The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden
Published November 17th, 2015
Published by Skyscape
Genre: YA Paranormal/Fantasy
Published November 17th, 2015
Published by Skyscape
Genre: YA Paranormal/Fantasy
Seven girls tied by time. Five powers that bind. One curse to lock the horror away. One attic to keep the monsters at bay. ** After the storm of the century rips apart New Orleans, sixteen-year-old Adele Le Moyne wants nothing more than her now silent city to return to normal. But with home resembling a war zone, a parish-wide curfew, and mysterious new faces lurking in the abandoned French Quarter, normalneeds a new definition. As the city murder rate soars, Adele finds herself tangled in a web of magic that weaves back to her own ancestors. Caught in a hurricane of myths and monsters, who can she trust when everyone has a secret and keeping them can mean life or death? Unless . . . you’re immortal.
The day had finally come.
Elation coursed through my head, my chest, my stomach—until the tips of my fingers tingled, as if the sensation were trying to escape the confines of my nervous system.
My father and I were finally on our way home.
Trying not to let the anticipation drive me crazy, I leaned back in the passenger seat and took deep breaths, inhaling the scents of worn black leather and bubble gum. The combination reminded me of sitting in the front seat as a child. I’d always been up for a ride in my father’s prized possession because I knew there’d be a sugary pink stick waiting for me in the glove box.
The city wasn’t exactly encouraging people to come home yet, but my father had always been a bit of a rebel. This fact, topped with endless nights of me begging and pleading, had finally made those four little words slip out of his mouth: “Okay, let’s go home.”
As soon as he caved, I fled the Parisian boarding school where my French mother had dumped me while my father and I were “displaced.” She didn’t tell me good-bye, and I never looked back.
I landed in Miami late last night, and we were on the road by six this morning. I didn’t want to give my father the chance to renege.
Ten hours later, we were still purring down the interstate in his 1981 BMW.
But I didn’t mind the long drive. In my sixteen years, I’d never been away from my father for that long. I’d never been away from New Orleans for that long either. It felt like years since the mandatory evacuation, but in reality it had only been two months—two months, two days, and nine hours since the Storm had touched ground.
The Storm was the largest hurricane in US history. Scientists were still debating whether it should even be considered a hurricane because it had smashed all previous classification parameters. They didn’t even name it. Everyone simply referred to it as “the Storm.” Economists were predicting it would end up being the greatest natural disaster in the Western world, and there were even rumors flying around that the federal government was considering constituting the area uninhabitable and not rebuilding the city. That idea was incomprehensible to me.
The media was all over the place about the devastation. We’d heard such conflicting stories there was really no telling what would be awaiting us (or not awaiting us) upon our arrival. Had our home been damaged, flooded, ransacked, robbed—or any combination of those things? Was it now just rotting away? I fiddled with the sun-shaped charm hanging from the silver necklace that nearly reached my waist, wrapping and unwrapping the thin chain around my fingers.
My phone buzzed.
Brooke 3:42 p.m. Are you close? Text me as
soon as you get home. I want to know everything, ASAP! xoxo.
I quickly pecked,
Adele 3:43 p.m. I will! How’s La-La land? <3
I didn’t exactly have a laundry list of close friends, but Brooke Jones and I had been attached at the hip since the second grade. The Joneses had been stuck in Los Angeles since the evacuation, and Brooke was freaking out on a daily basis because her parents were adjusting to the West Coast lifestyle at an alarming rate. Even the thought that her parents might permanently relocate to California made me cringe.
“Waffle House?” my father asked as we sped past the Florida state line into Alabama. He proceeded down the exit ramp before I could respond.
A bell dinged when I opened the door of the infamous southern chain, causing all of the employees to shout a welcome without looking up from what they were doing. My father headed to the bathroom, and I jumped into a booth, grabbing a napkin to wipe pancake-syrup residue off the table.
“I’ll be with ya in a second, darlin’,” a waitress yelled from across the narrow, shoe box–shaped diner.
Johnny Cash blared on the jukebox, the air reeked of grease, and the fluorescent bulb in the overhead light gave everything a sickly tint. I couldn’t help but chuckle, thinking about the stark contrast of this scene to my life just two nights ago: sitting in a café on the Champs-Élysées, eating a crêpe suzettes with my mother. Well, I’d been eating a crêpe. She’d never allow herself to eat something as appalling as sugar.
Midchuckle, I caught the gaze of a guy sitting solo in a booth across the aisle, who was slowly stirring a cup of coffee. Our eyes locked. My cheeks started to burn. I grabbed a menu so I could pretend to focus on something and let my long waves of espresso-colored hair fall in front of my face, trying to recall the last time I’d taken a shower. Ugh. I’d been in transit for more than twenty-four hours at this point.
I lifted my eyes to find him still looking intensely at me.
He was probably a few years older than me . . . and far too sophisticated to be sitting in this particular establishment among the tall hairdos and flip-flops. His black leather jacket was not the biker kind you might find in any diner in the Deep South—it was softer looking, trendier, possibly custom-made. The jacket, along with his dark, slicked hair, made him appear part James Dean, part Italian Vogue. For a split second I forgot where I was, as if stuck in some kind of Paris–Alabama time-continuum hiccup.
When I realized I was staring at him again, I became instantly flustered. His eyes didn’t move, but the corners of his mouth slowly spread upward into an innocent smile. Or maybe it was deceptively innocent? Just as my heart began to speed up at the prospect of finding out, my fork slid across the table, flew halfway across the room, and clanked against his ceramic mug.
“Sorry!” I covered my face, mortified, and considered crawling underneath the table. I’d been so caught up in the moment I hadn’t even noticed myself flick it.
“Don’t worry, honey, I’ll bring ya a new one,” the waitress yelled.
As if I was worried about the fork. I’d nearly taken out the eye of the hottest guy within a fifty-mile radius. My heart pounded melodramatically.
When I finally mustered the courage to raise my head to catch another glimpse of him, all I saw was his mug on top of a ten-dollar bill. Realizing I’d been hiding my gaze from no one, I became even more embarrassed.
Of course he ran. I am obviously hazardous.
“You okay?” my father asked as he slid into the orange leather booth.
“Yep, the jet lag must have just kicked in,” I blurted out, “but I’m super excited for cheesy eggs.”
“I thought you hated American cheese?” he asked suspiciously. “You always called it plastic.”
“Yeah, well, I guess something becomes more desirable when you can’t have it.” There were certainly no American-cheese-like products in France.
We ordered and then sat in silence while we waited for our food. My father turned his head to stare out the window. I knew he was too nervous to ask me about Paris, and I was not going to readily volunteer up any information. It was weird to spend your entire life with someone, be suddenly separated for two months, and then reunite. It felt strange that it felt strange being together.
Luckily the food came quickly, and soon he was polishing off a stack of waffles, while I forced myself to choke down eggs smothered in plastic cheese.
“How about I drive for a while?” I asked as we headed back to the car. “How about I drive and you study?”
“Why should I study? Technically, I’m not even enrolled in a school right now.”
“You are enrolled in a school right now, Adele . . .”
I unintentionally slammed the passenger door after getting in.
“You are technically still enrolled in Notre-Dame International.” He pulled out of the deserted parking lot and in his best I-am-serious voice added, “And if we get to New Orleans and find out you can’t get into a local school, you’re going to be on the first plane back to Paris. Back to school. That was the deal.”
“I am not going back to Paris.” I didn’t care what I had previously agreed to. “Je déteste Notre-Dame International! Je déteste Paris!” I said in my most dramatic French accent, but I stopped myself before I said something about detesting my mother. Those were words he certainly would’ve understood. But he had only himself to blame for my speaking French; he was the one who’d forced me to take private lessons since I was five—a year after my mother had skipped town—as if my ability to speak her native language might bring her back.
“I can’t believe you shipped me off there in the first place. I belong here, not with rich kids in boarding school. Not with her.”
My eyes began to well up. I knew my reaction would upset him, but even the thought of having to go back to Paris made me want to jump out of the moving car and run away.
He didn’t know what to do or say next, and soon the old Bimmer filled up with awkward tension. The slightest sign of teen-girl tears made Macalister Le Moyne uncomfortable. My father always tried his best to be paternal, but it never really seemed natural for him, not even after all this time of it being just the two of us.
He patted my hand. “Don’t get upset. You know school comes first.”
I’d never once heard him say anything bad about my mother, but I could tell he felt relieved that I’d fight to stay in New Orleans with him instead of returning to her in Paris. He was simultaneously terrified and proud that I’d inherited his rebellious streak rather than her need for refinement.
Ever since I could remember, my father lived with a perpetually tired look. He’d inherited the ever-popular bar Le Chat Noir from my grandfather around the same time my mother left us, making him an artist-turned-business-owner and single parent all at once. Since then, he kept mostly nocturnal hours, waking midday to give himself enough time to work on sculptures and furniture in his metal shop before going back to the bar. Now he was unshaven and a bit shaggier than usual, appearing to have aged a few years in the last couple of months, just like all the other displaced citizens of New Orleans. The Storm had been peculiar, not just because of the suddenness with which it had grown but because its target had been so unexpected. The day before it hit, the Storm was a routine Category 2 hurricane—not something to shrug off but something people knew how to handle— predicted to make landfall somewhere around Galveston, Texas. Eighteen hours prior to hitting land, the hurricane unpredictably changed course and headed straight for New Orleans. Trying to clear the city with such short notice caused total mayhem. We ended up evacuating to Miami with a few of Dad’s bartenders, never dreaming we’d be gone for more than a few days. But before the Storm left the Gulf of Mexico, it tipped the Saffir-Simpson scale, and once it hit land, like most folks upon arrival in New Orleans, it didn’t want to leave. We watched in horror as it hovered.
All we could do was stare at the TV and wait for our unwelcome houseguest to take a hint.
That was before the levees broke and turned the city into a fishbowl.
When reality kicked in and we were suddenly unable to return home for an undetermined period, my father decided I would be better off in Paris with my mother than in Miami with a bunch of vagabonds looking for bar work. I wasn’t sure if he really believed that or if he’d just cracked under post-Storm pressure; either way, he shipped me off to France as soon as he managed to get in touch with her. As far as I knew, that was the first time they’d had contact in the twelve years she’d been gone.
I refused to let the tears fall as I looked out the car window.
I’m not going back to live with her. I won’t let it happen. New Orleans is my home.
Even thinking about going back to Paris made me immediately selfconscious. Up until eight weeks ago, I’d always thought of myself as just a normal teenager—not the head-cheerleader type but not the type to be shoved into lockers either. I did pretty well in school but was certainly not in the running for valedictorian. Besides rebellion, I’d also inherited my father’s artistic tendencies, but (to my curatorial mother’s high-art dismay) I channeled them mostly through designing clothes. Despite all of this, I’d hardly tipped average by Parisian standards. During the last two months, I couldn’t have felt more plain, more uncultured, or more passé. My Parisian classmates were like ballerinas in six-inch heels, born to analyze haute couture and recite Baudelaire, making my skinny jeans and DIY dresses seem childish and unsophisticated.
I sighed and attempted to push the French memories out of my consciousness: the sparkling Eiffel Tower, the macarons from Ladurée, and most of all Émile.
My stomach twisted.
I definitely didn’t want to think about Émile. Not the way his slight smile always made me wonder what he was thinking. Not his Vespa or ’iz stupid, sexy accent.
Pathetic, Adele. You didn’t mean anything to him. He’s just your mother’s assistant.
The car went over a bump, and I realized trying not to think about Émile was actually making me think about Émile. Ugh.
Alys Arden was raised by the street performers, tea leaf-readers, and glittering drag queens of the New Orleans, French Quarter. She cut her teeth on the streets of New York and has worked all around the world since. She either talks too much or not at all. She obsessively documents things. Her hair ranges from eggplant to cotton-candy-colored. One dreary day in London, while dreaming of running away with the circus, she started writing The Casquette Girls. Her debut novel garnered over one million reads online before being acquired by Skyscape in a two book deal. Rep’d by ICM. Website Twitter: @alysarden Facebook Blog
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