“I’m a girl,” Mina argued offensively.

“Not today you not. You stink like river. Get in the shower now.”

Mina cringed and pulled her collar up to sniff it. Oh yeah, she reeked. It was that odd combination of lake water and fish. Without another word of argument, she grabbed a towel and headed to the bathroom. It wasn’t the world’s quickest shower, but it was fast in her book. She came back into her room wearing her pink polka dot robe, a towel wrapped around her brown hair, and her Cookie Monster slippers.

As Mei finished fluffing her pillow and placing it on her neatly made bed, she cast one look at Mina and started muttering about how she could give Charlie a run for his money in the odd costume department. In the few minutes she’d been gone, Mei the brownie had cleaned her room top to bottom. She could see her floor and the odd colored rug, her clothes were folded and put away—even the pictures and knickknacks had been dusted. If she hadn’t had known Mei was a brownie, she would surely have accused her of being a cleaning fairy.

But the cleanliness of the room was quickly forgotten at the sight of the glorious dress that peeked out of the unzipped garment bag on her closet door. Mina walked to the bag and reached out to run her fingers across the white bodice. It looked to have been embroidered in intricate fine silk half-moons. She noticed the barest glimmer of small crystals buried deep within the silk. The skirt flowed downward into what she first thought were squares of silk, but were actually feathers.

“What is it made of?” Mina asked, nervous she might brush across it too hard and break the threads of silk.

Mei grinned merrily. “You like? The bodice is made from the rarest spiders’ silk and moon crystals. The skirt is made from the feathers of the golden goose. You my dear are vera vera lucky.”

Tears formed in Mina’s eyes. Never before had she seen such splendor—and she would be the one wearing it! “Oh, Mei, thank you. You wouldn’t happen to have a rabbit’s foot and a four-leaf clover would you?”

Mei made a face. “Why? Those not lucky. Those superstitious mumbo jumbo.”

Her Godmother continued to fuss over her. She blow dried her hair and curled it, using a wee bit of Fae magic to get the curls flowing perfectly over one shoulder. “Now, this is a masquerade, right? So you need a mask.” She reached down to pull a feather from the skirt and cupped it into her hands. Bright gold light poured from between her fingers, and she held up a perfectly sculpted feather and crystal mask that matched the dress.

Mina couldn’t help but let out a little cry of joy.


Her mother came to look in on her. “Oh, she’s beautiful!”

“I know.” Mei smirked proudly, folding her arms. “She’ll make anyone fall in love with her tonight.”

Her mother ran to get the camera and spent the next ten minutes taking silly pictures along with serious ones. It was almost time for Brody to pick her up.

When she heard the knock on the door, her heart thudded in anticipation. He’s here!

How come she was suddenly excited to spend the evening with him when just a few hours before it had terrified her? Everything was going so well. Maybe she’d been wrong about her next quest. Maybe this had nothing to do with Teague and the Story. It wasn’t like Brody’s car would turn into a pumpkin.

Charlie beat Mina to the door and yanked it open.

An extremely tall and gangly man with an equally long face stood on their front porch. His skin was pasty white, and his eyes were small and beady as if he never saw the sun.

“Can I help you?” her mom asked.

“I’m Schumacher. I’ve brought you your shoes.” His deep voice resonated, reminding Mina of Lurch from an old show called The Addams Family. Charlie and she would often stay up late to watch the reruns.

“Excuse me?” her mom said again, glancing at what he was holding out in front of him.

Mina was scared to look, but she leaned to the side of Mei and—sure enough—sitting in the palms of Schumacher’s long hands was a pair of pumps with a small two-inch heel fashioned from glass. Mina and Sara both registered the implications at the same time, because her mother slammed the door on poor old Schumacher.

“Mom! We need those.”

“No you don’t! I know what this is. Why didn’t you tell me you were given another tale? I’m your mother. I should know if your life is in danger,” she spoke harshly.

Mina rushed to her mother, grabbed her hands between her own and tried to calm her. “Mom, listen to me. We will always be in danger as long as we are alive. There’s no way around the curse. But there’s something even worse that is about to happen to you, to Charlie, to us…if I don’t take those shoes and use them to save us.”

Her mother started to cry. She reached out and pulled Mina into a long hug. “I know. I know this is something you have to do. But don’t ask me to not worry or be afraid. That’s my right as a mother to be terrified for you.” She sniffed and wiped at the back of her nose with her sleeve. Mina stepped back and nodded.

Charlie had kept the curtain back to stare at Lurch.

Mei pulled her mother into another hug, and they both watched as Mina approached the door again.

She opened the door and Schumacher was still standing there with the beautifully horrifying shoes. Beautiful in their design, horrifying in what they symbolized.

“I’m Schumacher. I’ve brought you your shoes,” he repeated.

“Why yes. Thank you, Schumacher.” Mina held out her hands to receive the shoes from him. The glass shoes tinkled together when she grasped them. Upon closer inspection, Mina could see that they were a mixture of clear glass and long pieces of mirror. The sole of the shoes were lined with mirrored glass, and she could see her reflection staring at her from within the slippers. The form and heels were sculpted glass, the tops decorated with little glass diamonds. These were the creation of not only a master cobbler but a master glassblower as well. “They’re beautiful.”

He nodded and his long face stretched into an awkward smile. He leaned forward and whispered softly to her. “Wear now.” Mina opened her mouth to ask a question, but he cut her off. “Now. Wear now!”

Mina’s mouth lost all of its moisture. “Sounds good.” Her tongue felt like a piece of sandpaper when she tried to answer him. She watched as Schumacher turned and stepped off of the porch. He walked to the nearest shadow, made from a large maple, stepped into it, and disappeared.

She turned and showed the shoes to Mei who only whistled. “You hear him. Listen to Schumacher. Don’t dilly-dally. Put them on.”

Mina did just that. Her toes felt weird sliding across the cool mirrored glass, and she was terrified that they would shatter if she put her whole weight on them. But they held. And she didn’t go flying across the floor when she walked in them either.

Another knock sounded on the door.

This time it was Brody. He smiled, showcasing his dimple. In his black form-fitted tux, which only made his blond hair look even more sun-kissed, handsome wasn’t quite the word. Mina thought she heard her own mother sigh.

Mina’s mom showed them the camera and they posed for picture after picture, but no matter what Mina did, she couldn’t regain her joy about this evening. She knew her smile must looked forced. Every time she took a step, those darn shoes tinkled against the wood floor. Taunting her about her duty—her journey that could start any minute.

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