Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

  “Hey.” Lukas was behind me with something balled up in his hand. “I have an extra T-shirt if you need one.” I hadn’t thought about what I was going to put on after my shower.


  My scraped skin brushed his rope-burned palm. Even bloody and raw, his touch was gentle—like him. I could imagine Lukas listening to “Home,” the song we both loved, whispering the lyrics to himself the way I did when I felt lost.

  I closed the door and leaned against it, letting the room fill with steam. I didn’t want to look at my tangled hair and grime-streaked face in the mirror. But I didn’t need to see the fresh cuts on the rest of my body to know they were there. Hot water stung them as I sat on the shower floor, waiting for the brown water running off my legs to turn clear again.

  The memory of Millicent’s cold arm around my neck and the well water filling my lungs finally drove me out of the shower.

  I slipped into Lukas’ T-shirt, relieved when it grazed my knees. I was even more relieved that I had ignored Elle when she tried to convince me to trade my boy shorts for “cute” underwear, with stupid words like pink written on the back.

  When I finally opened the door, it still felt like everyone could see right through the shirt.

  Priest put on his headphones. “Anyone care if I turn off the lights?”

  Thank god.

  I made a beeline for the bed, tugging at the bottom of the T-shirt. A streak of blood smeared across the cotton. Between skidding across the front walk at my house and fighting off Millicent’s spirit, the cuts on my hand were bleeding again. As I turned back toward the bathroom to grab a towel, Lukas stepped inside and closed the door.

  Exhaustion hit me as I sat on the edge of the bed waiting for him to finish. My eyes felt heavy, and I fought to stay awake.

  The door hinges creaked, and I jumped. I wandered to the bathroom half-asleep.

  Lukas walked out barefoot and shirtless, wearing nothing but a pair of jeans. He rubbed a towel over his hair, sending streaks of water down his chest.

  With nowhere else to look, I studied a bare patch on the stained carpet. “I need to grab a towel for my hand.”

  “Let me see.” He stepped closer and took my wrist gently, his jeans brushing against my leg.

  “It’s no big deal.” I tried to ignore the fact that I was standing in front of a beautiful boy, wearing his T-shirt.

  “As long as you’re all right.” Lukas’ hand slid from my wrist as I stepped into the harsh light of the tiny bathroom.

  I rinsed my hand and knotted a hand towel around it.

  When I opened the door, Jared was standing there with a clean shirt balled up in his hands. I couldn’t stop thinking about the way Lukas had looked without his shirt—imagining Jared that way now.

  My heart hammered against my ribs. I searched for the bare spot on the carpet again, terrified he would know exactly what I was thinking if I looked at him.

  He stepped aside and gave me enough room to pass.

  “I’m glad you’re okay,” he said softly as he shut the door.

  I stood in the dark, the air still carrying the weight of this unnamed thing between us.

  I fell onto the bed next to Alara and listened to the running water echoing from the shower.

  Don’t think about it.

  Alara nudged me. “Kennedy?”


  “Thanks for going after Priest back there. It took guts.”

  The compliment caught me off guard. “Anyone would have done the same thing.”

  “Not unless you’re one of us.” There was something about the way she said it that made it seem possible.

  “Is it hard to be part of the Legion?”

  Alara was quiet for a moment. “You have to give up a lot.”

  “Like school and your friends—”

  “Like my family.”

  It wasn’t the response I expected. “I thought you grew up with your grandmother.”

  “I moved in with her when I was ten. Before that I lived with my parents and my younger brother and sister, in Miami.”

  “Why did you move in with her?” I was prying, but I sensed she wanted to talk. And I missed the nights Elle and I stayed up late sharing secrets.

  “My parents knew one of us would be chosen to join the Legion before we were old enough to walk, and they knew it would be me or my sister, Maya. My grandmother wanted to pass her specialty on to a girl.” Alara stared at the ceiling.

  “And she chose you?”

  “Not exactly. She wanted to take one of us while we were young enough for our training to become second nature, but my parents kept stalling. Eventually, my grandmother forced them to pick a date. When the day finally arrived, we knew my grandmother was coming and that one of us would be leaving with her. Maya and I sat on this green velvet sofa in the foyer, holding hands. My mother had dressed us up in these stupid taffeta dresses like we were going to a party. The three of them were in my father’s office deciding who she was going to take. When they came back out, my mom was crying. My grandmother told her to choose.”

  Alara swallowed hard. “But there was no choice. Maya was fragile. She never could’ve handled my grandmother or the Legion. It would have destroyed her. So I lied and told them I wanted to go. I practically begged.”

  I tried to imagine the situation. Waiting to see if I would have to leave my mom. Volunteering to be the one. “Your parents must have missed you so much.”

  “They gave me away like a puppy. Now my father thinks he can just tell me to quit and summon me home like what I’m doing isn’t important?”

  I thought about my dad standing next to his car, staring at me through the kitchen window. Knowing he was never coming back. Did he see how confused I looked as he drove away? Did he care?

  Being given away didn’t seem that different from being left behind. I understood how it felt to be broken when everyone around you was whole.

  “I’m sorry.”

  Alara took a deep breath. “I’m not. My sister wasn’t cut out for this. I am.”

  “What you did for her was still really brave.”

  “Climbing into that well was brave, too.” She handed me something balled up in her fist. “Take this. You need it more than I do.”

  I could barely make out the object in my palm, until it caught the light from the buzzing fluorescent motel sign outside. It was the round silver medal Alara always wore around her neck. Up close, I could see the symbols etched into the surface, with what looked like pitchforks pointing away from the center of the pendant.


  “It’s called the Hand of Eshu. It protects the person wearing it from evil. Maybe it will keep you from getting yourself killed.”

  “Thanks.” I knotted the cord around my neck, wishing I could think of something more meaningful to say.

  Within minutes she was asleep.

  I stared into the darkness. A sliver of light crept from underneath the bathroom door.

  I thought about all the ways Jared could hurt me.

  How much pain could I withstand before I finally broke?



  In the morning, we stopped at 7-Eleven for coffee and batteries. Alara gave each of us five dollars in an attempt to ration our funds. Priest headed straight for the candy aisle and cleaned out the stock of watermelon sours. He had moved on to chips by the time I made it over there.

  Candy wasn’t really my thing. But when I was little, my dad used to bring chocolate bars home from work.

  He fished the candy bar out of his jacket pocket. It had a red wrapper with 100 GRAND printed in white block letters across the front.

  I wanted to open it, but I knew I wasn’t allowed. “It’s almost dinnertime.”

  “Today is upside-down day. That means you can have dessert first.” My dad opened the wrapper and handed me one of the two pieces inside. We bit into our halves at the same time.

  The red wrapper was permane
ntly stamped in my mind, like so many other things I couldn’t erase. I wanted one of those stupid candy bars more than anything right now.

  I was still deciding if a stomach full of chocolate was a good idea at nine in the morning, when I noticed the guy behind the register staring. His eyes darted from the small TV on the counter and back to me, as my black and white yearbook photo flashed across the screen.

  Jared walked down the aisle toward me, his back to the clerk. I didn’t move, my eyes fixed on the racks.

  Please don’t say anything.

  Another step and Jared’s body blocked the guy’s view.

  “The guy behind the counter recognized me. Keep walking,” I whispered, careful not to turn in Jared’s direction. “I’ll meet you behind the school we passed on the way here.”

  The cashier didn’t take his eyes off me.

  Jared walked by and stopped in front of the coffee machine at the end of the aisle, where Lukas and Priest were filling up Styrofoam cups. Jared said something, and they all laughed and elbowed each other. When Alara heard Jared laughing, she snapped to attention and zeroed in on him like he had flashed the Bat Signal.

  The cashier picked up the phone.

  Lukas shoved his brother and the cups slipped out of their hands, coffee splattering onto the floor.

  “What are you doing back there?” The guy was off his stool and halfway down the aisle, the phone receiver still lying on the counter.

  “I’m really sorry.” Lukas grabbed a bunch of napkins from a nearby dispenser. “We’ll clean it up.”

  “And you’re gonna pay for those,” I heard him say as the door closed behind me.

  I climbed over the Dumpster behind the 7-Eleven and followed the main road back to the elementary school, careful to stay off the shoulder in case the cashier decided to call the police. Behind the school, I huddled on a bench listening for sirens.

  If he did call, would the police tell my aunt I was okay?

  Even though I didn’t like her, she had offered to take me in after my mom died, and I owed her something for that—at least a message to let her know I wasn’t lying in a ditch. I had considered calling more than once, but if the police believed someone kidnapped me, her phone would definitely be tapped.

  A disposable cell phone might throw off the police, but I wasn’t sure about a demon. Vengeance spirits had already followed me to the warehouse, and I wasn’t willing to make any more mistakes.

  The sirens never came, just boots crunching across the dry leaves. “Kennedy?”

  “Over here.”

  Jared scanned the playground until he saw me, and his tense expression broke into a rare smile. “That was way too close.”

  “No argument here.” I glanced behind him. “Where is everyone?”

  “In the van. I thought four of us wandering around might look suspicious.” He sat down on the other end of the bench. “How did you know that guy in the store recognized you?”

  “He was watching TV, and I saw my picture on the screen.”

  Jared leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees, and looked back at me. I wanted to reach out and touch the scar above his eye—to ask him how he got it.

  “Maybe you should stay in the van next time,” he said. “I don’t know if I can pull off another performance like that.”

  “You were pretty convincing. I think you missed your calling.”

  His smile faded and silence stretched between us.

  “I’m sorry,” he said finally.

  “For what?”

  “I know you probably wish you weren’t part of this.” He sounded so lonely. I fought the urge to put my arms around him and breathe in the smell of salt and copper that clung to Jared even when he was only bleeding on the inside.

  I wanted to tell him how lonely I was—how badly I needed someone. I wanted to tell him that and so much more. But I couldn’t find the words, or I wouldn’t let myself.

  “That’s not true.”

  Jared bit his lip. “Come on. You had a life—school, friends, probably a boyfriend—something better than this.”

  Was that really what he thought? That I walked away from the perfect life?

  “If I had a boyfriend, I would’ve called him by now. I don’t abandon the people I care about.”

  “I didn’t mean—”

  “And if by better, you mean losing my mom and packing up my whole life to move to a boarding school I’d never seen…” My voice wavered. “Then, yeah, I guess it was better.”

  Jared’s face softened, opening up in a way that was beautiful and scary at the same time. He moved his hand slowly to the place where mine rested on the bench between us. My breath caught as he laced our fingers together.

  Jared squeezed my hand and my heart stumbled. “I wish—”

  The chain-link fence rattled on the other side of the yard as Lukas hopped over it.

  I pulled my hand away, leaving Jared’s on the bench. But I could still feel it as if I had never let go.

  Sunshine didn’t live up to its name. The guys went into town to see what they could find out, while Alara and I stayed behind and pored over the journals, searching for any information related to dybbuk boxes.

  She turned to a page in hers with an elaborate symbol drawn on it—a circle with a heptagram in the center. Words in an unfamiliar language were written inside and around the circumference. It was the same symbol someone had drawn on the floor of the warehouse.


  “What’s that?”

  “The Devil’s Trap. It’s from The Goetia, one of the oldest grimoires in existence. If a demon steps inside one of these, it can’t get out.” Alara traced the outer circle with her finger. “If the lines are precise enough, the trap can even destroy the demon.”

  Below it there was another symbol—two perpendicular lines with elaborate flourishes near each point.


  Miray la was written next to it.

  “Is that French?”

  “Haitian Creole. It means ‘the Wall.’ ”

  “Is it like the Devil’s Trap?” I asked.

  She shook her head. “The Wall is just a binding symbol. It can keep a spirit bound inside, but it’s not strong enough to destroy one. You have to do that yourself.”

  I stared at the Devil’s Trap and wondered if my mom had ever seen one, trying to reconcile the woman who baked me brownies whenever I had a rough day with the missing member of the Legion.

  Alara closed the book. “There’s nothing in here. Hopefully, the guys are having better luck.” In this situation, it was a relative term. “But you’re going to need more than luck.”

  “What do you mean?”

  She climbed into the van and came back with a duct-taped gun and a handful of liquid salt rounds. “Most people only need to know how to defend themselves against the living. I’m going to make sure you can say the same about the dead.”

  Alara had lent me some of her extra clothes before we left the motel this morning, since mine smelled like sewage. Now the pockets were filled with salt rounds and cold-iron nails.

  “Move your hand higher on the grip.” Alara took the gun and demonstrated. “It gives you more control.”

  “Okay,” I said, as she handed me back the gun. I repositioned my hands and took a deep breath. I squeezed the trigger, and the salt round exploded against the ground a few feet from the tree I’d tried to hit.

  Alara sighed. “Next time, try keeping your eyes open.”

  After an hour, I started to get the hang of it and managed to hit more than a few defenseless trees and one traumatized squirrel.

  I was sitting in the grass, rubbing my boots with a rag when I heard gravel crunching on the other side of the van. Priest came around the corner wearing a bright orange hoodie with CINDY’S DINER across the front. “Did you miss me?”

  Lukas and Jared were behind him, carrying two Styrofoam cups and a pink cardboard box.

  I gestured at Priest’s hoodie. “S

  “It was this or NASCAR. And I’m not the one with my face in the newspaper.”

  “It was TV, not the paper,” I said, like the distinction somehow affected my fugitive status.

  “Not anymore.” Lukas tossed me a copy of the local paper. It was open to the page with a tiny picture of me and the details of my supposed abduction.

  Priest sat down next to me. “Don’t worry, you’re on the same page as a story about a ninety-six-year-old woman who won the lottery playing her cat’s birthday. People probably won’t even see it.”

  “And we come bearing gifts.” Lukas handed us each a cup and Jared opened the box. Coffee and doughnuts, they smelled like heaven.

  “That box better be the only thing that’s pink.” Alara ripped open several packets of sugar at once and dumped them in her cup.

  I walked around to the back of the van and tossed the guns into one of the duffel bags.

  “Hey.” Lukas was standing behind me. “I didn’t mean to sneak up on you. I just wanted to give you this.” He reached under his jacket and pulled out a pad of white paper. “I know you don’t have a journal from your mom, but I thought maybe you could start one. Or you can just draw in it. Priest says you’re really good.”

  I reached for the pad and our hands touched.

  There was something between us, even if it wasn’t the magnetic pull I felt with Jared. I ignored the hypnotic blue eyes and soft lips they shared, and really looked at Lukas. I thought about the way I felt safe whenever he was close, and the friendship he offered as easily as a smile.

  “It was all they had at 7-Eleven, but I’ll get you a real one when I have a chance.”

  “No, it’s perfect.” I held it against my chest. “I miss drawing.” I reached up and hugged him. “Thanks.”

  Lukas slid his hands around my waist and pulled me closer, and I breathed in the scent of his skin—the smell of the woods after it rained. His cheek brushed mine. “Anytime.”

  I slipped the pad into the duffel and followed Lukas back to the other side of the van. Jared didn’t look in our direction, his eyes glued to the ground.

  “Did you guys find out anything or what?” Alara dumped two more packets of sugar in her coffee.

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