“Alison Elizabeth Brown Butler!”
“I’m coming!” Ali hurriedly pushed the rest of the dirt on top of the little hill she’d built and packed it down. “I’ll be back,” she whispered.
“Hurry,” said a little voice.
“I will.” Ali rubbed her right hand across her neck, making sure she didn’t have any stray hairs, and stood up. From here, she couldn’t see the evil fairies at all. How was she supposed to make sure they stayed put?
“I said, I’m coming!” Ali jogged across the backyard and up the steps into the kitchen. Everyone was at the table—Mom, Dad, and Hannah. Dad and Hannah were already eating.
“I called you fifteen minutes ago,” said Mom. She picked up Ali’s plate and slammed a helping of mashed potatoes on top of a mangled slice of roast beef.
“I’m sorry,” said Ali, sliding into her seat. Unfortunately, her seat was right across from Mom’s, so she had no way of avoiding the glare. She took her plate and stuffed a spoonful of potato into her mouth, not even bothering with salt and pepper.
“Your mother worked hard on this meal, young lady,” said Dad.
“I’ff ffoggy,” said Ali.
“You’re still wearing that stupid hairdo?” said Hannah. “What is going on with that?”
Ali almost choked. She hated being called stupid, and Hannah knew it. “It’s not stupid,” she said.
“I’m sorry, Ali, but a bun right smack on top of your head is stupid. And that hairspray is disgusting. No wonder you repel boys.” Hannah flicked a lock of her perfect, glossy light-brown hair off her shoulder. The blond highlights practically sparkled.
Ali had been planning to raid the shower drain every day for hair, but Hannah was really tempting her. If only her sister knew how much her hair was worth, and what the evil fairies could do. Then she’d have her hair up in a “stupid” bun, too. But no one over thirteen knew about the fairies, unless they were still in middle school, like Michael. When you finished eighth grade, it was over. Hannah was about to finish tenth grade, so she had no chance at all. But Ali had a whole ’nother year. She smiled and took a bite of cold roast beef.
“What are you smiling about?” Hannah delicately lifted her last bite of green beans to her lips, chewed, and swallowed. “I’m going to do my homework.” She smiled at Mom and got up from the table. She took her plate with her, rinsed it, and put it in the dishwasher. So perfect. Her parents thought Hannah spent all her time studying to bring home those straight-A report cards. But Ali knew better. “Doing homework” probably meant calling Michael’s older brother, Deacon. He was just as big as Michael, and twice as mean—to everyone but Hannah. Actually, he’d been mean to Hannah, too, up until around Christmas, but she’d forgotten all about that.
“Me too,” said Ali. She shoved another bite into her mouth and chewed as quickly as she could. Michael had insisted on coming to check up on her, and she didn’t want him to get impatient and come in the front door. She rushed her plate over to the sink.
“If you don’t want to eat now, you can forget about having a snack,” said Dad.
“Fine. I had plenty,” said Ali.
“Do you need any help with your homework?” Mom asked.
“No,” Ali said.
“Well, with finals coming up, you can always use a boost,” said Mom. Unlike Hannah, who’s smart enough to never need help, Ali heard.
“I can do it myself,” she said, and before Mom could say anything else, she ran through the living room and sprang up the stairs. Of course Mom would offer to help her and not Hannah. As if Ali were too stupid to figure anything out. Just because she didn’t get the same grades didn’t mean she wasn’t every bit as smart as Hannah. In fact, I’m smarter, Ali told herself. I don’t spend all my time fixing my hair. She barreled into her bedroom and stifled a surprised scream.
Michael was sitting on her bed, tossing her pink stuffed unicorn between his giant hands. He was at least six feet tall even though he was only fourteen, and his shaved head added to the feeling of big.
Ali pushed the door shut. “How did you get in here?” she whispered. “I said I’d let you in the back door.”
“Well, I let myself in.” He grinned, showing two rows of crooked yellow teeth.
That’s what you get for smoking, Ali thought. Gross.
He pointed the unicorn’s horn at the open window.
Ali stomped over to the bed and grabbed the unicorn out of his hand. “You’re going to kill my tree and get me grounded.”
“None of that’s going to matter once you get your flock grown.” He picked up Ali’s tuxedo-shirt-wearing teddy bear and started bouncing it.
Ali grimaced. She’d have to wash everything in her room now. “I know, and I’m doing the best I can. I’ve got the first mound done. Why can’t you just go home and wait like a normal person?”
“You know why.” He squeezed Teddy Tux’s head. “I’ve got three weeks until eighth grade is over. And if your flock isn’t done by then, I lose everything.” He was no longer smiling. “You think I don’t know what everyone thinks of me? Once I’m the best football player in the country, they’ll be sorry.”
“That’s what you’re going to wish for?” Ali had wondered what Michael’s wish would be, but she’d been afraid to ask. Michael was the kind of person you avoided if you could. And the tone of his voice right now wasn’t changing her mind.
“Well, I was going to wish for better parents, but then I found out that you’re only allowed to change yourself,” Michael said. Ali had once overheard her parents talking about Michael and Deacon’s dad, saying that if he’d ever come home from the bar, maybe his boys wouldn’t be such goons. That was one of the reasons Hannah had to hide the fact that she was dating Deacon. But Ali didn’t want to show Michael that she knew that much.
“You can wish for happiness,” said Ali. “That way you won’t care what your parents do.”
“Yeah, but I don’t want to just be magic happy,” said Michael. “If I can be a sports star, I’ll be rich and famous, and that will make me happy. Maybe I’ll do basketball instead of football. I don’t know. For sure, though, I’m not going to use my wish for something stupid like being good looking.” He rolled his eyes.
Ali rolled hers, too. Michael had gotten his fairies from Jennifer Jackson, who also lived on their street. When Michael had finished growing his flock and had passed the two ...