The sun was a wavering blur in the sky, the air was dry and suffocating, and Blue Sargent was feeling hateful as she turned her bike into Fox Way.
She could attribute her foul mood to any number of things- the itching heat, the dust stirred by her bicycle’s wheels coating her mouth, the general irritation that came with being thirteen years old. Her cheery yellow tights were looking decidedly less so after a tumble in Mrs Carter’s driveway, delivering prescriptions for the local pharmacy in exchange for cash and as many lollipops as she could fit in her pockets.
A new car was parked outside her house, and she took a moment to watch her mother help another woman -potentially related to her, but probably not- unload a suitcase and several leafy pot plants from the back.
“Blue!” Her mother beckoned her over and Blue dumped her bike in exchange for the suitcase, which was quickly dropped on her toes. She cursed fluently in the privacy of her head, trying to covertly rub her foot and not look too sullen as Maura introduced the latest arrival.
She also tried to not growl as the woman extended one ring-laden hand to cup her cheek, tried not to roll her eyes as brightly painted lips curled into a sympathetic grimace.
“My dear girl.” Here we go. “I am so sorry-” then don’t say anything, Blue thought crossly, “-but one day you will kiss your true love, and he will die.”
Blue's mother shifted uncomfortably.
The girl who sat in front of Blue tapped her pen while she took notes. Sighed loudly. Breathed with her mouth open.
Blue made an honest effort to pay attention to her teacher as he tried to capture the attention of twenty children on a Monday morning. She liked chemistry, she did- any subject that gave her knowledge on how to create explosions was a subject worth taking. But the girl in the desk in front of her shifted so that the legs of her chair squealed against the floor, leaned back so that her braided hair spilled onto Blue’s notebook. Sighed again.
There were twenty minutes left on the clock, and Blue spent every one of them stifling her growing rage. Everything seemed to trigger it these days. Her mother asking her to do the dishes. Calla smirking at her over the last tub of yogurt. Orla, calling her a brat and kicking her out of the kitchen so that she could talk on the phone. Blue was not convinced that her indignation over the last incident had been anything but justified (throwing an armful of her cousin’s laundry out the window, maybe not), but Jimi had taken to burning incense in an attempt to ‘ease her turbulent emotional state’.
The girl chewed her pen.
Blue yanked on her hair, hard.
Of course, the girl cried out at that, drawing the teacher’s attention to their corner of the room. Unable to provide a logical explanation for her anger -the complaint that her classmate was existing at an unnecessarily high volume not qualifying as such- Blue was sent to stand in the hallway and simmer until the bell rang.
Looking back, her actions made Blue flush with embarrassment. Pulling a girl’s pigtails. God.
Blue was a freak. Blue had no friends. Blue’s family were witches and never went to church and were probably going to hell.
Blue’s cousin answered the phone and listened to a group of boys giggle and breathe into the mouthpiece and demand that she tell them what she was wearing. Blue screamed at them in the school yard.
First of all, my family are psychics, not sex workers. Sex work is totally a job, shut up. No, shut up! They wouldn’t want your money either, you absolute f-
Blue’s mother came to pick her up from the front office and didn’t apologise for her daughter.
The girl who sat in front of Blue was named Stephanie, and it turned out that she was awfully forgiving. She came up to Blue and tugged at the ends of her hair and they rode their bikes down to the corner store together after school.
They split a packet of chips between them. Blue sat with her on the curb and watched her lick salt from her fingers, feeling something like guilt settle uncomfortably in her stomach. She could remember elegant hands touching her face, solemn words that declared her unlovable, tragic, alone.
One day you will kiss your true love and he will die.
Stephanie had freckles across the bridge of her nose, and she scuffed her sneakers against the pavement as she laughed. Sighed. Tapped her fingers against Blue’s knee. Blue waited for the flash of anger, but it never came.
Maura was a strong believer in healing power of plants. Chasteberry for menstrual cramps. Arnica for the elderly woman down the street who suffered from arthritis. Aloe vera for the children when they knocked over candles.
Women flowed in and out of 300 Fox Way, some staying for a month, others for years. Maura collected their recipes, tasted their herbs, prodded their stomachs while they clutched the toilet bowl and swatted her away. She experimented with the fervour of an evil scientist, the kitchen her laboratory, and they all suffered through the noxious teas that she brewed with as much enthusiasm as possible.
Ashwaganhda roots stewed on the stove top while Blue wielded a knife over sprigs of lavender. Her mother sipped from her own mug, filled with something that she claimed also improved her mood and that was probably whisky.
Maura was worried about Blue, because Blue was snapping at ghosts and had taken to staring at the glowing stars pasted on her bedroom ceiling. She was worried because her daughter was growing like a weed and yet still only came up to her chin, because she had never tried hard enough to make her drink milk as a child, because Blue’s friend’s parents didn’t want her sleeping over at their house on the weekend.
Soothing. Calms the agitated mood. She wanted a cup of tea for herself, and a cup for the strange teenager standing in her kitchen with shadows under her eyes and a laugh loud enough to wake the dead.
Stephanie’s nails were painted pink where she rested them on Blue’s shoulders. Her lips were soft and tacky with strawberry flavoured lip balm.
Blue froze, because she had to. Because Blue wasn’t allowed to kiss people -or was it just boys- was not allowed to kiss someone whose beating heart supplied blood that spread across their cheeks, whose lungs expanded to allow for a soft laugh and a whispered “I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about”.
Maybe it was macabre, but Blue was relieved when the school year ended and summer started, because Stephanie was suddenly too busy to think about her. If she didn’t care, then maybe she wouldn’t have to go to any funerals. She wouldn't be responsible for anybody dying.
He will die.
Blue was angry. Blue was young. That summer she fell asleep in the sun and got a burn that peeled and stung when she showered. Blue ate all the strawberries that Persephone collected from the garden and threw most of them up. She walked dogs and she pulled weeds. Blue thought about the girl she kissed who kept on living.