“Dance!” she shouts, and I do, because Macy can get me to do all kinds of things I would never do for anyone else. Plus, the song reminds me so much of my first night at Katmere that I can’t resist. It’s wild to think that was almost four months ago. Wilder still that it somehow feels so much longer and also way shorter than that.
When the song finally finishes, I kick off my shoes and collapse on my bed.
“Um, I don’t think so. It’s facial time—I have these new masks I’m dying to try out,” Macy says as she grabs my hand and tries to drag me off the bed. When I refuse to budge, she sighs and walks over to the bathroom sink. Then adds over her shoulder, “Come on. One of us was solid stone for nearly four months.”
“What does that mean?” I ask as a horrible thought occurs to me. “Does being a gargoyle do something to your skin?”
Macy lowers the array of sheet masks she’s been studying like they’re a map to the Holy Grail. “What makes you think that?”
“I mean, I’ve seen a lot of Gothic cathedrals in my time. Gargoyles aren’t exactly the prettiest creatures.”
“Yeah, but you don’t look like a monster.” If possible, she seems even more confused.
“How would you know? I probably have horns and claws and who knows what else.” I shudder at the thought—and at the knowledge that Jaxon saw me like that.
“You do have horns, but they’re adorable.”
I sit straight up. “Wait. You saw me?”
I don’t know why, but I’m a little appalled at that revelation. I mean, did they just leave me on display in the middle of the hallway or something? My breath catches as another horrible thought comes to mind. Does every mean girl in the school have a picture of me on their phone?
“Of course I saw you. You’ve been in a back room of the library for months, and before that you were in my dad’s office.”
My shoulders sag in relief. Oh, right. That makes a lot more sense.
I tell myself not to ask, that it doesn’t matter. But in the end, curiosity gets the best of me and I can’t help myself. “What did I look like?”
“What do you mean? You looked like a gar—” She stops, her eyes narrowing in indignation. “Wait a minute. Are you telling me neither Jaxon nor my dad showed you what you look like as a gargoyle?”
“Of course they didn’t show me. How could they when I’m…” I hold up my hands and swivel them around in a demonstration that I’m human and not stone.
“Seriously?” She rolls her eyes. “Do you think I didn’t take at least a dozen pics of you? My badass gargoyle cousin? Give me a break.”
“Hold on. You actually took pictures of me?”
“Of course I did. You’re, like, the coolest creature in existence. Why wouldn’t I?” She reaches for her phone. “Want to see?”
My stomach flutters a little, butterflies waking up for a reason that has nothing to do with Jaxon or Katmere Academy and everything to do with what might possibly be in that picture. I know I shouldn’t get upset about what I look like when it’s so not important in the grand scheme of things. But I can’t help it. I apparently have horns.
“Yeah. Yeah, I really do.”
I close my eyes and reach for the phone.
As I do, I take a deep breath, hold it for the count of five, and blow it out slowly.
Then I take another breath and do the same thing.
When I’m finally ready for whatever monstrosity is going to be waiting for me—or as ready as I can be—I open my eyes and stare at my picture.
Nothing Wrong with
Being a Little
My heart explodes the second I see the picture Macy selected because—holy shit—I really am a gargoyle. I think, up until right now, there was a tiny part of me that didn’t believe it.
But there I am, in all my gargoyle glory.
And while I am still totally freaked out by this revelation, even I have to admit, I’m nowhere near as hideous as I was afraid I would be.
In fact, as it turns out, me as a gargoyle doesn’t look like much of a monster at all. In fact, I look an awful lot like…me. Same long curly hair. Same pointy little chin. Even the same big boobs and ridiculously short stature. It’s me…just made of light-gray stone.
I mean, yeah, there are a few additions. Like the short horns at the top of my head that curl back just a little. The giant kick-ass wings that are almost as big as I am. The relatively short claws at the ends of my fingers.
But—and believe me, I look closely—there is not a tail. Thank you, universe.
I can deal with the horns. Not happily, but I can deal with them, as long as I don’t also have to deal with a tail.
Macy gives me a minute, several minutes actually, before she finally says, “See, you look amazing. Total badass.”
“I look like a statue.” I raise one brow. “Although I guess I could wait out a fight and win that way. Eventually. Boredom be thy sword.”
Macy shrugs as she picks up a can of Dr Pepper and drinks it through a strawberry Twizzler straw. “I’m sure gargoyles have all sorts of cool powers.” She waves a hand, and a second Dr Pepper floats across the room to me.
“See?” I pluck my drink out of thin air and take a long sip—also through the Twizzler straw because, while I might be a gargoyle, I’m not a total animal. “You can do cool things like wiggle your fingers and get a full face of makeup. All I can do is—”
“Save the world?”
I roll my eyes. “I’m pretty sure that’s a bit of an exaggeration.”
“And I’m pretty sure you don’t know enough about who and what you are to decide if it’s an exaggeration or not. Grace, being a gargoyle—” She breaks off, blows out a long breath, even as she runs a hand through her bizarre pink hair. “Being a gargoyle is, like, the coolest thing ever.”
“How would you know? Marise told me there hasn’t even been one for a thousand years.”
“Exactly! That’s what I’m saying. You’re one of a kind! Isn’t that awesome?”
Not really, no. Being the center of that kind of attention has never exactly been my vibe. But I’ve come to know Macy—and the current look on her face—well enough to know that there’s no use arguing with her about this.
Still, I can’t stop myself from saying, “‘Awesome’ might be a little bit of an exaggeration.”
“No, it’s not. Everyone thinks so.”
“And by everyone, you mean you and your dad?” I joke.
“No, I mean everyone! They’ve all seen you and—” She breaks off, suddenly becoming incredibly interested in her soda.
Which seems like it bodes badly for me. Very, very badly. “Exactly how many people have seen me, Macy? You said I was in your dad’s office and then tucked away in the library.”
“You were! But you’ve got to understand: you were frozen in stone for almost four months. Dad and Jaxon nearly lost their minds with worry.”
“I thought you said being a gargoyle is cool.”
“Being a gargoyle is cool. Being stuck as a gargoyle…not so much. They tried everything to get you to turn back—and ‘everything’ meant consulting as many different experts around the world as they could find. And the experts all wanted to see you, because they didn’t believe you were a gargoyle. They thought you’d been cursed by a witch or a siren or something. And then, when word got out that you really were a gargoyle…well, they all demanded to see you before they would consult.”
I get up and start to pace the room. “So, what? They all just flew to Alaska to get an in-person chance to examine me?”
“Of course they did!” She shoots me an exasperated look. “I feel like you’re not fully comprehending the whole only-one-in-existence thing. The experts would have flown to the moon, if that’s where they had to go to see you. Not to mention, Jaxon and my dad would have flown them to the moon themselves if they thought it would help you.”
I get that. It even makes a twisted kind of sense to me. And yet I still can’t get over feeling squicked out at people I don’t know examining me when I was totally out of it. And Jaxon and my uncle allowing it.
It’s not even that I don’t understand why they did it. I think about if my parents had survived that car accident and were in comas or something. If they needed medical care, I would have done anything I could to make sure they got it.
Not going to lie, though. It just feels like one more thing I’ve lost. And one more thing I couldn’t afford to lose.
I stop pacing and sink back onto my bed in defeat.
“Grace?” Macy comes over to sit next to me, and for the first time since we ran into each other in the foyer, she looks concerned. “Are you okay? I know this is a lot, but I swear, it’s a good thing. You’ve just got to give it a chance.”
“What about my memory?” I swallow the lump in my throat, because I don’t cry in front of people, even my best friends. “What if it never comes back? I know I was turned to stone, and maybe the reason I don’t remember anything is because there’s nothing to remember.”
She shakes her head. “I don’t believe that.”
“That’s just it. Neither do I.” I start to speak half a dozen times, then stop myself just as many because nothing I’m going to say feels right.
Macy’s quiet for a moment before she reaches over to squeeze my hand. “Let’s just take it one day at a time for a couple of days. See what shakes loose as you settle into a routine. I promise, it’s going to be all right.” She smiles encouragingly. “Okay?”
I nod, the knot that’s been in my stomach for hours finally beginning to dissolve. “Okay.”
“Good.” She gives me a wicked little grin. “Now, let’s put on some of these face masks. I’ll fill you in on the gossip you missed, and you can tell me all about what it’s like to be mated.”