“Sir. Calm down,” the server ordered, wielding her serving tray like a shield. “Can I interest you in a nice cup of tea? Maybe one of our soothing flavors? Chamomile? Lemon lavender? It’s on the house.”
“He’s not a big tea drinker, but thanks,” I said politely.
“Walt, stay calm,” Ian commanded, edging away from the window. “Where’s Mom?”
Walt yanked his headphones away from around his neck. “What are you even doing here?”
I gestured to Ian. “Rowan and I told you back at Blarney Castle. We’re working on Ian’s paper.”
He shook his head disgustedly. “BS. I talked to Archie about it, and he thought it sounded made-up too. You don’t need to go to a foreign country to do research for an admissions essay. Which makes you a liar,” he said, thrusting his finger at Rowan. “Do you even wear John Varvatos cologne?” Rowan grimaced slightly but said nothing.
“You told Archie?” Ian demanded, bouncing to his feet. His map was on the table, and he quickly shuffled it aside.
Walter scowled. “Of course I did. I had to tell someone.”
I shot a nervous look out the window. He hadn’t answered Ian’s question. “Where’s Mom?” I repeated.
“At the cathedral. I talked her into letting me skip it.”
The cathedral was only two blocks away. How close had we come to running into them?
Walt lasered in on Ian. “Now, for the last time, what are you doing in Ireland?” The server cowered at his tone, and I gazed longingly at my plate of fluffy eggs. Breakfast was not going to happen. And Walt wasn’t going to believe any more of our lies. Time to come clean.
“Ian, just tell him.” I sighed.
Ian grabbed a wad of napkins and mopped up the splattered tea. “We’re going to a music festival called Electric Picnic to see my favorite band, Titletrack, do their final show. I had it planned all along. Addie intercepted me on the way out, so that’s why she’s here too.”
Walt’s eyebrows shot to the ceiling. “I knew it! I knew you were lying. So that makes international mentor here—”
“Ian’s friend,” Rowan piped up. “And fellow Titletrack fan. And I actually do wear John Varvatos. The Artisan Acqua scent is my favorite.” Walt eyed him critically. He had to quit taking his scents so seriously.
Ian started again. “Walt, this is the plan. After the festival, we’re going to meet you in Dublin to fly—”
“Just stop!” Walter threw his arms up and backed quickly toward the door. “Don’t tell me any more. Just be safe and stop running into us.”
“Deal,” I said eagerly.
“You guys obviously aren’t sticking to the itinerary,” Ian pressed. “Where are you going next?”
“I don’t know. Some rock place?”
“Rock of Cashel?” Ian slammed his fist onto the table. “But that’s where we’re going.”
Rowan shook his head. “It’s a really common tourist spot. I’m not surprised.”
“Well, you’re not going there anymore,” Walt said, his Adam’s apple protruding. “Because if you guys show up there, it’s over. I’m barely keeping it together as is.”
“Walt, please.” I pressed my hands into a prayer. “You have to keep it together. I can’t get kicked off the soccer team. Just don’t tell anyone else.” Out of all the siblings, Walt and I were the ones who loved sports the most. He had to understand.
“What do you think I’ve been doing since Blarney Castle? I’m trying to help you guys out.” He stumbled over to the door, looking out at the street before pushing it open. “They’ll be at the cathedral for maybe twenty more minutes. You’d better get out of here. Fast.” He shot out onto the sidewalk, the door slamming behind him.
“Now what do we do?” I asked, edging away from the window.
“Well, we’re not going to Rock of Cashel.” Ian’s face fell in disappointment. “That was going to be a huge part of my article.”
Rowan pushed his glasses up his nose. “Actually . . . I might have a place better than Rock of Cashel. It’s a little bit of a detour, but it’s close to Stradbally. And if the rumors are true, this place may have something to do with Titletrack.”
“Really? What is it?” I asked.
He smiled at me. “It’s a secret.”
Secret Fairy Ring
I’m not exaggerating when I say “secret,” pet. This next stop is pure off-the-beaten-path gold. An experience that you can stash in your carry-on and pull out when the jerk in 23A starts bragging about all the under-the-radar local places he visited on his trip. (Not that you asked.)
In general I’m all for the wander-till-you-find-it method of travel, but in this case, winging it just isn’t going to cut it. Not when there’s magic involved. Follow the map I’ve included on the next page to a T, then meet back here.
You make it? I knew you would. Such a capable duck.
Now, before you start slogging your way through that unassuming clump of trees on the east side of the road, I’m going to lay out a few ground rules. Fairy Etiquette 101. And I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but your compliance or failure to follow these rules may alter your entire destiny.
So, you know. Comply.
Rule #1. Tread carefully.
Fairies need a place to dance their fairy dances and hold their fairy tea parties. And if they’re Irish fairies, well, then they also need a place to plot the certain demise of anyone who has ever so much as looked at them cross-eyed. Which leads me to my next rule.
Rule #2. Don’t make the fairies mad.
Irish fairies have the reputation of being just the teensiest bit vindictive. Like steal-your-baby, burn-your-barn-down vindictive. Irish fairies don’t mess around, and you shouldn’t either. Speak gently, don’t tread on the flowers, and do your best to entertain only the kindest of thoughts.
Rule #3. Leave the fairies a gift.
I would suggest something tiny as well as either beautiful or delicious. Coins, honey, thimbles, fish tacos, your neighbor’s firstborn . . . all excellent choices.
Rule #4. Make a wish.
Showing up to a fairy’s home and not making a wish is like showing up to a junior high dance and refusing to do the Electric Slide. Not only is it unprecedented, but it’s also rude. Also, be aware that real-life fairies act less as dream granters and more as dream guiders—helping you to figure out what it is your heart truly wants and then nudging you all along the way toward it. So listen closely, pet. You may hear something that surprises you.
HEARTACHE HOMEWORK: Fill in your wish here. I promise not to look.
* * *
—Excerpt from Ireland for the Heartbroken: An Unconventional Guide to the Emerald Isle, third edition
CLOVER’S ENGINE WAS COOL AS a mint julep, her tailpipe reattached with something a bit more trustworthy than a hanger. We’d sprinted for the mechanic shop, pooled our money to pay for the repairs, then torn out of Cobh like mobsters on a bootleg run. We’d been in such a rush that I’d even skipped the I told you it was the radiator gloat speech I’d mentally prepared for Connor.
After Walt run-in number two, it was becoming increasingly clear that Mom finding out was much less a question of if, but when. I held tight to my final sliver of hope. Maybe he wouldn’t tell. But Walt had been on the verge of spontaneous combustion—anyone could see that. Every time a vehicle pulled onto the road behind us, I spun around, expecting to see Aunt Mel’s tour bus bearing down on us, my infuriated mom in the driver’s seat.
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