Love Charms and Other Catastrophes

Love Charms and Other Catastrophes

by Kimberly Karalius

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250084040
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication date: 05/17/2016
Series: Grimbaud , #2
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 1,025,289
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)
Lexile: HL690L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

Kimberly Karalius is the author of Love Fortunes and Other Disasters. She holds an MFA in fiction from the University of South Florida, and has been sharing stories on Figment.com with a strong following of enthusiastic readers since the site's conception. Although Kimberly lives in sunny Florida, she prefers to stay indoors and sometimes buys a scarf in the hopes of snow. She loves watching really old cartoons and silent films. Being in Florida certainly has one big perk: going to Disney World. Which she does. Frequently.

Read an Excerpt

Love Charms and Other Catastrophes


By Kimberly Karalius

Feiwel and Friends

Copyright © 2016 Kimberly Karalius
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-08404-0



CHAPTER 1

PARTY


Hijiri Kitamura suspected that her heart had a limited capacity for love. A small amount. Her friends took up enough room already. There just wasn't room for a boyfriend. She spent the summer trying to measure it, to put math to her frustration, but no ruler or calculator in the world helped.

"Put the ruler in your suitcase," her mother said, "before you end up poking someone with it."

"Never mind the ruler," Mr. Kitamura said, grimacing at his watch. "Hurry to the platform. You can't be late."

You can't be late either, she thought, reluctantly shoving the ruler in the suitcase's front pocket. The train whistle blew. Lejeune's train station had been built outside the city limits, where the tracks ran uninterrupted by the city's numerous lakes and skyscrapers.

The Kitamuras worked for the same insurance company, though in different departments. On the drive over, her parents had complained about the meetings they were missing. Hijiri tried to ignore how often they checked the time and muttered about their bosses. They were here right now and she wanted to enjoy that. She carefully grabbed her overstuffed suitcase; she didn't trust the porters to be gentle with her precious supplies.

Mrs. Kitamura kissed Hijiri on both cheeks, leaving faint pink marks from her lipstick. "Do well this year," she said.

Mr. Kitamura squeezed Hijiri's shoulder affectionately before pushing her forward. "Try to get some fresh air."

When the train arrived, she ran through the open doors. The first passenger in her train car, Hijiri chose a window seat and settled in. Grimbaud's only a few hours' ride away, she reminded herself, curling up tighter when a heavyset man took the seat next to her.

If only the train could fly. She couldn't wait to be back.


* * *

The town of Grimbaud no longer smelled like roses, but Hijiri enjoyed the other scents that took their place: musky canals and bitter chocolates sprinkled with salt. Teetering on the end of summer, the town was hot and bright. Hijiri pulled her hair into a bun, leaving long pieces in front to frame her face — a curtain for when she felt anxious. Her bangs were uneven from having trimmed them herself over the summer; Sebastian needed to fix them. Fortunately, Fallon and Sebastian were probably in the Student Housing Complex already. They always came early before the new semester.

Hijiri dragged her suitcase into a cab; the distance wasn't too great, but her arms already hurt from tugging on the suitcase handle. Even with upkeep, the Student Housing Complex had a lived-in, well-loved energy to it, with chipped paint on the doors and a creaky wooden gate separating the three-story stone building from the street. Mrs. Smedt, the caretaker, waved at Hijiri before disappearing around the corner. Hijiri had helped Mrs. Smedt take care of the complex last year as a part-time job — a job she hoped to have again, since she enjoyed the solitude that came with it.

Her apartment was the same as last year's. First floor. Hijiri slid her key into the lock and pushed, surprised when the door got stuck. A thick piece of folded paper wedged under the door was the culprit. She bent down to pick it up and was pleased to find the De Keysers' weather-charm shop logo: swirling font surrounded by a halo of storm clouds, lightning, and a beacon-like sun at the top. Femke's careful handwriting covered the page:

Dear Hijiri,

Your summer could not have been as fun without us. Mirthe and I (mostly Mirthe) firmly believe this. Time to right that wrong with a party at our house!

Drop your suitcase off and come now. Yes, right now. Our little rebellion must reunite before the new school year starts. We have gossip to discuss and plenty of good food to eat. Besides, today's supposed to be hot. If you come to the party, Mirthe and I promise cool breezes. You might even need a sweater.

Your troublemaking seniors,

Femke and Mirthe De Keyser


Hijiri re-folded the letter with a grin. The invitation warmed her. Her usual anxiety flared up at the thought of crossing town to see the group again, but she quickly pushed it down. Fallon, Sebastian, Nico, Martin, and the twins were her friends. She wanted to see them. I'm just rusty after a summer at home, she thought. Her voice had been severely underused with her parents at work every day and having the entire house to herself. Alone. Just the way she had liked it.

Her suitcase fell over when she let go of it, but she didn't care. Hijiri unzipped the front pocket, withdrew a crumpled cardigan, and dashed out the door.


* * *

The eggplant-colored cardigan came in handy when she reached the De Keysers' house. The weather had been sticky hot on her way through town but fall had taken up residence at the blue colonial house. Promised breezes cooled her face and blew her bangs back. The pinwheels in the shrubbery bled colors as they spun.

Years of abuse from weather charms showed. Cracked windows. Leaking gutters. A sliver of roof partially exposed. The twins said they couldn't keep up with the repairs. Femke and Mirthe had spent their summer paying their parents back for using potent (and expensive) weather charms against Zita. They had even traveled with their mother to replenish their collection of earthquake tremors — dangerous business. Hijiri didn't envy them, except that she loved the feel of the De Keysers' property. The air was electric — charged and thick with a history of used weather charms. After passing the broken sundial, she heard the sound of laughter coming from behind the house.

Grass turned to sand. The sun intensified the blue of the ocean, dazzling Hijiri as much as the cool, salty air.

"You made it," Femke said, jogging across the sand to meet her. Mirthe was bent over a table, making sure the waves wouldn't carry it away.

Femke and Mirthe were twins, but they didn't look alike. Dark, coiling hair and nut-brown skin were their only matching features, so their continuing attempts at looking identical occasionally bordered on comical. Today, they both wore tan shorts, long-sleeved turtlenecks, and silver octopus necklaces. But their hair, Hijiri noticed, didn't match at all.

Femke's hair was pulled back in a tight bun, while Mirthe's tumbled wildly down her back. Hijiri was so surprised that she missed Femke's question.

"Did you bring something?" Femke asked again, eyeing the bag in Hijiri's hands.

"I stopped for some cookies," Hijiri said, handing Femke the bag. Luckily cafés were plentiful in Grimbaud. The cookies were still hot, the chocolate chips gooey.

Mirthe was at their sides in seconds, her brown eyes hungry. "Are you trying to torture me? They smell heavenly."

"Dessert," Femke warned her.

Mirthe rolled her eyes and took the cookies to the table.

Femke watched her sister go. Her green eyes slid back to Hijiri. "Happy to be back?"

Hijiri took a deep breath. Let it out. "Surprisingly, yes. This party is quite a welcome."

"What are friends for?"

Hijiri bit back a smile. Friends. No matter how many times they used the word, it still gave her the tingles. Someone called her name. When Hijiri turned around, she saw Fallon Dupree emerge from the house with a steaming dish in her mitted hands.

"Do you need help?" Hijiri asked, because she wanted an excuse to talk to Fallon, who, in all probability, was the closest person she'd ever had to a best friend.

"Sebastian's watching the stew on the stove," Fallon said, grunting as she shifted the dish in her arms, "but sure. Help would be nice. Without me, none of us would be eating."

Mirthe laughed. "Well, without decorations, we wouldn't be having much of a party either."

After Fallon put the dish of honey-roasted endives and parsnips on the table, Hijiri followed her into the house. Despite not having seen her all summer, Hijiri thought Fallon looked the same as always. Her hair was cut in a straight bob ending at her chin, its plainness balanced by Fallon's hawklike gaze and neat appearance. That gaze turned on Hijiri as they reached the steps. "Your bangs look like they need a touch-up," Fallon said.

Hijiri blew at her bangs, but they fell right back into her eyes. "Think Sebastian can take care of it?"

"He's been carrying his shears everywhere since getting a job at the groomer's."

"What about for humans?"

"Don't worry. He's fully prepared for any hair emergency."

The De Keysers' house smelled like burning wood and clean laundry. There were little disasters here and there — a broken vase, a pile of pillows knocked off a couch — no doubt caused by the family's habit of using weather charms indoors. The kitchen was in the darkest part of the house. Three big hanging lamps threw spotlights on the counters and island. And on the boy stirring a pot of savory fish stew.

When Sebastian looked up, Hijiri didn't miss the quick smile that spread on Fallon's face. Previously known as Grimbaud High's resident heartbreaker, Sebastian Barringer still had his charmingly disheveled look. The slant of his dark eyebrows made him look irritated or bored (as did his attitude at times), but underneath, he was a kind person. Hijiri didn't have to try to sense their love for each other. It was quiet but strong.

"Hijiri needs a trim," Fallon said.

"You know, most high schoolers get their hair cut before the new school year," he teased.

"Ah. But you're a Hijiri Kitamura hair specialist. I couldn't possibly trust the stylists back home," Hijiri said.

Sebastian laughed. "It's a good thing I can cut both dogs and humans."

Fallon peeked at the stew. She looked pleased. "Almost ready. Good job."

Sebastian asked Hijiri to stand under one of the lamps so that he could see her bangs better. He wore a leather hip holster for his scissors and comb. Strangely enough, it didn't look weird. While he snipped, he told her about the job. Three nights a week, he would work at a groomer close to the Student Housing Complex. The work would consist of him sweeping up after the other groomers, and maybe even shampooing a dog once in a while, but he was happy to start. He measured her bangs between his fingers and carefully snipped while Fallon took the pot off the burner.

"Just one more," he whispered, finding a stray hair that had been tickling her eye. "There. You're ready for school."

"Thanks." She shook her head, relieved when her bangs stayed out of her eyelashes.

"Bring out the stew," Mirthe shouted from the back door. "Nico and Martin are here! We can start the party!"

Sebastian volunteered to carry the pot outside, but Fallon hovered beside him, her fingers twitching as if she expected him to drop it before reaching the table. The stew pot was heavy. Sebastian gritted his teeth and tried to take bigger steps.

Hijiri carried the bowls out. She ran ahead, eager to see the last members of their rebellion again.

Nico was in the middle of dumping a massive amount of twice-baked fries on one of the serving platters. Martin took the lid off the sauce container and drizzled mayonnaise over the fries; they must have bought half the vendor's supply in sauce and fries before coming here. The smell made Hijiri's mouth water.

When Nico spotted her, he opened his arms for a hug. Hijiri obliged, albeit stiffly, her chin bumping against his shoulder. He was tan and smelled damp like canal water, the brown hair on his head burned almost blond by the sun. She had never expected to become good friends with Nico, but helping him when Martin fell under the spell of Camille's love charm had solidified a bond between them. Like Fallon, Nico had stayed in touch with her over the summer with occasional phone calls.

"No more bank statements this year," Hijiri said, remembering their last phone call. Nico had moved up in student government from treasurer to vice president, a role he was happy to take on since it meant spending more time with Martin.

"I know," he said. "Do you think I can handle being vice president?"

Hijiri shrugged, smiling. "Ask your boyfriend."

Nico brightened. "He believes in me."

Martin Pauwels hung back, fiddling with the mayonnaise container. He looked healthier than the last time she saw him; his pale skin had some color to it, and his glasses were smudge-free. He took his job as student government president seriously; he even showed up to the party in his casual uniform: khakis and a polo shirt embroidered with the school logo.

"If he does more than the last vice president, he'll be perfect," Martin said, putting the cap back on the empty container. "Nicolas promised that I would be spending less time on paperwork this year."

"He still isn't using your nickname," Hijiri whispered.

"I don't mind," Nico whispered back. "Whenever he says my name, it feels like a nickname."

Martin sat in one of the chairs and pulled a bundle of papers out of his back pocket. He smoothed the creases and muttered something about a fifth draft.

Nico leaned on the back of Martin's chair. "Put that speech away. We're at a party," he said softly.

"I'm not happy with it," Martin said.

"The freshmen are going to be bored and overexcited at orientation anyway. You don't have to put in so much effort."

"But it's my last speech." Martin put the papers away and sighed. "Being a senior feels ... so final. It's all going to be over soon."

Worry flashed in Nico's eyes, but he squeezed the back of Martin's chair and said nothing.

Hijiri fidgeted. She was about to speak when the twins asked everyone to come to the table. She grabbed the nearest chair, facing the ocean, while Fallon and Nico sat on either side of her. The twins sat on opposite ends of the table, raising their goblets of raspberry lemonade like queens.

"A toast to the rebellion," Femke said.

Everyone lifted their goblets.

"A rebellion without a cause," Sebastian added, "now that Zita is gone."

"But we still have our friendships," Fallon said.

"And bravery," Nico said, smiling at Martin.

"And a new mission," Mirthe said. All eyes locked on her. "Later. Let's enjoy the food."

Hijiri filled her bowl to the top with fish stew. She ate quietly, listening to everyone talk about their plans for the semester. The stew was thick with carp, carrots, onions, and potatoes, seasoned with bay leaves and sage. The richness warmed her inside and out. Sand swirled at her ankles, stirred by the breeze. The party was delightfully caught between hot and cold. Maybe it was that dreamlike juxtaposition that made Hijiri anxious for the punch line — what new adventure could the twins reveal?

"Do we have something to worry about?" Hijiri said into her bowl.

Femke dipped a fry into the mayonnaise and chewed thoughtfully. "What, indeed?"

Hijiri's head snapped up. She hadn't realized she had spoken aloud.

Mirthe's eyes twinkled. "The town needs us again. So we're going to enter the love charm competition."

Hijiri's stomach twisted. "What competition?"

"News has been spreading locally since last month," Nico said, his brow furrowing. "Grimbaud hasn't done well since losing Zita. A love charm revival just isn't happening yet, and the town council is concerned that the lack of, well, love in Grimbaud will turn tourists off."

"So the council came up with a love charm-making competition to inspire town spirit," Mirthe said. "The three love charm-makers that moved here over the summer will be participating ... but they're outsiders, guys. None of them should win. Someone homegrown, with true affection for this town, needs to win."

Hijiri regretted not keeping up with Grimbaud news over the summer. She stirred her soup but didn't feel like eating anymore. All eyes fell on her. She started to sweat. "Why are you looking at me? This isn't my hometown."

"You're the best we've got," Mirthe said firmly. "And you love Grimbaud, right? Your charm-making skills are already indisputable. Winning will be easy. The other love charm-makers don't stand a chance."

"You won't be alone," Fallon said softly.

"We're entering as a team, just like the shops did," Femke said.

"We'll use our standing as a club to enter the competition. Principal Bemelmans will have to approve it first, but I'm sure we can convince him," Mirthe said.

"So long as Fallon waits in the hallway," Sebastian said wryly. "He's probably still sensitive about her refusing to eat his famous casserole last year."

Fallon crossed her arms but agreed.

Martin wiped his mouth on a napkin and said that he could get them a meeting with the principal on Monday.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Love Charms and Other Catastrophes by Kimberly Karalius. Copyright © 2016 Kimberly Karalius. Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Dedication,
Prologue: The Bargain,
Chapter 1: Party,
Chapter 2: Made with Love,
Chapter 3: Sweater Weather,
Chapter 4: Impressing the Principal,
Chapter 5: The Questionable Dating Game,
Chapter 6: Instinct,
Chapter 7: The Unfortunate Accident,
Chapter 8: Change of Plans,
Chapter 9: Skin and Signatures,
Chapter 10: Waterworks,
Chapter 11: The Right Kind of Mood,
Chapter 12: The Bells of Grimbaud,
Chapter 13: Kissable,
Chapter 14: New Heart, Old Heart, Real Heart, Fake Heart?,
Chapter 15: They Say Lovesickness Is Incurable,
Chapter 16: Sabotage,
Chapter 17: Home Again,
Chapter 18: Heart-to-Heart Talk,
Chapter 19: Spoken and Unspoken,
Chapter 20: It's All in the Chase,
Chapter 21: Crossfire,
Chapter 22: Aim and Fire,
Chapter 23: Unmeasurable,
Acknowledgments,
Swoonworthy Extras,
About the Author,
Copyright,

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