how i found the perfect dress

Table of Contents
Title Page
Copyright Page
Dedication
Acknowledgements
 
one
two
three
four
five
six
seven
eight
nine
ten
eleven
twelve
thirteen
fourteen
fifteen
sixteen
seventeen
eighteen
nineteen
twentЧ
twentЧ-one
twentЧ-two
twentЧ-three
 
about the author
praise for
why i let my hair grow Out
“[This] is a rockin' book! It includes a dude who is madly in love with a toad . . . a talking horse; several extremely hot guys; magical mysteries . . . and much more that makes me recommend it . . . extremely highly.”
—E. Lockhart, author of
The Boyfriend List
and
Dramarama
 
“This romantic and magical adventure had me cheering and laughing out loud. I can't wait for the sequel!”
—Sarah Mlynowski, author of
Spells & Sleeping Bags
 
“Great storytelling . . . makes a strong case that to enjoy and live life, ‘to thine own self be true' . . . Teen readers will jam with the heroine.”
—Midwest Book Review
 
“The perfect mix of real life, romance, and magic.”
—Wendy Mass, author of
Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life
 
“For readers who like just a bit of fantasy with their reality . . . Even if you have no hair issues, you are sure to find this book well worth your reading time. I highly recommend it.”
—
Flamingnet.com
, Top Choice Award
 
“This is a funny, smart book that readers are sure to love!”
—
TeensReadToo.com
, Gold Star Award
praise for the novels of marЧrose Wood
“Irresistible . . . hers is a voice that is way plugged in.”
—
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
 
“proariously funny . . . strong, pitch-perfect narration will easily win readers.”
—
Booklist
 
“Will provide hours of laughter and empathetic nods from readers.”
—
School Library Journal
 
“Pure entertainment.”
—
Kirkus Reviews
Berkley JAM titles by Maryrose Wood
WHY I LET MY HAIR GROW OUT
HOW I FOUND THE PERFECT DRESS
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
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Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
 
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
 
This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.
 
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
 
Copyright © 2008 by Maryrose Wood.
 
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
BERKLEY® is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
BERKLEY® JAM and the JAM design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
PRINTING HISTORY
Berkley JAM trade paperback edition / May 2008
 
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
 
Wood, Maryrose.
How I found the perfect dress / Maryrose Wood.—Berkley JAM trade paperback ed. p. cm
Summary: Sixteen-year-old half-goddess Morgan is wrapped up in normal concerns, such as junior prom and parental problems, when she learns that Colin, her Irish love, is the victim of a fairy curse and she must make a deal with a leprechaun to save him.
eISBN : 978-0-425-21939-3
[1. Proms—Fiction. 2. Leprechauns—Fiction. 3. Gnomes—Fiction. 4. Fairies—Fiction. 5. Space and time—Fiction. 6. Family problems—Fiction. 7. Connecticut—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.W8524How 2008 [Fic]—dc22
2007050627
 
 

http://us.penguingroup.com

For all my BFFs, but especially Laury and Mana, who have shopped with me the longest.
acknowledgments
As ever, I am supremely grateful to my editor, Jessica Wade, and to my agent, Elizabeth Kaplan, for nurturing this book from start to finish. They are both very fashionable women and can frequently be seen wearing perfect outfits, if not always dresses.
Special thanks to illustrator Sarah Howell and designer Monica Benalcazar for another gorgeous cover. Thank you (two words, no hyphen), to copyeditor Jenny Brown for saving my butt countless times, to Heather Connor in publicity, Nicole Rodriguez in copy, and to all the wonderful staff at The Berkley Publishing Group.
To my loved ones who read and offer helpful comments (or sometimes just puzzled looks), and to my friends and colleagues who provide encouragement in other ways large and small, thank you for your patience and goodwill—especially Beatrix and Harry, Rita Wood, E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, Wendy Mass, Andrew Gerle, Joe Gilford, Laury Berger, Mana Allen, Ann Morrison and Dave Shine.
Big hugs and a magical thank-you to the awesome readers of
Why I Let My Hair Grow Out
. Your notes and e-mails are fantastic, and you are all my BFFs.
one

t
inker
b
ell
pajamas
!”
m
Ч sister
t
ammЧ Was the happiest girl in the world. “Look, Morgan! Look what Santa brung me!”
“That's ‘brought,' Tammy. Look what Santa
brought
me.” Even on four hours' sleep, my mom could hear bad grammar coming a mile away. It was Christmas morning, six a.m. Mom was catatonic on the sofa in her bathrobe, dark circles under her eyes, mumbling about verbs. I was in a similarly groggy condition, except I was on the floor and couldn't care less about verbs. My dad was in the kitchen, making coffee with the desperation of a bomb-squad guy dismantling a detonator that was already ticking: five—four—three—two—
“Snow
White
!” Tammy shrieked. “A Snow White
backpack
, look!”
Mom and Dad and I were basically trashed, in a festive, ho-ho-ho kind of way. But Tammy was happy and hyper and the living room was a blizzard of torn wrapping paper and ribbon and presents from the mall, and isn't that what Christmas is all about?
I admit, I wasn't feeling much holiday spirit this year. I'd still been stubbornly awake at one a.m., reading in the living room, when Mom tippy-toed down to the basement and hauled all the hidden presents upstairs, gently sliding each one under the tree without making the slightest crinkly paper sound. When I went to the kitchen to get some juice and made an accidental
clink
with the glass, she shushed me like a maniac.
“Don't wake Tammy!” she mouthed. Trust me, waking Tammy was the last thing I wanted to do. For weeks the kid had been threatening to sleep under the tree on Christmas Eve so she could catch Santa in the act. It took me—
me,
magical big sister Morgan—an hour and a half to persuade her to go to bed in her room, and that's only because I promised I'd wait up in her place and take a photo of jolly old Saint Nick himself, delivering his sack of loot.
I knew this was kind of a sucky lie to tell your sister on Christmas Eve, but it was the only way to shut her up. I figured the Christmas morning present-mania would make her forget all about the dumb Santa picture anyway, and so far I was right.
“Look! It's Belle! It's Belle from
Beauty and the Beast
!” Tammy clawed the wrapping paper off one of the smaller packages. “Maybe it's a movie or a computer game! Oh, a book. Well, Belle likes books, I guess. . . .”
“Books are a wonderful present, honey.” Mom clutched her head in agony. “Not so loud, 'kay?” Mom's always been a freak about Christmas, especially the Santa aspect. The old gal has it all figured out: Presents from Mom and Dad come in one kind of wrapping paper, presents from Santa come in another. She switches pens and even her handwriting, so the tags that read “from Santa” are written in this big curly script in red marker. It makes you wonder if the woman has ever considered a life of crime.
“Morgan,
look
!” Tammy twirled around the room, as my dad stumbled out of the kitchen holding two mugs of coffee. Black for him, a splash of milk for me. Mom switched to green tea a while back on the advice of some health magazine, but you could bet she was regretting that now.
“Cinderella's Fashion Board Game! Daddy, will you play it with me? Willyouwillyouwillyou?”
“After breakfast,” Dad said, leaning heavily against the wall. “After Daddy takes his”—
yawn
—“nap.” Mom executed the sneaky middle-of-the-night present drop, but it was Dad's job to take a man-sized bite out of the Santa cookie. He wouldn't drink the milk, though. He just poured half of it down the sink. Dad's commitment to putting on the annual Santa-is-real show stopped where his lactose intolerance began.
“Oooooh,
tickets
! Disney Princesses on Ice! We're going to see the shoooooooooow!” Tammy started skating around the living room in her socks. “How does Ariel know how to ice skate? She's a mermaid.”
Good question,
I thought, feeling a fresh wave of cranky wash over me. No doubt there were some presents for me under the tree too, but not the one I wanted: about six feet tall, with heart-stopping cornflower blue eyes and a tendency to use off-color Irish slang when excited. His name was Colin. I'd fallen for him like a ton of shamrocks last summer when I was in Ireland, but he was twenty and I was sixteen and
no fekkin' way
was his attitude about that. Plus he lived on the other side of the ocean, and not even Kris Kringle could swing that kind of Christmas surprise.
 
 
i
had to give
m
om and
d
ad Credit:
a
n exhausting amount of planning and effort, lying and deceit went into Christmas at the Rawlinson family's Connecticut abode, all designed to pull the wool over the eyes of a seven-year-old girl whose grip on reality was pretty woolly to begin with. What my parents didn't seem to understand was that even Tammy was starting to get sick of it.
“Santa's not
really
real, though, is he, Daddy?” she'd asked, about a week before the holiday. The three of us were in Christmas central, a.k.a. the East Norwich Mall, shopping for presents for Mom. “He's more
magic
real, right?”
“Of course he's real.” No way was Dad gonna be the Santa-killer; Mom would go ballistic. “Where do you think all the goodies come from?”
“Santa's—workshop?” Tammy answered hesitantly, looking around. The sickening quantities of merchandise heaped everywhere we turned seemed to suggest otherwise, unless Santa had a serious collection of credit cards.

Is
he real, Morgan?” Tammy turned to me, desperate for a straight answer. In my sixteen and three-quarters years on the planet, I guess I'd acquired a reputation for being blunt. “Is Santa Claus true or not?”
Dad gave me the evil eye, but I had no intention of being the Santa-killer either. Not if I wanted to survive junior year. “Lots of things are true that people think are not,” I'd answered, not looking her in the eye. I was kind of the wrong person to ask at that point, though, after what happened to me last summer in Ireland. No biggie, just me riding a bike across the Irish countryside, finding out I was a legendary half-goddess, undoing a bunch of magical faery enchantments and oh, yeah, finding the love of my life. Colin. He'd probably forgotten all about me by now.
Maybe it was the snow on the ground or all the Christmas-in-Connecticut décor everywhere, but my summer adventure in Ireland was starting to feel very long ago and far away, as if I'd dreamed the whole thing. Maybe that's why all I'd wanted to do on Christmas Eve was stay up late by the twinkling lights of our Christmas tree, reading and rereading the book Colin had given me the day I left Ireland.
The tree was adorned from top to bottom with angels and cherubs and winged, fantastical beings of every kind. The book was called
The Magical Tales of Ireland
.
Great read, if you believed in faeries. Even better if you'd actually met some.
 
 

Ч
ou Couldn't get her a basketball hoop for the driveway? A paint-by-numbers set? A board game that wasn't about
princesses
?”
“She gave me a
list,
Helen. She gave me her list for Santa and that's what she wanted and that's what I got. That princess stuff is all they have in the stores anyway.” Dad was driving, and he pulled away from the red light just extra-fast enough to show he was annoyed. “Next year,
you
do the Christmas shopping.”
Always a pleasure to be trapped in the backseat, listening to the marital discussions. They'd been particularly juicy the last couple of weeks, ever since Dad had been downsized from his job. It's not like we were out of money or anything. First Bank of Connecticut doesn't lay a vice president off right before Christmas without giving him a fat goodbye check. But who was used to having Dad around all the time? Not me. Not Tammy. And definitely not Mom.
“That's
not
all they have.” I could hear Mom shifting into higher gear along with the Subaru. “They have blocks. They have Legos. They have—I don't know! Decks of cards! This princess thing has become an obsession. It's not healthy.” Mom nodded in my direction. “Morgan was never like that.”
That my mother should hold me up as the poster child for healthy psychological development was a sign of just how much things had changed in my house since the summer.
“Morgan was obsessed with other things.” Before I could say,
Make a right
, Dad flipped on the signal and turned onto Sarah's street. I was surprised he remembered where it was. “What about Lamb Chop?”
True. I loved Lamb Chop as a kid.
“Exactly!” Mom would not be stopped. “Lamb Chop was age-appropriate. It wasn't a show about a giggly princess whose goal in life is to twirl around in a flowy pink dress, waiting for some muscle-bound prince to show up.”
No,
I thought,
it was a show about a middle-aged woman who kept a sock on her hand for company.
“What's wrong with flowy dresses?” I threw out, just to keep the argument stoked after I left the car. “A dress is just a dress, you know? It's your attitude that counts.”
Mom slammed her lips shut, but I knew what she was thinking. She was thinking that Tammy wouldn't grow up to be president now because her plastic princess tiara was slowly turning her brain into glitter.
Dad pulled up in front of Sarah's house. “We'll pick you up at six.” He sighed. “When do you take your road test again?”
“I can't take it until May, Dad.” We'd been over this a zillion times and I knew the rules by heart. “I have to have my permit for, like, four months before I'm allowed to take the road test. And I still have to do my fifty hours of driving instruction. And even if I pass the road test, I can't have any friends in the car with me for the first six months of my license because I'll still only be seventeen.”
“For Pete's sake, why don't they just raise the driving age to thirty?” Dad grumbled. “Soon you'll have to be eighteen to cross the street unescorted. . . . Damn bureaucrats keep adding new rules every day. . . . G
rumble grumble grumble. . .

“But think of senior year!” Mom cut Dad off in midgrumble. “By then you won't have to depend on us for rides everywhere.”
“Does that mean I'm getting my own car?”
Deafening silence from the front seat of the Subaru. I got out.
“Have fun with Sarah,” Mom called after me. “Play with some power tools or something!”
p
ower tools?
p
lease.
m
Ч former best-friend-forever Sarah was in charge of the planning committee for the junior prom, and that's what this get-together was all about.
A bit of background, here: The East Norwich senior prom was typically held at one of the local snooty country clubs. It was thrown by the PTA in full überprom style, with stretch limos, formal wear, photographers, the whole nine yards.
The student-thrown junior prom was originally a baby version of the senior prom, but over the years it had evolved into a kind of half-prom, half-prank spoof of the seniors' ritzy event. The eighties fashion prom was tolerated by school officials, even with all the slutty Madonna outfits (the boys were no better; most of them came as Michael Jackson or Prince, take your pick). The bathing-suits-only prom was more controversial, with parents complaining about all the skin and students complaining that the pool was kept off-limits.
Strangely it was last year's ASPCA benefit prom, where every attendee went home with an adopted puppy or kitten, that sent the school administration over the edge:
 
Because of the eccentric and even subversive junior proms organized in previous years by student-run prom committees, the administration feels the student body can no longer be trusted with this important responsibility. This year the PTA will engage a professional prom planner to coordinate all details, with
appropriate
student input welcome as always.
 
Or so said the memo from the principal, distributed to all juniors the first week of school. “‘Eccentric'? ‘Subversive'?” Sarah had gone wild when she'd read it. “Just because we might throw a prom that's actually
interesting
?”
With the prom planner on board to make sure this year's bash was nothing more or less than your typical annual festival of teenage girls in flowy princess dresses and teenage boys in search of a six-pack, the prom committee was reduced to offering opinions about food, music and décor, and selling tickets at school. I didn't care. To me, being on the committee was just a way to get some face time with Sarah. Now that she had a boyfriend, her fascination with couples-oriented social events had skyrocketed.
Last year I'd been the one with the boyfriend. I'd been the one who acted like a jerk. To her credit, Sarah had hated Raphael from the start.
He's arrogant and bossy. He treats you like you're not smart. And he'll make you drop all your friends, wait and see.
I didn't get how right she was until after Raphael dumped me on the last day of sophomore year (after which I hacked off all my hair in a broken-hearted tantrum). It would have been nice to have Sarah's shoulder to cry on about that, but I'd let the friendship slide because of my all-Raphael, all-the-time attitude. Now we were slowly building it back. Going to prom committee meetings was a small price to pay.
Sarah's boyfriend, Dylan, couldn't have been more different from Raph. He was a junior like us, smart and nice and genuinely crazy about Sarah from what I could tell. His only flaw was that he could be very solitary sometimes. We'd all learned that when Dylan went off on his own, you didn't follow him around asking what's wrong. He just needed his space.
Also—and I don't mean to sound mean about this, because it's just the truth—he was kind of short.
Now, personally, I have no problem with short. It's just that short guys tend to go after short girls, which Sarah most definitely was not. Sarah was tall—five feet ten-and-a-half inches in her bare feet, with good posture to boot. So it was just funny that she ended up with Dylan. Some kids made cracks about it, but most people thought they were all the more cool for not caring about the height difference. Sarah was one of the star players on the girls' intramural basketball team and Dylan played drums in a band, so that helped in the coolness department too.
(I don't know how it is at other schools, but at East Norwich, if you're already a little bit cool, like Sarah and Dylan, and then you do something potentially uncool, it just makes you cooler than you were before. You have to have that starter cool first, though. Otherwise, no matter what you do, it's just a downward spiral.)
Anyway, Sarah having a boyfriend made her a bit more forgiving of my atrocious behavior last year. Still, when the fall term started, we were awkward with each other for weeks. I guess she wanted to be one-hundred percent convinced that Raph and I were permanently broken up and that I was, maybe not the same old Morgan but a new, older and wiser version of the person she used to think was worthy of being her best friend.
That's BF, not BFF. I was pretty sure the forever part was history now.
Snacks Were another big draw of the prom Committee meetings, and the other members, Clementine and Deirdre, were halfway through a huge bag of Cheez Doodles by the time I arrived. Clementine and Deirdre were the kind of slightly creepy best friends who were always, always together. They'd been that way since middle school. At the moment, they even had matching orange lips.
Let's talk about corsages,
I prayed, as I took my seat at the dining room table. Unlike my family's oversized, open-plan house, Sarah's house had a nice cozy dining room with French doors at either end so people could sit and talk in privacy.
Let's pick color schemes. Anything but the big, bad question . . .
“So, who's taking everybody to prom?” Deirdre squealed, like she didn't start every meeting by asking the same fekkin' thing.
“I think Tommy Vasquez is gonna ask me,” Clementine confided. “His friend Jordan told me that Tommy wanted to know if I had a date yet. If he asks me, what should I say? Should I say yes?”
“Tommy
is
cute,” Deirdre said. “But don't say yes right away. 'Cause nobody knows yet who Mike Fitch will ask. And if he asked you, you wouldn't want to be taken already, right?”
“Oh my God, Mike Fitch!” Clementine fanned herself and pretended to faint. In terms of popularity, Mike Fitch was definitely the rock star of the junior class, but in a good way. Unlike Raphael's egomaniacal reign of terror over the seniors, Mike actually deserved to be popular. He was funny and kind and gorgeous, with pale blond hair and big brown eyes, plus he was the lead guitarist in Dylan's band. The fact that it was a Kiss tribute band just added an extra touch of ironic sex appeal to the guy. Who would guess a good egg like Mike could do such a killer Gene Simmons impersonation?
“You think Mike Fitch might ask
me
? He'd never ask me. Would he?” Clem started to get revved and shoved a fistful of Cheez Doodles in her mouth to calm herself down.
“Nobody knows,” Sarah said mysteriously. “Nobody knows who Mike Fitch likes. Dylan says even Mike's guy friends don't know.” One major perk of Sarah having a boyfriend was that it gave us a mole in the enemy camp.
“So who,
ummm,
are you thinking,
ummm,
that
you
might go to prom with, Morgan?” I knew Deirdre was
umming
out of pity. It was common knowledge that I'd been damaged, dateless goods since getting dumped by Raph.
“It sucks that you can't go with Colin,” Sarah said with a sigh.
“Oooh, who's Colin?” Clem and Deirdre practically pounced on me. There wasn't anybody at school named Colin.
I didn't answer right away and not just because Sarah was right. It did suck. It sucked that Colin was so far away and that he thought I was too young to really be his girlfriend and that, to tell the humiliating truth, I hadn't heard from him in a while.
No, I didn't answer because it was hard to know where to start and what to leave out. Was this a good time to tell the junior prom planning committee that I was part goddess? How might that news go over? I helped myself to a Cheez Doodle.
Cheez Doodle, Snack of the Goddess.
That idea made me crack up. Sarah must've thought I was having a breakdown.
“You know? Colin?” she prompted, trying to make me snap out of it. “That guy you met in Ireland last summer?”
“Oh, yeah,” I said. “Right.”
Like I could forget who Colin was.
two
C
olin had Written me e-mails two or three times a week in August and September, then once a week in October, then twice in the whole month of November. It didn't take the Global Positioning System in my dad's Subaru to see in which direction this trans-Atlantic correspondence was heading.
Then he sent one really short note in December:
Mor,
 
How's tricks? Hope the hair's growing in nicely. Dublin
City University is ripping yer man a new orifice, I've never been so knackered in me life. Brain's in a constant fog from all this high-class education, either that or I need some vitamins. Must crack some books and grab a snooze.
 
be good luv—
Colin
And then, nothing. No Merry Christmas, no Happy New Year, no come-back-Morgan-Ireland-isn't-the-same-without-you.
The old Morgan would have curled up in a ball of hurt and disappointment and made up lame reasons why he'd stopped writing.
Run over by a truck
—
sorry, “lorry.” Too busy with school. Out shopping for Christmas presents, including one for me, Morgan, the one and only female person on his mind, despite all the zillions of girls his own age he was meeting at DCU . . .
After that pathetic exercise had run its obsessive course, the old Morgan might have exploded in a burst of anger and told herself that
Colin sucks
, and maybe written him some fake and cheerful note about her fictional new boyfriend, just to see if it made him jealous.
But that was before the summer. Before Ireland. Before the old Morgan discovered she was really Morganne, the fearless, flowy-dress-wearing, part-goddess legend who had the power to undo enchantments, talk to horses, swim with mermaids and rescue stolen children from the clutches of mischievous faeries.
Obviously I hadn't told Sarah everything about my summer in Ireland. I'd kept it simple and magic-free:
I met this cute guy in Ireland and we really hit it off, so maybe when I'm older . . .
Like a pal, Sarah had acted all overexcited about Colin, the way friends with boyfriends act when their friends without boyfriends get some temporary scrap of male attention. I knew faeries and mermaids were real, but Colin's feelings for me were starting to feel like something I'd made up. So what if Sarah was nice enough to play along with my fantasy world? Sooner or later the truth would come out, just like with Tammy and Santa.
I sure could use another shot at being Morganne,
I thought, as I slammed the alarm on my clock radio off and faced the much simpler truth that winter break was over and I had to get my butt to school.
The old Morgan comes back much too easily.
 
 

m
organ,
i
need mЧ
s
anta picture.
W
here is it?”
On her first day back at school after the holiday, Tammy made an unfortunate discovery. Over the break, the entire second grade of Idle Hour Elementary had decided that Santa wasn't real—all except Tammy.
But Mom had nothing to worry about when it came to Tammy's future presidential bid. That kid stood her ground in front of twenty-five cynical brats calling her a dumb baby, and she even promised to bring in proof. Why wouldn't she? In her mind she already had some: the photograph I was supposed to have taken of Santa on Christmas Eve. Seems Tammy hadn't forgotten about it after all.
Bloody hell,
as Colin would say.
“I don't have it, Tam,” I said helplessly. “I didn't actually see him. I'm sorry.”
“But you
said
.” Tammy's big eyes started to fill with tears.
“Want more yummy pasta? Mmmmm!” Dad lifted the wriggly noodles onto his own plate. Mom was working like a fiend these days and wasn't home yet, so he'd made dinner. He was ridiculously pleased with himself about it too. I mean, come on—spaghetti from a box and sauce from a jar? It wasn't like he'd mastered the
Joy of Cooking
or anything. “Maybe Santa can't be photographed,” he added helpfully.
“What, like a vampire?” This slipped out of my mouth before I had time to shut myself up. Tammy let her spaghetti slither out of her mouth and stared at me like I was driving a stake through Santa's heart, right there at the dinner table.
“Santa is
not
a vampire!” she yelled. “Why are you so
mean
?” The red sauce dripping down her chin made her look somewhat bloodthirsty herself, but I was done making wise-cracks. Too late, though. Tammy fast-forwarded to full melt-down and ran off to her room, bawling.
“Morgan, was that necessary?” Dad slurped more pasta and chuckled. “But the vampire Santa idea is pretty funny.”
Okay, maybe vampire Santa
was
funny, but getting hammered at school by your whole class was not even remotely amusing. Sometimes it was like Dad had no memory at all of being a kid.
“It's not a joke.” I pushed my chair back and stood up. “She can't face all those kids again without some backup.”
“There's nothing we can do,” Dad declared.
“The kids at school are not going to drop this, Dad! I'm gonna go talk to her.” I started for Tammy's room.
“Morgan, don't tell her about—you know,” he called after me, and I turned around. He mouthed the word
Santa
. “Let her enjoy it a while longer.”
“Does she look like she's having a good time to you?” I snapped. “You'd rather she got teased than you have an argument with Mom, that's all.” As soon as I said it I knew I'd gone too far.
He wiped his lips with his napkin, a little too calmly. Ruhroh. “Fine,” he said. “Go tell her, right now.”
This was how Dad won fights—he waited until you were being unreasonable and then switched sides. “Tell her what?” I asked, knowing I was beat.
“Tell her,” Dad said, putting his elbows on the table and lowering his voice, “that there is no Santa.” He sounded awfully chilly all of a sudden. How chilly? Imagine the ambient temperature of Santa's workshop at the North Pole. “If you think it's so urgent that your sister know the truth,
you
do it.”
“But—I mean—won't Mom be mad?”
“Your mother's not here right now, is she?”
Mom's not here because you got downsized from the bank and she had to find a bunch of extra clients with sloppy closets for her to organize,
I thought. That this misfortune had somehow led to Tammy crying in her room over vampire Santa seemed both unlikely and unfair, but I'd already learned that life could be random like that: First Bank of Connecticut has a bad year, and now I had to be the Santa-killer.
 
 
i
tapped on
t
ammЧ's door before going in. she Was in her pink Ariel beanbag chair, watching
The Little Mermaid
for the zillionth time to calm herself down.
“Sorry about what I said about the vampire,” I said. “It was a joke.”
“Not funny,” Tammy barked, staring straight ahead at the TV.
“Listen.” I sat down on the foot of her bed. “I think you're old enough to know the truth about stuff. That's why I came in here. To tell you the truth.”
“Really?” She clicked the remote to mute the TV and turned around to face me. “About
everything
?” For a heartbeat I wondered if this conversation would skip right over Santa and go straight to boys and sex, but Tammy seemed far more interested in the Santa thing right now.
“About whatever you ask me,” I replied. “So if you don't want to know the truth about something, just don't ask. Deal?”
She thought hard. She chewed her lip. “Deal,” she said.
“If you're not sure, start with something small,” I suggested.
“Okay.” This was a big moment in a little girl's life, and we both knew it. She took a deep breath. “Is the tooth fairy real?”
Whew, an easy one. “Totally real,” I said. “I've seen her myself.”
“You have?” Tammy was amazed. This was not the answer she'd expected.
“I swear.”
Tinker Bell too,
I could have told her, but I didn't want her to be afraid to put her new pajamas in the wash or something.
She narrowed her eyes. “What about the Easter bunny?”
I mulled that one over. “Dunno, but probably not,” I said finally.
Tammy seemed disappointed, but also excited by her newfound maturity. To know the real deal about the Easter bunny—she was in the big-girl leagues now for sure.
“And the groundhog?” she asked gravely.
That cracked me up. “Of course groundhogs are real, Tam! You've seen them at the zoo.”
“I mean on Groundhog Day!” she said, leaping up and pummeling me with her grubby fists. “You know, that thing they do with the shadow?”
“No, that's bogus.” I scooted back on the bed to make room for her. “The weatherman makes it all up.”
“I thought so!” Tammy cried in triumph. She climbed up next to me. “Let's go in order so we don't leave any out. What holiday comes next?”
“After Groundhog's Day? Valentine's Day, I guess.”
“Cupid!” she exclaimed. “Is Cupid real?”
“That's a tricky one,” I said, leaning back on the pillows. “Cupid is, like, mythological. That means he's not totally real, but not totally fake either.”
“Huh.” She frowned. “That
is
tricky. I think I get it, though. And what comes after Valentine's Day?”
What
did
come after Valentine's Day? A swirl of mist clouded my brain. There was some holiday; what was it? Something to do with green. Something to do with Ireland . . .
“Saint Patrick's Day.” It felt like someone else's voice was coming out of my mouth. “Saint Patrick's Day comes next.”
“Leprechauns!” Tammy knelt on the bed and put her hands on my shoulders. “What do you think, Morgan? Are leprechauns real?”
Now, the thing is, I
might
have seen a leprechaun, when I was in Ireland. I mean, I think I did, but it was just for a second. And this ancient warrior-dude named Fergus had assured me I hadn't, because he said there was no such thing as leprechauns, and he should know, right? Being somewhat magical and mythological himself?
“Leprechauns,” I said to Tammy, “are controversial.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means people disagree. Most people would say no, they're not real.” I smoothed a wrinkle out of the Insanely Happy Pretty Princesses comforter on Tammy's bed. “Personally, I'm not sure.”
Tammy's face scrunched up in a thinking-hard kind of expression. “So,” she said, “some things are true, some are bogus, some are missological, and some we just don't know?”
I smiled. “That about sums it up.”
“Will you watch Ariel with me?” Tammy reached for the remote. With a click, the Little Mermaid resumed belting out her show tune. “Oh!” Tammy wheeled around so fast she almost knocked me off the bed. “Mermaids! They're real, aren't they, Morgan? Aren't they?” I felt every inch of her being shimmering with hope.
“The tail part isn't,” I said firmly. “They have green-skinned legs and webbed toes. But mermaids are completely, one-hundred percent real.”
“Mmmm,” Tammy said, already entranced by the television screen.
She never did ask me about Santa.
three
We could not calculate driving directions between Connecticut, USA and Dublin, Ireland.
 
 
f
ekkin' online maps.
W
hat good Were theЧ?
n
o matter how many times I asked the computer for directions between my house and Dublin City University, this lame answer was all I got back. And since the only place on planet Earth I wanted to go was not even a drivable destination, it seemed kind of pointless for my dad to be taking me to Kappock's Driving Academy. He agreed with the pointless part but for a different reason.