Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia

  “I’m guessing that’s not one of their approved cheers.”

  Lena put her head in her hands. “I’m guessing, between Ridley and Savannah, we’ll all be kicked out of school by the end of the season.” We both knew what happened when you took on women like Mrs. Snow. Not to mention Savannah Snow.

  “Well, you’ve got to give Ridley credit for one thing. It’s October, and she’s still at Jackson. She made it longer than three days.”

  “Remind me to bake her a cake when I get home.” Lena was annoyed. “The last time we went to school together, I spent half my time doing her homework. Otherwise, she would’ve gotten every boy in school to do it for her. That’s the only way she knows how to operate.”

  Lena rested her head on my chest. Our fingers intertwined, and I felt a jolt. Even though my skin would start to burn in a few minutes, it was worth it. I wanted to remember that feeling—not the jolt, but the touch before it. They way her hand felt in mine.

  I never thought there would be a time when I’d need to remember. When she would be anywhere but in my arms. Until last spring, when she left me, and the memories—some too painful to remember, some too painful to forget—were all I had. Those were the things I held on to.

  Sitting next to her on my front steps.

  Kelting with her while I was lying in bed and she was in hers.

  The way she twisted her charm necklace when she was lost in thought, like she was doing right now, while she watched the game.

  The nothing-out-of-the-ordinary between us that was so unbelievable and so extraordinary. It wasn’t because she was a Caster. It was because she was Lena and I loved her.

  So I watched her as she watched Ridley and Savannah. Until the drama courtside grew louder, and nothing was silent—even though you didn’t need to hear what they were saying to know what was going on.

  “Okay, that’s a rookie mistake.” Lena narrated the action for me as Savannah got into Ridley’s face. Ridley was snarling like an alley cat. “See what I mean? You can’t come at Rid like that without expecting to get your face clawed off.” Lena tensed up. I could tell she was debating going down there before things got ugly.

  Emory beat her to it, luring Ridley over to the sidelines. Savannah tried to look angry, but she was obviously relieved.

  So was Lena. “That almost makes me like Emory.”

  “You can’t solve all of Ridley’s problems for her.”

  “I can’t solve any of them. I’ve spent my whole life not solving Ridley’s problems.”

  I nudged her with my shoulder. “That’s why they’re Ridley’s problems.”

  She relaxed and settled back on the bleacher. “When did you get so zen?”

  “I’m not zen.” Was I? In the back of my mind, all I could think about was my mom and the beyond-the-grave wisdom that was uniquely hers. Maybe it was creeping into the front of my mind. “My mom came to see me.” I regretted saying it as soon as the words came out of my mouth.

  Lena sat up so fast my arm went flying. “When? Why didn’t you tell me? What did she say?”

  “A few nights ago. I didn’t feel like talking about it.” Especially not after I’d watched Lena’s mother plunge further into Darkness in the vision that same night. But it was more than that. I was coming unglued—talking to my unconscious aunt in my sleep, forgetting things when I was awake—and the impossibly heavy weight of doom lurking in the back of my mind. I didn’t want to admit how bad it was getting—to Lena or to myself.

  Lena turned back to the basketball court. Her feelings were hurt. “Well, you’re full of information today.”

  I wanted to tell you, L. But it was a lot to take in.

  You could have told me like this.

  I was trying to sort some things out. I think I’ve been mad at her all this time, like I blamed her for dying. How crazy is that?

  Ethan, think about how I acted when I thought Uncle Macon was dead. I went crazy.

  It wasn’t your fault.

  I’m not saying it was. Why is everything about fault with you? It wasn’t your mom’s fault she died, but a part of you still blames her. It’s normal.

  We sat next to each other on the bench without talking. Watching the cheerleaders cheer and the basketball players play below us.

  Ethan, why do you think we found each other in our dreams?

  I don’t know.

  It’s not the way people usually meet.

  I guess not. Sometimes I wonder if this is all one of those psychotic coma dreams. Maybe I’m lying in County Care right now.

  I almost laughed, but I remembered something.

  County Care.

  The Eighteenth Moon. I asked my mom about it.

  About John Breed?

  I nodded.

  All she said was something about evil having a lot of faces, and that it wasn’t up to me to judge.

  Ah. The judging thing. See? She agrees with me. I knew your mom would like me.

  I had one more crazy question.

  L, have you ever heard of the Wheel of Fate?

  No. What is it?

  According to my mom, it’s not a thing. It’s a person.

  “What?” I caught Lena off guard, and she stopped Kelting.

  “The weird thing is, I keep hearing that phrase—the Wheel of Fate. Aunt Prue mentioned it, too, when I fell asleep in her room. It must have something to do with the Eighteenth Moon, or my mom wouldn’t have brought it up.”

  Lena stood up and held out her hand. “Come on.”

  I got up after her. “What are you doing?”

  “Leaving Ridley to solve her own problems. Let’s go.”

  “Where are we going?”

  “To solve yours.”


  Good-Eye Side

  Apparently Lena believed the answer to my problems was waiting at the Gatlin County Library, because five minutes later we were there. A chain-link fence surrounded the building, which looked more like a construction site than a library now. The missing half of the roof was covered with enormous blue plastic tarps. The doorway was flanked by the carpet that had been ripped up from the concrete floor, destroyed as much by the water as the fire. We stepped over the charred boards and walked inside.

  The opposite side of the library was sealed off with heavy plastic. It was the one that had burned. I didn’t want to know what it looked like over there. The side where we were standing was just as depressing. The stacks were gone, replaced by boxes of books that looked like they’d been sorted into piles.

  The destroyed. The partly destroyed. The salvageable.

  Only the card catalog sat there, untouched. We would never get rid of that thing.

  “Aunt Marian! You here?” I wandered past the boxes, expecting to see Marian in her stocking feet, walking around with an open book.

  Instead, I saw my dad, sitting on a box behind the card catalog, talking enthusiastically to a woman.

  There was no way.

  Lena stepped in front of me so they wouldn’t notice me looking like I was going to puke. “Mrs. English! What are you doing here? And Mr. Wate! I didn’t know that you knew our teacher.” She even managed a smile, as if running into them here was a pleasant coincidence.

  I couldn’t stop staring.

  What the hell is he doing here with her?

  If my dad was flustered, it didn’t show. He looked excited—happy, even, which was worse. “Did you know Lilian knows almost as much about the history of this county as your mom did?”

  Lilian? My mom?

  Mrs. English looked up from the books scattered on the floor around her, and our eyes locked. For a second, her pupils looked slit-shaped, like a cat’s. Even the glass eye that wasn’t real.

  L, did you see that?

  See what?

  But now there was nothing to see—only our English teacher blinking over her glass eye as she watched my father with her good one. Her hair was a graying mess that matched the lumpy gray sweater she was wearing over her shapeless
dress. She was the toughest teacher at Jackson, if you ignored the loophole most people chose to exploit—the Bad-Eye Side. I never imagined that she existed outside the classroom. But here she was, existing all over my dad. I felt sick.

  My dad was still talking. “She’s helping me with my research for The Eighteenth Moon. My book, remember?” He turned back to Mrs. English, grinning. “They don’t hear a word we say anymore. Half my students are listening to their iPods or talking on their cell phones. They might as well be deaf.”

  Mrs. English looked at him strangely and laughed. I realized I’d never heard her laugh before. The laugh itself wasn’t disturbing. Mrs. English laughing at my father’s jokes was. Disturbing and gross.

  “That’s not entirely true, Mitchell.”


  It’s his name, Ethan. Don’t panic.

  “According to Lilian, the Eighteenth Moon could be viewed as a powerful historical motif. The phases of the moon could coordinate with—”

  “Nice to see you, ma’am.” I couldn’t stand to hear my dad’s theories on the Eighteenth Moon, or listen to him share them with my English teacher. I walked past them, toward the archive. “Be home by dinner, Dad. Amma’s making pot roast.” I had no idea what Amma was cooking, but pot roast was his favorite. And I wanted him home for dinner.

  I wanted him to exist away from my English teacher.

  She must have understood what my dad didn’t, that I really didn’t want to see her as anything but my teacher, because as soon as I tried to go, Lilian English disappeared and Mrs. English took her place. “Ethan, don’t forget I need the outline for your essay on The Crucible. On my desk by the end of class tomorrow, please. You, too, Miss Duchannes.”

  “Yes, ma’am.”

  “I expect you have a thesis already?”

  I nodded, but I had completely forgotten an essay was due, let alone an outline. English wasn’t high on my list of priorities lately.

  “And?” Mrs. English looked at me expectantly.

  You gonna help me out here, L?

  Don’t look at me. I haven’t thought about it.


  I’ll be hiding in the mess in the reference section until they leave.


  “Ethan?” She was waiting for an answer.

  I stared at her, and my father stared at me. Everyone was watching me. I felt like a goldfish trapped in a bowl.

  What was the life span of a goldfish? It was one of the Sisters’ Jeopardy! questions a few nights ago. I tried to think.

  “Goldfish.” I didn’t know why I said it. But lately I was blurting out things without even thinking.

  “I beg your pardon?” Mrs. English looked confused. My dad scratched his head, trying not to act embarrassed.

  “I mean, what it’s like living in a goldfish bowl—with other goldfish. It’s complicated.”

  Mrs. English wasn’t impressed. “Enlighten me, Mr. Wate.”

  “Judgment and free will. I think I’m going to write about judgment. Who has the power to decide what’s good and what’s evil, you know? Sin and all that. I mean, does it come from some kind of higher order, or does it come from the people you live with? Or your town?”

  It was my dream talking, or my mom.

  “And? Who has that power, Mr. Wate? Who is the ultimate judge?”

  “I guess I don’t know. Haven’t written the paper yet, ma’am. But I’m not sure us goldfish have the right to judge each other. Look where it got those girls in The Crucible.”

  “Would someone outside the community have done a better job?”

  A cold feeling crept over me, as if there actually was a right or wrong answer to the question. In English class, there were no right or wrong answers as long as you could find evidence to back up your opinion. But it didn’t feel like we were talking about an English assignment anymore.

  “Guess I’ll be answering that in my paper.” I looked away, feeling stupid. In class, it would’ve been a good answer, but standing in front of her now, it was something else.

  “Am I interrupting?” It was Marian to the rescue. “I’m sorry, Mitchell, but I have to lock the library up early today. What’s left of it. I’m afraid I’ve got some—official library business to attend to.”

  She looked at Mrs. English with a smile. “Please do come back. With any luck, we’ll be back on our feet and open by the summer. We love having educators use our resources.”

  Mrs. English started collecting her papers. “Of course.”

  Marian had them out the door before my dad could ask why I wasn’t leaving with him. She flipped the sign and twisted the lock—not that there was anything left to steal.

  “Thanks for the save, Aunt Marian.”

  Lena stuck her head out from behind a stack of boxes. “Are they gone?” She was holding a book, wrapped in one of her scarves. I could see the title, only partially covered by the sparkly gray fabric. Great Expectations.

  Sarafine’s book.

  As if the afternoon hadn’t been bad enough.

  Marian pulled out a handkerchief and rubbed her glasses. “It wasn’t a save entirely. I am expecting some official visitors, and I’m fairly certain it would be best if you two weren’t here when they arrive.”

  “I just need a minute. I have to grab my bag.” Lena disappeared back into the boxes, but I was right behind her.

  “What are you doing with that?” I grabbed the book, and the second I touched it, the broken shelves faded into darkness—

  It was late, the first time she met him. Sarafine knew she shouldn’t be walking alone this late at night. Mortals were no threat to her, but she knew there were other things out there. But the voices had started whispering to her, and she had to get out of the house.

  When she saw the figure at the corner, her heart started to pound. But as the man moved closer, Sarafine realized he was no threat. His long beard was white, the same color as his hair. He was wearing a dark suit and a string tie, leaning against a polished black cane.

  He was smiling, as if they knew each other. “Good evening, child. I’ve been waiting for you.”

  “Excuse me? I think you’ve mistaken me for someone else.” She smiled. He was probably senile.

  The old man laughed. “There’s no mistaking you. I know a Cataclyst when I see one.”

  Sarafine felt the icy blood pumping through her veins.

  He knew.

  The fire flared up along the sidewalk, only a few feet from the old man’s cane. Sarafine closed her eyes, trying to control it, but she couldn’t.

  “Let it burn. It is on the cold side tonight.” He smiled, unaffected by the flames.

  Sarafine was shaking. “What do you want?”

  “Came to help you. You see, we’re family. Maybe I should introduce myself.” He held out his hand. “I’m Abraham Ravenwood.”

  She knew the name. She’d seen it on her half brothers’ family tree. “Hunting and Macon said you were dead.”

  “Do I look dead?” He smiled. “Couldn’t die just yet. I’ve been waiting for you.”

  “Me? Why?” Sarafine’s own family wouldn’t speak to her. It was hard to believe someone had been waiting for her.

  “You don’t understand what you are yet, do you? Are you hearing the call? The voices?” He looked into the flames. “I can see you’ve already found your gift.”

  “It’s not a gift. It’s a curse.”

  His head snapped back in her direction, and she could see his black eyes. “Now, who’s been telling you that? Casters, I imagine.” He shook his head. “Doesn’t surprise me. Casters are liars, only one step removed from Mortals. But not you. A Cataclyst is the most powerful Caster in our world, and born from the Dark Fire. Too powerful to be considered a Caster at all, the way I see it.”

  Was it possible? Could she possess the most powerful gift in the Caster world? Part of her yearned for it to be true—to be special, rather than cast aside. A part of her that wanted to give in to the urges.
br />   To burn everything in her path.

  To make all the people who had hurt her pay.


  She forced the thoughts from her mind. John. She focused on John and his beautiful green eyes.

  Sarafine was shaking. “I don’t want to be Dark.”

  “Too late for that. You can’t fight what you are.” Abraham laughed, a sinister sound. “Now let’s see those pretty yellow eyes of yours.”

  Abraham had been right. Sarafine couldn’t fight what she was, but she could hide it. She had no other choice. She was two souls, battling for the same body. Right and wrong. Good and evil. Light and Dark.

  John was the only thing that tethered her to the Light. She loved him, although sometimes that love was starting to feel more like a memory. Something far away she could see but never reach.

  Still, she reached.

  The memory was easiest to see when they were lying in bed, tangled up in each other.

  “Do you know how much I love you?” John whispered, his lips barely grazing her ear.

  Sarafine moved closer, as if his warmth could somehow soak into her cold skin and change her from the outside in. “How much?”

  “More than anything or anyone. More than myself.”

  “I feel the same way.” Liar. She could hear the voice even now.

  John leaned down until their foreheads were touching. “I’m never going to feel this way about anyone else. It will always be you.” His voice was low and raspy. “You’re eighteen now. Marry me.”

  Sarafine could hear another voice in the back of her mind, a voice that came into her thoughts and dreams late at night. Abraham. You think you love him, but you don’t. You can’t love someone who doesn’t know who you are. You’re not really a Caster; you’re one of us.

  “Izabel?” John was staring back at her, searching in her eyes for the girl he’d fallen in love with. A girl who was being consumed little by little.

  How much of her was left?

  “Yes.” Sarafine wrapped her arms around John’s neck, tethering herself once more. “I’ll marry you.”

  Lena opened her eyes. She was lying on the dirty concrete floor next to me, the toes of our sneakers almost touching. “Oh my God, Ethan. It started when she met Abraham.”

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