Read Bad Luck Girl Online

Authors: Sarah Zettel

Bad Luck Girl

Also by Sarah Zettel

Dust Girl

Golden Girl

This is a work of fiction. All incidents and dialogue, and all characters with the exception of some well-known historical and public figures, are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Where real-life historical or public figures appear, the situations, incidents, and dialogues concerning those persons are fictional and are not intended to depict actual events or to change the fictional nature of the work. In all other respects, any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2014 by Sarah Zettel
Jacket art copyright © 2014 by Juliana Kolesova

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.

Random House and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Zettel, Sarah.
Bad luck girl / Sarah Zettel. — First edition.
pages cm. — (The American fairy trilogy; book three)
Summary: “After rescuing her parents from the Seelie king at Hearst Castle, Callie is caught up in the war between the fairies of the Midnight Throne and the Sunlit Kingdoms.” —Provided by publisher.
ISBN 978-0-375-86940-2 (trade) — ISBN 978-0-375-98320-7 (ebook)
[1. Fairies—Fiction. 2. Magic—Fiction. 3. Racially mixed people—Fiction. 4. Chicago (Ill.)—History—20th century—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.Z448Bad 2014 [Fic]—dc23 2013013855

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To Chicago itself.

“And there in that great iron city, that impersonal, mechanical city, amid the steam, the smoke, the snowy winds, the blistering suns; there in that self-conscious city, that city so deadly dramatic and stimulating, we caught whispers of the meanings that life could have.…”

—Richard Wright, from his introduction to
Black Metropolis
by St. Clair Drake and Horace R. Cayton (1993 ed.)

This Mornin’, Feelin’ Bad

June 14, 1935

Once upon a time, a girl from the Dust Bowl traveled across the country to rescue her parents (with some help from her best friend, Jack) from the evil fairy king who’d locked them in his enchanted castle. Now, normally that’d be the whole story, and there’d be the happy ending and all afterward. But that wasn’t the way things turned out.

My name, by the way, is Callie LeRoux. My father vanished before I was born, so Mama raised me alone out in Slow Run, Kansas. I didn’t know that all that time she was keeping secrets from me. Like how my father was a prince of the Unseelie fairies, which made me a fairy princess, or half of one anyway. What’s more, I’d somehow gotten myself born with a special power that allows me to open and close the gates between the fairy world and the human world. This power is so darn special that the fairies—both the midnight
Unseelies and the shining Seelies—had fixed up a whole prophecy about it.

See her now, daughter of three worlds. See her now, three roads to choose. Where she goes, where she stays, where she stands, there shall the gates be closed

The fairies had been waiting just about forever for the girl with these gate powers to turn up. Now that I had, they all wanted to get their hands on me, or at least keep the other side from getting their hands on me. My own grandparents tried to trick me into promising to stay with them forever, and, incidentally, into helping kill my best friend, Jack. The Seelie king shoved one of his own daughters—a half-fairy girl named Ivy Bright—into doing the dirty work of killing me. But it turned out Ivy’s luck was even worse than mine, because I killed her instead. Then I shut the fairy gate on the dragon that was somehow both the Seelie king and the palace on the hill at one and the same time.

It had been a really long day.

I honestly don’t remember how we got onto the streetcar out of Culver City, or much about the ride, except that I spent it huddled on the bench with my parents as we rattled into downtown Los Angeles. Papa sat with his arm around Mama’s shoulders. I pressed against her other side, and she clutched my hand hard enough to hurt, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t shake the feeling that if she let go, one of us would vanish. Jack slouched in the seat in front of us, all alone. I knew I should say something to let him know I didn’t care
about him any less now that I had my parents back, but I couldn’t make myself talk. I was banged up. My clothes were torn about to shreds and a map of red cuts crisscrossed the backs of my hands.

I was too tired to hold my extra fairy senses closed, so I felt the look the conductor gave us crawling across my skin as we climbed off the streetcar at the corner of Fifth Street. He was good and glad to be leaving us behind. I tried to be glad too, but in my gut, it still felt like the end of the world. Every time I breathed in, I smelled gun smoke and copper, and I kept hearing the shot that killed Ivy Bright. With that going off inside my skull, nothing else felt entirely real, not even being back with Mama. Not even finally meeting my papa, Daniel LeRoux.

The streetcar rattled away and I stood staring at the hard blue California morning, trying to kick my brain into some kind of action. Papa lifted his arm from around Mama’s shoulders. He walked three slow, tottery steps down the sidewalk. Then he took one deep breath, swung both arms over his head, and whooped out loud to the rising sun.

“We did it! You hear? We did it!”

Papa whipped around and grabbed both of Mama’s hands. He swung her in a tight circle until she shrieked, half startled, half jubilant. “You were magnificent, Margaret. Magnificent!”

“My God, Daniel.” Mama ran her palms across his face and brow. “My God. Is it real? Are we really free?”

Papa laughed and he kissed her, hard and strong. She
broke away and laughed, and he kissed her again. Kissed her so long, in fact, that I squirmed and looked at Jack. He was grinning. I looked back at my parents, and sure enough, they were still kissing.

When Papa did let Mama go, he turned to Jack and pumped his hand hard enough to rattle Jack’s teeth. “And you, sir! Jack of Chicago, isn’t it? Jack, hero of the day! And you!” Now he faced me with a smile as bright and warm as the sun in July. “My brave, beautiful daughter.” He swept off his battered fedora and bowed deep. “It is an honor and privilege to meet you at last, Calliope.”

I had no idea at all how to answer him. I wanted to grin, and to shout too, but I couldn’t make myself do it. My head was spinning too hard. It was Mama who spoke up first.

“Daniel,” she said to Papa. “It’s a little early to be celebrating in public. Someone will remark on us.”

My mother, Margaret LeRoux, was a tiny woman. I was only a hairsbreadth shorter than she was, and I hadn’t even turned fifteen yet. She was a delicate thing too, with white skin, worn hands, and bones like a bird’s. Her blue eyes were so big and so pretty, Bette Davis would have paid a year’s salary for the loan of them. But there was steel under those fragile looks, and it never did to forget that.

My father settled his fedora back on his head and tugged the brim down low. Papa looked to be a Negro man, tall and slim with clear mahogany-colored skin. But if you got a look at his eyes, you saw that wasn’t all he was. His eyes were utterly strange and beautiful at the same time, twin swirls of
deep blue, black, and silver, like thunderheads at midnight with the full moon shimmering behind them.

My eyes held that storm-blue color, and when I got mad, they had that same light behind them. From Mama I’d gotten a pointy kind of face that the old ladies back in Slow Run called “dainty,” and skin that stayed close to white if I stayed out of the sun. In fact, as long as I kept my coarse hair braided up, I could pass for being as white as Mama or Jack.

“You’re right, of course, Margaret,” said Papa. “We are not out of the woods yet. Come around here, why don’t you? Let’s get you all fixed up.”

Papa led us around back of the brick streetcar shelter into the shadows, where we’d be screened from the traffic rattling past. With a sharp glance around to make sure the sidewalk itself was still empty, Papa straightened up and pushed his hat back on his head. I could see the shining swirl of his fairy eyes clearly now. I expected him to make a wish, or ask one of us to. Wishes and feelings are a big help to shaping fairy magic. But Papa didn’t seem to need any such help. He just looked at each of us, hard. I could feel his gaze sink through my skin and rummage around underneath. Jack actually staggered and Mama laid a hand on his shoulder to steady him. Then Papa pursed his lips and whistled three bright, trilling notes. A dry, sharp-edged wind swirled around us. All at once, I was scrubbed and clean, like I’d just gotten out of the bath. My ruined mission-store clothes were replaced by a blue dress with a drop waist and a pleated skirt and white sash. A cloche hat settled over my head. I stared at
the backs of my own hands, now all healed up, and at the nails buffed to a fine gloss. Mama was wearing blue as well—a short-sleeved flowered dress, and white gloves and a sun hat with a blue flower in the band. She had on silk stockings and white patent-leather pumps and a purse to match. It seemed my father was the kind who thought about details. He was all cleaned and pressed too, with a crease in his gray trousers and a snappy tilt to his fedora.

So this was what full-blood fairy magic could do, easy as, well, whistling. If it had been me, I could have made folks just
we looked respectable. Papa could make it happen for real, and he wasn’t even breathing hard.

“Hey, this is swell.” Jack brushed the cuffs of his new shirt and grinned. “I think I’m gonna like traveling fairy class.” Jack Holland was tall enough to be taken for a grown man when he wanted to be. He had too many freckles on his face, and when he didn’t have his hair slicked down hard, it was a mass of brown curls that stuck out every which way from under whatever hat he happened to be wearing. Just now, that hat was a straw boater Papa had given him to go with the white flannel trousers, blue striped button-down shirt, and blue tie. He looked like he had just come home from some fancy college. I had to look away fast before my cheeks started heating up.

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