For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn't believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes ...(more)
Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she'd been told that she would kill her true love.
Her family traded in predictions. These predictions tended, however, to run toward the nonspecific. Things like: Something terrible will happen to you today. It might involve the number six. Or: Money is coming. Open your hand for it. Or: You have a big decision and it will not make itself.
The people who came to the little, bright blue house at 300 Fox Way didn't mind the imprecise nature of their fortunes. It became a game, a challenge, to realize the exact moment that the predictions came true. When a van carrying six people wheeled into a client's car two hours after his psychic reading, he could nod with a sense of accomplishment and release. When a neighbor offered to buy another client's old lawn mower if she was looking for a bit of extra cash, she could recall the promise of money coming and sell it with the sense that the transaction had been foretold. Or when a third client heard his wife say, This is a decision that has to be made, he could remember the same words being said by Maura Sargent over a spread of tarot cards and then leap decisively to action.
But the imprecise nature of the fortunes stole some of their power. The predictions could be dismissed as coincidences, hunches. They were a chuckle in the Walmart parking lot when you ran into an old friend as promised. A shiver when the number seventeen appeared on an electric bill. A realization that even if you had discovered the future, it really didn't change how you lived in the present. They were truth, but they weren't all of the truth.
"I should tell you," Maura always advised her new clients, "that this reading will be accurate, but not specific."
It was easier that way.
But this was not what Blue was told. Again and again, she had her fingers spread wide, her palm examined, her cards plucked from velvet-edged decks and spread across the fuzz of a family friend's living room carpet. Thumbs were pressed to the mystical, invisible third eye that was said to lie between everyone's eyebrows. Runes were cast and dreams interpreted, tea leaves scrutinized and s?ances conducted.
All the women came to the same conclusion, blunt and inexplicably specific. What they all agreed on, in many different clairvoyant languages, was this:
If Blue was to kiss her true love, he would die.
For a long time, this bothered Blue. The warning was specific, certainly, but in the way of a fairy tale. It didn't say how her true love would die. It didn't say how long after the kiss he would survive. Did it have to be a kiss on the lips? Would a chaste peck on the back of his palm prove as deadly?
Until she was eleven, Blue was convinced she would silently contract an infectious disease. One press of her lips to her hypothetical soulmate and he, too, would die in a consumptive battle untreatable by modern medicine. When she was thirteen, Blue decided that jealousy would kill him instead -- an old boyfriend emerging at the moment of that first kiss, bearing a handgun and a heart full of hurt.
When she turned fifteen, Blue concluded that her mother's tarot cards were just a pack of playing cards and that the dreams of her mother and the other clairvoyant women were fueled by mixed drinks rather than otherworldly insight, and so the prediction didn't matter.
She knew better, though. The predictions that came out of 300 Fox Way were unspecific, but undeniably true. Her mother had dreamt Blue's broken wrist on the first day of school. Her aunt Jimi predicted Maura's tax return to within ten dollars. Her older cousin Orla always began to hum her favorite song a few minutes before it came on the radio. No one in the house ever really doubted that Blue was destined to kill her true love with a kiss. It was a threat, however, that had been around for so long that it had lost its force. Picturing six-year-old Blue in love was such a far-off thing as to be imaginary.
And by sixteen, Blue had decided she would never fall in love, so it didn't matter.
But that belief changed when her mother's half sister Neeve came to their little town of Henrietta. Neeve had gotten famous for doing loudly what Blue's mother did quietly. Maura's readings were done in her front room, mostly for residents of Henrietta and the valley around it. Neeve, on the other hand, did her readings on television at five o'clock in the morning. She had a website featuring old soft-focus photographs of her staring unerringly at the viewer. Four books on the supernatural bore her name on the cover. Blue had never met Neeve, so she knew more about her half aunt from a cursory web search than from personal experience. Blue wasn't sure why Neeve was coming to visit, but she knew her imminent arrival spurred a legion of whispered conversations between Maura and her two best friends, Persephone and Calla -- the sort of conversations that trailed off into sipping coffee and tapping pens on the table when Blue entered the room. But Blue wasn't particularly concerned about Neeve's arrival; what was one more woman in a house filled to the brim with them?
Neeve finally appeared on a spring evening when the already long shadows of the mountains to the west seemed even longer than usual. When Blue opened the door for her, she thought, for a moment, that Neeve was an unfamiliar old woman, but then her eyes grew used to the stretched crimson light coming through the trees, and she saw that Neeve was barely older than her mother, which was not very old at all.
Outside, in the distance, hounds were crying. Blue was familiar enough with their voices; each fall, the Aglionby Hunt Club rode out with horses and foxhounds nearly every weekend. Blue knew what their frantic howls meant at that moment: They were on the chase.
"You're Maura's daughter," Neeve said, and before Blue could answer, she added, "this is the year you'll fall in love."
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