My mother once told me, ‘you can cast seeds, but you don’t know which will sprout.’
Her face is draining of color, lips turning blue as I watch. I jump into action, hold her cheek, ask her if she’s choking, did she eat something she wasn’t supposed to.
She only shakes her head, tears running down her cheeks.
“Please Erin, no! Someone, please!” I don’t know who or what I’m crying for, only that I want whatever is happening to my little sister to stop.
But there is nothing there to stop.
Maybe that’s why of five siblings, it was only my sister and me left.
“It’s a curse,” she says. It’s barely a whisper, but stuffed into the cathedral as we were, even a whisper is like a prayer to my ears.
“Wonder who will be next?”
I spy from the corner of my eye one of them sneaking a glance towards us.
“Bet it’ll be the oldest. She’s always getting in trouble. Maybe she’s the one doing it.”
Funny how scarcity breeds dependence.
“It’s just us, now.” Eileen grasps both my hands in hers on the sheet, our foreheads near touching as we stare into each other’s eyes.
“We have to stick together.”
I don’t comment on the tears, and she doesn’t comment on the lack of mine.
I suppose they thought I’d be the one to save them.
“It’s the only way to save us both.”
It’s a lie, and she knows it. I don’t trust this man, his honeyed words, this convenient solution.
One that means not destroying the curse, but forcing it to move on. To another family, another child.
“You’re wrong. It’ll damn us both.”
They figured I’d been the seed to sprout their saving grace.
“Stay with your sister. It’s the only way.”
“That’s a lie and you know it.”
The backhand is instant, as if she expected my outburst. It sends me sprawling onto the floor, holding where her hand landed with something akin to resolve.
“Don’t you dare say that, ever again, you hear?”
But I won’t need to.
Their voices are hushed, a whispered conversation behind closed doors. They think I don’t hear.
“If it comes down to saving one, save Eileen. I hope it won’t come to that, but we need to be prepared.”
There’s a pause, then a determined answer.
I don’t have any roots.
“Jessie, please, don’t do this!”
I move further away from the circle of salt, the runes written on the floor of the shed. I pull the sachet and dagger from out of my jacket pocket.
“Only one of us can survive. You knew it all along. You’re just mad you didn’t pull the trigger first.”
I raise the dagger in front of me, holding it over the top of my right hand, the sachet grasped in a tight fist.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to die.”
I owe them nothing.