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Love & Other Cursed Things
Author: Krista Ritchie

 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

 

Zoey Durand

 

 

People always say you can’t outrun a curse, but I’ve been running for six years. So far misfortune hasn’t caught up and dragged me down yet.

But today, I finally stop running.

No one ever really returns to Mistpoint Harbor once they leave. Hell, even I would keep my ass firmly planted in Chicago if I had a choice. Only a handful of reasons could get me to board a plane back home.

When Parry called me last night, all the air suctioned out of my apartment. An invisible rope wrapped around my waist and started yanking and yanking and yanking. Pulling me home.

I have to return.

As I heave a beat-up suitcase out of a Kia’s trunk, the phrase no turning back now is cemented in my core and practically tattooed to my ass, and I realize the Uber driver is standing a foot away, hypnotized by the town sign.

Welcome to Mistpoint Harbor. The Most Cursed Town in America!

I tug, and as the suitcase wheels thunk hard on the cement, he wakes from his stupor and combs a hand through his tousled, chestnut-brown hair.

“Hey, do you know someone who lives in Mistpoint Harbor?” He jabs a thumb towards the cobblestoned pathway. No cars allowed down the main walk of the tiny town center. “I heard the whole ‘curse’ thing is bullshit to drive up tourism. But never had a first-hand account.”

I shake my head. “Sorry to disappoint. I’m just passing through.” I don’t love lying, but I better get used to it. I can’t exactly tell everyone the reason I’m back. As Parry said, keep this shit on the low. I mean it, Zoey. Don’t tell Brian or October.

My brother, Brian, is easy to lie to.

But even trying to deceive October is like trying to fool Zoltar. You know, the robotic fortuneteller in the 80s movie Big. October is neither robotic nor psychic, but she can stare through me with unblinking, soul-eating eyes, and I unravel into a fucking mess.

She’s a lot prettier than a robotic dude with a mustache too.

Like a diamond-studded glamazon. Wonder Woman in the flesh.

A Wonder Woman who I can’t lie to. I can’t remember what her gold rope is called: an honesty lasso, a fuck-you, give-me-the-truth weapon? Honestly, I only saw the superhero movie because Wonder Woman is hot—my geek card is mostly swiped in Star Wars lore. But Mistpoint Harbor’s very own Wonder Woman will probably strangle me with the fuck-you, liar rope, so I have that to look forward to.

I try to exhale a mountain of apprehension. The Uber driver frowns at the sign, then back at me. Crestfallen at my declaration. “Well, damn. Thought I’d finally figured it all out.”

I wish I could tell him the real truth. There’s nothing to figure out. It’s a legend—you either believe or don’t—but no one will tell you where to put your faith.

Some people who live in Mistpoint think just like him—it’s all bullshit. A legend created generations ago to attract tourists to the harbor. Others, like me, don’t spit in the face of fate. Some things can’t be properly explained.

Like how Mistpoint has more accidents, more missing persons, deaths, and all-around misfortune than any other port in the country. And yet, it takes a whole unearthly energy to uproot yourself from this town just to leave. I got out when I was eighteen. I almost didn’t go.

Shit, I was a breath away from staying.

Sometimes I wish I did. This town has a magnetic pull, an energy that I don’t understand. Brian, my oldest brother, used to tell me that being born here is like adding another root to the family tree. We’re tangled underneath the earth with the generations before us. Only way to truly leave is to hack yourself away. And when you do that, you leave the ground rotted. You leave the tree decaying.

My stomach churns, and I shake that image from my head.

My hand tightens on the handle of my suitcase. “Thanks for the ride,” I tell the Uber driver.

He closes the trunk. “Don’t forget to rate me. I’m a five-stars kinda guy.” He gives me a wink—and I can’t tell if it’s friendly or flirty. And one thing is for certain, I don’t need to be in a relationship right now. Not even a flirtationship.

Nothing’s worse than falling in love in a cursed town.

So I avoid eye contact and mumble out a noncommittal, “Yeah, definitely.”

He lingers for a second, and I’m quick to casually pull out my cell. I try to manifest my destiny. The one that says leave me alone!

Sure enough, I hear the slight bang of a car door. When I glance back up, the car is peeling away.

I sigh heavily. What the fuck am I doing? I’m back home for zero-point-five seconds and I’m already on edge. Living here is like trying to play whack-a-mole with fate—and I’m the kind of girl that doesn’t like to go down with any ship. I will jump overboard and swim my way to shore before an ocean tries to drown me.

People in town probably think I left to avoid a curse.

As the legend goes, live here long enough and misfortune befalls.

The curse never scared me growing up. Ultimately, I had a very different reason for leaving, but avoiding a curse was like a little consolation prize that I don't take for granted. Being back here now, I feel the weight of the risk I'm taking. Six years. I've avoided a curse for six whole years. I can't forget that.

I’m getting in. Getting out.

I’ll do what I came here to do, and I won’t stay long enough to get fucked over by some generations’ old legend.

That’s the plan.

Let’s just hope fate doesn’t fuck with it.

 

 

CHAPTER 2

 

 

Zoey Durand

 

 

Two minutes. That’s all it takes for someone to spot me walking down the main path towards the old docks. As soon as the five-foot-nine girl does a double take, she doesn’t go about her day. No. She speeds up her pace towards me like she spotted prey, and I’m just that dumb rabbit caught doe-eyed in the forest.

Awesome.

I should have known that I’d receive an unwelcome party on my arrival. This party of one has a name.

Amelia Roberts.

Reddish-brown hair in a neat fishtail braid, a J.Crew wardrobe, and perpetual snotty attitude—she’s made my life absolute hell since the ninth grade. The Roberts own The Mistpoint Harbor Historical Museum of Curses & Curiosities near the east side of town. A tourist hot spot in any season.

I had the unfortunate experience of working the ticket booth when I was in high school. But people treat Amelia and her family like royalty in this town. They ass-kiss to ensure the museum records their own families favorably.

Believe me, there’s a whole section on the Durands in that museum and none of it is kind. No amount of ass kissing could change that.

It made me an easy target growing up.

And right now, that bullseye is growing hotter and angrier on my chest. Screw it. She’s going to have to chase me. I grip the handle of my suitcase and bolt towards the docks.

“Zoey Durand!” Her shrill voice calls behind me.

Cold March wind whips against my cheeks. My grin spreads. And then I hear a snap. The wheel of my battered suitcase breaks off from the uneven cobblestone. The corner of the hard case skids across the ground.

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