Sarah Manning had been told that she would kill her true love so many times that she’d stopped listening. Again and again, she had her fingers spread wide, her palm examined, her tea leaves scrutinized, or her cards plucked from velvet-edged decks. All the psychics living in her house came to the same conclusion, blunt and inexplicably specific. What they all agreed on, in various clairvoyant languages, was this:
If Sarah was to kiss her true love, she would die.
At fifteen, Sarah tried to dismiss the predictions with the reasoning that they were fuelled by whiskey rather than otherworldly insight. But she knew better.
Her foster-mother had predicted Sarah's suspension on the third day of school. Her grandmother Kendall had predicted Siobhan's tax return to within ten dollars, and Felix always started humming his favourite song a few minutes before it came on the radio.
No one in the house ever really doubted that Sarah 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 a six-year-old Sarah in love was such a far off thing as to be imaginary.
And by sixteen, Sarah had decided she was never going to fall in love, so it didn't matter.
But that belief was challenged when her mother's ex-boyfriend Carlton came to their little town of Henrietta. Carlton had gotten famous for doing loudly what Mrs S did quietly. Siobhan's readings were done in her front room, mostly for Henrietta residents and the surrounding valley. Carlton, on the other hand, did his readings on television at five o'clock in the morning. He had a website featuring old soft-focus photographs of him staring unerringly at the viewer. Four books on the supernatural bore his name on the cover. Sarah had never met Carlton, so she knew more about him from a cursory web search than from personal experience.
Sarah wasn't sure why Carlton was coming to visit, but she knew that his imminent arrival spurred a flurry of whispered conversations between Siobhan and Kendall - the sort of conversations that trailed off into sipping tea and tapping pens on the table when Sarah walked into the room. But Sarah wasn't particularly concerned about Carlton's arrival; what was one more obscure contact of S's, after a long line of them?
Carlton finally arrived on a spring evening when the already long shadows of the mountains to the west seemed even longer than usual. When Mrs S opened the door for him, Sarah thought for a moment that Carlton was an unfamiliar old man, but then her eyes grew used to the stretched crimson light coming through the trees, and she saw that Carlton was just a bit younger than Mrs S, which was not so old at all.
Mrs S greeted him by saying, “You really showed up, you old rogue,” in a pleased kind of voice. Carlton grabbed her in a bear hug as he stepped through the door. When they broke apart, his eyes settled on Sarah.
"You're Siobhan's girl, aren’t you?" Carlton said, and before Sarah could answer, he added, "this is the year you'll fall in love."