I could not find Duke Devaroux. I went to his home first thing in the morning and was greeted by a maid. Even when I went out back to their pool, I saw no one. My cousins sensed my distress as I came back into our home as she ate breakfast at the kitchen island. Uncle Frank had already left for the day.
“Did you just come back from the Devaroux mansion?” she questioned, popping a grape in her mouth. I made a face at her for realizing what I’d been doing. “Trying to make your move on Duke or something? Us locals called dibs already, sorry cuz.”
“Ew,” I snorted. “No, never. And stop spying on me.”
“I wasn’t spying.” She rolled her eyes and looked past me at the television in the kitchen. I glanced behind me and noticed that the weather prediction was on. Today the high was around eighty degrees, but tomorrow was the apparent start of the heatwave.
“But if you were looking for Duke,” Ada began, I turned to look back at her, “He should be in the main square downtown today.”
This sparked my interest.
“What time?” I asked too quickly. Ada smirked.
“I knew you were looking for him,” she quipped and took a long swig of whatever was in her mug. “Around noon, if you’d want to come with me. The start of summer fair started yesterday.”
I gave her a deadpanned look and she shrugged.
“I really want these shoes. You need the exposure anyways,” she defended before putting his dishes in the sink. “Meet me out front at eleven-thirty.”
She glanced over my outfit which consisted of running shorts and an athletic tank top. She looked back at my face with a deep frown before scrunching her nose and looking up at my hair.
“Were you really going to meet him looking like that?”
“Well you all already called dibs, so there’s no point in me trying to impress him,” I reminded, crossing my arms. “Keep insulting me and you’ll never get those shoes.”
Her eyes widened at my warning.
“Fine. But meet me in my room at eleven. You’re not coming with me looking like that,” she grumbled and walked past me murmuring something about me being a cranky bitch.
I was grateful that Ada knew where he’d be. However, I was more than a little upset when she started playing dress up with me like I was her little doll. Like normal, she kept her short hair in a bun at the base of her neck and she wore a summery dress.
She insisted on putting me in a dress, and I relented because I didn’t want any more trouble from her. She forcefully did my hair, putting it into a high ponytail and pulled out two pieces of hair in the front for bangs.
The yellow dress she forced onto me wasn’t form fitting, and for that I was grateful. It’s not that I didn’t like dresses and nice clothing Ada wore, I just didn’t like attracting too much attention to myself. Though, I couldn’t deny how much I liked the contrast of the bright yellow on my dark brown skin.
We drove with the windows down as Ada blasted her music. An annoyed sound escaped me as we arrived at Viola’s home, though. Ada gave me a look that shut me up immediately. I had to be nice to Viola or else Ada would leave me at the fair with no ride home. She’s done it before.
“Oh my gosh,” Viola greeted in her southern twang. Yes, she really spoke with a heavy accent. On everyone else, I didn’t mind it. On Viola…
“Hi, V,” I mustered up a fake smile and gave a small wave through the mirror.
“You’re just as cute as a button as always,” she scrunched up her nose as she looked at me. Viola was never directly mean to me, but she loved belittling others. She had her very curly brown hair pulled back into a ponytail and she wore a dress as well. At least I wouldn’t stick out.
“Thanks?” I replied, not knowing how else to respond. I stayed quiet for the rest of the ride, just listening to the conversation between my cousin and her friend.
“So, guess who Weston’s bringing?” Ada jeered as she prompted Viola to guess.
“No fucking way,” Viola screeched. I refrained from flinching.
“The Duke of Joyston,” Ada beamed, bouncing in her seat. I looked at my cousin weirdly. I’d seen her excited about boys, yes, but I guess this was especially important because he was a boy completely new to this town. Everyone else she’d grown up with.
“Ugh,” Viola groaned. “I’d do anything to be his duchess.”
I couldn’t help the small laugh that escaped me. Their nickname for him was charming, in a way.
“Right?” Ada was quick to agree.
They chatted about how hot Duke was and before I knew it, we were at the fair. It was midday and the sun was shining brightly along with a completely clear sky. There were kids of all ages running around. It was easy to spot the teenagers, though. You could practically smell the angst in the air.
Back home, we didn’t have this much wholesome fun. It was one of the things I enjoyed about Joystown. Now, if only I could make decent friends around here.
I walked behind Ada and Viola, looking around for Duke. I was truly only here to interrogate him about his father and the duffle bag, but he was nowhere to be found. After fifteen minutes of looking around, I furrowed my brows. Ada said he would be here. She had even gushed to Viola about him being here.
I was dragged over to the funnel cakes when I noticed him. He stood there with Weston as Ada and Viola fixed themselves up to greet him. I honestly don’t think he noticed them. He, funnily enough, wasn’t even paying much attention to Weston talking to him.
“Hey guys,” Ada said, a bright smile on her face. Her accent was very prevalent around her friends. It made her sound incredibly nice and charming. I knew better.
“What’s up,” Weston gave a head nod at his friends before looking over at me. I was slightly off to the side of Ada, trying not to stare directly at Duke. Like I said, he barely noticed we were over here. He wore a white t-shirt that looked good on his tanned skin. He was dressed more casually than Weston who wore a button-down. Against the backdrop of this town, it was easy to tell Duke wasn’t from here. He didn’t carry the same aura of wealth and bullshit.
“Hi Wes,” I greeted, smiling slightly.
“Little Clarice,” he nodded in my direction and a frown immediately etched over my face. He smirked in triumph. Weston always gave me a hard time. Always.
“Hey, Duke,” Viola spoke, squinting her eyes at him. It was comical. Duke was looked off in the distance, staring at some carnival game these kids were playing. When he heard his name, his brows furrowed and he looked taken aback.
“Hey,” he muttered. His blue eyes glanced over at Viola, Ada, and then me. I ignored my heart skipping a beat at his beautiful eyes connecting with mine. I was going to be as useless as my cousin and her friends if I let his beauty get the best of me.
“You coming to the lake tonight?” Ada asked him, giving him her signature smile. “Everyone will be there.”
She hadn’t told me she was going to the lake tonight. Uncle Frank owned half the land down by the lake at the edge of town. It was the diving line between Joyston and the town next to us, Shale Valley. When you went to the lake you were bound to run into Shale Valley folk, and there was a small rivalry between the two.
“Clary, you going?” Weston lifted a brow, shocked. I see he thought that ‘everyone’ Ada mentioned included me. I opened my mouth to say no but noticed that they were all waiting for my reply, including Duke. Weighing my options, I decided it’d be best to go. I didn’t know how to get him alone here at the fair without Ada or Viola butting into our conversation, but with more of their friends around at a dark lake, it might be easier.
“Yep,” I informed, smiling for emphasis. “Can’t wait.”
I noticed Ada look at me with narrowed eyes, but I ignored her.
“Duke?” Viola prodded. She was a lot pushier than Ada.
“I’ll go,” he acknowledged. The three of us smiled, but my smile was for a different reason.
We continued to go around the fair together and I studied the way Duke didn’t care for anyone or anything around him. He was more observant than anything. Aloof. It stumped me. I was also keenly aware of the way girls stared at him. Of the kids in this town, my cousin was definitely one of the more popular ones. It had been this way our whole lives. I don’t know if it was because she was so rich, or because she was naturally likable by most. Maybe a combination of the two.
Ada and Viola were adamant about going on the Ferris wheel, but only a max of two people were able to ride in each car at a time. With the way Ada was looking at me, I knew I’d be the one to either ride alone or not ride at all.
“Clary is afraid of heights,” Ada explained, pouting even. I resisted the urge to snort. She turned to me with a small smile. “Wait for us?”
I could only give her a curt nod as a response, but I was going to talk to her later to make it up to me. She knew I’d only come here for Duke, but she and her friends had been hogging him this entire time. He wasn’t much of a talker anyway. I don’t know how I’d get him to speak later on tonight.
I slipped underneath the rope to get out of line and stood by the end of it waiting patiently. I watched as Viola flirted with Duke. I couldn’t tell what she was saying, but she was laughing nonstop and touching him as much as possible. Duke didn’t seem to care for it too much. He would smile slightly at some of the things she said.
As if he felt my eyes on him, he turned around and looked directly at me. I felt my cheeks get hot and I quickly turned my head to the right, avoiding his piercing blue eyes. I tried to look interested in something else and came across a booth that read ‘Free Fortunes’. It piqued my interest.
Naturally, I looked back at my cousin and her friends to see that they were already boarding the cars. Their ride wouldn’t last that long, but neither would a free fortune. I had nothing to lose, and time to waste.
I dodged little kids and resisted stopping for another funnel cake when I finally found myself standing in front of the empty booth. I wondered why it was empty when I noticed the woman sitting inside.
Blossom Sullivan. Also known as the town witch. She owns a cute antique shop in the middle of town that tourists absolutely adore. She’s only called the town witch because she’s so eccentric in the way that she doesn’t conform to the social norms of Joyston. She’s unmarried and in her forties. She has no children and no other family that anyone knows about. She’s doesn’t even have friends, from what I hear, but she’s a very happy person. She makes good money for herself and I think it confuses the people of this town. How could some woman be perfectly content being alone?
Uncle Frank and Ada had always told me to stay away from her, but I’d frequent her shop in the summers. I never understood why everyone called her a witch. Hosting this fortune teller booth was the witchiest thing I’ve ever seen from her. She smiled knowingly at me when I entered.
“Ms. Blossom,” I greeted. She stood up to shake my hand and I noticed her very long dark pink gown. It hung off her elegantly and she wore many bracelets and beads. I smiled at the getup.
“I had a feeling you’d be back early this year,” she started. “How was your year?”
I knew she meant school and shrugged indifferently. She prompted me to verbally respond. I sighed.
“Same old, same old,” I deflected. She narrowed her eyes and gave me a sad look.
“I’m sure this summer will be interesting for you,” she replied.
“Oh?” I wondered and sat down in the chair opposite hers. She took her own seat and smirked at me. “Well, please tell me my fortune, Ms. Sullivan.”
“Very well,” she started. In front of her was a crystal ball. She placed her hands on it carefully and I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. She blinked a couple of times before closing her eyes and taking a couple of deep breaths.
“You’re going to challenge yourself,” she began, opening her eyes. She seemed focused and there was no hint of a smile on her face. She was serious. “This is your year of change. You’ll learn more than you ever imagined.”
“You mean like at school?” I interrupted. She seemed shocked by my outburst before glaring. “Sorry. Continue?”
“I’d advise you to be careful,” she went on, taking her hands off the crystal ball and frowned at me. “Your skepticism will be your downfall. Your courage and drive will guide you. He will help you find the answers you seek.”
“He?” I repeated. I couldn’t help but interrupt this time. “Did you get this out of a book or something?”
She opened her mouth, but the buzzing of my phone in my hand pulled our attention away from my fortune. It was Ada. I held up a finger and mouthed an apology at Ms. Blossom before answering.
“Where the hell did you go?” Ada asked, not letting me get a word in. I huffed.
“I’m at Ms. Blossom’s tent. Are you done with the ride?”
“We’re been done with the ride, Clary,” Ada pointed out. “We’ll be there in a second, don’t move.”
“Ok,” I muttered and turned back to Ms. Blossom. She had a small smile on her face now. “Sorry, that was my cousin.”
“Ada Barnett,” she noted, nodding.
“Yep.” I rolled my eyes feeling annoyed with Ada. “This was fun while it lasted, Ms. Blossom. Thanks. Maybe charge people, next time? Isn’t the point of the fair for you all to make money?”
“I wouldn’t charge anyone for a fortune, Clary, you know me better than that,” she waved me off. “Besides, I wouldn’t make much money from these townies anyway.”
I couldn’t argue with that. There wasn’t exactly a line for this booth.
“Ada loves you,” she said suddenly, standing up with me. I frowned at this.
“I know,” I assured offhandedly. We were family. She had to love me at least a little.
“She’s a good person,” she continued. “Very valuable to have in your corner.”
I whipped around and saw Ada standing there with a bored expression on her face. She looked around me and offered a small smile towards Ms. Blossom before frowning at me again.
“Let’s go,” she ordered, motioning with her hands. I sighed and faced Ms. Blossom again.
“Thanks,” I reiterated.
“Visit me anytime,” she reminded, grasping my hand. I felt a little shocked when she grabbed it, a very dark feeling looming over me. She had that focused look back on her face. “The line between good and evil is not as clear as it seems.”
She let my hand go as suddenly as she grabbed it. I yanked it back, wanting the ominous feeling to go away. Without another word towards her, I turned around and made my way to Ada. She took my wrist and quickly pulled me away from the booth.
“Of course I’d find you at that pariah’s booth,” she chided. “You were always obsessed with her and her store.”
“She’s nice,” I argued. “And it was free. Who doesn’t want a free fortune?”
“Of course it was free. She’s a witch,” she chastised. “Stay away from her if you know what’s good for you. She’s become crazier since you saw her last.”
“How so?” I questioned, stopping her before we could get back to her friends. She gave me a weird look but answered anyway.
“I don’t know,” she stated with a shrug. “She’s always been a witch or whatever, but it’s like she’s kicked it up a notch. No one even wanted her at this fair, but she insisted. That’s what dad told me, anyways. I even heard she killed her own cat a month ago. The farmers blame her for the bad weather.”
“Now who sounds crazy?” I quipped, a smile forming on my face.
“Whatever, let’s go,” she stalked away. I took a wary glance back at Ms. Blossom’s booth to find her already looking at me. I gulped, trying to stay stoic. She gave me a simple nod before I turned back around to go with my cousin. A shiver ran down my spine.