Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia

  “I went because you lied to me. I didn’t have a choice.”

  But Amma wasn’t listening to me. She was flipping the cards madly, pushing them around under her tiny palms. “Aunt Ivy, show me somethin’. Tell me what this means.”


  She was muttering to herself, rearranging the cards over and over again. “I can’t see anything. Has to be a way. There’s always a way. Just have to keep lookin’.”

  I grabbed her shoulders, gently. “Amma. Put the cards down. Talk to me.”

  She held up a card. On the front was a picture of a sparrow with a broken wing. “The Forgotten Future. Know what these cards are called? Cards a Providence, because they tell more than just your future. They tell your fate. Know the difference?” I shook my head. I was afraid to say anything. She was coming unhinged. “Your future can change.”

  I looked into her dark eyes, which were filling with tears. “Maybe you can change fate, too.”

  The tears started falling, and she was shaking her head back and forth hysterically. “The Wheel a Fate crushes us all.”

  I couldn’t stand to hear it again. Amma wasn’t just going dark. She was going crazy, and I was watching it happen.

  She pulled away, gathered up her robe, and dropped to her knees. Her eyes were shut tight, but her chin was turned up to her blue ceiling. “Uncle Abner, Aunt Ivy, Grandmamma Sulla, I’m in need a your intercession. Forgive me a my trespasses, as the Good Lord forgives us all.” I watched as she waited, mumbling the words over and over. It was a good hour before she gave up, exhausted and defeated.

  The Greats never came.

  When I was little, my mother used to say that everything you needed to know about the South could be found in either Savannah or New Orleans. Apparently, the same was true about my life.

  Lena didn’t agree. The next morning, we were arguing about it in the back of history class. And I wasn’t winning. “A Fractured Soul isn’t two things, L. It’s one thing split in half.”

  When I said “two souls,” all Lena heard was “two” and assumed I was offering myself up as the One Who Is Two. “It could be any of us. I’m the One Who Is Two, if anyone is. Take a look at my eyes!” I could feel her rising panic.

  “I’m not saying I’m the One Who Is Two, L. I’m just a Mortal. If it took a Caster to break the Order, it’s going to take more than a Mortal to restore it, don’t you think?” She didn’t look convinced, but deep down she had to know I was right.

  For better or worse, that’s all I was—a Mortal. It was the source of the whole problem between us. The reason we could barely touch, and couldn’t really be together. How could I save the Caster world, when I could barely live in it?

  Lena lowered her voice. “Link. He’s two things, an Incubus and a Mortal.”

  “Shh.” I glanced at Link, but he was oblivious, trying to carve LINKUBUS into his desk with a pen. “I’m pretty sure he barely qualifies as either one.”

  “John is two things, a Caster and an Incubus.”


  “Ridley. There could still be a trace of Siren inside her, even as a Mortal. Two.” Now she was reaching. “Amma is a Seer and a Mortal. Two things.”

  “It’s not Amma!” I must have been shouting, because the whole class turned around in their seats. Lena looked hurt.

  “It isn’t, Mr. Wate? Because the rest of us thought it was.” Mr. Evans looked like he was ready to get out the little pink pad of detention slips.

  “Sorry, sir.”

  I ducked down behind my textbook and lowered my voice. “I know it sounds weird, but this is a good thing. Now I know why all that crazy stuff has been happening, like the weird dreams and seeing the other half of myself all over the place. Now everything makes sense.”

  It wasn’t completely true, and Lena wasn’t convinced, but she didn’t say anything else and neither did I. Between the heat and the bugs, Abraham and the Vexes, John Breed and the Lilum possessing the body of our English teacher, I figured we had enough to worry about.

  At least that’s what I told myself.



  The posters were everywhere, as if the fact needed to be advertised. The winter formal was here, and this year the Dance Committee, made up of Savannah Snow and her fan club, decided to call it the Snow Ball. Savannah insisted it had nothing to do with her and everything to do with the heat wave, which is why everyone was calling it the Slush Ball. And Lena and I were going.

  She didn’t want to go, especially after what happened at the winter formal last year. When I gave her the tickets, she looked like she wanted to set them on fire. “This is a joke, right?”

  “It’s not a joke.” I was sitting across from her at the lunch table, stabbing at the ice in my soda with my straw. This wasn’t going to go well.

  “Why would you possibly think I want to go to that dance?”

  “To dance with me.” I gave her a pathetic look.

  “I can dance with you in my bedroom.” She held out her hand. “In fact, come here. I’ll dance with you right now, in the cafeteria.”

  “It’s not the same.”

  “I’m not going.” Lena was digging in her heels.

  “Then I’ll go with someone else,” I said.

  Her eyes narrowed.

  “Like Amma.”

  She shook her head. “Why do you want to go so badly? And don’t say to dance with me.”

  “It could be our last chance.” It would be a relief to worry about something as harmless as a disaster at the dance, instead of the destruction of the world. I was almost disappointed Ridley wasn’t around to ruin it with style.

  So in the end Lena had caved, even though she was still mad about the whole thing. I didn’t care. I was making her go. With everything going on, I didn’t know if there would ever be another dance at Jackson.

  We were sitting on the hot metal bleachers by the field, eating lunch on what should have been a cold December day. Lena and I didn’t want to run into Mrs. English, and Link didn’t want to run into Savannah, so the bleachers had become our hideout.

  “You’re still driving tomorrow, right?” I threw the crust of my sandwich at Link. Tomorrow night was the Snow Ball, and between Link and Lena, there was only a fifty-fifty chance we’d get there at all.

  “Sure. Just tryin’ to decide whether to wear my hair up or down. Can’t wait till you see my smokin’ new dress.” Link threw the crust back at me.

  “Wait until you see mine.” Lena took a rubber band off her wrist, pulling her hair into a ponytail. “I think I’m wearing a raincoat and boots and bringing an umbrella, in case anyone takes the whole Slush Ball thing literally.” She didn’t try to hide the sarcasm in her voice.

  It had been like this ever since I convinced them to go. “You guys don’t have to come with me. But this may be the last dance in Gatlin—maybe anywhere. And I’m going.”

  “Stop saying that. It won’t be the last dance.” Lena was frustrated.

  “Don’t get your panties in a twist.” Link punched my shoulder, a little too hard. “It’ll be awesome. Lena’s gonna fix everything.”

  “I am?” Lena smiled a little. “Maybe John bit you harder than we thought.”

  “Sure. Don’t you have some kinda Don’t-Let-This-Dance-Suck Cast?” Link had been depressed since Ridley took off. “Oh, wait. You don’t. ’Cause it’s gonna suck no matter what kinda Cast you’ve got.”

  “Why don’t you try a Stay-Home-and-Shut-Your-Trap Cast? Since you’re the one taking Savannah Snow to the dance.” I wadded up my sandwich wrapper.

  “She asked me.”

  “She asked you to her party after the game, and look how well that turned out.”

  Don’t bring it up, Ethan.

  Well, it’s true.

  Lena raised her eyebrow.

  You’ll only make him feel worse.

  Trust me, Savannah’s got that down.

Link sighed. “Where do you think she is right now?”

  “Who?” I said, though we both knew exactly who he was talking about.

  He ignored me. “Probably makin’ trouble somewhere.”

  Lena folded her lunch bag into tinier and tinier squares. “Definitely making trouble somewhere.”

  The bell rang.

  “It’s probably better this way.” Link stood up.

  “It’s definitely better this way,” I agreed.

  “Coulda been worse, I guess. It wasn’t like I was that hung up on her. Like I was in love with her or somethin’.” I wasn’t sure who he was trying to convince, but he jammed his hands into his pockets and took off across the field before I could say anything.

  “Yeah. That really would have sucked.” I squeezed Lena’s hand, letting it drop before I got light-headed.

  “I feel so bad for him.” She stopped walking and slipped her hands around my waist. I pulled her close, and she rested her head against my chest. “You know I’d do anything for you, right?”

  I smiled. “I know you’d go to a stupid dance for me.”

  “I would. And I am.”

  I kissed her forehead, letting my lips stay on her skin as long as I could.

  She looked up at me. “Maybe we can make tomorrow really fun. Help Link forget about my cousin for a little while.”

  “That’s what I’m talking about.”

  “I have an idea. Something to fix a broken Linkubus heart.”

  The tip of her ponytail began to curl, and I walked across the field wishing there was a Cast for that.


  Slush Ball

  When Link pulled up in front of my house, Savannah was already in the front seat of the Beater. He got out and met me at the curb, like he had something to tell me. He was wearing a tacky ruffled tux shirt that made him look like he was in a mariachi band, and tux pants with his high-top Vans.

  “Nice threads.”

  “Thought Savannah would hate it. Thought she wouldn’t get in the car. I swear, I tried everything.” Normally, he would’ve been gloating. Tonight, he sounded miserable.

  Rid’s really gotten to him, L.

  Just get him up here to the house. I have a plan.

  “I thought you were meeting Savannah at the dance. Isn’t she supposed to be there with Emily and the rest of the Dance Committee?” I lowered my voice, but I didn’t have to. I could hear a Holy Rollers demo track blasting from the stereo, as if Link had been trying to drown Savannah out.

  “I tried that. She wanted to take pictures.” He shuddered. “Her mom and my mom. It was a nightmare.” He broke into his standard impression of his mother. “Smile! Wesley, your hair is stickin’ up. Stand up straight. Take the picture!”

  I could only imagine. Mrs. Lincoln was fierce with a camera, and there was no way she was going to watch her son take Savannah Snow to the winter formal without documenting it for future generations. Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Snow were too much to take when you put them together in the same room. Especially when the room was Link’s living room, where there wasn’t a place to sit or look or even lean your hand against that wasn’t shrink-wrapped in plastic.

  “Bet you five bucks Savannah doesn’t set foot in Ravenwood.”

  Link finally cracked a smile. “That’s what I’m hopin’.”

  From the backseat of the Beater, Savannah looked like she was sitting in a big puddle of pink whipped cream. She tried to talk to me a few times, but it was impossible to hear anything over the music. When we turned at the fork in the road that led to Ravenwood, she started to squirm.

  Link turned off the radio. “You sure you’re okay with this, Savannah? You know folks say Ravenwood’s been haunted ever since the War.” He said it like he was telling a ghost story.

  Savannah lifted her chin. “I’m not afraid. People say lots a things. Doesn’t mean they’re true.”


  “You should hear what they say about you and your friends.” She turned back to look at me. “No offense.”

  Link blasted the radio, trying to drown her out, as Ravenwood’s gates creaked open. “This church picnic ain’t no picnic. / You’re my fried chicken. / Holy finger-lickin’…”

  Savannah yelled at him over the music. “Are you callin’ me a piece a fried chicken?”

  “Nah. Not you, Slush Queen. Never.” He closed his eyes and pounded out the drums on the dashboard of the Beater. As I got out of the car, I felt sorrier for Link than ever.

  Link started to open his door, but Savannah didn’t move. The idea of setting foot inside Ravenwood must not have sounded so good after all.

  The door opened before I knocked. I saw a swirl of fabric—green, with a gold shine to it, so it looked like both colors at the same time. Lena pulled the door wide, and the fabric floated off her shoulders, hanging down toward her waist almost like bits of wing.

  Do you remember?

  I remember. You look beautiful.

  I did remember. Lena was the butterfly tonight, like the moon on the night of her Seventeenth Moon. What had looked like magic then still looked like magic now.

  Her eyes sparkled.

  One green, one gold. One Who Was Two.

  A chill swept over me, out of place on the warm December night. Lena didn’t notice, and I forced myself to ignore it. “You look—wow.”

  She twirled around, smiling. “You like it? I wanted to do something different. Come out of my cocoon a little.”

  You were never in a cocoon, L.

  Her smile widened, and I said it again out loud. “You look… like you. Perfect.”

  She pushed a curl back to show me her earlobe—a tiny gold butterfly, with one gold wing and one green. “Uncle Macon had them made. And this.” She pointed to a tiny butterfly that rested in the hollow of her neck, attached to a delicate gold chain.

  I wished she was wearing her charm necklace, too. The only times I’d ever seen her without it didn’t end well. And I never wanted anything about Lena to change.

  She smiled.

  I know. I’ll put it on my charm necklace after tonight.

  I leaned in and kissed her. Then I held up the small white box I was holding. Amma had made her a corsage by hand, like she did last year.

  Lena opened the box. “It’s perfect. I can’t believe there’s a flower still blooming anywhere near here.” But there it was, a single golden blossom, nestled between looping green leaves. If you looked at them right, they were their own version of wings, almost as if Amma had known.

  Maybe there were still some things she could see coming.

  I slid the corsage onto Lena’s wrist, but it snagged. As I tugged on it, I noticed she was wearing the thin silver bracelet from Sarafine’s box. But I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to ruin the night before it even started.

  Link honked the horn and cranked up the music even louder.

  “We’d better go. Link’s crashing and burning out there. At least, he wishes he was crashing and burning.”

  Lena took a deep breath. “Wait.” She put her hand on my arm. “There’s one more thing.”


  “Don’t be mad.” There was no guy in the world who didn’t know what those words meant. She was about to give me a reason to be mad.

  “I won’t.” My stomach curled into a ball.

  “You have to promise.” Even worse.

  “I promise.” My stomach tightened, and the ball became a knot.

  “I told them they could come.” She said it quickly, as if I would be less likely to hear her.

  “You told who what?” I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. There were so many wrong answers to that question.

  Lena pushed open the doors to Macon’s old study. Through the crack, I could see John and Liv standing together in front of the fireplace. “They’re together all the time now.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “I was pretty sure something was going on. Then Reece saw them repairing Macon’s broken grandfather clock, and she
saw their faces.”

  A clock. Like a selenometer, or a motorcycle. Things that worked the way Liv’s mind did. I shook it off. Not John Breed, not with Liv.

  “Fixing a clock?” I looked at Lena. “That’s the big giveaway?”

  “I told you, Reece saw them. And look at them. You don’t have to be a Sybil to figure it out.”

  Liv was wearing an old-looking dress, like something she probably found in Marian’s attic. It was low across her shoulders and hung in some complicated lacy way that only the worn leather scorpion belt interrupted. She looked like someone out of a movie you would watch in your English class after you’d read the book. Her blond hair was loose, instead of in braids. She looked different. She looked… happy. I didn’t want to think about it.

  L? What’s going on?


  John was standing behind her, wearing what was probably one of Macon’s suits. He looked like Macon used to—dark and dangerous. He was pinning a corsage to a lacy strap on Liv’s shoulder. She was teasing him, and I recognized the tone.

  And Lena was right. Anyone who saw them together could tell something was going on.

  Liv caught his hand as he fumbled. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t actually draw blood.”

  He tried again. “Then hold still.”

  “I am. It’s the pin that’s not.” His hand was shaking.

  I cleared my throat, and they looked up. Liv turned even pinker when she saw me. John stood taller.

  “Hello there.” Liv was still blushing.

  “Hi.” I couldn’t think of what else to say.

  “This is awkward.” John smiled as if we were friends. I turned to Lena without answering, because we weren’t.

  “Even if this wasn’t the weirdest idea you’ve ever come up with—and I’m not saying it isn’t—how do you think we’re going to pull this off? Neither one of them goes to Jackson.”

  Lena held up two more tickets to the Slush Ball. “You bought two, I bought two.” She gestured to John. “Meet my date.”

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