Illusions: out of the ordinary


photo by Alex Schroeder

Nicole Schroeder

Illusions is a novella written by Nicole Schroeder and Ashley Tanner, about a girl named Gemma who has the ability to see people’s true character at a single glance. Each post in the following blog series is one chapter of Illusions.

“What a pleasure it is to finally meet you! You must be Gemma.”  Theo smiled warmly as Elijah led her into the large windowed office. Getting up from his desk, she watched as Theo walked around to the front of his desk and offered his hand to her. She took it politely, her own smile matching his.
Cunning. Dynamic. Bumbling.
“The pleasure is all mine, Mr. Wolf.”
“Oh, please,” he scoffed. “Call me Theo.” Gemma chuckled and nodded, taking a moment to glance around the room. Situated on one corner of the highest floor of the office building, Theo’s office was nearly immaculate, with the only mess confined to the top of his ebony desk. The better part of the room was filled with the light filtering in from the floor-to-ceiling windows that lined the outer walls of the office. Outside, the city skyline stretched endlessly, the sounds of cars on the streets below faintly filtering in past the glass walls.
“You’re office is amazing,” Gemma said in awe. Theo laughed at her amazement.
“Why thank you, though I’m sure it’s nothing like yours,” Theo said. Gemma frowned and turned around, confused. “Elijah was telling me the other day that you work at New Perspectives,” he clarified, and she thought she saw him glance knowingly at Elijah.
“Oh, I do, but it’s nothing like this. We just have a small downtown office, nothing fancy…like this,” she said, gesturing out at the view from Theo’s windows. He and Elijah laughed in unison, and she couldn’t help but blush a little.
“So it sounds like you’ve liked your tour thus far?” Theo asked hopefully. Gemma took the opportunity to save herself from her earlier blunder and nodded.
“Yes, definitely. The building is huge. I didn’t realize your law firm was so big. I mean, of course you must be very successful, but this is … amazing. I’d love to work in a place like this.”
Theo grinned. “Well, I’m sure we’d be able to find a spot for you here, if you ever were truly considering it.”
Gemma smiled. “For a graphic designer?”
“Of course! We need someone to design a new website every once in a while.” He chuckled, the corners of his eyes wrinkling.
“Ah, I don’t think you give New Perspectives enough credit,” Elijah said, speaking up from behind her. “You’re guys’ office was pretty neat, you have to admit. No cubicles like in here.”
“Yeah, I guess that’s true.” Gemma smiled and shrugged, glancing toward Elijah before turning back to the windows. Elijah grinned, coming up behind her and wrapping his arms around her.
“Wait, you visited New Perspectives?” Theo asked in surprise. Gemma turned to him and grinned.
“I took him there earlier today so he could meet a few people,” Gemma explained. “Nothing fancy, but figured that way they’re not pestering me about meeting him anymore.”
“Interesting…,” Theo said, glancing back at Elijah. “You never told me you were leaving the office.”
“We left on my lunch break,” was his clipped reply.
Shaking his head, Theo turned back to Gemma, his cheery face plastered on once more. “Well, you’ll have to come back and visit some time. But I’ll go ahead and let you take a look around the rest of the building. I’m sure Elijah would love to show you his desk and the things he’s been working on….”
He scoffed playfully. “Right. My lovely cubicle. It’s so wonderful, you’ll never want to leave!”
Gemma laughed, turning around to face Elijah. “Well, then, lead the… way….” She trailed off, frowning as she looked at his eyes. For some reason, his Label was acting strangely, showing up as a blur that she couldn’t quite make out. She squinted a little more, trying to read it more clearly.
“Something wrong, Gemma?” Elijah asked, worry lacing his voice. “You don’t look so good….”
Gemma didn’t hear him however, instead focusing on Elijah’s Label. His new Label.
Deceitful. Insubordinate. Devoted.
Was she going crazy? Had his Label really changed? She was certain it had, remembering distinctly the words she had seen for the past few weeks of spending time with him: Dependable. Resolute. Contented. The words she saw now were all heavier, carrying deeper connotations than the last. But, she’d never seen any Label do that before, even with the people she’d dated in the past.
Suddenly, she grasped her head, a sharp pain seemingly piercing her skull. “Gah… headache. Sorry.”
Her eyes were closed, but in a flash she felt Elijah’s arms wrap around her, steadying her. “Are you okay?”
“Umm… I’m not sure….” She mumbled, trying to ignore the throbbing in her brain.
Elijah frowned once more. “Alright. I’m making the executive decision that I’m taking you home. You can see the rest of the office some other time.”
She nodded, slightly grateful that she hadn’t been forced to back out of the plan by herself. She muttered her thanks to Theo as he held the door for them out of the office, leaning on Elijah as he led her back out of the building and toward his car. “You feel warm,” he said with a sigh as he helped her into the passenger side and brushed her hair back from her face.
The drive home felt extremely long to Gemma as she cradled her head in her hands, trying to avoid Elijah’s worried glances. Each time their eyes met, another wave of shooting pains stabbed at Gemma’s brain, sending her back to leaning against the cool window of the car and holding back a whimper. After a while, though, they reached her apartment, and after leading her up to her room and giving her a gentle kiss on her forehead, Elijah left her to deal with her head and the realization that her entire understanding of her power to see Labels was quite possibly wrong in the most critical of ways.