Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia

  Finally, a piece of information I could wrap my mind around. Even though Liv and Macon had spent every day of the last week with John—treating him like Frankenstein, visiting royalty, or a prisoner of war, depending on the day—he hadn’t told them anything that explained his role in all this.

  I still hadn’t told anyone except Lena about my visits with Aunt Prue. But I was beginning to feel like it all fit together, the same way everything in the bowl ends up in the biscuits, as Amma would say.

  The Wheel of Fate. The One Who Is Two. Amma and the bokor. John Breed. The Eighteenth Moon. Aunt Prue. The Shadowing Song.

  If only I could figure out how, before it was too late.

  By the time I got to Ravenwood, Lena was sitting on the front porch. I could see her watching me as I drove through the crooked iron gate.

  I remembered what Aunt Prue had said when she gave me the gold rose. This is for your girl. Ta help me keep an eye on her.

  I didn’t want to think about it.

  I sat down next to Lena on the top step. She held out her hand and took the charm from me, slipping it onto her necklace without a word.

  It’s for you. From Aunt Prue.

  I know. She told me.

  “I fell asleep on the couch, and suddenly she was there,” Lena said. “It was exactly the way you described it—a dream, but it didn’t feel like a dream.” I nodded, and she leaned her head against my shoulder. “I’m sorry, Ethan.”

  I looked out at the gardens, still green in spite of the heat and the lubbers and everything we had been through. “Did she tell you anything else?”

  Lena nodded and reached up to touch my cheek with her hand. When she turned toward me, I could tell she had been crying.

  I don’t think she has much time.


  She said she came to say good-bye.

  I never made it home that night. Instead, I found myself sitting alone on Marian’s doorstep. Even though she was in there, and I was out, I still felt better at her place than mine.

  For now. I didn’t know how much longer she’d be there, and I didn’t want to think about where I would be without her.

  I fell asleep on her carefully swept front porch. And if I dreamed that night, I don’t remember.



  You know, babies are born without kneecaps.” Aunt Grace wedged herself between the sofa cushions before her sister could get there.

  “Grace Ann, how could you say such a thing? It’s downright disturbin’.”

  “Mercy, it’s the God’s honest truth. I read it in Reader’s Digestive. Those readers are fulla information.”

  “Why on God’s green earth are you talkin’ ’bout babies’ knees, anyhow?”

  “Can’t say as I know. Just got me ta thinkin’ ’bout the way things change. If babies can just grow them some kneecaps, why can’t I learn ta fly? Why don’t they build stairs ta the moon? Why can’t Thelma get married ta that handsome Jim Clooney boy?”

  “You can’t learn ta fly ’cause you got no wings. It wouldn’t make a lick a sense ta build stairs ta the moon ’cause they don’t have any breathin’ air up there. And that boy’s name is George Clooney, and Thelma can’t marry him ’cause he lives all the way over there in Hollywood and he’s not even a Methodist.”

  I listened to them talk in the next room while I ate my cereal. Sometimes I understood what the Sisters were saying, even when it sounded like crazy talk. They were worried about Aunt Prue. They were preparing for the possibility she was going to die. Babies grew kneecaps, I guess. Things changed. It wasn’t a good thing or a bad thing, any more than kneecaps were good or bad. At least, that’s what I told myself.

  Something else had changed.

  Amma wasn’t in the kitchen this morning. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d left for school without seeing her. Even when she was mad and refused to cook breakfast, she would still be banging around in the kitchen, muttering to herself and giving me stinkeye.

  The One-Eyed Menace was lying on the spoon rest, bone dry.

  It didn’t feel right to leave without saying good-bye. I opened the drawer where Amma kept her extra-sharp #2 pencils. I grabbed one and tore a sheet of paper off the message pad. I was going to tell her I left for school. No big deal.

  I leaned over the counter and started writing.

  “Ethan Lawson Wate!” I hadn’t heard Amma come in, and I nearly jumped out of my skin.

  “Jeez, Amma. You almost gave me a heart attack.” When I turned around, she was the one who looked like she was going to have one. Her face was ashen, and she was shaking her head like a mad woman.

  “Amma, what’s wrong?” I started to cross the room, but she put her hand out.

  “Stop!” Her hand was shaking. “What were you doin’?”

  “I was writing you a note.” I held up the sheet of paper.

  She pointed her bony finger at my other hand, the one still holding her pencil. “You were writin’ with the wrong hand.”

  I looked down at the pencil in my left hand and let it drop, watching it roll across the floor.

  I had been writing with my left hand.

  But I was right-handed.

  Amma backed out of the kitchen, her eyes shining, and tore down the hall.

  “Amma!” I called after her, but she slammed her door behind her. I banged on it. “Amma! You have to tell me what’s wrong.”

  What’s wrong with me.

  “What’s all that ruckus out there?” Aunt Grace called from the living room. “I’m tryin’ ta watch my stories.”

  I slid down to the floor, my back against Amma’s door, and waited. But she didn’t come out. She wasn’t going to tell me what was happening. I was going to have to figure it out on my own.

  Time to grow a pair of kneecaps.

  I didn’t feel the same way later that day, when I ran into my dad again with Mrs. English. This time they weren’t at the library. They were having lunch at my school. In my classroom. Where anyone could see them, including me. I wasn’t that ready for change.

  I made the mistake of dropping off the draft of my Crucible essay during lunch, because I forgot to give it to her in English class. I pushed through the door without bothering to look through the little glass square, and there they were. Sharing a basket of Amma’s leftover fried chicken. At least I knew it would be rubbery.


  My dad smiled before he turned, which is how I knew he’d been waiting for this to happen. He had the smile ready. “Ethan? Sorry to surprise you on your home turf like this. I wanted to go over a few things with Lilian. She has some great ideas about the Eighteenth Moon project.”

  “I bet she does.” I smiled at Mrs. English, holding up the paper. “My draft. I was going to put it in your in-box. Just ignore me.” Like I’m going to ignore you.

  But I didn’t get off that easy.

  “Are you ready for tomorrow?” Mrs. English looked at me expectantly. I braced myself. The automatic answer to that question was always no, but I had no idea exactly what I wasn’t ready for.


  “For the reenactment of the Salem witch trials? We’re going to try the same cases The Crucible is based on. Have you been preparing your case study?”

  “Yes, ma’am.” That explained the manila envelope marked ENGLISH in my backpack. I hadn’t been paying much attention in class lately.

  “What an amazing idea, Lilian. I’d love to come watch, if you don’t mind,” my dad said.

  “Not at all. You can videotape the trials for us. We can all watch it as a class afterward.”

  “Great.” My dad beamed.

  I felt the cold glass eye rolling over me as I walked out of the classroom.

  L, did you know we’re reenacting the Salem witch trials in English tomorrow?

  Haven’t been memorizing your case file? Do you even look in your backpack anymore?

  Did you know my dad is videotaping it? I do. Because I walked in
on his lunch date with Mrs. English.


  What should we do?

  There was a long pause.

  I guess we should start calling her Ms. English?

  Not funny, L.

  Maybe you should finish reading The Crucible before class tomorrow.

  The problem with having actual evil in your life is that regular, everyday evil—administrators giving you detention, the textbook evil that makes up most of high school existence—starts to feel less terrifying. Unless it’s your father dating your glass-eyed English teacher.

  No matter how you looked at it, Lilian English was evil—the real kind or your everyday variety. Either way, she was eating rubbery chicken with my dad, and I was screwed.

  Turns out The Crucible is more about bitches than witches, as Lena would be the first to say. I was glad I waited until the end of the unit to finish reading the play. It made me hate half of Jackson High, and the whole cheer squad, even more than usual.

  By the time class started, I was proud that I actually did the reading and knew a few things about John Proctor, the guy who gets completely shafted. What I hadn’t anticipated was costumes—girls in gray dresses and white aprons, and guys in Sunday school shirts with their pants tucked into their socks. I didn’t get the memo, or it was still in my backpack. Lena wasn’t wearing a costume either.

  Mrs. English doled out our respective one-eyed glares and five-point deductions, and I tried to ignore the fact that my father was sitting in the back of the room with the school’s fifteen-year-old video camera.

  The classroom was rearranged to look like a courtroom. The afflicted girls were on one side—led by Emily Asher. Apparently, their job was to act like phonies and pretend they were possessed. Emily was a natural. They all were. The magistrates were on one side of them and the witness box on the other.

  Mrs. English turned her Good-Eye Side on me. “Mr. Wate. Why don’t you start off as John Proctor, and then we’ll switch around later on in the period?” I was the guy who was about to have his life destroyed by a bunch of Emily Ashers. “Lena, you can be our Abigail. We’ll start with the play and then spend the rest of the week on the actual cases the play was based on.”

  I went over to my chair in one corner, and Lena went to the other.

  Mrs. English waved to my dad. “Let’s start rolling, Mitchell.”

  “I’m ready, Lilian.”

  Everyone in class turned to look at me.

  The reenactment went off without a hitch, which really meant it went on with all the customary hitches. The camera battery died in the first five minutes. The chief magistrate had to use the bathroom. The afflicted girls got caught texting, and the confiscation of their phones was a bigger affliction than the one the Devil was supposed to have brought on them in the first place.

  My father didn’t say a word, but I knew he was there. His presence kept me from speaking, moving, or breathing when I could help it. Why was he here? What was he doing hanging out with Mrs. English? There was no rational explanation.

  Ethan! You’re supposed to give your defense.


  I looked up at the camera. Everyone in the room was staring at me.

  Start talking, or I’m going to have to fake an asthma attack, like Link did during the biology final.

  “My name is John Proctor.”

  I stopped. My name was John.

  Just like John at County Care. And John sitting on Ridley’s pink shag carpet. Once again, there was me, and there was John.

  What was the universe trying to tell me now?

  “Ethan?” Mrs. English sounded annoyed.

  I looked back down at my paper. “My name is John Proctor, and these allegations are false.” I didn’t know if it was the right line. I looked back at the camera, but I didn’t see my father standing behind it.

  I saw something else. My reflection in the lens started to shift, like a ripple in the lake. Then it slowly came back into focus. For a second, I was staring at myself again.

  I watched my image as the corners of my mouth turned up into a lopsided smile.

  I felt like someone had punched me.

  I couldn’t breathe.

  Because I wasn’t smiling.

  “What the hell?” My voice was shaking. The afflicted girls started laughing.

  Ethan, are you okay?

  “Do you have anything else to add to that poignant defense, Mr. Proctor?” Mrs. English was more than annoyed. She thought I was screwing around.

  I shuffled through my notes, my hands shaking, and found a quote. “ ‘How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul, leave me my name.’ ”

  I could feel her glass eye on me.

  Ethan! Say something!

  “Leave me my soul. Leave me my name.” It was the wrong line, but something about it felt right.

  Something was following me. I didn’t know what it was, or what it wanted.

  But I knew who I was.

  Ethan Wate—son of Lila Jane Evers Wate and Mitchell Wate. Son of a Keeper and a Mortal, disciple of basketball and chocolate milk, of comic books and novels I hid under my bed. Raised by my parents and Amma and Marian, this whole town and everyone in it, good and bad.

  And I loved a girl. Her name was Lena.

  The question is, who are you? And what do you want from me?

  I didn’t wait for an answer. I had to get out of that room. I pushed my way through the chairs. I couldn’t get to the door fast enough. I slammed against it as hard as I could, and ran down the hall without looking back.

  Because I already knew the words. I’d heard them a dozen times, and every time they made less sense.

  And every time, they made my stomach turn.



  Demon Queen

  One of the things about living in a small town is you can’t get away with ditching class in the middle of a historical reenactment that your English teacher spent weeks organizing. Not without consequences. In most places, that would mean suspension, or at least detention. In Gatlin, it meant Amma forcing you to show up at your teacher’s house with a plateful of peanut butter cookies.

  Which is exactly where I was standing.

  I knocked on the door, hoping Mrs. English wasn’t home. I stared at the red door, shifting my weight uncomfortably. Lena liked red doors. She said red was a happy color, and Casters didn’t have red doors. To Casters, doors were dangerous—all thresholds were. Only Mortals had red doors.

  My mom had hated red doors. She didn’t like people who had red doors either. She said having a red door in Gatlin meant you were the kind of person who wasn’t afraid to be different. But if you thought having a red door would do that for you, then you really were just like the rest of them.

  I didn’t have time to come up with my own theory on red doors, because right then this one swung open. Mrs. English was standing there in a flowered dress and fuzzy slippers. “Ethan? What are you doing here?”

  “I came to apologize, ma’am.” I held out the plate. “I brought you some cookies.”

  “Then I suppose you should come in.” She stepped back, opening the door wider.

  This wasn’t the response I was expecting. I figured I’d apologize and give her Amma’s famous peanut butter cookies, she would accept, and I would be out of there. Not following her into her tiny house. Red door or not, I definitely wasn’t happy.

  “Why don’t we have a seat in the parlor?”

  I followed her into a tiny room that didn’t look like any parlor I’d ever seen. It was the smallest house I’d ever been in. The walls were covered with black and white family portraits. They were so old and the faces so small that I would’ve had to stop and stare to look at any of them, which made them all strangely private. At least, strange for Gatlin, where our families were on display at all times, the dead and the living.

  Mrs. English was strange, all right.

  “Please, have a seat. I’ll bring you a glass of
water.” It wasn’t a question—it seemed to be mandatory. She stepped into the kitchen, which was about the size of two closets. I could hear the running water.

  “Thank you, ma’am.”

  There was a collection of ceramic figurines on the mantel over the fireplace—a globe, a book, a cat, a dog, a moon, a star. The Lilian English version of the standard junk the Sisters had collected and never let anyone touch, until it was smashed to rubble in their front yard. In the middle of the fireplace was a small television, with rabbit ear antennas that couldn’t have worked for about twenty years. Some kind of spidery-looking houseplant sat on top of it, making the whole thing look like a big planter. Except the plant looked like it was dying, which made the planter that wasn’t a planter, on top of the TV that wasn’t a TV, on top of the fireplace that wasn’t a fireplace, all seem pointless.

  A tiny bookcase sat next to the fireplace. It actually appeared to be what it was, seeing as it actually had books on it. I bent down to read the titles: To Kill a Mockingbird. The Invisible Man. Frankenstein. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Great Expectations.

  The front door slammed, and I heard a voice I never would have expected to hear in my English teacher’s house.

  “Great Expectations. One of my personal favorites. It’s so… tragic.” Sarafine was standing inside the doorway, her yellow eyes watching me. Abraham had ripped into a worn flowered chair in the corner of the room. He looked comfortable, as if he was just another guest. The Book of Moons was resting in his lap.

  “Ethan? Did you open the front—” It only took a minute for Mrs. English to come back from the kitchen. I don’t know if it was the strangers in her parlor, or Sarafine’s yellow eyes, but Mrs. English dropped the water, broken glass raining down onto her flowered rug. “Who are you people?”

  I looked at Abraham. “They’re here for me.”

  He laughed. “Not this time, boy. We came for something else.”

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