Lyla's aunts aren't like normal people, and her mama kept her away from them, telling her they were schizophrenics, murderers, hippies, criminals. She grew up with a white picket fence and a private school and a good Protestant household with her father's normal brown hair and brown eyes and she was always average to middling. "Perfectly normal Lyla," her mother would say, slanting a look at her husband, at the picture of Jesus over the mantle. "You're such a good girl."

And she was, except her mama didn't know how Aunt Mary, who was really Mariana d'Trench, Lady of the Forgetting Pebbles, left her a bit of flint under the roses by the school gates. Or how Aunt LeeAnne, who was really Lady of the Lee and Underhill, Last of the Fairy-Folk, took her out the window to watch the teind be paid by a heroin-addicted rockstar who played Spanish guitar all the way to his grave. Or, how her Aunt Bo, who was simply the Bonemother, brought her the finger bones from a convict and told her to break them if she ever had great need.

So. Lyla is perfectly normal, just like mama always wanted, except when she turned sixteen and her perfectly brown eyes turned the shade of molten emerald glass and shifting oceans. All the windows in the house broke at once when her mother screamed, and her father's hair went grey (and then white the next day, before it all fell out). After that, it was hard to keep her grades from either pure Fs or straight As, and she had a habit of breaking hearts without trying.

After John Ringel broke his leg trying to throw himself off a bridge, mama had to be put on Prozac. When Lyla's hair all fell out one night and came back purest midnight the next morning, mama had to be put away in the psych ward in a room without windows.

Lyla goes away to college and studies poetry and classical literature and takes a care not to sleep with any of the masses of men who leave bouquets at her door. She wears goth makeup and rebels, cutting all her hair off each morning. (It comes back in waves of midnight by dusk.) Dogs are afraid of her. Women hate her. The male professors have a habit of taking a knee before her, chanting Shakespeare and Keats and begging her favor.

It's all terribly embarrassing when the Headmistress hands her a diploma after three semesters and quietly but firmly invites her to leave and never return.

But you can't get a job with a degree in poetry and literature for love or fairies, so Lyla waits tables at a high-end restaurant, collecting copious amounts of tips from heartbroken businessmen. She locks her doors to keep the villains away, and hangs a dreamcatcher full of the bones of nightmares on a nail above. She won't touch pomegranate seeds or fresh flowers for love or money. Each of the mirrors in her home are broken, the better to not be pulled through. She won't be immured in a high window, so she keeps a basement apartment where all the rats all wear livery and squeak in tune.

Some days, tired and worn, she fingers the thumb of the murderer in her left pocket, and thinks of snapping it and wishing for a normal life or for the fairies to come take her away.

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