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Destinata by Christina Im (Wattpad username: wordshipwrecks)

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DESTINATA

by Christina Im (Wattpad username: wordshipwrecks)

Mentor: Kim Liggett, author of BLOOD AND SALT, releasing Fall 2015 from Putnam/Penguin

 ***

He waits for my answer, and the spaces between his breaths seem to spell out my name.

Fire, fire, a thirst to slake, all my fair ladies have drowned in the lake, I recite in my head, heart hammering, lips aching.

He rubs his hands together like he’s trying to make sparks, looking anywhere but at me. He’s a witch’s son, I remind myself. Maybe he can.

“Do you . . . already have dinner plans on Friday?” he asks, reaching out to brush my hand with his, and reflexively, my fingers stiffen. No, they shout. No, my whole body shouts. “Or is it me? Because I can back off,” he says.

 “No,” I burst out. “That’s not it.” I want to say yes; I want to tell you that you make my chest go fizzy. We fit together. I’ve been sweet on Elliot Morgan for five years. It’s as much a part of me as my weakness for windy days or my inability to lie.

The nightmares started last week: a boy with a too-large place in my heart, screams, and miles of clouds above me, burning. Every morning, it takes three tablespoons of honey to get their ashy taste out of my mouth.

 I know the mechanics of curses.

“Or . . . oh, I’m so sorry.” He winces. “You’ve already got a boyfriend, haven’t you? I should’ve known.”

No, I should’ve known. My stars have been tangled since I was born, and it’s no fault of his.

I’m a Lancaster girl, uncatchable, same as every female ancestor who’s had the misfortune of coming before me. I used to scream at my mother for letting her blood taint mine.

And Lancaster girls never get off easy. No, Lancaster girls get things done—protests, professions, reckless passions—and then they leave this world. It’s a family motto of sorts, repeated so many times that it’s lost its meaning.

The dreams only come when we’ve fallen headlong in a forever kind of love, and they can only mean that we don’t have long to live.

 “It’s like I’m cursed,” he says ruefully to himself. “It’s really sink or swim these days, huh?”

He has no idea. Oh yes, I can swim—in theory—though no one’s ever let me try. But in theory I’m also dying, set alight from the inside out.

“Theory” was given to my family by a witch too long ago to change. “Theory” runs dark in my blood. First are the dreams, then the kiss, and then the drowning.

True love’s kiss will send us to our watery graves.

I’ll be doomed for certain when my true love’s lips meet mine—and they will, one way or another. Even if we choose husbands we feel no fire for, we stumble over sparks anyway. And these dreams are said to set my skull ablaze, and I can only extinguish it by taking my own life the old-fashioned way: with water.

My great-grandmother, my grandmother, and three of my great-aunts all drowned themselves in the lake a few miles from town.

I manage a feeble “wait.” He looks up, half-cringing, half-smiling, like he can’t bear to be hopeful.

You can’t kiss him, Evie Lancaster, I think wildly, but at this point my heartbeat is hacking my chest to bits. No, you won’t kiss him. It’s only dinner. Dinner doesn’t lead straight to kissing. You’ll be fine. You’re sensible, everyone knows that.

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