Cursing Fate

By: Brenda Drake

For all the sisters,

And for Paula, who is mine

Chapter One


Having any sort of control seemed elusive lately. Iris Layne fidgeted next to her science project, her eyes firmly set on one person in a cafeteria jam-packed with students, teachers, and parents. Three-dimensional boards, colorful and full of information, kept blocking her view of him as he shuffled among the displays, inspecting the projects.

The cafeteria was hot and muggy.

Iris unscrewed the top to her water bottle and took a long swig, catching another glimpse of him between two tables. His shoulder-length dark hair was pulled back in a man bun. He wore one only after he’d just gotten off his motorcycle, his hair messy from the helmet.

Wade Diaz looked like a typical bad boy, complete with leather jacket and ripped jeans, but she knew the real him. His softer side. They’d known each other since eighth grade when he was scrawny and annoying, but he’d grown up nicely in the last two years. She bit her lip. Would he avoid coming by her display? He’d been dodging her ever since school started several weeks ago. And she hadn’t seen him all summer.

They were friends most of ninth and tenth grade, slowly growing into more than friends junior year. When they’d finally gotten together, Iris abruptly ended things and went back to her jerk of an ex-boyfriend. No wonder Wade hated her. But she couldn’t stop missing him. He was her best friend. The one she could always count on. If only she could tell him what really happened.

“Hey.” Carys startled Iris, and she flinched. “Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you.” She glanced over her shoulder to where Iris couldn’t quite look away. “I wish the two of you would make up already.”

Not likely.

Iris had glimpsed him once over summer break during the Fourth of July celebration on the Ocean City boardwalk. After spotting her, he’d abruptly turned and got lost in the crowd. Add that he’d ignored all her texts and calls, even unfriended her on his social media accounts, and she doubted they would ever make up.

Iris gave Carys a slight smile. “Me, too.”

“It isn’t right that he looks better than me in a bun,” she said, scrunching the ends of her dark shoulder-length hair. “I don’t know how you gave him up for that.”

Iris glanced at her, then to where she was looking. Her heart skidded to a stop. Josh, aka ex-boyfriend, led his pack of idiots down the aisle. Ever since Iris broke things off with him, he’d been a creep. Her once-popular status had plummeted, and now Marsha Simmons was the new queen of the school and Iris had become an outcast.

“Just ignore them,” Carys said, pulling a dollar out of her pocket. “Why don’t you get me a bottled water? I’ll watch your display until they’re gone.”

“Thanks. You’re the best.” Iris took the money and made her way through the maze of projects, stopping at the vending machines.

Iris didn’t deserve Carys as a friend. She’d been horrible to Carys. Ditching her to hang out with Josh all the time. Despite all the things she’d done, Carys was the first to forgive Iris. Over summer, they’d grown closer in their friendship.

The doors were propped open by kickstands at the bottom, letting in the smell of fresh-cut grass from the football fields. The light breeze felt good against her sweaty skin. Maryland was beautiful in the fall with the leaves on the trees changing from green to vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows. Soon the pumpkin patch would open, and it would be strange not going with Wade. It was one of their many yearly rituals.

She flattened out the wrinkled dollar before feeding it into the money slot. The machine whirled before rejecting it. She straightened the corners and tried it again. It slid back out.

Someone held a crisp new dollar in front of her face.

“Try this one.” Wade’s voice sent her stomach to swirling.

Iris turned to face him. “Hey.” She didn’t know what to say, the speech she’d memorized for if he ever spoke to her again forgotten. His deep brown eyes made all ability to think difficult.

When she hadn’t taken the dollar from him, he inserted it into the machine. “What did you want?”

“Um…a water,” she said.

He pushed the button, and a bottle thumped into the retrieval bin. She bent to grab it at the same time as he did, touching hands, a spark passing between them.

“Oh,” Iris said, straightening. Panic fluttered in her chest. It was silly, but ever since Aster, her older sister, revealed her gift, Iris feared even the littlest static charge.

With a simple touch of a tarot card, Aster could change someone’s fate. Usually a bad one. The problem was, she could transfer it to anyone she came into contact with, and a shock would pass between Aster and her victim.

Relax already. Aster isn’t here. Iris took in a calming breath.

Wade retrieved the water and raised a curious brow at her. “You okay?”

Iris laughed. It was a soft, nervous one and by the look on Wade’s face, he’d noticed. “I’m fine,” she said, not sure it was convincing.

“There’s a lot of friction in here.” He winked. The fact that his comment meant more than just the static between them hadn’t escaped her. It was clever how he tied it to their uneasiness toward each other.