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My unfair godmother, p.1
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       My Unfair Godmother, p.1

           Janette Rallison
 
My Unfair Godmother


  My Unfair Godmother

  Janette Rallison

  Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Dedication

  For Master Sagewick Goldengill

  How I Used My Fairy Godmother Skills to Fix Another Lucky Mortal’s Dismal Life

  Letter from the Honorable Master Sagewick Goldengill

  Letter from the Department of Fairy Advancement

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Letter from the Honorable Master Sagewick Goldengill

  Also by Janette Rallison

  Imprint

  To my husband, who became a superparent while I shut myself in a room and worked long hours writing this book. Car pool, grocery shopping, dinner—he did it all. (Actual comment overheard at my daughter’s softball practice: “Does Arianna have a mother?”)

  To my children, who lived on frozen dinners, pizza, and Dad’s cooking while I wrote—and especially to Faith, who checked my computer every day when she came home from school to see what I’d written on the story. You kept me going!

  And lastly to my editor, Emily Easton. I don’t know if you believe in magic, but I’m glad you believe in my fairy, Chrysanthemum Everstar.

  For Master Sagewick Goldengill

  Dear Professor Goldengill,

  Thank you for another opportunity to raise my semester grade with an extra-credit project. As you read my report I hope you’ll see that I’m more than ready to enter Fairy Godmother University.

  I have mastered fluttering, flitting, and twinkling. My wand-waving technique is excellent, and I can outsparkle just about anybody. But, most important, I totally relate to teenage girls and all their woeful little problems. During this assignment, whether the trouble was with boys, fashion, or evil megalomaniac ex-fairies trying to kill my teenage charge, I was always completely understanding.

  True, there were a few glitches along the way, and maybe a mortal or two got misplaced in the wrong time period, but I would like to point out that no one died during the assignment. And the stuff that went wrong was pretty much my assistant’s fault anyway.

  When I found out I had been assigned Clover T. Bloomsbottle as my assistant, I reminded the coordinator at the Fairy Godmother Affairs office quite pointedly—and maybe even with a little bit of hysteria—that I had already said I never wanted to work with another leprechaun—especially and specifically Clover T. Bloomsbottle. But she got all uppity and told me the FGA is trying to find a position for Clover that best uses his talents. Considering that his main talent is his amazing ability to spread incompetence around, I suggest you relegate him to a cereal box somewhere.

  Here is my nine-page report, complete with side notes, to show you how much I’ve already learned about human culture.

  Sincerely,

  Chrysanthemum Everstar

  HOW I USED MY FAIRY GODMOTHER SKILLS TO FIX ANOTHER LUCKY MORTAL’S DISMAL LIFE

  * * *

  by Chrysanthemum Everstar

  Subject: Tansy Miller Harris, age seventeen

  Place: Queens, New York, early twenty-first century

  Mortals are always going on about how important family is to them. They even believe it’s true. When Tansy Miller was seven, her father used to tell her he wouldn’t trade her for a mountain of gold. Of course, she should have been suspicious of this claim, since it was hard to prove. Very few gold-mountain owners are interested in bartering for little girls. But still, Tansy believed him.

  Tansy suspected her mother liked Kendall, Tansy’s two-year-old sister, best. Kendall was as petite and delicate as newly sprouted rosebuds and would cry if it was too dark, or her clothes were too prickly, or if she spotted something frightening like cockroaches or broccoli. Kendall clung to their mother, following her from room to room like the train of a wedding gown. Their mother was constantly cooing and caring for Kendall, forever making things cooler, hotter, or more pink. But Tansy didn’t mind because she had her father. Mr. Miller took her on bike rides, called her his princess, and pointed out faraway places on the map with odd-sounding names like Ulaanbaatar, Kathmandu, and Sacramento.

  Every day, Tansy sat in her bedroom window seat, covered in jelly stains, grass stains, and whatever other stains she managed to acquire, and waited for her father to come home from work. She would color pictures and watch the trees outside her window rustling at each other while they ignored the pedestrians on 159th Street. Tansy liked to pick out books for her father to read to her, and the later he was, the more stories went on the stack. Perhaps he knew this. He was never very late.

  Often, he brought home new books. That was one of the perks of working at the Brooklyn Public Library. Mr. Miller was rich in glossy picture books, even if he wasn’t rich in the other kind of printed paper—the green variety with portraits of stern-looking presidents.

  “Don’t just read words,” he would tell her as he held up the latest story, “devour them. Let the words create new worlds.”

  By the time Tansy was twelve, she had worlds without number enfolded in her heart. And each one of them was built with the scaffolding of her father’s voice. She couldn’t read without hearing him narrate the story in her mind.

  A week before her thirteenth birthday, he rearranged her life with one short word. Divorce. It had started with a lot of other words, accusations, and fights that Tansy didn’t understand. It ended when he decided to take a job in another state.

  “I’m leaving your mother, but not you and Kendall,” he told her. “I’ll always be your father.”

  Fairy’s side note: Even mortals with the best intentions will tell a devastation of lies.

  Because he did leave Tansy and her sister. The very next day.

  Mr. Miller left a stack of boxes by the front door for the UPS man to pick up, then took a battered suitcase and went outside to wait for a cab. Tansy watched him from her window seat, willing with all the magic she possessed to make him turn around, come back inside, and decide to stay.

  Fairy’s side note: Mortals are woefully lacking in magic.

  He didn’t come back inside. He didn’t even look up at Tansy to notice she’d rested her head against the window, her face streaked with tears.

  The cab pulled up. Tansy’s father put his suitcase in the trunk, shut it with a clang of determination, then climbed into the backseat. He settled in and let out a sigh, of relief probably. Why else did one sigh alone in a cab? It wasn’t a sigh of regret or sadness, she knew, because he never looked back at their apartment. Not once. She watched him growing smaller, disappearing from her life, until the car turned and went down another street.

  And every one of the worlds in Tansy’s heart crashed together like a book being closed. He moved across the country to a place he’d never pointed out on a map: Rock Canyon, Arizona. A land of parched earth and cacti with thorns so thick and fierce they could draw blood. It was a fitting symbol in this new world of pain. Even the plants in Arizona wanted to hurt you.

  Tansy threw away most of the books her father had given her. She vowed never to read another story again. She didn’t want to hear her father’s voice narrating in h
er head.

  Instead, she heard more keenly her mother’s voice. Tansy remembered every criticism her mother gave her, as though she were engraving a monument of her mother’s opinion.

  You’re so stubborn. Why won’t you listen to anyone? You’re as bad as your father.

  That one was engraved with deep, sharp edges.

  You’re as bad as your father.

  She wondered what her father would have said to that criticism. He wouldn’t have let it stand. But he wasn’t around to defend either himself or Tansy. True, he called on the phone, but Tansy, when she talked at all, only gave brief answers to his questions. She was cutting herself out of his life as thoroughly as he had cut himself out of hers. And so there they were, both of them cut.

  The next year, Tansy only saw her father for one month in the summer when she and Kendall went west for a visit. During most of that month, Mr. Miller was busy at work—Rock Canyon had opened a new library branch, and he was in charge of it. Being in charge meant staying late every night.

  Fairy’s side note: At that point, Tansy probably should have asked if he’d acquired a gold mountain somewhere.

  When she was fifteen, Tansy’s father married Sandra, one of the other librarians at the branch. Perhaps it wasn’t only his work ethic that made him put in late hours even when his daughters were visiting. New love for an auburn-haired woman with a quick smile and the ability to quote both Shakespeare and romance novels easily trumps time with one’s resentful teenage daughter.

  In what was possibly the tackiest wedding reception ever to grace Rock Canyon, Mr. Frank Miller and the newly crowned Mrs. Sandra Miller greeted friends, neighbors, and avid readers right next to the checkout desk in the library lobby.

  Tansy and Kendall got a stepbrother who was just a few months younger than Tansy, and on those occasions when they came from New York to visit, Tansy got to watch firsthand the zeal her father put into parenting him. He proofed Nick’s school papers, went to his swim meets, and played some fantasy computer game where they both went around hacking trolls to pieces.

  Every time Tansy saw them at it, happy in the new world they’d created, she gritted her teeth.

  But because she was a teenager, her father couldn’t tell the difference between her sullenness and normal moody teenage behavior. Sometimes it’s hard to tell with mortal girls. Besides, Kendall had enough love inside her that their father didn’t go without hugs and affection and chatter. She was young enough that she hadn’t learned yet to ration love out.

  When Tansy was seventeen and happy for the most part with her life among the skyscrapers, good fortune struck Kendall—and bludgeoned Tansy. Kendall was chosen to play a main part in a Broadway play. She would travel across the nation singing in the spotlight, fed by caterers and applause. And since she was only twelve years old, her mother needed to travel with her.

  Tansy was shipped off to live with her father in a land of palm trees but no ocean. To a new wardrobe of shorts and sandals, but nowhere to wear them. And to a high school full of kids, but no friends.

  She met Bo on her first day of school at Rock Canyon High. She was in the office registering, and he was in the office getting in trouble. He wore clothes that said he didn’t care what other people thought. His stance said the same thing. His hair, if interviewed, would have given a different story. His hair had been fussed over and grown to the perfect length to show off his features. The skulls on his T-shirt and the holes in his jeans might proclaim he was a bad boy, but his hair asserted he was a bad boy with a standing monthly appointment at Lenora’s Uptown Style Salon.

  While Bo and Tansy waited in line to speak to the secretary, he looked at her from underneath brooding bangs and said, “What are you in for?”

  “The time of my life, according to my mother.”

  Bo laughed. “Do you listen to your mother?”

  “Hard to do since she’s in”—Tansy checked her watch—“Chicago right now.”

  “What’s she doing in Chicago?”

  “Taking care of my sister.” Tansy looked at the school office with a sigh, wondering yet again where her well-being rated on her mother’s list of priorities. Not very high, probably.

  “Ahh,” Bo said, as though he understood. And maybe he did. Bo was the type of guy who was close friends with anger and roommates with resentment.

  Tansy looked him over thoroughly now, for the first time appreciating these qualities in a guy. Why care what other people thought? Why try to be good? She had done that her whole life and all it had gotten her was a trip to Small Town, Arizona, and a father who knew everything about his stepson but nothing about her.

  Bo didn’t miss her hungry gaze. “So you’re a new kid?”

  She nodded. She had just realized there were all sorts of new things she could be. She didn’t have to be the smart girl, the good girl. She could be rebellious, dangerous.

  “You’re pretty,” Bo said. “You want to get together later and do something?”

  Fairy’s side note: Bo wasn’t the best at pickup lines.

  Tansy smiled and said, “Sure.” Sometimes the allure of rebellion is more attractive than a good pickup line. She gave him her phone number, and, when he thought to ask for it, her name. Tansy Harris. She had stopped using her father’s name when he left New York.

  That day at lunch, instead of eating with her stepbrother, Nick, and his honor student friends, Tansy skipped school with Bo and rode on his motorcycle to a fast-food place.

  The first week of school, Bo came over to Tansy’s house twice—coming over meaning sitting in front of her house on his motorcycle wearing mirrored sunglasses and a bored expression. She climbed on his bike and he took her to his older brother’s band rehearsals. They called themselves Indestruction and played music that sounded like trains crashing into each other. It was usually too loud in the room to talk, and when Bo’s brother wasn’t singing, he was saturating the room with cigarette smoke. Still, Tansy felt a certain exhilaration being around Bo’s friends. No one told her to look on the bright side of anything. No one told her to give her new school a chance. No one made her promises they weren’t going to keep. And as an extra bonus, every time she came back home, her father looked irritated and worried about her.

  That hadn’t happened for years. And although she wouldn’t have admitted to it, it gave her hope. Hope he still cared.

  Nick didn’t approve. He’d known Bo since junior high, back when Bo cared enough about school to cheat on his exams. Bo had stolen Nick’s lunch and tripped him in PE and … there were several more ands.

  But in Bo’s defense, he was handsome.

  Fairy’s side note: Mortal girls will overlook a piñata full of faults if a guy is considerate enough to be handsome.

  Things might have continued between Tansy and Bo for quite some time. After all, she had lived with the scales in her heart tipped to one side for so long it was hard for her to judge situations with accuracy now. For example, when Bo told her he loved her, she actually believed him.

  Fairy’s side note: The only things you can truly love after such a short time are ice cream flavors and comfortable shoes.

  Then misfortune struck. Misfortune, in this case, carried with it the same sorts of travel plans her cousin Fortune had brought to Tansy earlier.

  Misfortune and Fortune are eerily identical, although Fortune is a better dresser and much more fun at parties.

  The mayor of Rock Canyon announced that due to a budget shortfall, the library branch where Mr. and Mrs. Miller worked would close in December. Not only would the memories of their courtship be torn down with the shelves, but in a few months, they would be out of jobs.

  The community took the news with only a whimper of protest. Very few people in Rock Canyon stood up to the mayor, and he listened to even fewer. Unfortunately, none of the people he listened to liked to read.

  Frank and Sandra Miller talked about petitions and appeals, but when they thought the kids were asleep, they talked about wher
e they could go. Sandra’s sister lived in Los Angeles, and they could move in with her for a while. Nick could share a room with his cousin John, and Tansy …

  And Tansy …

  Well, the only place for Tansy would be the couch. And who knew how long it would take for them to find jobs again. They wouldn’t be able to buy another house until they were settled someplace. Perhaps it would be best, more stable, if Tansy went to live with her grandmother in New Jersey and finished school there.

  Tansy wasn’t thrilled with this solution. Her grandmother was not especially fond of children, and she had a few quirks. For example, she liked having vacuum-cleaner lines in the carpet proclaiming its spotlessness and revacuumed if someone messed up the pattern. She wanted anyone who ate at her table to keep their silverware laid in parallel lines, and she didn’t talk much during dinner because she was busy counting how many times she chewed her food.

  As her father and stepmother discussed the matter, they said things like, “We don’t have a lot of choices,” and “Tansy has only been to school at Rock Canyon High for a month; it won’t be hard for her to move in December,” and “It will get her away from that jerk of a boyfriend.”

  In Tansy’s dark moments, she wondered if her father had ever at any point really wanted her around.

  To his credit, Bo was angry about the library closing, or at least he was angry about Tansy leaving. He took her to city hall to settle the score.

  Which only made things worse.

  Fairy’s side note: Mortals often do more damage than good when attempting to fix things. They also firmly believe that problems can be solved with money. Mortals think if they stack up enough dollar bills, they can buy happiness.

  Happiness, of course, is more expensive than that. Which is why people need magic.

  As Tansy’s fairy godmother, I helped her learn these things. Please accept this extra-credit project as proof I am more than ready to enter Fairy Godmother University.

  From the Honorable Master Sagewick Goldengill

  To Mistress Berrypond

 
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