Wicked & Wise
by T. Grace Malone
I was lying on my bed reading, which was pretty much my favorite thing to do in the whole world, when I got cursed.
Strange things do happen when your parents are both movie stars. But strange things always happened around me, not to me.
The day started, as usual, with my mom's voice calling me in her soft French accent.
“Becca? I need your help to make a coconut smoothie. You know you are the only one who knows which buttons to push!”
I shuffled into the kitchen in my unicorn print pajamas. Mom stood in front of the Cuisinart, looking confused.
“Here,” I nudged her tiny frame easily aside with my own, which Grandmama describes as “sturdy”. I pushed a series of buttons and the machine hummed to life.
“Thank you, cherie, you are so clever,” she smoothed back my unruly hair.
Dad walked in, holding one hand outstretched, where a butterfly clung to it.
“Do you think it’s him?” he asked.
My father is eccentric, a word used for rich people who are a little bit crazy. He once sat outside and watched a caterpillar crawl up a tree for two days to prepare for a role.
“My character,” he said “has got to move very slowly and then transform completely. What better teacher than this little guy?”
I found it later trying to get out of our bathtub. My dad actually thanked the caterpillar in his Oscar acceptance speech. Now he acted like every butterfly might be his bug buddy.
Hitch skidded in like an ice skater on the tile floor in his socks, his unruly hair looking adorable.
“We are going to go riding later, right? You promised!” Hitch, being nine, always talked really loudly no matter where we were and it was just embarrassing. He was like my dad; he didn’t care what people thought, and it just made everyone worship him more.
I grabbed a croissant from a basket on the table, and fled back to my room. My room was my nest, where I went to think, and dream, and hide.
The smell of lavender drifted in through my open bedroom windows. I was so deep into my book, that at first the sound barely registered. A low hiss swelled to a menacing rattle. The sound cut off when I looked up.
I startled when I saw a small box at the foot of my bed.
“What the…?” The box stood out against the pale colors of my room, squatting like a dark brown toad in a bed of flowers.
Was it here in my room before and I just didn’t notice it? I wondered if it could be an early birthday present. I had been telling my parents I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it this year.
For my last birthday, my twelfth, my parents threw a huge party. I don’t know many people my age really well, so they invited their friends’ kids. There was a scavenger hunt, with designer goodies hidden all over Grandmama’s chateau. The kids ran like rabbits through the convoluted maze of hallways, honing in on likely hiding spots, elbowing me out of the way. I felt too shy to join in, so I was the only one who got nothing. I stood there feeling awkward in my Hello Kitty T-shirt, behind the enormous white cake studded with sugared violets, that couldn’t hide my disappointment.
“You” said the lean, blonde daughter of a famous director, expertly flipping her hair “need to work on your self-esteem. My mom told me her therapist says that a lot.”
A wave of humiliation made my face get hot every time I thought about it.
I inched toward the box made of dark wood. Little carved figures surrounded a large carved heart on the lid. They looked like they were dancing, but they were running, tiny wooden mouths opened in silent cries of fear. The heart was pierced with actual nails.
I seized the box and brought it over to the open window. I could just drop it outside and let someone else deal with it, but curiosity made my fingers itch. I had to know. I drew it back inside and set it down on my bed again.
I lifted up the simple iron latch, no lock, opening the box. The musty scent of decay rose from a scroll of old parchment that lay inside. I uncurled the edges, trying to smooth it straight without crumbling it into pieces. The words crawled across the paper like insects:
You have seven days.