The Isle of the Lost (Page 24)

I don’t know what we are, but I know I don’t like it.

And here I thought once I got to a real school my life was going to be so much better.

Evie got up and went to her desk, which had a few of her old textbooks from her years of castle-schooling. She picked up her favorite, a worn leather grimoire, the Evil Queen’s personal spell book.

Of course, it was useless on the Isle, but Evie still liked reading all the spells. It was like a catalog of her mother’s finer days, of a time before she spent hour after useless hour rattling around the empty rooms of the castle doing the Voice. It made Evie feel better, sometimes. To remember that things hadn’t always been like this.

She paged through the spell book’s worn yellow pages like she had when she was a little girl. She had pored over them the way she imagined the princesses in Auradon pored over their stupid fairy tales. She studied them the way other princesses studied, well, other princesses.

There were truth spells involving candles and water, love spells that called for flower petals and blood, health spells and wealth spells, spells for luck and spells for doom. Trickster spells were her favorite, especially the Peddler’s Disguise, which her mother had used to fool that silly Snow White. That was a good one.

A classic, even.

“Hi, sweetie,” Evil Queen said, entering her bedroom. “You’re looking pale again! Let me blush!” She removed a big round brush and began to work on Evie’s cheeks. “Pink as an appleblossom. There. Much better.” She looked down at the book in her daughter’s hand. “Oh, that old thing? I never understand. Why would you want to get that out again?”

“I don’t know. Maybe because I just can’t picture it. I mean, did you really do this spell? You?” Evie somehow couldn’t imagine her mother as a frightening old hag. Sure, she was plump and middle-aged and no longer resembled the formidable portrait of her that hung in the main gallery, but she was far from ugly.

“Oh, yes! It was a scream! Snow Why-So-Stupid? was completely fooled! What a dope.” Evil Queen giggled. “I mean, hello? Door-to-door apple sales hag? In the middle of the forest?” She sighed. “Ah. Good times.”

Evie shook her head. “Still.”

Her mother fussed with her hair. “Wait. Why are you here? Shouldn’t you be in school?”

“I don’t feel like going,” Evie confessed. “I’m not sure it’s right, after all. Going to a big school. Maybe I should just stay in the castle.”

Evil Queen shrugged. “Who needs an education anyway? Pretty is as pretty is—remember that, darling.”

“Don’t worry. You don’t let me forget.”

“It’s attention to the little things. You have to work for it, and you have to want it. Your eyelashes aren’t going to curl themselves, you know.”

“Nope. You’re going to curl them for me, even if I don’t want you to.”

“That’s right. And why? So that one day you can have what’s rightfully yours, even if you are stuck on this miserable island. It is your birthright, to be the Fairest. Of. Them. All. Those aren’t simply words.”

“I’m pretty sure they are, actually.”

“It’s a responsibility. Ours. Yours, and mine. With great beauty comes great power.”

Evie just stared. When her mother got like this, it was hard to talk her down.

“I can’t want this more than you do, Evie.” Her mother sighed, shaking her head.

“I know,” Evie said, because it was true. “But what am I supposed to do? What if I don’t know what I want? Or how to get it?”

“So you try harder. You reapply. You add that extra layer of gloss over your matte lip stain. You use your blush and your bronzer, and make sure you don’t confuse the two.”

“Bronzer on the bone, blush on the cheek,” Evie said, automatically.

“You know which mascara makes your eyes pop.”

“Blue for brown. Green for gold. Purple for blue,” Evie recited, as if these were her family’s version of math facts.

“Exactly.” Evil Queen clasped her fingers around her daughter’s in a touching, if rare, maternal gesture. “And please, my darling girl. Never forget who you really are.”

“Who am I?” Evie said, squeezing her mother’s hand. She felt so lost—more than anything, it was all she wanted to know.

“Someone who needs to use elixir on her hair, or it looks too frizzy.” With those parting words, Evil Queen left the room, gathering up her dark skirts behind her. “Mirror! Magic Mirror!”

Yeah, Evie thought, she could stay here, reading her old books and watching Auradon News Network, just like before. Later, if she was really lucky, her mother would come into her room to give her yet another interesting hairstyle, even though Evie had told her millions of times she preferred the V-braid.

This is my life, when I’m in the castle.

Braiding and blushing and bronzing.

That was the thing about leaving home, she guessed. Once you’d made your way out into the world, once you’d left the darkness of the cave, it was hard to go back.

Even to make your hair smooth and your eyes pop.

The more Evie thought about it, the more she knew she couldn’t stay in the castle one more second. She’d read all the books and watched all the shows and there was no one to talk to other than her mother, who was only obsessed with the latest cosmetics that arrived on the Dumpster barges, the used tubes of lipstick and opened jars of cream that the Auradon princesses tossed when they didn’t want them anymore.

Even school has to be better than this.

Besides, she could deal with Mal, couldn’t she? She wasn’t scared of her.

Not that scared of her.

Okay, so maybe she was. But Evie was more terrified of rotting in a cave forever. And she was far too young to start working on her own Magic Mirror voice. She shook her head at the thought.

Pretty is as pretty is?

Was that what my mother said?

But what was the point of being pretty if there was no one there to see how pretty you were?

Even the crack on her ceiling was starting to look like the Dragon’s Eye.

Mal stared up at it from her bed, transfixed. She had woken up extra early—even earlier than Carlos and Evie—as she couldn’t sleep, thinking of the quest her mother had all but immediately dispatched her on. Maleficent was like that: once she had an idea in her head, there was no stopping her. It didn’t matter if it was her daughter or one of her minions—she expected everyone to stop and drop and risk everything to do her bidding.


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