Sand from Siesta Beach slips through my fingers the way time slips for mortals. Sinks into Juxta Lake: a crossover point between the mortal world and mine. Reflections of bronze-leafed trees shimmer in the water as I murmur charms.

“Off to loiter with that mortal again, I suppose,” my sister mutters.

Stepping into the lake, I catch the last glances of her rose-gold braid swinging as she leaves, a merwoman’s tail glinting, a wren peeking through leaves. Only the sun, bleeding into the horizon, accompanies me to the alien world I yearn to call home.


The sand pulls me to its home. Siesta Beach under my toes, I materialize beside Leah.

It has been almost one human year since I’ve begun arriving here regularly, every month, but the salty breeze still chokes a few coughs out of me. Back home, breathing required no conscious effort. Here, my faerie lungs feel flustered, as though I may run out of oxygen if I consume too much of it. It also thrills me—provides me with an illusion of mortality.

But Leah says it is pollution. Not so thrilling.

I kneel beside her. Her ink-blue hair, blooming blond at the roots, is chopped till her ears.

“You’ve been difficult to draw,” she says, squinting at a sketchpad. Her sketch accentuates my pointed ears, shows gossamer wings unfurling from my back.

“Elegant sketch,” I say. “But my wings aren’t as pretty as you’ve drawn.”

“Shut up, you have gorgeous wings.”

I shrug. “Tell me about your life of late.”

She straightens. “First, ice-cream?”


We walk along the shore under a purple sky. The evening is drowsy with people lolling on the sand, toddlers waddling around, laughter scattering on the breeze.

My teeth shiver as they sink into the ice-cream—chocolate, like silk embracing my tongue.

“Everything is messed up, Kat,” Leah says. “College applications are due in two months and I guess I’m not working hard enough. Mom and Dad are mad at me. My sister Maisie’s at a great college and she’s always oh-so-helpful. I hate her for it. And I just wish I had more time.” She drags her nails, bitten to stubs, down her face in mock frustration. “You’re lucky. Time never runs out for you.”

I laugh. “Time never runs out, but emotion does. You truly think an eternity of dispassion and meaninglessness is lucky?”

“Your people prize art and music and fun above all, you call that dispassion?”

“All emotion and all passion fades with time.”

Every time I tell her more about the fae life, she falls deeper in love with it. She thinks it is a dream—how my people prize paints, charcoals, art exhibitions, how they treasure harps, flutes, orchestra. I’ve told her about our museums and our concerts, how we while away the dissonance of immortality with short-lived art sprees and symphonies—that is, when our various colonies aren’t too busy plunging into war and demolition with each other. She believes that the revels and parties and indulgences are heaven. (“You don’t have to deal with any pressure, you're allowed to chill and have fun and be you!”) I keep telling her debauchery isn’t heaven; it is simply a distraction from lack of purpose or intent.

She just shakes her head.

I scoff. Her condescension amuses me. But I’ve grown to find it endearing—this human melodrama. Enviable, even. It makes life lively, in contrast with my days of staring into too-beautiful landscapes in a world with no purpose, no grit. I’ve outgrown the revels, the art, the music. It doesn’t dazzle me anymore.

“How is school?” I ask, crunching through the ice-cream cone.

“School’s . . . fine.” Her face twists. “I have friends, but they’re so, you know, surface-level and obsessed with social status. They’re fake. It’s so cool how fae can’t lie. You’re all real with each other.”

“Right. When my family tells me how useless they believe I am, they mean it.”

Leah’s eyes narrow. “They’re stupid."

“Your family, however. They don’t mock you. They scold you and they help you. Because they love you. Isn’t that a solace?”

She stares at her fingers like she mourns the finishing of her ice cream. “I guess."

The sky darkens. The mortals, oblivious to my otherworldly appearance because of my fae charms, begin to leave.

Leah skips ahead, then spins to face me. Twists her fingers.

“What are you thinking?” I ask.

“I mean I was wondering . . . Let’s swap lives today. Swap roles. Can we do that?” Her blue eyes reflect me in them—dark-haired, dark-eyed, cold, curious.

My heart hums, suddenly awakened.

“It doesn’t have to be permanent,” she says. “Yet.”

“Slow down, Leah.”

“Come on, you want this too.” She grabs my hand. “You’re always saying human lives are what? Realer and more purposeful. Don’t you want to experience that?”

The little mortal is trying to manipulate me. I almost laugh. And I like her for it.

And I think . . . I could love being yelled at by disappointed parents, being pitied by an overachieving sister. I’d love dynamicity. Drama. Joy swelling open like a flower, pain blossoming like a whip’s lash.

I’d love mortality. An illusion of it, at least.

“Kat, come on.”

She succeeds.

Nodding, I grip her shoulders. “Just for this once, mortal. This is not permanent, understand? I’m going to exchange our appearances,” I say. My eyes flutter close. I get a feel of her appearance, her delicate stature, her hair. Striking eyes. When I am done with the charms, I see my face grinning down at me.

Leah claps. “We’ve swapped! Oh my God, Kat! Here, my phone’s in your pocket."

“I’ll require an object from your house—anything that will transport me there through Juxta.”

She shrugs and hands me one of her sketching pencils. “Closest thing to my home.”

I transport us back to Juxta Lake—(it doesn’t require any object but the memory of my actual home)—and begin to lead her to a place I’ve told her about several times.

It is almost night and the late wakers here are just starting to wake. The woodland is punctuated with hysterical laughter and the zig zag of mosquitoes and fireflies. I lead her past the mossy trees to a clearing where one of the big art studios stand. It is ivy-coated, regal, with a dozen faeries swarming around it. The sharp scent of the synthetic paint that they’ve been manufacturing recently makes my nose wrinkle.

“Be careful,” I say to Leah. “Act, uh, dismissive if anyone tries to talk to you. Or rude. I don’t come here a lot anymore. They might mock you for it, but ignore them and they’ll be convinced it’s me. They’ll eventually leave you alone. But stay away from my sister, the one with the pink and golden hair and the blue dress.” The fae are not at all kind, I want to add. But I am too selfish. It is a terrible idea to leave her here all alone, unaware, and worst of all, excited. But I want to breathe in the human world again, I want to know her family, hate them the way she sometimes hates them, love them. Just for a day.


“I’ll be back soon,” I promise.

She is already jogging off into the studio. “Please don’t.”

I shrug, momentarily relieved from the guilt, then return to the lake, careful not to be noticed. I drop her sketching pencil into Juxta Lake. It transports me to its home.


Her paintings and posters are framed upon the blue walls. Her bed is cluttered with books and an overheating laptop.

The room door swings open and a woman with a blond bun peers in.

“When did you get home? Where’ve you been, Leah?”

I swallow. Claiming Leah’s place in her family’s house feels like an invasion, even if she begged for it.

“I went for a walk.” A truth.

Leah’s mother sighs. “Dinner’s ready.”


Maisie phones me while I’m at the dining table. Asks how my college essay is coming along, asks if I need help. Treats me too kindly, like I am a child unable to grasp simple concepts. I feel a prick of irritation and hang up the call without saying a word.

It gets worse as I scroll through Leah’s texts.

Her friends are ridiculous. It is clear that none of them go out of their way to spend time with or talk with her, except when they need something from her. All narcissistic glamor and fake honeyed words.

Leah’s mother is sitting across from me, casting annoyed glances at the cutlery.

“Leah,” she begins. “We need to talk.”

My eyelids throb, imprinted with the image of the grin I last saw on Leah’s face—how she hoped to escape from this place, how she hoped to live my life.

I don’t know what I was hoping for myself. False. I do. I hoped for purpose, for direction, for a chance at a future that might lead to a defined destination. And if it came along with Leah’s passionate rage and tense yet loving family atmosphere, with the stress of so much to lose and thus, so much to treasure, then even better. I never understood how she never loved all that she hated. Now I think I do. But I also understand that her passion will never be mine. It is not who I am. There is nobody who can deal with that for me but myself.

“Leah?” her mother repeats. This place suffocates me.

I shoot up. I have to get back to her.​​


I find her sitting near the lake, knees up to her chest. Beside her, a pixie with aquamarine eyes giggles, scuttling away when I glare.

I restore our appearances with a snap and she tumbles sideways into a patch of silver moss.



“You’re better off without your friends.”

“Whatever.” She sighs. “You’re probably right . . . And what about my family?”

“I think you’re worse off without them.”

She purses her lips. “I hate it here. Let’s go back. ” So we do.


“I guess,” she begins, “I thought I’d find chill friends who’d admire me for my art and never be frustrated with me. But you were right. No one was passionate here. Very cold, in fact. They’re not used to you being so . . . excitable, anyway. They were suspicious.”

“Of course they were. You didn’t follow my instructions, did you?” I laugh, then pause. “I’ll admit, your life isn’t so glamorous, either.”

“At least both our lives suck.”

“You’re overly dramatic sometimes, do you know that?”

She raises her eyebrows.

I continue, “We are not meant to be each other’s means of escape. We will never escape, because we hurt ourselves more than our family or friends do. And we must deal with that ourselves. But here . . .” Here, I am under no pressure or discomfort. It is a reprieve being away from Leah’s house, a refreshment being away from the fae. “Here, now, we can take a break, where it’s just you and me.”

Leah slips her sand-coated fingers through mine and smiles. “Yeah. Let’s get more ice cream.”