I sit in the corridor with my dog in my lap, singing him to sleep. My throat stings with magic as the words of the spellsong tumble from my lips. The puppy nuzzles closer, sleeping breath caressing the back of my hand as he snores. His russet ears are as soft as velvet, and he’s small enough that his warm body fits in the crook of my knee. His paws twitch, and I lower the key of my song, the way Madam has shown me, and coax him into gentler dreams.
“Are you sure you’re good watching her?” I glance back into the house for the billionth time. “You know what? I’ll just take her with me.”
Foster, my best friend, steps in front of me, blocking my path.
“Dude, we got this. Besides, your kid loves me.”
“She loves you because you feed her sugar and let her bounce off the walls.”
“So?” Foster shrugs and sends me an evil smirk. “It’s not like I have to deal with the fallout.”
“You love me, which is why you moved out here – to spend time with me.”
“I moved out here for my daughter, to raise her in a good community, and that’s it.”
Tonight is the darkest night of the year.
It is so dark, you can barely make out the stone cottage sitting in front of you. It is the only building in the valley. A path runs right from the fields to a red front door, framed by the remains of a rose bush. In summer, when days are long and warm, the roses flourish. But there are no roses now. It is the dead of winter and the dead of night. The door is surrounded by thorns.
He had taken to making wishes whenever he could.
At the last morning star, on the edges of tarnished coins, along the cracks of bones that split in fires.
It was never enough. No matter how often or how aggressively he wished, his words were never heard, his please went unanswered.
And then one day, he learned why; wishes could not be made on innocent things, innocuous things, like stars and coins and clovers.
Because wishes were granted only by the dead.
When I hear that she’s dead, I run.
I hear it from the girls in the locker room. It threads through their conversations so carelessly, did you hear a girl from Leesboro died weaving through talk of which girl gave a blow job to Jack Morris behind the bleachers and who’s going to Matt’s party this weekend.
The thread of it snags in my gut, because Leesboro was Maggie’s school.
It’s not her, I tell myself. It can’t be her or someone would have told me; her brother would have called me; someone-
But she didn’t answer her phone this morning.
And last night she didn’t text me good night, and I brushed it off because she’s tired from training, we’re seniors and we’re all so goddamned tired-
But I have to know.
Someone had drawn a giant penis in the snow.
“At least it’s anatomically correct.” Newly minted Moose Springs, Alaska, property mogul Lana Montgomery tilted her head, considering the artwork carved so precisely into the mountainside.
“A snow angel might have been more appropriate,” Ben, her construction manager, scratched the back of his head, trying and failing to keep a professional tone. “It is two weeks until Christmas.”
“Yes, but then the message might have been lost. At least the mistletoe is a nice touch.”
Three objects sat upon the carpet in Cleo Porter’s living room: an apple, a human skull, and a package wrapped in red.
It was the last of these that had Cleo well and thoroughly vexed. She lay on her stomach, bare feet waving in the air behind her and chin digging into the back of her hand. Her belly was starting to get itchy from the carpet fibers poking through her shirt, but she just wriggled a bit to scratch it. She’d stare at the glossy box for another hour if she had to, until it either disappeared or made sense.
I watch drops of water fall from the ends of my hair. They streak down my towel, puddle on the sofa cushion. My heart pounds so hard I can feel it in my ears.
Mom says Ingrid’s name and I start to hum, not the melody of a song, just a one drawn-out note. I know it makes me seem crazy, I know it won’t make anything change, but it’s better than crying, it’s better than screaming, it’s better than listening to what they’re telling me.
Call it whatever you like. A vacation. A high school graduation present. Maybe even an escape. All I know is I’m as far from Miami as I’ve ever been.
I’m here because the Cuban Remedy failed. It’s forever ancient and reads like a recipe. Though the ingredients may vary from family to family, the goal is always the same: suffer heartbreak and your family will fix you. Except no amount of food and family could heal my heartbreak, so like a plotline from one of Mami’s telenovelas, they tricked me instead.