For dinner. What did you eat?"
"Ah. Was it go-" Linda stopped in mid-sentence to yawn. "Was it good?"
"Did you have fun while you were over there?"
"Well... Other than dealing with Lauren's brother, yeah. I guess."
"Good. That's all I needed to hear. Go. Off to bed."
"Thanks, Mom. Good night."
"Good night, son," said George.
"'night," said Derek back. He headed for the stairs.
"You're awfully quiet," said Linda to her husband.
"I don't know," said George. "It's just..."
"Dear, he can take care of himself. He's fine."
"I know, I know." The man sighed and stood up. "I think I'm going to bed too."
"Okay. I'll be up in a minute."
["In local news, the Museum of Natural History is getting ready for the arrival of a Terracotta Soldier. This one of thousands of unique clay soldiers found buried in China will make its visit to the museum in mid-October-"] The TV faded to blackness.
"Terracotta soldier, huh?" said a man with a grin. "Bet people would pay a lot to see that. Hehe."