The next day, I didn’t bother speaking to Ada. Or anyone else, really. She didn’t seem to care as we drove back to the house in silence. We got back around midday and Uncle Frank called out for us as soon as he heard the door open.
“Glad you girls are back,” he greeted. I was shocked to see him home at this time on a weekday. He noticed my expression and smiled. “The heatwave started today.”
“Doesn’t feel too hot to me,” Ada grumbled as she walked past him and towards the stairs. He looked after his daughter solemnly before turning back to me.
“It’s best to be inside with air conditioning,” he said. “Did you have a good time?”
I could only shrug as a response. I didn’t care to talk about things as trivial as a heatwave.
“Did you work things out with Mr. Devaroux?” I asked him instead. His eyes widened slightly.
“What are you talking about?”
“Ada told me you were fighting with him yesterday,” I said quickly, clasping my hands behind my back. “It’s just—you two are such good friends. I’m worried?”
The last part came out as a question and his eyes softened.
“Don’t you worry your pretty little head about that,” he assured. “Sometimes grownups have arguments.”
“I’m sixteen, Uncle Frank,” I chastised. I was practically a grownup. He only chuckled as a response and ruffled my hair before walking away. I found myself in the kitchen to make some lunch and was surprised to see the television already on. It was the local news and they were going on and on about this heatwave. Currently, it was only eighty degrees. They’d definitely hyped this up more than it needed to be. As I ate my sandwich, I got annoyed with their predictions of this supposed heatwave lasting more than two weeks. I shut the television off and holed myself in my room for the rest of the day.
The following day, I woke up earlier than intended. I was sweaty and my clothes clung to me. I groaned in disgust and took a shower immediately. However, I didn’t find much relief after my shower. In fact, it was like it had gotten hotter. I felt even worse than before. A cold shower crossed my mind, but I waved it off. There’d be no point. Where the hell was the AC?
“AC’s broken,” Ada whined when I met her downstairs. I frowned at her tone of voice. “I called Dad. He said someone’s coming to fix it.”
I only grunted in response, not really caring to talk to Ada so early in the morning. It wasn’t even eight yet and we were both awake. I glanced at the television in the kitchen to see the weather woman reporting that it was ninety-five degrees. So maybe I underestimated the heatwave.
I hastily ate some cereal and went back upstairs to grab my things.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Ada began as I came back down. I gave her a confused look. “You need to stay here to wait for the repairman.”
“No, I don’t,” I argued with a frown. “You’re already here, why do I need to stay here?”
“Because I’m going to Viola’s. They have AC at their place,” she explained like it was obvious. I narrowed my eyes at her.
“I’ve already made plans,” I said, shrugging. I would have maybe stayed if it weren’t for the fact that I was extremely bored and needed a good book to read.
“With who?” she scoffed. My anger spiked.
“Jesus, Ada. Think of someone other than yourself for once. I’m going to the fucking bookstore,” I snapped. She wasn’t surprised by my outburst. Though, I was surprised when a smirk crossed her face.
“Keller’s Bookshop is closed for the summer,” she announced as she flipped her sunglasses down from her head. “Something about renovation. Looks like you’re staying here, Clarice.”
“I’ll go to Shale Valley,” I blurted quickly. She slowly lifted her glasses and I saw her raised brow. “What?”
“Buy a book online,” she insisted.
We stood there, looking at each other angrily. I was determined to leave the house. Plus, I was closer to the door than she was. As if she read my mind she cursed and darted towards me. I couldn’t help the giggle that escaped my mouth as I dashed for the front door, snatching two pairs of keys off their hanger in the foyer.
I was shocked at how intense the heat was when I stepped out of the house. It was boiling out here because the humidity was so high.
She almost got me and snatched the edge of my shirt, but I was too fast. She swore at me as I locked the doors to Uncle Frank’s second car. I was allowed to use it whenever I saw fit. She banged on the window on the passenger side and I could only give her a fake sad look. I sped off and turned my phone on silent after she called me for the third time. I’m sure I’d be in for it when I got back, but I didn’t care right now. I blasted the AC, loving the cool air on my skin.
I’d meant to go to the bookstore a couple of days ago but got distracted by the Devaroux nonsense. I just knew Ada was bluffing when she told me that Keller’s Bookstore was closed. It was just my luck that she happened to be telling the truth this time. I grumbled as I typed in the next closest bookstore which was in Shale Valley like I said earlier. Google maps told me it was a used bookstore and a pawn shop in one. Odd.
Driving from Joyston to Shale Valley, I could noticeably see the difference between the two towns. If Joyston was the cheeriest town in the south then Shale Valley was, well, not gloomy, but not cheery either. Shale Valley was sort of like Joyston’s little sister in a way. Everything Shale Valley strived to be, Joyston already was. People resented each other on both sides, but I think they resented us more. People from Joyston could be pretentious. Which was dumb, because no one outside of this state even knew of either town.
When I arrived at the bookstore, I was pleasantly surprised to see it filled with people. I hurriedly made my way inside to get out of the heat and sighed contently as the cool air. One side was obviously the book side while the other was dedicated to the pawnshop. I was leisurely shopping through the book side, minding my own business when I heard a familiar voice.
I looked up to see Ms. Blossom standing at the front counter of the pawnshop. She was dressed in casual clothing, completely unlike what she wore at her fortune-teller booth at the fair. She seemed to be a little upset with the store clerk and I frowned at the interaction.
“…you know better than to mess with him. You’re only going to make it worse,” she hissed at the man behind the register. Curiosity got the best of me and I came closer.
“Lady, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the guy said, shrugging. The smirk on his face contradicted his statement. “If there’s nothing else I can do for you, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” she huffed, crossing her arms.
“Ms. Blossom?” I started. She turned to look at me, her eyes softening considerably. The man behind the counter looked at me in disgust. I gave him a glare of my own. “Everything okay?”
“Oh, everything’s fine,” she assured, smiling even. I glanced between her and the man warily. Everything was most certainly not fine. I wasn’t the only one that noticed their spat either. People had been giving them weird looks.
“Ok,” I responded, dragging the word out. “What brings you to Shale Valley?”
“Yeah, why don’t you go back to Joyston,” the clerk added in a harsh tone. I flinched.
“Is it illegal to shop at towns you’re not native to?” she snapped, giving him a hard look. “I didn’t think so, unless there are unjust laws in Shale Valley I don’t know about.”
“Get the hell outta my shop, Blossom,” the guy scolded, pointing towards the door. Ms. Blossom looked like the wanted to argue more, but she glanced around the room. People were definitely staring now.
“Fine,” she relented, stepping away from the counter. “But we’re not done here.” She turned to me, a genuine smile on her face. “Have a beautiful day, Clary. Visit me soon?”
I frowned at her retreating form and turned back to the clerk. He was glaring at me, probably because I seemed to have close relations with Ms. Blossom. I was about to back away, not wanting to be scolded in front of the rest of the store either, but something shiny caught my attention on the shelf behind him.
My eyes bulged as I realized what it was.
“Can I see that?” I asked hurriedly, pointing behind him. He opened and closed his mouth, confused by my outburst. I shook my finger. “The gold chest?”
“This?” he asked hesitantly, grabbing the treasure chest that looked identical to the one from the duffle Mr. Devaroux gave to Uncle Frank.
“Yes please,” I begged. He sighed and handed it to me. Dread washed over me and I almost dropped it on the glass counter. I had to grip it tightly with both hands to not let it slip from my grasp. My breathing became labored. What was an identical chest doing in this pawn shop in Shale Valley?
“How much?” I questioned, looking up at the burly man. He’d been looking at me, brows furrowed.
“One-fifty,” he claimed, eyes glinting. I’m assuming he thought I wouldn’t be able to afford it. I mean, I was just a teenager and one-fifty was a lot for a girl my age. Especially one that didn’t have a job.
But my family was rich.
I wasted no time and setting the chest on the counter and digging into my handbag. I handed him the card my father had given me years back and if possible, his look of disgust of my presence intensified. After the transaction, I thought it best to stuff the chest in my purse and get the hell out of there. I’d have to buy a book online as Ada suggested.
I was hit with the blazing sun and humid weather the moment I stepped out of the store. Across the street, I saw Ms. Blossom coming out of coffee shop and headed towards her car. Doing my best to ignore the blazing heat, I jogged over and came up to her before she could open her car door.
“Clary.” She’d been surprised by my presence. “Find any good books in there?”
“Books?” I asked lamely. “Oh, books. No. No books. Hey, what happened in there? Are you okay?”
“I’m perfectly alright,” she assured, shaking her head. “I should have expected nothing less from the people of this town.”
I didn’t peg Ms. Blossom to be the one to talk down about Shale Valley considering how much everyone in Joyston gossiped about her being an actual witch.
“Were you trying to pawn something?” I quizzed.
“Not at all,” she laughed lightly. Abruptly, she stopped and lifted a brow. She glanced down at my bag. “But I’m guessing you bought something?”
“A present for Ada,” I lied smoothly, putting a smile on my face. The little chest wasn’t making me feel too queasy in my bag that I’d zipped up, but it still made me feel heavier. Sweat was starting to form on the top of my head. I glanced at the coffee shop she’d just exited. “I should head inside. It’s so hot out here.”
“Yes,” she narrowed her eyes at me as I walked away.
I let out a deep breath once I was inside. Everyone seemed to be milling about in Shale Valley today. First, the bookshop was crowded, and now the coffee shop. I frowned and took my place in line. A cup of coffee was the last thing I needed in this heat. I was too busy looking up at the menu for iced teas when someone cleared their throat aggressively. I looked down at the cashier and gave a cheesy smile.
“Sorry,” I apologized softly. “I’ll take a medium sweet iced tea, please.”
I paid and patiently waited to be served when I was looking around at the shop. And what do you know, a certain blue-eyed boy walked in. His eyes caught mine almost immediately and hardened. The weight of my purse felt heavier.