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  • Home > Soman Chainani > School for Good and Evil > A World without Princes     

    PART I

    1

    Sophie Makes a Wish

    There is an uneasiness that remains after your best friend tries to kill you.

    But as Agatha gazed out at her and Sophie’s golden statues, towering over the sun-speckled square, she swallowed it away.

    “I don’t know why it has to be a musical,” she said, sneezing from the carnations on her pink dress.

    “No sweating in your costumes!” Sophie barked at a boy struggling in a ferocious plaster dog head, while the girl roped to him stumbled around in her own cuddly dog head. Sophie caught two boys labeled CHADDICK and RAVAN trying to swap outfits. “No switching schools either!”

    “But I want to be an Ever!” RAVAN groused, and pulled at his dumpy black tunic.

    “My wig itches,” mewled BEATRIX, clawing her blond hairpiece.

    “Mummy won’t know it’s me,” whined a boy in the SCHOOL MASTER’S shiny silver mask.

    “AND NO SULKING ABOUT PARTS!” Sophie boomed, stamping DOT on the blacksmith’s daughter before stuffing two chocolate ice pops in her hands. “You need to gain twenty pounds by next week.”

    “You said it’d be small,” Agatha said, eyeing a boy teetering on a ladder as he painted two familiar green eyes on the massive theater marquee. “Something tasteful for the anniversary.”

    “Is every boy in this town a tenor?” Sophie squawked, inspecting the males with these very same eyes. “Surely someone’s voice has changed? Surely someone can play Tedros, the most handsome, charming prince in the—”

    She turned to find red-haired, bucktoothed Radley in tight breeches, puffing his chest. Sophie gagged and stamped him HORT.

    “This doesn’t seem small,” Agatha said, louder, watching two girls pull the canvas off a ticket booth with twenty neon Sophie faces silkscreened across it. “And it doesn’t seem tastef—”

    “Lights!” Sophie called to two boys suspended from ropes—

    Agatha spun from the blinding detonation. Through fingers, she peeked up at the velvet curtain behind them, embedded with a thousand white-hot bulbs spelling out:

    CURSES! The Musical

    Starring, Written, Directed, and Produced by Sophie

    “Is this too dull for the finale?” Sophie said, whirling to Agatha in a midnight-blue ballgown with delicate gold leaves, a ruby pendant around her neck, and a tiara of blue orchids. “That reminds me. Can you sing harmony?”

    Agatha swelled like a tick. “Have you lost your mind! You said it’d be a tribute to the kidnapped children, not some fairground burlesque! I can’t act, I can’t sing, and here we are having a dress rehearsal for a vanity show that doesn’t even have a scrip— What is THAT?”

    She pointed at the sash of red crystals across Sophie’s dress.

    Ball Queen

    Sophie stared at her. “You don’t expect me to tell our story as it happened, do you?”

    Agatha scowled.

    “Oh, Agatha, if we don’t celebrate ourselves, who else will?” Sophie moaned, looking out at the giant amphitheater. “We’re the Gavaldon Curse Breakers! The School Master Slayers! Larger than life! Greater than legend! So where’s our palace? Where’s our slaves? On the anniversary of our kidnapping from this odious town, they should adore us! They should worship us! They should bow down instead of trolling around with fat, badly dressed widows!”

    Her voice thundered across empty wooden seats. She turned to find her friend studying her.

    “The Elders gave him permission, didn’t they,” said Agatha.

    Sophie’s face darkened. She turned quickly and started handing sheet music to the cast.

    “When is it?” Agatha asked.

    Sophie didn’t answer.

    “Sophie, when is it?”

    “The day after the show,” Sophie said, sprucing the garlands on a giant altar set piece. “But that might change once they see the encore.”

    “Why? What’s in the encore?”

    “I’m fine about it, Aggie. I’ve made my peace.”

    “Sophie. What’s in the encore.”

    “He’s a grown man. Free to make his own decisions.”

    “And this show has nothing to do with trying to stop your father’s wedding.”

    Sophie turned. “Why would you ever think that?”

    Agatha glared at the fat, homeless hag, slouched in a veil under the altar, stamped HONORA.

    Sophie shoved Agatha music. “If I were you, I’d be learning how to sing.”

    When they returned from the Woods nine months before, the hubbub had been frightening. For two hundred years, the School Master had kidnapped children from Gavaldon to his School for Good and Evil. But after so many children lost forever, so many families torn apart, two girls had found their way back. People wanted to kiss them, touch them, build statues for them, as if they were gods fallen to earth. To satisfy demand, the Council of Elders suggested they hold supervised autograph signings in the church after Sunday services. The questions never changed: “Did they torture you?” “Are you sure the curse is broken?” “Did you see my son?”

    Sophie offered to endure these on her own, but to her surprise, Agatha always showed. Indeed, in those first months, Agatha did daily interviews for the town scroll, let Sophie dress her up and slather her with makeup, and politely endured the young children her friend loathed.

    “Totems of disease,” Sophie grumbled, dabbing her nostrils with eucalyptus before signing another storybook. She noticed Agatha smile at a boy as she autographed his copy of King Arthur.

    “Since when do you like children?” Sophie growled.

    “Since they beg to see Mother when they’re sick now,” said Agatha, flashing lipstick stains on her teeth. “Never had so many patients in her life.”

    But by summer, the crowd had thinned. It was Sophie’s idea to do posters.

    Agatha gaped at the sign on the church door. “Free kiss?”

    “On their storybooks,” Sophie said, puckering garishly red lips into a pocket mirror.

    “That’s not what it sounds like,” said Agatha, pulling at the clingy green dress Sophie had loaned her. Pink had noticeably disappeared from her friend’s closet after they returned, presumably because it reminded her of her time as a bald, toothless witch.

    “Look, we’re old news,” Agatha said, yanking at the dress’s straps again. “Time to go back to normal like everyone else.”

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