Read A Farewell to Charms Online
Authors: Lindsey Leavitt
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Social Themes, #Adolescence, #Royalty, #Action & Adventure, #General, #Social Issues, #Fiction - Young Adult
Copyright © 2012 by Lindsey Leavitt
All rights reserved. Published by Disney • Hyperion Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Disney • Hyperion Books, 114 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York
Also by Lindsey Leavitt
Princess for Hire
The Royal Treatment
To Logan, Princess Charming
bead of cold sweat dangled on my fingertip before dripping onto the doorbell. What if I got electrocuted from my wet fingers? I would die literally inches away from my first high school party. And then everyone would be like, oh, poor thing was so nervous, what a tragedy. Death by sweat.
“Come on, Des,” said my best friend, Kylee. “It’s freezing out here.”
electrocution. Just to be safe, I knocked.
The door swung open. A muscular boy with acne and a sour expression leered at me. “Did you just try to ring the doorbell?”
“Uh…I knocked, actually,” I said.
“No one knocks. What are you, a freshman?”
“We’re in eighth grade,” Kylee said.
helps teach the high school band. She’s a musical prodigy,” I said.
Kylee punched me on the shoulder. “I hate when you call me a prodigy. I’m just advanced. I mean, musically advanced. It’s not like I’m great at everything.”
The guy still stood in the doorway, slack-jawed. Was he going to let us in? Was there some secret password we were supposed to say? Did we have to pay an admission fee?
“I’m in the cast,” I said.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
. I’m playing the fairy queen. Well, I guess
since tonight was the final night.”
“They cut the junior high theater program,” Kylee added. “So Desi got to try out and made it—”
“And the assistant director said I could come. Because…because I’m in the cast,” I finished. Lamely.
“I didn’t ask for your résumé, theater freak. You people love to talk, don’t you?” He let out a monstrous burp. “I’m crashing the party for the food.”
He wandered away, leaving the door open. “Close the door!” someone yelled. “It’s November—you want to freeze?”
We rushed inside.
“Great entrance.” Kylee tucked a wisp of her black hair behind her ear. “Now we’re the clueless, knocking eighth graders.”
“I’ll make us T-shirts that say that.”
pretty clueless. Everyone in the cast probably thought it was a miracle that I actually got a part in this play. When, really, it wasn’t much of a miracle. My work experience as a magical princess substitute meant acting came easily for me.
Yeah, I said magical princess substitute.
Not that anyone knew about my job with the Façade Agency, not even Kylee. The only people aware of my career were the royals I worked for and other Façade employees. The big shocker that I’d just discovered last week was that one of my cast mates, Reed Pearson, was also a substitute for royalty.
Reed was the reason I was here. We needed to finally talk about our magical coincidence. This party provided such a perfect opportunity to be alone that I’d risked the humiliation of having my parents drive me here. I’d insisted that they drop Kylee and me off a block away. My mom waved excitedly out the window while my dad stopped the car one last time to go over who to call in case of an emergency. This was after I’d talked him out of coming inside with us to speak to the parents of the party-thrower. Whoever that was.
I tugged down on my
T-shirt, surveying the house’s open floor plan. It wasn’t like the high school parties I’d seen in movies—no one was swinging from chandeliers, and the furniture was still in place. No DJ or dancing, either. Everyone was spread out around the house—talking on the couch, eating in the kitchen. The mood resembled parties we had in junior high, except the conversations were more…mature. I caught one snippet between two seniors about college applications.
“So, what are we supposed to do now?” Kylee asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Mingle?”
“There’s a horror movie that starts out like this, you know.
Party of the Dead.
These nerdy girls show up at this party that they think is full of popular people, but actually demons possessed all the cool kids’ bodies—”
“Coach Kylee!” Steve, a junior who’d played the part of Oberon, slapped Kylee on the back. Steve was nice enough, but he acted like he was on a stage twenty-four/seven. “Did you come to give me a private oboe lesson?”
Kylee’s face reddened. “I’m here with Desi. I know it’s a cast party, but she didn’t want to come alone, so I—”
“I’m glad you came,” he said. “Have we ever even talked? Ninety percent of the time we’re around each other you’re blowing on an instrument. Not the best conversation starter.”
Kylee giggled. I thought he might be flirting with her, but I couldn’t tell. In junior high, boys still insulted the girls they liked. Or didn’t like. It was all very confusing.
“Come on, I’ll introduce you to my magical fairy court. You already know my wife, Titania.” He pointed at me and lowered his voice. “We’re in a little bit of a tiff. She has a crush on a donkey.”
I rolled my eyes. Always acting.
“He was looking for you, actually,” Steve said.
“Who, Reed?” I asked.
“Yeah. He probably wants another smooch.” He swung his arm around Kylee. “Go find him. I’m stealing Kylee.”
Great. Steve had to bring up the kissing. It was a stage kiss during one solitary performance, and the only reason it had happened was because Reed had misplaced his costume donkey head. And, okay, yes, the kiss was magical, but it wasn’t
Reed also gave me mouth-to-mouth last summer when I nearly drowned in a dunk tank, and no one was making snarky comments about
Kylee’s smile faltered. “Oh, so you go talk to Reed, then. Alone, I guess.”
“He’s probably going to critique my performance tonight.” I shrugged. It was a heavy shrug. “He’s always doing that.”
“Well, tell him I said hi,” Kylee said. “And maybe…Well, just hi.”
“So, do you help the band director with our grades at all?” Steve asked as he guided Kylee outside to a hodgepodge of lawn chairs circling a fire pit.
This Reed thing was going to get sticky. Kylee had liked him since he’d first moved to Idaho last June. We’d spent hours strategizing ways to “run into him,” and every time we did, Kylee froze. She’d probably said three sentences to him. Total. She claimed she was going to get over her crush, but it’s not that easy. If feelings could be controlled, then I wouldn’t like the same guy my best friend liked.
Not that I admitted it to Kylee. And I’d only recently figured out that
was the boy I liked when I discovered that he worked for Façade and might just be my long-lost Prince Charming. I don’t mean that in a cutesy way, either. I’d fallen for Prince Karl while on a job in the Alps, and I’m pretty sure Reed was substituting for him at the time. I still needed to talk to Reed about it, but how could I bring that up?
Hey, Reed, have you ever fallen for a princess while subbing who wasn’t really the royal you thought? You have? Yay! That was me! Let’s get married! Or at least get a milk shake.
I finally spotted Reed hovering over a bowl of Skittles. He was wearing a fitted gray T-shirt, his olive skin practically glowing in the brightly lit kitchen. It had been two weeks since our stage kiss, followed by two weeks of performances (and two weeks of avoidance, because the weirdness was too much). This moment was the reason I was here, but I couldn’t quite convince my feet to move.
Reed looked up, and our eyes locked. And then it didn’t matter if I could move or not, because he was already crossing the room. As he walked past our cast mates, they gave him high fives or brayed in honor of his role of Bottom, the donkey. He smiled and laughed, but the whole time he was staring at me.
“Hey,” he said, his voice soft. His gaze, so focused on me before, now bounced around the room.
I don’t know how many times we’d said
during rehearsals. I couldn’t count them, because they hadn’t mattered. But now everything seemed to matter—his hair, his mouth, and the way his New Zealand accent managed to make the word “hey” sound beautiful. He was the same, but totally new.
I smiled. “Hey.”
He held up his arms like he was displaying something to the left of him. “What do you think?”
I blinked at the blank space. “What do I think about what?”
“This lovely elephant in the room.” Reed pretended to pet the air. “What should we name him? Something like e-way are-way oth-bay oyal-ray ubs-say?”
We are both royal subs.
Yeah, it was the elephant between us—the truth that we hadn’t yet been able to discuss—but the funny thing was that we were the only ones at this party aware of our secret.
“I thought we weren’t supposed to talk about…where we work.” I glanced around the party, worried that my agent, Meredith, was going to pop out of her traveling bubble at any moment. “Faça…I mean, our boss watches us, you know.”
Reed patted his fake pet. “You know what’s great about invisible elephants? They’re easy to make disappear. Come on.”
He grabbed my hand, and we dodged through the guests. My first high school party and I was already holding a guy’s hand! Who, okay, was only leading me away so we could discuss magic, but it still gave me a thrill. Part of me thought to let go, in case Kylee saw, but my fingers wouldn’t listen to that rational part of my brain. Fingers are tricky like that.
Reed pounded on the door of a bathroom and led me inside.
“Don’t tell me we’re giving the elephant a bath now,” I said.
Reed hit some buttons on his manual, a small touchscreen computer that had all the information we needed about the agency and our clients. He was using this device when I’d first put together his connection to Façade.
“I need yours,” Reed said.
When he was done punching keys on my manual, he blew air through his nose. “No interruptions—I muted Central Command’s surveillance on us. Anytime we’re together with our manuals now, it’ll block out our conversation. Just try not to look suspicious so they zoom in to lip-read when they figure out there isn’t any noise.”
“You can do that?”
“Little technical loophole I picked up along the way. There are all sorts of hidden applications on here. I just downloaded a key system that allows me access to anywhere in our Specter offices—I’m sure you could find one for Façade, too. And I’ve heard about some sort of scanner you can use to check if a royal is real or a sub. Haven’t figured that one out yet.”
“Yeah, but…does Façade care? Those kind of applications give the subs too much power.”
“The agency put the apps on the phone. Of course we can use them. Besides”—he gave me a funny look—“we’re employees, not fugitives. We still have the right to privacy.”
I wasn’t so sure about that. Façade did some questionable things to hopeful employees who didn’t meet their standards. During my last agency visit, I’d found the sub-sanitation room, the place where potential subs’ magic was unknowingly stripped and stored for Façade purposes. I had no clue how many people had endured this treatment, or if there were dangerous side effects. I didn’t know what to do with the information—if I should keep quiet or try to stop Façade. I hoped Reed would help me find the courage to decide what to do. I just had to open up to him first.
“They can still see us,” I whispered.
“If they’re watching. The sub security device Façade uses is a roving radar. And they have much more important things to do than watch two subs talking about elephants at a cast party.”
“But, say they
watching, shouldn’t we be somewhere less suspicious? Like out there, eating Skittles, instead of in a bathroom? They’re less likely to watch if we’re acting normal.”
“True. Wow, you’re really paranoid.”
Reed would be paranoid too if he knew what I knew about Façade. “Professional. Not paranoid.”
“I thought it’d be nice if we could…be alone,” Reed said. “I mean, to talk.” We both didn’t say anything for a bit. The silence was awkward but exhilarating. Reed wanted to be alone with me! Even if it was in a small bathroom with peeling floral wallpaper. He eased onto the edge of the bathtub and motioned to the toilet seat. “Now I finally have you here, and we’re safe. So sit. And tell me everything.”