Westley Prince’s world gets turned upside-down the morning his little sister goes missing, all signs pointing to kidnapping. Then Westley accidentally summons his fairy godmother and begins a quest that takes him to magnificent fairy cities, otherworldly prisons, and even down the Jersey Shore.
But every turn he takes seems to bring him farther and farther from rescuing Gemma. Along the way, Westley discovers that this isn’t a simple case of kidnapping at all, and that he and his sister are more connected to this new world of witches, fairies, and goblins than he ever would have believed…
Read an excerpt below:
1. WESTLEY REALLY HATES BASEBALL
Westley watched the baseball game with mounting anxiety, chewing his fingernails. Terry Hughes--the scruffy-but-very-fast outfielder--looked a lot greener now than he did thirty seconds ago. Even from Westley’s place in the dugout, he could see that Terry’s mouth was set in the kind of grim frown that people save for the occasions when they really need to clamp their mouths firmly shut. Terry kept making these weird little jerks as well. He stood all the way out in the outfield, so Westley couldn’t see him too clearly, but he had a feeling that those weird little jerks were the kind of half-burps that people got right before they puke.
Just over a minute later, Westley’s suspicions proved true. Terry pressed his hands over his mouth just as his twin brother, Gerry pitched the ball to the other team’s batter. The batter (the back of his shirt read, "BECK - 16" in orange letters) hit the ball and sent it sailing right out into the far end of the field, straight towards Terry. Terry, however, missed the flight of the ball and instead ran as fast as he could towards the dugout while the rest of his team shrieked and screamed in a blind rage. Terry paid them no mind, and turned left just before he reached the dugout, making his way frantically towards the port-a-potty, his hands still clamped over his mouth. His clammy face was a brilliant shade of chartreuse.
Approximately eighteen inches away from the port-a-potty’s blue plastic door, Terry Hughes lost his breakfast.
Both teams lost it then: Terry’s team, the Purple Pipers; and their opponents, the Crestwood Hornets. Thirty eleven-year-old boys jeering and shouting (and all their over-enthusiastic parents, who shouted even louder). Well, twenty-nine shouting boys, as Westley did not make a peep.
Westley had managed to make it through four whole games without playing at all. As the youngest of five brothers, his parents expected him to be just as great a sportsman as the older four. They had forced him into baseball with the help of their friend. A friend who happened to be the coach.
"PRINCE!" Coach Carlisle bellowed over the shouts of parents and ball players. "You’re up!" He pointed to the outfield, to the spot occupied by Terry only a few moments before.
Shoulders slumped in defeat, Westley Prince made his way to the outfield position. He trudged across the field as slowly as possible without attracting attention to himself.
Westley hated baseball. He hated all sports, in fact--hated playing them, watching other people play them, listening to the commentary on the radio, and listening to his family and their endless discussions about sports. And yet for some reason, his parents thought that if Westley actually went out there and played a sport--this season, baseball--he would learn to love it, and thus become just like the other four Prince boys. Even Westley’s little sister, nine-year-old Gemma was a total sports nut. Westley often wondered if he’d been adopted, or maybe his mom and dad accidentally took the wrong baby home from the hospital eleven years ago. Of course that theory would have been more plausible if he didn’t have the exact same jet black hair and clear blue eyes as his father and brothers.
"Get a move on, Prince!" Christian, the second baseman shouted. "We’d like to finish the game sometime this month."
The other boys all guffawed in unison. Westley scowled, and only just barely picked up his pace.
"Stupid Terry," Westley muttered to himself when he reached the outfielder’s position. He glared at his parents in the bleachers, and he could see his dad’s forced fake smile all the way from the edge of the outfield.
Of all the games for Terry to get sick, it had to be the one against the Hornets. Westley couldn’t believe his bad luck.
On second thought, yes; yes, he could.
The Indian Valley Junior Baseball League comprised ten baseball teams from three different towns. In pretty much any game, the outfielder’s position was kind of a joke. None of the kids could hit the ball that far. Once in a while, you got a fluke; but those were really, really rare. The coaches reserved the outfield for kids like Terry Hughes--kids who couldn’t hit or catch very well, but whose parents wanted a trophy at the end of the year so they could brag to all their grown-up friends about how their kid was playing ball since he could walk. Truth be told, the outfield was too good for Westley. His place was on the bench--the last resort reserve player for when the other bottom-of-the-barrel players got sick or injured.
But up against the Crestwood Hornets, they needed a decent outfielder.
Westley squinted against the bright mid-May sun as the next player--"CORAM - 7," said his shirt--stepped up to bat. Gerry pitched, and the batter hit the ball high into the air and sent it straight for Westley, who lost sight of it within half a second. Westley tried the trick his dad had showed him--he used his battered mitt to shade his eyes from the sun and look for the ball. He searched the bright blue sky, but he couldn’t see it.
The ball collided with his head and then bounced several feet away. The boys on both teams shouted, the Hornets cheering on their batter as he sprinted around the bases. Disoriented from the blow to the head, Westley jogged towards the ball. He picked it up and hesitated. Was he supposed to throw it back to Gerry, the pitcher? No, he thought, watching Coram pass first base and head for second. Christian, the second baseman confirmed Westley’s theory.
"Throw it, Wes!" he shrieked.
Westley took aim and hurled the ball at Christian. He missed by at least three yards.
After the ensuing scuffle for the ball, during which the Hornets scored two home runs, the rest of the Pipers all scowled at Westley. He grumbled and kicked the ground with his too-tight baseball cleats.
The Hornets cheered for their two teammates who had scored and the next boy (JONES - 3) made his way to bat.
Westley gazed around the baseball field, at all the cheering parents in the bleachers, and then at the woods that surrounded the field on three sides. The leaves on the trees shone brilliant green, their branches swaying in the breeze. He wished he could be in the woods instead, exploring all the trails that wound their way into the mountains. Westley could see four different paths along the edge of the baseball field, and he knew all of them pretty well. Why couldn’t they have a hiking team? Westley would have been awesome at that.
Movement within the woods caught Westley’s eyes. For a second, he thought he saw a cloud of glittering grey smoke. Was the forest on fire? Maybe they would end the game early...
But no--now Westley saw a person standing in the woods where the smoke had been. He couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman from that distance, but whoever it was had on a very strange outfit--old-fashioned black boots and long purple coat. Who would wear such a heavy coat in that weather? Westley wondered. It looked like another person stood beside the first, concealed behind a big oak tree.
"PRINCE!" roared Coach Carlisle, making Westley jump. "The game’s over here!"
A different boy was up at bat. Westley saw Jones straddling first base; he had missed watching him hit the ball while he stared at the woods. Westley chanced a quick glance back at the figures in the trees, and did a double-take.
The person in the purple coat held up a big, clear crystal ball. It started to glow all different colors, and the person was talking animatedly, pointing at the ball.
The crack of a bat colliding with a baseball brought Westley’s attention back to the game. The batter (O’NEILL - 8) sent the ball flying towards the outfield. It sailed right over Westley and towards the trees, where the two figures stood.
The Pipers and the Hornets all started shouting. Westley dashed off towards the woods, making for the spot where the ball had disappeared into the trees. He spotted it as he neared one of the paths; it lay beneath an old, gnarled oak. Westley rushed over to it, but--not watching where he stepped--he tripped on a large root and went sprawling face-first onto the ground.
The fall knocked the wind right out of him. He stumbled to his feet and saw the figure in the purple coat looking down at him. It was a man, Westley saw now, though he had a very girlish appearance: round grey eyes; pointy, delicate features; and wispy blonde hair that fell down to his chin. The man held the baseball in his small, pale hand. Westley saw no sign of the other person that the man had been talking to.
"Looking for this?" The man in the purple coat held the baseball out to Westley. He had a sort of high, haughty voice.
"Yeah," replied Westley. "Thanks."
He took the ball and ran back to the baseball field, towards the angry shouts of his teammates. The Hornets had scored two more home runs.
* * *
"That was too close, Jack." A plump, plain-faced girl stepped out from behind the wide oak. "Why is it you always seem to exist on both Sides? You do not bear the mark of Legba."
"I think I simply Cross over too often," replied the man in the purple coat. He watched the young boy run clumsily back towards his screaming teammates.
"You are sure one of them is here?" the woman asked, impatience in her nasally voice.
"Yes," said Jack. "I saw the mark of Ita, like I told you."
"Hush!" hissed the woman. "Not the true names!" She looked around as though expecting an attack. "Eight are accounted for, aside from myself. She knows where to find five of them, though she knows that two of the others are safe and choose to remain hidden. She will stop at nothing to the find the ones she has lost. Even the trees will be listening for signs of them."
"You’re a terrible creature, Libbie," Jack commented without emotion. "More so even than myself. And that is an achievement."
Libbie scowled at him. Jack examined his nails.
"Would I perhaps be able to enlist your services?" Libbie asked. "I have trouble Crossing, so if she is indeed on the other side..."
"No," Jack replied. "I’m sorry, but I want nothing further to do with this."
"You dare refuse--"
"Yes," Jack interrupted. "I refuse. I do not fear your wrath, but I certainly do fear the wrath of your parents. When you mother discovers what you’ve done with Ska--"
"No names!" Libbie cried. "Especially not that one!" She pushed a strand of mousy hair behind her ear and sighed. "Very well. If you will not help, I shall enlist the Liliot."
"Whatever," said Jack. "On your own head be it."
He pulled a fistful of grey powder from his pocket, threw it onto the ground, and vanished in a puff of grey smoke.
2. - HANGING FROM THE GUTTERS
"Can I please quit the team now?"
Joey and Alex, Westley’s older twin brothers cackled from across the table, but were quickly silenced by a stern look from their father.
"Let’s just finish up the season," Mr. Prince said. "Then you can quit sports, if you really want to. You’re getting much better," he added with forced enthusiasm. "You never know--by the end of the season, you might love it."
"I stink," Westley said. "And I’m never going to like it."
Mr. Prince frowned, picked up his newspaper, and hid behind it. Westley stared down at the unfinished hot dog on his plate and pushed the corn around with his fork. Why didn’t his parents get it? He hated sports. He had always hated sports, and probably always would. Some people just weren’t into sports--was it really such a big deal?
If they did fun sports at school, then he might like them. Like jousting. Westley would totally have joined the jousting team. He had tried, about a year ago, to convince his parents to send him to horseback riding lessons, but Mr. Prince had flat out refused.
"Horse riding is for girls," he had told Westley.
Funny, Westley thought, how you never saw girls riding into battle on horses. Or jousting at Medieval Times. And learning to ride a horse was pretty much half of learning to joust.
"Horses are dangerous," had been his Mom’s excuse. "You could fall off and get trampled."
After four baseballs to the head and a bat to the shin since the season started, Westley wondered if he might not prefer getting trampled. At least then he wouldn’t have to listen to all the other kids laughing at him.
"There was some weird guy in the woods today," Westley said, remembering the man in the purple coat. "At the game."
"What do you mean a weird guy?" Mrs. Prince asked, looking flustered.
"When I went to get the ball," Westley explained, "I tripped and fell. He was standing there and he gave the ball back to me. He was wearing this long leather jacket. A purple one. And... I dunno. He just seemed weird."
"Should we tell Ben?" Mrs. Prince asked her husband, referring to Coach Carlisle.
Mr. Prince surfaced from behind his newspaper. "It was probably nothing, Cynthia. Probably just a hiker. You know they have all those trails in the woods."
Mrs. Prince frowned.
"I don’t think he was dangerous or anything," said Westley, now wishing he hadn’t told them. "Just weird."
Joey’s cell phone beeped on the kitchen table.
"What have I told you about bringing that to the dinner table?" Mr. Prince exclaimed.
Joey ignored him and read the text message. "Can we go to Matt’s?" he asked.
"After you help your mother clean up," said Mr. Prince.
"Hey champ, you wanna come with?" Alex asked Westley.
"We’re gonna play some ball in the yard," Joey added.
They laughed as though it was the funniest thing either of them had ever said and started clearing the dishes off the table.
It was a nice, quiet Saturday night--a rare thing in the Prince household. All of Westley’s siblings had gone out: the twins to their friend down the street, Rory was out with his new girlfriend, Gemma had gone for pizza with her softball team, and Ryan--the oldest--was still away at college.
Westley took a small pile of books and sat outside on the patio, the back door shut in order to muffle the Yankees game that his parents watched in the living room. Aside from the occasional shout of a child or bark of a dog, his neighborhood was almost silent.
Absorbed in The BFG, Westley didn’t notice the time passing or the light fading. He sat curled up in one of the squashy lawn chairs scattered about the patio. He had no idea what time it was when a sudden noise startled him from his reading.
A crash and thud came from the roof of his house. Westley jumped from his chair and looked for the source of the sound. He just barely registered what looked like a young woman hanging from the gutter outside Gemma’s bedroom window before there came a bright white flash of light. He had to shut his eyes against the flash and he heard a "phfffft" sound like a firework fizzling out. When he opened his eyes, the woman had gone.
For a moment, Westley could only stand there with his mouth hanging open.
Once the shock wore off, he tore into the house with a hysterical, "MOM!!!" He found his parents glued to the television.
"What?" said Mr. and Mrs. Prince.
Westley took a few deep breaths and tried again. "I saw a woman on the roof. Hanging from the roof. On the roof of our house!"
Mr. Prince jumped up from the couch and hurried outside. Mrs. Prince, a protective arm around Westley’s shoulders, followed him through the kitchen to the backdoor, but did not go outside.
"I don’t see anyone out there." Mr. Prince came back inside and went to the kitchen closet. "Did you see where she went?" He took the flashlight down off the shelf and headed back outside.
"It looked like she was falling," Westley said. "She was hanging off the gutter. There was a bright flash and she disappeared."
Westley didn’t realize how ridiculous that sounded until after he finished his sentence. Mr. Prince stood in the doorway, halfway outside. He and Mrs. Prince exchanged a look.
"Honey," Mrs. Prince said slowly, "are you sure that maybe you didn’t fall asleep outside?"
Westley knew where she was headed. "I did not dream it. I was reading and I heard a bang. When I looked up, there was definitely a woman hanging off the roof. Then there was a bright flash, and she was gone."
"I think he saw something, Cyn," Mr. Prince decided, and he went outside with his flashlight.
He searched the yard, and he even took the ladder out of the shed and checked the roof. Then he and Mrs. Prince checked inside the house--upstairs, downstairs, all the bedrooms, all the closets, the basement, and the attic. They didn’t find anything.
"Whatever it was," Mr. Prince declared once he was back in front of the Yankees game, "I guess you scared them away, Wes."
Westley couldn’t sleep. Every time he closed his eyes, he got the same uneasy feeling. Like he was being watched.
It was probably just the new room, he told himself. He still hadn’t gotten used to having a bedroom all to himself. Until just over a week ago, he had shared with the twins. His oldest brothers, Ryan and Rory had been in this room. Mr. Prince had finally finished working on the big bedroom in the basement, and so Rory had moved all of his and Ryan’s things down there. So now, for the first time ever, Westley had his own bedroom.
Westley tossed and turned for a long time before he finally drifted into a troubled sleep.
When he jumped awake, the clock on his nightstand said 3:33 AM. He felt certain he had heard a sudden scream, one that was cut off barely a moment later. As his brain became more fully awake, however, Westley felt less certain. Had he dreamt it? He found that now he could not recall the exact sound that he had heard.
He went out to the bathroom for a drink of water, and then settled back into bed, but he did not sleep well for the rest of the night. Another scream woke him on Sunday morning, and he had no doubt that this one was real.
3. - GONE IN THE NIGHT
Pandemonium reigned in the Prince household. Westley awoke at 7:30 the next morning to his mother’s shouts, and without even thinking or being properly awake, he jumped out of bed and followed the sounds to Gemma’s room.
The blankets and sheets of Gemma’s pink canopied bed lay on the floor in a tangled mess. The sheets had fallen halfway across the floor, as though someone had pulled them on their way from the bed to the window. The window itself stood wide open, and there were scuffs and scratch marks on the windowsill.
A chill hung in the room and Westley’s breath caught in his throat. This sort of thing wasn’t supposed to happen in real life.
After calling the police, the whole family searched the house and the yard, and Mr. Prince went door to door to talk to each of the neighbors. Westley didn’t think they expected to find Gemma that way; it was just something to do until the police arrived. Mrs. Prince was frantic--bursting into tears one moment, and then sitting still and silent as a statue the next. Mr. Prince looked shaken, his face a sickly shade of grey.
The police arrived by a quarter to eight and they, too, searched the house, taking photos and collecting fingerprints from Gemma’s room. Westley felt completely helpless. Time seemed to stand still, and he felt like he drifted through a dense fog.
"Did you see anything unusual these last few days?" Chief Calderone asked the Princes. "Anything at all. Even the smallest thing--it might not have seemed important at the time, but anything that stuck out?"
They sat in the living room--Westley, Alex, and Joey all huddled together on the couch; Mrs. Prince sat on the loveseat sobbing silently into a mug of coffee, Mr. Prince beside her with his hands balled into tight fists, and Rory on her other side, holding her hand.
"No," Mrs. Prince choked out, shaking her head.
"Yes," Westley and Mr. Prince said at the same time.
"Yesterday," Mr. Prince said, looking at Westley. "Wes was outside on the patio. He said he saw someone on the roof." Mr. Prince shook his head, and looked like he might burst into tears. "We thought he was imagining things. We searched--Cynthia and me--and we didn’t find anything."
Chief Calderone, a long time family friend of the Princes, turned his kind brown eyes on Westley. He had a long and very lined face that made him look like a basset hound.
"You saw someone on the roof, Westley?" he asked in his deep, gravelly voice, jotting everything down in his notebook.
"Yes," Westley replied, trying to get a clear memory of what he had seen. "I was reading, and I heard a noise. When I looked up, there was a... a woman hanging off the roof. Like hanging onto the gutters. There was like a bright light and I had to close my eyes. And then... Then when I opened them she was just gone."
"What did she look like, son?" Chief Calderone pressed. "Hair, eyes, clothes?"
Westley scrunched up his face in thought. It had all happened so fast. He had seen her for barely a second.
"Take your time," Chief Calderone added. "Anything you can remember will help."
"She was kind of... chubby. Not like fat. Just a little... heavier." Westley concentrated as hard as he could, trying to freeze the image in his mind. "Her hair was brown. Like light brown, and the same length as Mom’s, to her shoulders. But it looked kind of dirty. Not brushed or washed. At least, I think that’s how it was. I really only saw her for a second. Less than a second."
"That’s alright, Westley." Chief Calderone wrote feverishly in his notebook. "Anything you remember helps. You’re doing great. What about clothes? Jewelry? Any tattoos or marks that you noticed?"
"I think she had on a dress. Light-colored. Maybe white? It was too dark. And she wasn’t pretty."
"Young, I guess?"
"How young? Young like a teenager?"
"Not a teenager." Westley’s head started to hurt. "Younger than Mom. Older than a teenager."
Mrs. Prince choked out a sob and Westley jumped. He had almost forgotten how many people were in the room. Aside from his family and the Oakwood police chief, three other police officers stood around the living room.
"I’m sorry, Wes!" Mrs. Prince cried. "We didn’t believe you. How could we have been so stupid?"
"No, Mom!" Westley exclaimed.
"It’s not your fault," Rory added.
Mr. Prince put an arm around his wife’s narrow shoulders and she cried into his t-shirt.
"We’ll find her, Cynthia," Chief Calderone said, his tone comforting in its authority. "We’ve already put out the amber alert, and Gemma’s photo has been sent to every law enforcement agency in three states. We’ll find her."
The rest of the morning passed in a blur. Mr. Prince had paced up and down the hallway before finally driving over to the police station with more photos of Gemma. Mrs. Prince flitted around the house in a state of panic, unable to sit down for more than fifteen seconds at a time. The ladies from across the street and next door, Mrs. Haversham and Mrs. Trevethyn both stayed with Mrs. Prince, trying to speak soothing words and take care of everything around the house. Alex and Joey stayed in their room, not speaking to anyone. Rory resumed his father’s pacing of the downstairs hallway. Westley, like his mother, wandered from room to room feeling lost, and always ended up back in Gemma’s room fighting back tears. He knew how his Mom felt--it seemed wrong to just stay around the house, waiting. Doing nothing. He felt like they should be out there looking for Gemma. But where would they even begin?
Unable to stand being in his house any longer, Westley went outside to wander around the backyard. He felt like he had to keep moving. He also felt that, somehow, Gemma’s disappearance was all his fault.
The Princes had a pretty big backyard. The houses on their street were all old--built in the 1800’s and earlier--and set far apart from each other. His own house sat on two and a half acres of well-manicured lawn that stretched into the woods beyond. The woods went on for a pretty good distance before meeting more houses. Westley started at the patio and walked back and forth across the yard, slowly moving farther and farther away from the house in a zigzagging pattern.
How could someone take Gemma? Sweet, happy, goody-two-shoes Gemma, who always had kind words to say about everyone she met. Who always saw the bright side of things. Gemma who never made fun of Westley for being bad at sports, or for being a bookworm, or for preferring walks in the woods to people. The idea that some awful person could snatch Gemma right out of her bedroom--right out of her home, where she should have been safe--made Westley furious. He aimed an angry kick at the old stone well at the very edge of their property, but succeeded only in sending a white-hot pain shooting through his big toe.
Westley sat down on the tree stump beside the well to rub his toe. It throbbed painfully, keeping rhythm with his pounding heart. Back at the house, he could see Mrs. Trevethyn bustling around the kitchen, glancing out the window to check on him every so often. Upstairs, he saw lights on in his parents’ room, but someone had drawn the yellow curtains across the window. Gemma’s room looked dark and empty.
Westley turned his back on the house and scanned the woods. They were alive with the sounds of birds and buzzing insects. The morning sun shone bright through the trees, making the leaves glitter brilliant green. In the distance, he heard the sounds of leaf blowers, and a dog barking. How could life go on like normal outside in the rest of the world? The world should be looking for Gemma.
Westley stood and looked at the well. Mr. Prince had long ago covered the top with wooden boards, but he still told his children not to play near it. Westley tried to peer in through a crack in the boards, but he saw only deep black darkness inside. He picked up a pebble off the ground and dropped it through the crack, counting the seconds before he heard it hit the water: one, two, three, four, five, six--splash. It sounded deep.
He didn’t know what made him think of it. He knew it was silly, but Westley dug into the back pocket of his green cargo trousers and pulled out a small handful of pennies. First checking that no one in the house was watching, he selected the shiniest of the pennies, replaced the rest in his pocket, and held the penny tight in his fist.
"I wish I could find Gemma and bring her home safe," Westley whispered, and then he repeated it two more times and dropped the penny through the crack, into the well. He counted, but he never heard it hit the bottom.
Westley wasn’t sure what he expected to happen. He hoped something would happen, but deep down, he didn’t think he believed anything would happen.
As he watched in total disbelief, a gold light began to shine from within the well. Rays of light glittered through the cracks in the wooden boards. Gold dust shimmered in the light, becoming a denser cloud of dust. The dust took form and right before Westley’s eyes, it took the shape of a person, growing brighter and denser until it materialized into a woman.
4. - THE FAIRLY CLUELESS GODMOTHER
She crouched on top of the well, smiling down at Westley. Her pale gold-green dress shimmered, and her pale skin sparkled as though covered in a thin layer of gold dust. Her dark golden hair hung down in two long braids, curled at the ends, and her brilliant pine-green eyes were framed with long, dark lashes. Westley noticed that she had pointed ears, and he thought that her skin and hair had a faint green tinge.
Westley could only stand and gape, wide-eyed, his mouth hanging open. It took him a moment to realize why his chest had seized up and his head was swimming--he had stopped breathing.
"Hi!" the woman said brightly.
Westley jumped backwards, tripped over a rock, and went sprawling onto his back.
The woman let out a high-pitched cry, leaping up off the well and rushing to Westley’s side. She helped Westley back to his feet, but his shaking knees wouldn’t support him. He sank down onto the ground and rubbed his eyes, shaking his head. When he looked up again, the woman still stood there. She stared down at him with a concerned look on her face.
"Wha...?" Westley managed to choke out in a strained gasp.
"I’m sorry I scared you," the woman said. She had a high-pitched voice to match her pretty, elfish features. "I’m Lavinia." She smiled and made a graceful curtsy.
Westley made a squeak that could have been "hi." He then proceeded to pinch himself very hard--twice on the arm, once on the leg--before slapping himself across the face.
He was not dreaming. He still sat by the well, and the strange woman named Lavinia still stood next to him.
"Are you okay?" Lavinia asked.
Westley shook his head. He was definitely not okay.
"Well, obviously you’re not okay." Lavinia held out a hand, offering to help him up. "I wouldn’t be here if you were okay."
Westley took her hand (it was solid--definitely real) and got to his feet, his legs still wobbly.
"It was you who called me, right?" Lavinia looked a little worried. She had a funny accent, kind of similar to his cousins who lived out on Staten Island. She pronounced "called" like "cawled." After a quick look around the woods and the yard, she turned back to Westley. "Only, you don’t look like you were expecting me."
Westley tried to force his brain to work. It felt like struggling to pull himself out of quicksand.
"I did call you," he said, and it came out a hoarse whisper, "but I wasn’t expecting... expecting... I..." He felt faint.
Lavinia paid him little attention, and instead took in her surroundings. Particularly the back yard and the house, taking a few steps closer to the house to get a better look at the neighbors. Then she spun around to face Westley, a horrified look on her face.
"Are we in the human world?!" she hissed. "Like the mortal human world?!"
It took Westley a moment to comprehend the question. At least it confirmed most of his suspicions about Lavinia.
"Yes," he replied.
"Wow," Lavinia sighed, looking around in awe. She seemed just as shocked by her surroundings as Westley was with her. "Cool," she added, and held her hand out for Westley to shake. "Well, like I said: I’m Lavinia. I’m here to be your fairy godmother."
If Westley had not just seen her materialize out of gold dust right in front of him, he probably would have bolted back into the house, locked the door, and called the police.
"So what can I do for you?" Lavinia continued. "Prince Westley, right?"
"Umm... Westley Prince, actually."
"I’m not a Prince," Westley explained. "Prince is my last name. My sister’s missing. Kidnapped. That’s why I wished into the well."
"Oh, yes," Lavinia said. "I remember. Gemma. You wished to find her and bring her home safe."
Westley had a good mind to go inside and berate his mother for lying to him. Clearly, magic and fairies and things like that were real. He had the proof standing right in front of him. But Gemma’s name wiped all that from his mind. Gemma, he thought; he had to focus. He had to find her, and here was someone who could help.
"Someone took Gemma right out of her room." Westley pointed to his sister’s window. "Out the window. And the cops didn’t find anything. No footprints, no fingerprints, no nothing."
Lavinia frowned in thought. Westley saw Mrs. Trevethyn watching him out the kitchen window, but then she turned away and went back to the dishes. Could she not see Lavinia?
"So let me get this straight," Lavinia said. "We’re in the plain old human world. You and your family live in the human world. Your sister was kidnapped in the human world, and your police are looking for her. That about right?"
"Yes." Westley was starting to get agitated. Every moment they spent talking about Gemma was a moment they could spend looking for Gemma. How long had he been out in the yard? "Yes," he repeated. "Can you help? Where do we start?"
"This isn’t good...," Lavinia muttered to herself.
"What isn’t good?" demanded Westley. "Do you know something? Do you know where Gemma is?"
"If someone in your world took her," Lavinia said, "then I wouldn’t have heard you when you made a wish into the well. Which means someone in one of the other worlds took her. I think."
"I’m sorry, Prince Westley." Lavinia did appear genuinely sorry. "I’m kinda new at this."
"The whole fairy godmother thing," Lavinia explained. "I’ve only been doing this for like a year. The last one had a few thousand years of experience, but she retired to get married."
Westley’s head was spinning again. With every sentence she spoke, he thought of about ten more questions. But he had to focus on Gemma--the questions could wait.
"Okay, so someone in... Did you say the other worlds?"
"Yes. There are two besides yours."
"Someone in one of those took Gemma? Where do we start?"
"Probably it was someone in the Other World. I know of a few child snatchers. It could have been someone from Fae, but they really only take babies. I’m assuming Gemma’s not a baby?"
"No, she’s not. She’s nine. Okay so child snatchers in the other world--let’s go with that."
"I know a guy who might know something," said Lavinia. "He doesn’t live far from here, and he’s good for getting information."
"Let’s go." Westley didn’t think twice. If he stopped to think about it, he might think too much, which could lead to him questioning his own sanity in standing in his back yard talking to his fairy godmother.
"Alright." Lavinia straightened her dress and twirled her long hair, as though unsure of what to do next. "I guess you’re not familiar with Dryadian Walking?"
"Walking through trees," the godmother explained. "Much faster than regular walking, but it can be very... disorienting the first few times."
"Whatever’s fastest," Westley decided.
He thought of his Mom then, wandering around the house in hysterics over her missing daughter. What would she do if Westley disappeared, too? But he could hardly just walk inside and tell her he was leaving with his fairy godmother to go find Gemma. He couldn’t even imagine what she’d say to that, but he did know that she wouldn’t let him go.
"I can’t tell Mom what I’m doing," he said to Lavinia, "but I have to go with you to find Gemma. Mom would never let me go, but I don’t want her to freak out when I’m gone. What should I do?"
Lavinia looked taken aback at being asked this kind of advice. "Umm..." She thought for a moment. "I guess you could leave her a note?"
It wasn’t a great solution, Westley thought; but it would have to do. He told himself that it would be okay once he came back with Gemma, but that didn’t make him feel better. His parents were still going to freak.
"Yeah okay," he said. "Do you have a pe--"
Before he could finish his request, Lavinia produced a pen and a sheet of notebook paper out of thin air. Westley recognized the pen as one of the blue ones they kept in the kitchen junk drawer.
He quickly scribbled: "Gone to find Gemma. I know what I’m doing--I promise. I’ll explain when I get back. I’m sorry. Love, Westley."
He folded it up, wrote "MOM AND DAD" on the outside, and then crept across the back yard and slid it silently under the back door. Lavinia followed him, waiting on the edge of the patio. Making sure no one inside was watching, Westley hurried to Lavinia’s side and said, "Let’s go."