Today gave me high school flashbacks. Nothing bad. Just roaming the halls, getting to class, stuff like that, but I’d be lying if I said Gia’s experience has nothing in common with mine, both with being mixed and being heavy growing up. Or at least I thought I was big growing up. Even when looking at FB pictures, my actual size and “fatness” is up for debate, but it certainly didn’t feel like that in high school. I just thought I was fat. That’s why I’m writing Gia the way I am. I want to give people I wish I had in high school.
I’m out the door at a mild jog. With a backpack this heavy, the flat-out sprint I’m burning to run just might actually kill me. By the time I burst though the doors, my chest is on fire and my throat aches, but I don’t stop until I leap up the second story of the school. I know I’ve seen Oliver up here at a locker at some point in the past three years.
Sure enough, he stands at one across from the library, calmly putting in his combination, opening the door, and storing his book like he’s a normal high school student. Instead of, you know, a changeling that sneaks off to secret parties and runs around with flowers in his hair.
As he shuts his locker, I pant, “Oliver, we need to talk.”
He startles and drops his books. Clutching his chest, he flashes me a dirty look before picking up his stuff. “For the love of Lugh, Gia, don’t sneak up on me like that.” With everything gathered, he looks me up and down. “Why are you so out of breath? Did you run all the way to school?”
“Pretty much, yeah,” I reply, still gasping for air. “My brother’s talking to faeries. They apparently visit him at night and hang out for a while before he goes to bed. What the hell is that all about? I always thought it was his imagination, but after this weekend, well, I think I have plenty of reason to be worried.”
Oliver glances around before stepping a bit closer and whispering, “First of all, I’d appreciate it if you could refrain from using the “F” word in public. One human knowing is more than enough. And as for your brother, how old is he? Has he described the ones visiting.”
“He’s ten. And he says they’re little. Colorful. Have wings.”
Oliver sighs and leans against the lockers. “You burnt yourself out and scared me half to death over a bunch of sprites?”
“Well, how was I supposed to know?” I snap back. “This is all new to me.”
“Fair enough,” Oliver replies “You have nothing to worry about. Sprites are solitary fae that usually look after animals, flowers, and children. They’re attracted to children in particular. They won’t do him any harm. The most they’ll do is make him loose a few hours of sleep.”
Another question eats at my stomach, kicks my heart, and dries my mouth, but I know I need to ask it. “Could Ethan be a changeling? Is that why the sprites are attracted to him?”
“Does anything weird ever happen at your house? Things moving from where you leave them, stuff disappearing, doors opening and closing on their own?”
I trace the entirety of Ethan’s life. “Not that I can remember.”
“What does he look like?”
“This tall.” I hold a hand up to my waist. “Brown skin, hazel eyes, afro.”
Oliver studies the ceiling and drums his fingers against the lockers behind him. “He’s human. Odd things would be happening around the house by now and I haven’t seen any kids like that in Faerie and there aren’t that many of them. I’m pretty sure I’m the youngest, now that I think about it.”
I let the tension melt from my body. “Is that you figured out you’re a fae–you’re different? You used to make weird things happen in your house?”
“Oh, yeah,” Oliver chuckles. “I’d change the color of my clothes from pink to blue or green, turn my girl dolls into boy dolls, anything that let me feel more like a boy. My poor parents thought they were going mad.”
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