Perhaps it was a dream, I thought. Perhaps if I pinched myself, I would wake up. But I didn’t want to wake up. I wanted to stay in this dream world where everyone was impressed by me. In this world, I had powers. Not realistic powers, like being strong or cool or pretty, all things I wanted to be in the real world. No, here I had extraordinary, impossible powers. And I seemed to be the only one, judging by the way people flocked to me.
I opened my hands again and lifted them to the sky. Sparks shot forth with a loud whistle, raining down in every color imaginable. It was beautiful, mesmerizing even. The sound turned heads and they all came to view the spectacle, oohing and aahing. The popping, fizzing, whistling continued all around me as I showed off my magnificent new abilities. My cheeks began to hurt from smiling, but I didn’t stop until my arms were shaking. I dropped my hands, and a disappointed sigh spread through the crowd.
“I’m just going to take a break,” I said to my admirers.
As I strutted to the nearest diner, a cheery girl sidled up to me. “Let me buy you dinner,” the girl said with a sweet smile.
“Sure,” I replied with a shrug. I might as well benefit from these powers, and maybe make a friend in the process.
“So, do you have any other powers?” the girl asked.
“No, I don’t think so,” I answered.
“Oh,” she said, looking disappointed. “What all can you do with these powers?”
“I don’t know. I just discovered them.”
“Oh.” That look crossed the girl’s face again. I was beginning to get annoyed. Then, she flashed a pretty smile at me and flipped her hair. “I bet you could do lots of cool things, if you try.”
I smiled back, and the girl took my arm. I felt a surge of pride, like I had just been invited to sit at the popular kids’ table. Not that I would actually know what that felt like.
As we slid into a booth, the girl tapped away on her phone for a few seconds. “I was just telling some of my friends how awesome you are. They want to eat with us. You don’t mind, do you?” The girl beamed at me, but didn’t wait for an answer. “I’m Brittany, by the way.” The girl rambled on about herself and her friends. She didn’t even ask my name in return.
Just after I got my food, the door jingled and Brittany turned and squealed, jumping from her seat. Her blonde hair shone in the light, as she hugged her friends and pulled them over. After they sat, she cleared her throat, and they all turned their attention to me.
“This is my new friend…” she gestured to me.
“Dorthy,” I finished for her. One of the girls snorted, but Brittany ignored her. My face grew hot. I’d always hated my name.
“Dorthy can do magic,” Brittany whispered.
“Let’s see it,” said a boy with blonde hair that fell in a swoop across his face.
“She can’t do it inside,” Brittany said. “Someone might get hurt.” She leaned forward as she said the last word.
The blonde boy raised his eyebrows and looked me over. I took another bite of my burger to cover the awkwardness. Brittany reached across to snatch a fry from my plate. I started to say something to her, but then I remembered she was paying for my lunch and snapped my mouth shut. I’d better play nice until we got the bill.
Once we were done, Brittany practically dragged me out of the diner. The whole group held their breath, waiting on me. I lifted my arms slowly, building the suspense. I let a few sparks fly, and awe filled murmurs spread through my audience. I increased the speed and intensity, until the grand finale lit the sky. The sparks left smoke and the scent of burnt gunpowder in their wake.
When I dropped my arms, the group approached and began chattering excitedly and asking me questions about my powers that I didn’t have the answers to. Brittany stepped up beside me in a possessive manner, telling her friends that they could see more later. She turned to face me.
“Kyle is having a party tonight. You’ll come right?” She gestured toward the blonde boy and continued before I even answered. “I’ll text you the address. Just put your number in my phone.”
She thrust an IPhone at me that had a pink rhinestone cover. I added my name and number to her contacts, and handed the phone back. Brittany beamed at me.
“See you at 10.”
I didn’t know where to go until 10pm; I didn’t even know where I was. I pulled out my phone and checked for a message from Brittany. I typed the address she sent into the search bar in my maps, curious whether my GPS would work in this reality. The app gave me directions to a house that was nearly an hour away. I guess I could start walking and see what I found along the way.
As I strolled along, a thought occurred to me. I typed a new address into the search bar. My home didn’t appear anywhere on the map. Panic began to tighten my chest. I took a deep breath and reassured myself that if there was a way here, then there had to be a way back. I would find it when I was ready. Right now, I wanted to find out what a party was like. Especially one where I was the main event.
I gulped. I would be the center of attention. I thought back to Brittany’s disappointed face when I told her I didn’t know how to do anything else. What if they weren’t impressed? I needed to practice and figure out what I could do with these powers.
I walked until I found a parking lot without anyone around. So far all I knew was if I opened my hands and thrust them in the air, fireworks came out. Also, I was able to control whether there was a lot or a little, and how high they flew. I didn’t remember doing anything specific to change the intensity, besides thinking about it. I wondered if I could try changing other things about the magic sparks.
I raised my arms and thought of my favorite color, teal. I tilted my head to the sky, as I opened my hands. A barrage of teal missiles shot from my fingers, and I let out a “whoop”. I decided to change the fireworks from my right hand to purple, and the two colors mingled in the sky. I swapped between various colors at a whim, and watched as the air filled with a rainbow of sparks at my beckoning.
I let out a joyous laugh. I was pretty impressed with myself now. With my confidence built up, I wondered what else I could do.
I was so ready for my first party. I had practiced a few tricks that I thought my new friends would like. For a moment, my thoughts drifted to my best friend, Maggie. I wished that I could show her my new abilities. We always talked about books where dorks like us found out they had magical powers. Now it had come true. I could practically hear Maggie’s snorting laugh.
I walked through the front gate of an enormous house. I checked my phone again to make sure that this mansion was where I belonged. I rang the doorbell and smoothed down my hair as I waited for an answer. Someone I had never seen before answered the door, and he lifted an eyebrow when he saw me.
“Ummm…Brittany invited me,” I squeaked out.
The boy just shrugged and pushed open the door. I scanned the clusters of people looking for Brittany. I caught a glimpse of her walking into the next room and called out her name. She couldn’t hear me over the thumping music. I squeezed past groups of sweaty teens covered in their parents’ cologne, until I reached the kitchen.
Brittany spotted me and waved. “Oh my god, you’re here! I’m sssooo glad to see you,” she squealed and hugged me. She turned to a group of people gathered around a cooler. “This is the girl I told you about.”
I gave a half-smile and waved awkwardly. Brittany reached in the cooler and tried to hand me a drink. I just shook my head and tugged on my shirt. I should have gotten some new clothes for this party. All the other girls looked so…sparkly.
“Why don’t we go outside and show everyone what you can do?” Brittany grabbed my hand and tugged me out the back door. She wasn’t fond of waiting for answers to her questions, apparently.
The boys in the group started hollering for people to follow us out back for a show. Our group soon grew into a rowdy crowd. Brittany stood in front of the crowd and cleared her throat.
“This is Dorthy, and she can do magic.” She gestured toward me like she was Vanna White.
I heard a chorus of laughter and snickers, as I stepped forward. I began to wonder if I should have taken that drink.
I took a deep breath and lifted my arms, hands balled into fists. I opened my right hand and gold sparks lit up the night. Teal fireworks joined from my left hand. A shocked murmur spread through the crowd. I let loose a barrage of colorful missiles, and everyone began to clap.
Next, a green streak shot from my hand and a purple flower exploded into bloom from the stem. People began to cheer and whistle. For the finale, a red scaly oval launched into the sky and burst to reveal a ruby dragon. The dragon soared above the party and orange flame poured from its mouth. For a moment, everyone was silent, in awe of me. Then, they went wild and rushed at me, lifting me into the air and chanting my name.
I felt like I was on top of the world. No one had ever cheered for me, or even wanted me at their party. This must be what it was like to be popular, and it was a great feeling.
After things calmed down, a few people came up to ask me to try different tricks. I complied as party-goers mingled around the yard. I was in the middle of making a unicorn prance across the sky, when a guy stumbled and splashed his beer on me. He jostled me, and a fiery spark spiked through the unicorn and struck a girl’s dress.
She screamed at her singed clothing, and the guy dumped what was left of his beer on her dress. She squealed in rage and turned to us both.
“Idiot,” she said to him, before setting her condescending gaze on me. “Freak,” she called before stomping off.
When I went back into the kitchen, the conversation got suddenly quiet. I could tell the mood had shifted. I reached for a paper towel, and a girl standing near them flinched away. I cleaned myself off and searched for Brittany.
I trotted up to her and her friends. I tapped her on the shoulder, but she just continued talking. A couple of her friends glanced at me, but quickly looked away. I stood outside the circle for a few moments, but it was clear I was no longer welcome.
It was then that I realized these people were a lot like my magic: they were sparkly and pretty to look at but weren’t good for much else. I just wanted to go home and be a normal nerd again. At least then I would know who my real friends were.
I turned to walk away, and the room began to fade from view. My own room materialized around me. I sank onto my bed and sighed in relief. I laid there with one leg crossed over the other, and pulled out my phone to call my best friend.