Authors: Kami Garcia,Margaret Stohl
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction / Fantasy & Magic, #Juvenile Fiction / Love & Romance, #Juvenile Fiction / Paranormal
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The whole idea behind
Beautiful Creatures: The Untold Stories
was for the two of us to tell the stories we never had a chance to write in the Beautiful Creatures novels. These stories are our opportunity to answer the questions we’re asked most often by our readers, like: How did Lila fall in love with Macon? Why did Amma come to take care of Ethan? What is life like in Gatlin now? And we’re writing them for our pleasure as much as for yours.
The truth is, Ethan and Lena, John and Liv, Macon and Lila, Amma and Marian, Link and Ridley—not to mention the entire Wate, Ravenwood, and Duchannes families—they’re our families, too. Gatlin is our hometown as much as it’s the home of our characters, and our readers. When we’re not there we miss it, as we imagine (if you’re reading this) you do.
So read on. You can follow any of these stories without reading the others in the series. However, for our most committed readers (and honorary Casters), if you read all the stories, you’ll discover more than a few things you didn’t know about your favorite Mortals and Casters.
We look forward to sharing the next story with you and talking about all of them with you online. See you soon in the Gatlin County Library!
Kami & Margie
For all the Casters and Outcasters who love Gatlin as much as we do, this story is for you.
All my life, my heart has yearned for a thing I cannot name.
No time in the world passed slower than a Sunday at the Gatlin County Library. On Sundays, it seemed as if the whole town had better things to do than read a book. But Marian knew most folks in Gatlin never read anything but the Bible if they could help it.
At least my special deliveries keep me busy from Monday to Saturday
, Marian thought, wrapping the next week’s
book deliveries in brown paper. She addressed this particular wrapped copy of
The Beast and the Bodice
to Mrs. Lincoln and put her Sharpie back in the drawer. Illicit by Gatlin standards could mean anything from a romance novel to Carl Sagan’s astronomy text,
. “Who is this fella Carl to be tellin’ folks that the Big Boom created the world, instead a the Good Lord Almighty?” Aunt Mercy, one of the Sisters, had asked Marian. It was the sort of question that took as long to answer as reading the book itself.
Common sense is not so common, as Voltaire would say.
Marian shook her head as she unlocked the door to her private archive behind the checkout desk.
That’s what life in Gatlin teaches you: The bar is low. For Casters and for Mortals alike.
Caster librarians, like Marian, preferred things quiet. Quiet meant no worlds were ending, no universes were crumbling, no Casters were being Claimed for Light or Dark. No supernatural judgments were being handed down from the Far Keep, and no Keepers were losing their jobs. All of which Marian had survived in the past.
She had started making tea but stopped and shivered at the thought of it—the chaos, the panic, the destruction.… Marian had spent more time trying
to remember the details of the past few years than she cared to admit.
Now things were finally different. The biggest problems in Gatlin County were pedestrian happenings, like boy-crazy Thaumaturge Ryan Duchannes using her powers to break and heal hearts at Gatlin’s junior high, or Incubus-turned-Caster Macon Ravenwood tracking the location of every Ravenwood on the eastern seaboard while refusing to say why. Aside from these blips on her otherwise quiet Keeper radar, Marian tried to stop and appreciate the gentler pace of a librarian’s life every chance she could.
But today it felt like the old Simplex wall clock’s hands were conspiring against her, and she waited impatiently over a pot of Earl Grey French Blue Mariage Frères tea. It was her good tea, loose-leaf and still in the tin Olivia Durand had hand-carried back from Paris; Marian generally saved it for holidays or occasions when she knew Ethan Wate’s Volvo would be pulling into her cracked asphalt parking lot. Which should be any minute now.
That old clock has to be wrong.
Marian double-checked the mother-of-pearl face on the thin, silver-strapped watch her best friend, Lila Wate, had given her.
Seems like seven thousand years ago. At least two lifetimes.
Marian pulled out a Tupperware container of homemade lilac shortbread, sliding one piece onto each of the three mismatched saucers she’d set out on her desk in the archive. At least she knew how to roll out a decent cookie. She wished the same could be said of Lilian English’s biscuits, her chicken, her pies, or even her chili-ghetti. Taking over the cooking in Amma’s kitchen wouldn’t be easy for anyone, let alone Mitchell Wate’s future bride. Still, Marian had been relieved when she wasn’t invited to one of Mitchell and Lilian’s subpar chicken and biscuit dinners. Now that the engagement was official, there were more than a few tiers of relatives who had to be rotated in and out before the couple tied the knot next summer. Anyway, Marian knew that Ethan would make the time to see her on his way out of town—and she wasn’t surprised when the bell on the library door jingled.
“Aunt Marian?” Ethan bounded through the door, with Lena right behind him.
A hug was the first order of business, long and more articulate than anything they could possibly say to each other in words.
Marian pulled back to take a good look. “Let me see you.”
There he was, her boy. The closest thing she’d ever had to a son. Ethan looked good, if a bit older, in a raggedy sweater and ripped jeans. “You’ve grown some.” Her mouth twisted into a smile.
, she thought.
Amma probably can’t stand to check in on him anymore from the Otherworld, with him dressed like this.
“Have I?” Ethan left a hand on Marian’s shoulder. “Because I was starting to think you were shrinking.”
Marian swatted him away, reaching for Lena, who was standing behind Ethan. Macon’s child—that was how Marian always thought of Lena. The girl was never more than a few feet away from Lila’s son, and she looked radiant—how she always looked when Ethan was nearby.
That’s how those two are whenever they’re together. Glowing like a string of lights on a Christmas tree. It almost makes you believe love can work out for a person.
Ever since Ethan had returned from the Otherworld, he and Lena were as together as two people could be. “I can’t explain it,” Ethan had told Marian once. “Except that I know what I lost, and I don’t want to lose it again. Not even for a minute.”
Marian had understood what he meant the moment he’d said it. She’d felt the same way when Ethan stepped off the water tower.…
When he died.
Only Marian, Amma, and a few Casters knew the truth about what had happened to Ethan—that he hadn’t gone to visit his aunt in Savannah when he disappeared. It still haunted her. All her knowledge as a Keeper and all the books in the
had been useless.
I was useless.
Lila was the one who had set Ethan on the right path in the Otherworld, and Lena overturned Heaven and Earth to help him find his way home again. But Amma was the one who gave her own life to make sure he stayed.
I should have been able to do more.
Marian shook off the thought. Ethan was here now, safe and happy.
“Why, Lena Duchannes, is that a color you’re wearing?” Marian touched the ratty sleeve of Lena’s sweater, woven with as many colors as Joseph’s proverbial coat, and with about as many loose strings.
“I knit it myself,” Lena said proudly. “During my classes.”
“Her gramma taught her,” Ethan said, with his mouth full. He opened Marian’s box of shortbread cookies and helped himself to the remaining stash.
“I can tell,” Marian said, ignoring him. “How are my old friends Dante, Shakespeare, and Virgil? And, of course, Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf?”
Lena put down her cup. “They send their love. Also, they might want me to borrow your library’s copy of
To the Lighthouse
—or at least to read the notes in the margins. I’m working on a paper, and I remember writing some good ideas in your copy, back in high school.”
Marian raised a stern eyebrow at the thought of anyone writing in her books—even Lena Duchannes—but pointed to the back of the stacks. “That way. And we will never speak of this again.”
“Aunt Marian,” Ethan began the moment Lena was gone. “I want to ask you something.”
“It’s about my mom. When I saw her over there—”
“I can’t begin to imagine,” Marian said.
“Mom told me she had loved Macon but that she had also loved my dad. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, now that Dad is engaged to Mrs. English and everything.”
“Your father is happy.” It wasn’t a question. Everyone knew that the Mitchell Wate who became a ghost when his wife died had come back from the dead; fewer folks knew it was around the same time that his son had, as well.
“He is, and I want him to be. My mom thinks so, too. At least that’s what she said, when I—you know—saw her.”
“So what’s the question?” Marian asked.
“It’s about love, and how you know which kind it is. I mean, how do you know if it’s what my dad and mom had, or what my mom and Macon had? Because sometimes I think Macon haunts her in a way that my dad never will. And if that’s true, I don’t understand why they couldn’t find a way to stay together. Not that I wish they had. It’s just… how can I keep that from happening to Lena and me?” His face turned red, and his eyes lingered in the direction where Lena had gone.
Marian studied his face over her teacup. “Why does it matter now?”
“I can’t ask Dad, and Mom isn’t here. The closer this wedding stuff gets, the more it makes me think about Lena and me, and the more I want to know—how can you tell if it’s a forever thing?” He put down the cookies. “You were there, Aunt Marian. What happened with Macon and my mom? I know from the visions that Macon was scared he’d hurt her after he Transitioned, but if he really loved her, wouldn’t he have figured out a way?”
Marian set down her teacup, so hard that her saucer rattled. “I was there, and he loved her. Your mother was twenty-one years old and the most beautiful thing in either Carolina. Your father wasn’t even a thought in the back of her mind yet.”
“But Macon was?”
“And he was as dark and troubled and handsome and brilliant as you would expect. Almost as smart as your mother.”
Ethan nodded. “I can picture it. I mean them. Together.”
Marian shook her head. “You can’t. No one could. It wasn’t the sort of thing I’ve ever seen since the two of them.” It wasn’t exactly true, of course.
Not until now. Not until you and Lena
, she thought.
“But even before your mother met Macon, she had to meet the Caster world. And she didn’t meet it through him.”
Ethan looked at Marian with dark eyes and an even darker understanding. “She met it through you.”
Marian raised her chin. “Your mother was my best friend, and it wasn’t a secret I could keep from her. Not for long.”
Even if it killed her
, she thought.
Even if it broke her heart and took everyone she loved from her. Even if it’s all my fault, and that’s something I have to live with, every day of my life.
“Tell me what happened,” Lila’s son said.
So Lila’s best friend did.