Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia


  10.13

  Golden Ticket

  That night, after the visit from the Far Keep, Marian went into her house and didn’t come out again, as far as I could tell. The next day, I stopped by to see if she was okay. She didn’t answer the door, and she wasn’t at the library either. The day after that, I brought her mail up to the porch. I tried to look in her windows, but her shades were drawn, and the curtains, too.

  I rang the bell again today, but she didn’t answer. I sat down on her front steps and leafed through her mail. Nothing out of the ordinary—bills. A letter from Duke University, probably about one of her research grants. And some kind of returned letter, but I didn’t recognize the address. Kings Langley.

  Why was that familiar? My head felt foggy, like there was something at the edge of my memory I couldn’t reach.

  “That would be mine, I believe.” Liv sat down on the step next to me. Her hair was braided, and she was wearing cutoff jeans and a periodic table T-shirt.

  On the surface, Liv seemed the same. But I knew the summer had changed things for her. “I never asked you if you were okay after that scene at the library, with the Council. Are you—all right, I mean?”

  “I suppose. But what happened at the Temporis Porta scared me more.” She looked scared, and faraway.

  “Me, too.”

  “Ethan, I think it was the future. You walked through the door, and you were transported to another physical place. That’s the way a time portal operates.”

  The Far Keep hadn’t felt like a dream, or even a vision. It was like stepping into another world. I just wished that world wasn’t the future.

  Liv’s face clouded over. Something else was bothering her.

  “What is it?”

  “I’ve been thinking.” Liv twisted her selenometer nervously. “The Temporis Porta only opened for you. Why didn’t it let me through?”

  Because bad things keep happening to me. That’s what I was thinking, but I didn’t say it. I also didn’t mention that I’d seen my English teacher in the future. “I don’t know. So what do we do?”

  “The only thing we can. We make sure Marian doesn’t go to the Far Keep.”

  I looked up at her door. “Maybe we should be glad she won’t come out of the house. Guess I should’ve known nothing good would come out of sneaking around in Amma’s pantry.”

  “Except the preserves.” Liv smiled weakly. She was trying to distract me from the one thing I could never get away from—myself.

  “Cherry?”

  “Strawberry.” She said it in two syllables. Straw-bry. “With a spoon, straight out of the jar.”

  “You sound like Ridley. All sugar, all the time.” She smiled when I said it.

  “I meant to ask you. How are Ridley and Link and Lena?”

  “Aw, you know. Ridley’s tearing up the school. She’s a cheerleader now.”

  Liv laughed. “Siren, cheerleader. I’m not up on American culture, but even I appreciate the similarities.”

  “I guess. Link is the biggest big man on campus you’ve ever seen. The girls hang all over him. He’s a real chick magnet.”

  “How is Lena? Happy to have her uncle back, I bet. And you.”

  She didn’t look at me, and I didn’t look at her. When she finally spoke, she looked up into the blazing sun, instead of at me. That’s how much she didn’t want to say it to my face. “It’s hard for me, you know? I find myself thinking about you, things I want to tell you, things I think are funny or odd, but you aren’t there.”

  I wanted to drop Marian’s mail and bolt down the steps.

  Instead, I took a deep breath. “I know. The rest of us are all still together, and you’re alone. After everything we went through, we bailed on you. It sucks.” I finally said it. It had been bothering me since the day we came home to Gatlin, the day Liv disappeared into the Tunnels with Macon.

  “I have Macon. He’s been wonderful to me, almost like a father.” She twisted the bits of string that were always tied to her wrist. “But I miss you and Marian, and not being able to talk to either of you is horrible, actually. I don’t want to get her into any more trouble. But it’s like being told you have to give up ice cream, or prawn crisps, or Ovaltine.”

  “I know. I’m sorry it’s all so weird.” What was weird was this conversation. It was so much like Liv to be the one brave enough to have it.

  She looked sideways at me, and half smiled. “I was thinking, after I saw you yesterday. It’s not like I can’t speak to you without trying to kiss you. You’re not that irresistible.”

  “Tell me about it.”

  “I wish I could print up a sign and tape it to my forehead. I OFFICIALLY DO NOT WANT TO KISS ETHAN WATE. NOW PLEASE LET ME BE FRIENDS WITH HIM.”

  “Maybe we could make T-shirts that say PLATONIC.”

  “Or NOT DATING.”

  “UNATTRACTED.”

  Liv took the returned letter out of the pile with a sigh. “This was me feeling sorry for myself a few weeks ago. I wrote home and asked if they’d have me back.”

  I realized I knew next to nothing about Liv’s family. “Home home? Your family?”

  “Just my mother. My father’s long gone. You know, the glamorous life of a theoretical physicist. But no, this was a feeble attempt to get her to send me to Oxford, actually. I turned the university down to come here. And it seemed like it was time for me to go, or at least it did then.”

  “And now?” I didn’t want her to leave.

  “Now I feel like I can’t leave Marian until this whole mess is sorted out.”

  I nodded, picking at my shoelaces. “I’d be happy if she would just come out of her house.” But I didn’t want to think about the future she might be facing if she did.

  “I know. She isn’t at the library either. Maybe she needs some time.” Of course, Liv had been making the same rounds I had. We were so alike, in more ways than one. More than being the only Mortals in the equation.

  “You know, you were pretty brave back there in the library.”

  She smiled. “Wasn’t it amazing? I was quite proud. Then I got in bed and cried for about ten hours straight.”

  “I don’t blame you. It was hard-core.” And she’d only seen the half of it. The Far Keep was so much worse.

  “Last night—” I started in, just as she said, “You know, I have to go—”

  My timing was off, as usual, and our sentences tripped over each other. We sat there for a minute while the awkwardness set in. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to leave.

  She stood up, brushing off her shorts. “I’m glad we had a chance to catch up.”

  “Me, too.”

  As she walked down the carefully kept path that led to Marian’s gate, I had an idea. Not a perfect idea, but a decent one.

  “Wait up.” I pulled a folded orange flyer out of my pocket. “Take it.”

  Liv unfolded it. “What’s this?”

  “An invitation to Savannah Snow’s party, after the basketball game against Summerville on Saturday night. It’s the hottest ticket in town.” That was hard to say with a straight face.

  “How did you and Lena get invited to a party at Savannah’s house?”

  “You underestimate the combined powers of a former Siren and a Linkubus.”

  She put the paper in her pocket. “So, you want to add an expelled Keeper-in-Training into the mix?”

  “I’m not sure we’ll actually go, but Link and Ridley definitely will. You should come, too, and hang out, like old times.”

  She hesitated. “I’ll think about it.”

  “Think about it?”

  “Won’t it be a little awkward if you and Lena are there?”

  Of course it would.

  “Why would it be awkward?” I tried to sound convincing.

  “Why do people say things like that? I don’t know how comfortable Lena will feel around me.” She searched the sky, as if the answer was hidden in the unbroken blue universe. “Which is why we need those T-shirts, I suppose
.”

  I jammed my hands into my pockets, trying to come up with an answer to that. “You brought Macon back. You stood up for Marian. Lena respects you and what you did to help both of us. You practically live at Ravenwood—under it, at least. You’re like family.”

  She narrowed her eyes, studying my face as if she didn’t quite believe me. Which made sense, since part of it wasn’t true. “Maybe. Possibly. That’s the best I can do, under the circumstances.”

  “I’ll take that as a yes.”

  “I have to get back. Macon’s waiting for me. But I’ll consider going to the party.” She took a key out of her pocket and held it up. It was a crescent key, like the one Marian had. Now Liv could open the Outer Doors that connected the Mortal and Caster worlds. There was something right about that. She waved and disappeared around the corner while I turned back to the dark house. Shades still drawn.

  I left the mail in a pile on the rocker by Marian’s door and hoped it would be gone in the morning. I hoped my memories of the Temporis Porta would be gone even sooner.

  “You did what? Please tell me you’re joking.”

  We were at the Cineplex, standing in line for popcorn. Lena wasn’t as happy about the whole making peace with Liv thing as I had hoped. Actually, she was exactly as unhappy about it as I’d predicted. But if Liv decided to come to the party, Lena was going to find out that I was the one who had invited her. It was better to take the hit now. An angry girlfriend was one thing. An angry Caster girl meant you could lose a limb or step off a cliff.

  I had planned to tell Lena about finding the Temporis Porta with Liv last night. But considering her reaction to the party invite, it seemed better to wait on that one.

  So I had to come clean about the rest.

  I sighed and repeated my argument, even though it was going to get me nowhere. “If you had anything to worry about, would I invite Liv somewhere I might be going with you? Don’t you think I’d make some kind of secret plans?”

  “What kind of secret plans?”

  I shrugged. “I don’t know. Because I don’t have any.”

  “But let’s say that you did.”

  “But I don’t.” This was going downhill fast.

  “Ethan, this is hypothetical.”

  “This is a trap.” I knew better than to engage in hypothetical questions with a girl.

  We reached the counter, and I pulled out my wallet. “Well?”

  Lena looked at me like I was crazy. “The usual.”

  The usual? What was the usual? My mind was totally blank.

  “The usual,” I repeated dumbly.

  She gave me a look and then turned to the cashier. “Popcorn and Milk Duds, please.”

  Are you okay?

  Yeah, I just blanked. I don’t know.

  The cashier slid Lena’s popcorn over the counter and looked at me. I scanned the list on the wall. “And how about… popcorn and Hot Tamales?”

  Hot Tamales?

  They don’t have Red Hots, L.

  You thinking about someone I know?

  I shrugged. Of course I was. Amma wasn’t making egg rolls with her cleaver, or pie filling with the One-Eyed Menace. Her sharp #2 pencils were in the drawer, and I hadn’t seen a crossword puzzle on the kitchen table in weeks.

  Ethan, don’t worry about Amma. She’ll come out of it.

  Amma’s never gone dark for this long before. We have a bottle tree in our front yard.

  Since Abraham showed up at your house?

  More like since school started.

  Lena dumped her Milk Duds into the popcorn tub.

  If you’re this worried about it, why don’t you ask her?

  You ever try to ask Amma something?

  Yeah. No. Maybe we need to go see this bokor for ourselves.

  No offense, L, but he’s not the kind of guy you want to take your girlfriend to see. And I’m not sure an actual Caster would be safe there.

  The whole cheer squad passed by us. Ridley was walking with some guy I didn’t know, who had his hand in the back pocket of her stretchy skirt. He wasn’t from Jackson; Summerville was my guess. Savannah was hanging on Link, who was staring at Ridley while she pretended not to notice him. Emily walked behind them with Charlotte and Eden, and you could see the rage on Savannah’s face. She wasn’t the one holding up the pyramid anymore.

  “You sittin’ with us?” Link called out as he passed.

  Savannah smiled and waved. Lena looked at the two of them as if they were walking down the street in their underwear.

  “I’m never going to get used to that,” she said.

  “Me neither.”

  “Did you explain to Rid about the last four rows of the Cineplex?”

  “Oh, no—”

  So we ended up wedged between Link and Savannah and Ridley and the guy from Summerville, in the last four rows. The credits had barely started before Savannah was whispering and giggling into Link’s neck, which as far as I could tell was just an excuse to get her mouth up near his. I elbowed him as hard as I could.

  “Ow!”

  “Ridley’s sitting right there, man.”

  “Yeah. With that tool.”

  “You want her crawling all over him like that?” Ridley wasn’t the kind of girl who got mad. She got even.

  Link leaned forward, looking past Lena and me to where Ridley was sitting. The Summerville Tool already had his hand on her leg. When she saw Link watching, she snaked her arm through the guy’s and tossed her pink and blond hair. Then she pulled out a lollipop and began unwrapping it.

  Link shifted in his seat. “Yeah. You’re right. I’m gonna have to kick his—”

  Lena grabbed the sleeve of his shirt before Link got up. “You’re not doing anything. Just behave, and she will, and then maybe you can actually start dating like normal people and stop this stupid game.”

  “Shh!” The Summerville Tool shot us a look. “Shut up. Some of us are tryin’ to watch the movie.”

  “Yeah, right,” Link yelled back at him. “I know what you’re tryin’ to watch.”

  Link gave me a pleading look. “Please let me go outside and beat the crap outta him, before I miss any a the good parts. You know I’m gonna end up doin’ it anyway.”

  He had a point. But he was a Linkubus, and the rules were different now.

  “You ready to let Ridley beat the crap out of Savannah? Because you know she’ll do it.”

  He shook his head. “I don’t know how much more a this I can take. Rid’s drivin’ me nuts.” For a second, the old Link was back, hung up on the girl who would always be out of his league. Maybe that was it. Maybe he would always think Ridley was out of his league, even though his league had changed.

  “You have to ask her to Savannah’s party, as your date.” It was the only way to defuse this particular bomb.

  “You kiddin’ me? That’s like askin’ for an open war with the whole squad. Savannah already has me doin’ all this extra stuff—comin’ over early to set up an’ everythin’.”

  “I’m just calling it like I see it.” I dug into my Hot Tamales popcorn. My mouth was burning, which seemed like a sign. Time to keep it shut.

  I wasn’t giving out any more advice.

  By the end of the night, Link had beaten the crap out of the Summerville Tool in the parking lot. Ridley called Link every name in the book, and Savannah stepped in. For a minute, it looked like there was going to be a serious catfight, until Savannah remembered her arm was still in a sling, and pretended the whole thing was a big misunderstanding.

  When I got home, there was a note taped to my front door. It was from Liv.

  I changed my mind. See you at the party. XO Liv

  XO.

  That was just something girls wrote at the end of notes, right?

  Right.

  I was dead.

  10.18

  A Real Bad Girl

  It took more than a little convincing to get Amma to let me go to Savannah Snow’s party. And it wasn’t like she would
n’t notice if I tried to sneak out. Amma never went anywhere anymore. She hadn’t gone home to Wader’s Creek once since she pulled the tarot spread that sent her into a voodoo queen’s crypt. She wouldn’t admit it, but when I asked her why she never went back home anymore, she got defensive.

  “You think I can leave the Sisters to keep an eye on themselves? You know Thelma hasn’t been the least bit clear herself, since the accident.”

  “Oh, Miss Amma. Quit your fussin’. I only get the eensiest bit confused, now an’ again,” Thelma called from the next room, where she was straightening the couches just so. Aunt Mercy liked one pillow and two blankets. Aunt Grace liked two pillows and one blanket. Aunt Mercy didn’t like used blankets, which meant you had to wash them before she’d let them near her. Aunt Grace didn’t like pillows that smelled like hair, even if it was her own. The sad thing was, since “the accident” I knew more about their pillow preferences and hiding places for coffee ice cream than I ever wanted to know.

  The accident.

  “The accident” used to mean my mom’s car crash. Now it was polite Southern code for Aunt Prue’s condition. I didn’t know if it made me feel better or worse, but once Amma started invoking “the accident,” there was no getting her to change her mind.

  Still, I tried. “They don’t stay up past eight o’clock. How about we all hang out and play Scrabble together, and then I’ll go out once everyone is asleep?”

  Amma shook her head as she pulled trays of cookies in and out of the oven. Snickerdoodles. Molasses. Shortbread. Cookies, not pie. Cookies were for delivery. She never fed cookies to the Greats. I don’t know why, but the Greats weren’t much for cookies. Which meant she still wasn’t talking to them.

  “Who are you baking for tonight, Amma?”

  “What, you’re too good for my cookies now?”

  “No, but you took the paper doilies out, which means these aren’t for me.”

  Amma started arranging the cookies on the tray. “Well, aren’t you a smart one. Takin’ these down to County Care. Thought those nice nurses might want a cookie or two to keep ’em company, these long nights.”

 
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