Page 25

I sighed, and Jenna exclaimed, "Damn, Sophie, I'm supposed to be the moper. What is your problem?"

"This freaking dress." I pointed at the offending object. "Nothing I do works."

Jenna shrugged. "So don't go."

I glared at her. Jenna wasn't going to the ball, so she didn't understand why I so badly wanted to go. I didn't really understand why I wanted to go either, although it probably had a lot to do with Archer in a tux.

I didn't want to tell Jenna that, though. "It's not the ball; it's the principle of the thing. I should be able to do this spell. It's just not that hard."

"Maybe somebody cursed your dummy," she joked, turning back to her manga.

My hand sneaked into my pocket and closed around the small object that seemed to be burning a hole there.

When Alice suggested doing a spell on Elodie's dress, I had initially said no way. "I could get kicked out for doing magic on another student," I'd told her.

"But it wouldn't be you," Alice argued. "It would be me. You would just be the carrier, as it were."

That had made sense, and I have to admit I'd felt a little giddy when Alice had reached into her pocket and pulled out a tiny bone, probably from a bird. Alice having bones in her pocket probably should've freaked me out, but by that point I was used to Alice's weirdness. Like the necklace that first night, the bone glowed softly in her hands. She'd smiled as she gave it to me.

"Just slip this into the hem of her dress."

"Do I need to say any special words or anything?"

"No. The bone will know what to do."

I remembered those words now as I fingered the small, smooth bone.

I'd had it for a week, and I still hadn't used it. Alice had promised that the bone would only turn Elodie's dress some horrible color when Elodie put it on, and that didn't sound too bad. Still, I was worried. Every spell I'd ever tried to do on another person had gone badly, and even though I didn't like Elodie, I didn't want to accidentally hurt her. So the bone had stayed in my pocket.

But if I wasn't going to use it, why hadn't I thrown it out?

With another sigh, I got off my bed and went to the dummy. Even though it didn't have a head, its very posture seemed to be mocking me.

"What up, loser?" I imagined it saying. "I'd rather wear this pillowcase than any of your ugly designs."

"Shut up," I murmured as I put my hands on it and, yet again, concentrated as hard as I could. "Blue, pretty, please . . ." I muttered.

The fabric rippled and promptly became a sequined, bright blue hot pants outfit that looked like a majorette's uniform.

"Crap, crap, crap!" I cried, hitting the dummy so that it spun on its stand.

Jenna looked up from her book. "Now that's fetching."

"Not helpful," I growled. God, what was wrong with me? I'd done spells way harder than this, and they'd never, ever come out this badly.

"I'm telling you," Jenna said, "you got a bum dummy. Nobody else seems to be having this hard a time with theirs."

"I know," I said, leaning my head on the dummy. "Even Sarah Williams, who is, like, the worst witch ever, made this really pretty red dress. It's not as fancy as Elodie's but--"

I stopped, a sinking feeling in my stomach.

It didn't make sense for me to be having so much trouble making a dress. Maybe Jenna was right: maybe my dummy was cursed.

I pressed my hands to the pillowcase again, but this time I didn't think of a dress. I just said, "'Fess up."

For a moment nothing happened. I wasn't sure whether I should feel relieved or disappointed.

Then, very slowly, two glowing handprints the faint burgundy color of watered-down wine appeared on the front of the dress.

Relief surged through me, but that was quickly swallowed up by a white-hot wave of anger.

"How did you do that?" Jenna asked from behind me. She was on her knees staring at the handprints.

"It's a revelation spell," I said through clenched teeth. "Lets you know if an object has been messed with magically."

"Well, at least you know that you're not a crap witch."

I nodded, but I was nearly shaking with fury. Here I'd been thinking I was just useless, and it had been Elodie all along. It had to be her. Who else would want to make sure I couldn't go to the ball? God, the whole thing was almost too fairy tale to handle.

And the thing that really bothered me was that I hadn't used my curse on her dress. I'd felt bad about using it.

Well, screw that.

"Where's Elodie right now?" I asked Jenna.

Her eyes were wide, so I knew I must have looked pretty scary.

"Um, I heard Anna say they were going down to the beach with a bunch of people."


I headed for the door, ignoring Jenna as she called out, "What are you going to do?"

I hurried toward Elodie's room. There was no one in the hall to see me as I slipped in.

My heart pounding, both out of fear and anger, I walked over to the window, where Anna's and Elodie's dress dummies stood. Anna's dress was black with purple trim and a short train. She'd look amazing in it, but it was nothing compared to Elodie's dress.

I hesitated for a moment.

Then I thought of Elodie laughing at me in class as I'd tried so hard to make just one damn dress, and my nerve came back.

I dropped to my knees and fished around in the filmy layers of skirts until I found a small gap in the hem. I slid the tiny bone inside and gave it a light pat. It glowed brightly inside the dress, shining dull red through all the layers of pink. I held my breath until the glow went out, then I ran for the door.

The hall was empty, so I was able to sneak back to my room unseen.

Jenna was still sitting on her bed when I came in.

"What did you do?"

I walked over to my bed and pulled out the small pouch of dirt I'd hidden there. "Let's just say turnabout is fair play."

Jenna opened her mouth, but then closed it again as she watched me pour some of the dirt on my hands. She probably thought I'd totally cracked up as I marched over to my dummy with dirt-covered hands, grasped it around the waist, and closed my eyes.

This time I didn't even think anything specific. "Dress," was all I said.

As usual, I could feel the dress slip and slide under my hands, but it was different this time. My hands felt hot, and it was like there was an electric current running through me.

I heard Jenna gasp, and when I stepped back and opened my eyes, I gasped too.

The dress wasn't just beautiful, it was stunning.

It was peacock blue satin, and green lights seemed to dance inside the fabric. The top looked like a corset, strapless and boned in the front, and as I spun the dummy to the back, I saw that it laced up with a bright green ribbon.

The skirt belled out from the cinched-in waist, and, most impressive of all, there was a panel of actual peacock feathers running down the front, starting at a point just under the corset top and widening as it reached the bottom, like an upside-down triangle.

"Whoa," Jenna breathed. "Now that is a dress. Sophie, you're going to be gorgeous."

She was right, I thought, feeling dazed. I would look gorgeous.

"What was that stuff you put on it?"

I wasn't ready to tell Jenna about Alice, and I had a feeling she wouldn't take the words grave dust well, so I just shrugged. "Magic powder."

Jenna looked skeptical, but before she could ask any more questions, I gave her a bright smile and said, "Let me make you one."

She gave a startled laugh. "You really wanna make me a dress?"

I nodded. "Why not? It'll be fun, and then you can come with me to the ball."

"I don't think so, Soph," she protested weakly, but I was already pulling one of her nightgowns out of her dresser. I pressed my still-dirty hands on it and just thought, Jenna.

All of Jenna's protests died on her lips when she saw the dress: hot pink, with thin straps and a sparkling belt at the waist that I thought might be made out of real diamonds. The dress was perfect for her, and before long she was holding it up and spinning around.

"I don't know what your 'magic powder' is, and I don't care," she said with a laugh. "This is the most beautiful dress I've ever seen!"

We spent the rest of the afternoon transforming our shoes until we each had the perfect pair. By the time evening fell, we were both dressed, and if I do say so myself, looking pretty hot. Jenna had piled her white-blond hair on top of her head, with her pink streak falling over one eye. My own hair was actually behaving for once, and I'd let Jenna arrange it into a low bun at the base of my neck, a few tendrils escaping around my face.

We walked downstairs arm in arm, giggling. There was a crush of people in the narrow hallway leading to the ballroom. I craned my neck, looking for Archer and Elodie, hoping to discover what gross color Elodie's dress had become, but I couldn't see them.

I'd been pretty impressed with Jenna's and my dresses in our room, but now I saw that we were hardly the most spectacular people there. A tall blond faerie bumped into me, and her dress, a concoction of ice-green sparkles, chimed softly, like bells. I also saw a shapeshifter in what looked to be a gown made entirely of white fur.

The boys were a little more sedate. Most of them were just in tuxes, although a few had been more daring and were wearing long coats and breeches.

We were just about to enter the ballroom when I felt something warm press up against my back. I thought it was just some random person crowding me, until a voice whispered in my ear, soft and low, "I knew it was you."


I tried to whirl around, but it's hard to do when you're squashed between a bunch of people and wearing a big dress. I ended up accidently elbowing Jenna, who gave a startled squawk, before I could finally turn to face Archer.

Both of us widened our eyes and said, "Whoa."

Then I immediately blushed. Oh my God, had I just looked at Archer and said, "Whoa"?

But . . . wait a minute. Had Archer just looked at me and said,


We just kind of stared at each other. Archer more than deserved his

"whoa." This was a boy who could make a school uniform look good. What he did to formal wear was damn near criminal. He had lied about his bow tie being pink. He wasn't even wearing a bow tie, just a regular tie, and it was black, like everything else he was wearing.

But the best part wasn't the way he looked. It was the way he was looking at me.

"That dress," he said at last, his eyes still skimming over me. "It's . . .


I fought the urge to self-consciously tug at the low neckline and just smiled. "Thanks. I just, uh, whipped it up."

He nodded, but he still looked a little shell-shocked, and it was all I could do to keep a big goofy grin off my face.

Then I remembered what he'd said. "What do you mean, you knew it was me?"

He shook his head a little, like he was trying to clear it. "Oh, right.


My heart seemed to stutter in my chest, and I could actually feel my face paling.

"I just saw you from the back and said that had to be you. Elodie said there was no way it could be."

"Oh." I glanced over and saw Elodie coming up behind him. She glared at me, and I was surprised to see that her dress looked perfect.