Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, living in the fae world. Me and Fox got to have picnics there too, except our cousin Griffin was always with us.
Daddy was right–it really was beautiful there.
And I loved seeing my handsome uncle Sunflower, the king of the fae…
But did Fox have to be up Griffin’s butt the whole time? Boys weren’t supposed to hang all over each other like that.
But when I told Fox so, he just shrugged and said that Griffin was our cousin and he didn’t care what anybody else thought. He even called him “Prince Griffin” in front of other people, which was so dumb.
I almost wished that Lani girl was here just so he’d abandon Griffin for her instead.
But that’d just make one more person he’d rather pay attention to over his own twin.
Things might’ve been okay, if a couple of fae hadn’t cornered me when Fox and Griffin left me alone…
“Bug,” one said. “You don’t belong here. You smell like a human.”
“I’m fae too,” I said. “My cousin is the prince.” Daddy always said that in modeling and show business, it was all about who you know–it was probably the same with the fae.
“Cousin?” one repeated, smirking. “Cousin? What’s a cousin? Only humans have cousins.”
“Prince?” The other one burst into laughter. “Take your cousins and princes back to the humans, where they belong.”
And then I felt familiar arms around me. “Shh,” Fox said. “It’s okay, Clem.”
“Buzz off,” Griffin said. “Don’t make me punch off your wings.”
“You might think you’re a fae prince,” the one with cotton candy hair said, “but you’re just a bug too. Worse than a bug. Half-vampire maggot.”
They flew away after that. I thought maybe Fox would stay with me from now on, keep me away from these nasty fae, but he didn’t.
He spent all his time with Griffin instead.
Fae might not believe in cousins or princes, but they did believe in twins. I was Fox’s twin, but it didn’t matter to him at all. He cared more about our cousin than me.
I liked my life back home, in our big blue house with our dogs, where I was popular at school and everybody wanted to talk to me, where I was a model and not a bug.
Why did we have to move here? It wasn’t forever, was it? Mommy wouldn’t make me stay here if I hated it…would she?
I decided to ask. No, I’d make our parents take me home. I wasn’t going to live here. I didn’t belong here, and I told them so.
“You don’t have a choice in the matter, Clementine,” Daddy said. “This is for your mother’s health–and being among fae is in your best interests as well.”
I’d been in the room when he and Mommy had that argument, so I knew why he wanted to stay–and that it was really about her, not me or Fox.
“Who cares if Mommy gets old?” I demanded. “She’s a human–that’s what humans do.”
“Clemmie, I’m sorry,” Mommy said. “I know it’s selfish–”
“Enough,” Daddy said. “The decision is made–you’re fae, and we’re staying here, Clementine. No further discussion necessary.”
“I hate it here,” I said. “And I hate you. Both of you. And Fox, and Griffin, and all the fae. Why did you have to do this to me?”
Mommy reached for me, but I didn’t want to even look at her. What kind of mommy took away everything her daughter loved just so she wouldn’t get any more gray hairs? What kind of daddy loved his wife more than his daughter?
“Clemmie, please give it a chance–”
I didn’t run away when she hugged me, because she was my mommy and I loved her and I didn’t really want her to die or even get old and ugly and wrinkly.
And I did give it a chance. But I was miserable.
I hated every second I spent in the world of the fae. Daddy just cared about Mommy and how she was “adjusting” to the level of magic here. Fox just cared about Griffin. None of the other fae kids wanted anything to do with a bug like me.
And even though I tried to hide it, Mommy knew I wasn’t happy, and that I was never gonna be happy, not while I was here.
So she came up with another plan, even if it made all of us a little sad.
Fox and our parents were going to stay there, but I was gonna live with my grandparents.
“It’ll be good to have a kid in the house again,” Grandpa said, “since we’re between raccoons and all.”
“I’ll never understand why Ly left,” Grandma said, shaking her head before smiling at me. “Your grandpa’s right–it’s lonely now that our girls are so far away, and our grandkids too. We’re glad to have you, Clem.”
She kissed me on the cheek, but it wasn’t the gross kind of grandma kiss you see on TV, with an old lady who leaves a lipstick print on your cheek. She was young even though she wasn’t fae, and she didn’t wear makeup at all.
And Grandpa gave me a hug too and told me he had a lot of manly things to teach me, even though I wasn’t Fox or Griffin.
I got to stay in Mommy’s old room. It was pretty and reminded me of her.
But it felt so lonely without Fox. Mommy was a twin too…was that another reason she wanted to stay in the fae world? So she could be with Aunt Dru? They were always together, when Mommy wasn’t with Daddy.
Even Mommy loved her twin more than mine loved me.
I liked living with my grandparents, even if I missed my parents and Fox so much.
And Grandpa wasn’t as good a cook as Mommy was…
“Want me to go get Grandma instead?” I asked.
“Don’t worry, kiddo, your grandpa’s got this,” he said. “And Grandma’s got a visitor–a kind of scary one.”
So just me and Grandpa had breakfast by ourselves…
And he told me some really, really bad jokes, even though he’s supposed to be a famous comedian.
The friend visiting Grandma didn’t look that scary, when I snuck a peek before going to play outside. Pretty, though, and Grandma seemed to be happy.
Outside, I smelled the salty sea air…and something bad.
I coughed–and tried to figure out where the smell was coming from.
“You’re smoking,” I accused the stranger. He was a teenager, maybe, except he was really hairy. “You’re not supposed to smoke.”
“Yeah, and? Fuck off, twerp.”
I gave him an evil grin. “I’m telling.”
“Nobody gives a shit.”
“Maybe the scary lady inside does,” I said cheerfully, turning away from him. “I’ll ask, just in case.”
“Hold up–you’re fae, aren’t you? Why don’t you help another fae out–”
I couldn’t stop giggling. “You’re fae? You look more like a werewolf. I thought fae were all supposed to be smooth and thin, like underwear models.”
“…I’m big-boned. Masculine. Chicks drop their panties whenever they see me.”
“Uh huh. You’re a BAD INFLUENCE.”
“Ohhh nooooo, anything but that. I mean, heyyyy, how about some candy in exchange for you keeping your mouth shut?”
I stared at him. “Are you gonna invite me to your white van next?”
“Shit, I’m younger than I look, okay? It’s all this damn hair.”
I started walking away, and he followed. Fae did like deals, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted from him–or anybody, really. It wasn’t like he could bring Fox or my parents here, or make them decide they hated the fae world as much as I did.
“I’ll tell you what I want later,” I said, “once I decide.”
He laughed in my face–or way above my face, since he was taller. “Better think quick, kid, or you’ll never see me again. I’m only here with my grandma and great-grandma until they twist my balls hard enough that I learn my lesson or whatever the hell.”
“Guess I better tell now, then.”
“Better not, you little shit.”
“Why don’t you use a glamour to hide yourself when you smoke?” I asked.
“Why don’t you use a glamour to hide your ugly little rat face?”
“I’m a model.”
He snorted. “Of what, paper bags?”
I walked away again.
“Hey, hey, I got an idea–you know how to play the guitar?”
“Want me to teach you?”
“I’m not wasting my wish on that.”
“I’m not a damn genie–but shit, I’ll just teach you anyway, keep your little rat claws busy.”
He’d brought his guitar with him, and I was able to borrow a smaller one from Grandpa. (He’d wanted to teach his old raccoons how to play as part of his comedy act, but failed.)
“What’s your name, anyway?” I asked.
“…Is that really your name?”
“It’s a nickname people gave me. ‘Cause I’m so sly, see. ‘Bad beast’ is another, no explanation necessary.”
“Almost asked if your parents were hippies–then I remembered, fae.” He laughed. “Okay, now watch my hands…”
The backs of his hands were furry, unlike my daddy’s. My dad’s. Sly tried to teach me how to play something called a “chord,” which was supposedly the most important thing I had to learn or something.
Sometimes I could see his eyes over his sunglasses, and the color matched the sky.
I frowned, trying to concentrate. “Mine doesn’t sound like yours…”
“Keep at it. You’re gonna suck hardcore at first.”
“Like this?” I tried to imitate the people I saw on TV.
Did it sound good, then? Some people liked listening to other people scream.
But he started laughing and didn’t stop. “You’re a really weird fucking kid, you know that?”
A bug. I was a bug. Not completely fae, not completely human. No wonder my parents and brother didn’t care where I lived. My eyes stung.
“Hey, hey, I didn’t mean it like that–you’re cute. So don’t cry, okay?”
He laughed again. “Sure. Maybe you’ll be the lead guitarist of your own band someday, if you don’t grow up to be an uggo.”
He had to go after that, but he promised he’d teach me more the next time his grandma visited mine, which wasn’t until the next summer. But he came back, and taught me more guitar.
He took a lot of pictures of himself before and after we went swimming, even though he was too chunky to be a model.
We still had fun though…
I didn’t figure out what I wanted in exchange for not telling on him the next summer, or even the one after that.
But then one summer, I finally did. I couldn’t wait to see him–not that he needed to know that.
And I wanted him to see me. Would he think I looked like I could lead my own band, or would he call me an uggo?
I tried to remember everything I’d learned as a child model.
Would he think I was a badass chick, or whatever kind of girl he was into? He didn’t need to know that I could glamour the streaks out of my hair or that the piercings were clip-on–and that I didn’t dress like this when Grandma and Grandpa were home.
What if he got a girlfriend? Not that I cared. Did he really “make chicks’ panties drop” though? And…would he make mine?
“Where the hell are you?” I muttered. “Not that I even want to see your hairy ass.” It was probably hairy, wasn’t it?
But Sly never showed.
Whatever. I could do better anyway.