This story is by Audrey Cash and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
“I’m on my way, I’m on my way” I exclaimed into the phone. It was to no surprise that my sister would be the first one of us to make it into the delivery room. Ivy was born three years before me, but she has always been six years ahead of me in life. She’s about to have her first baby and I can’t talk Dustin into buying an engagement ring; even after five years of being together.
Rushing through New York sidewalks— where there’s all kinds of people, from mothers pushing their screaming kids in strollers, businessmen blurting out stock quotes on their phones, high school girls carrying one too many shopping bags— can be unnerving at times. Maybe that’s why I chose to live here. It’s so crowded it makes me just another pedestrian rushing to where I need to be. Nobody notices me more than anyone else and that’s where I’m comfortable. Ivy was always in the spotlight growing up and being in her shadow is where I’ve always been. Living in New York gives me the familiar feeling of being a nobody. That may sound sad to you, but to me, being a nobody is where I’m happiest.
Thump. “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry,” I say to the man I mistakenly ran into. I bend down and start picking up all the things I knocked out of his hands. He seems shaky, like he just saw a ghost. When I go to reach an old leather journal flipped upside down, he tries to grab it first. As I pick up the journal, under my thumb I feel that the cover has a hard ball right in the center. Suddenly, a wave of sting goes through my body. I gasp through my teeth and shake a little. The man grabs the journal from my hand. I look into his eyes. His eyes show his fear the most. Before I can ask if he’s okay, he vanishes into the buzzing swarm of people. I begin to walk but I feel my foot kick something. Normally, I wouldn’t react but with that strange shocking sensation that happened a few too short moments ago, I want to be aware. It’s a pen. A really nice black and gold pen. The man must’ve dropped it when I practically tackled him like an NFL linebacker. When I pick it up, I realize it says something. James Law Office, Brayson Mitchell. I start to get my cell phone out to look up James Law Office until I remind myself that my sister is having a baby and I need to get there.
“Ven,” Dustin yells out. I rush down the steps with a towel wrapped around my head. “Lavender,” he yells out impatiently.
“What babe? I’m trying to get ready.” I put in the diamond earrings Dustin got me for my twentieth birthday.
“Briar called. She said the movie plans are cancelled because Autumn is sick and Briar has too much work to do tonight.” His eyes are fixated on the tv screen. If you didn’t know better you’d think our tv is broken and stuck on the sports channel.
“Okay, I wasn’t looking forward to it anyways.” I look at him for a while. I see his brown eyes move back and forth across the screen. That’s the first thing I noticed about Dustin the day we met; his eyes. They seemed like typical brown eyes until the sun shined into them, pointing out the green twists that perfectly tie dyed into the brown. “The weirdest thing happened to me today,” I begin. Dustin nods. I can tell his mind is somewhere else.
I walk over and turn off the tv. Dustin turns his head sharply. “What’s wrong?” He furrows his eyebrows and stands up.
“I want to talk. Face to face. Not face to tv.”
“After this game,” he says turning the tv back on.
“Yeah. And after this game, you can sleep on the couch.” I go upstairs, our dogs, Winston and Declan, following right behind me.
After a few hours of reading, I decide to check Facebook. I begin scrolling when suddenly I see a picture of Autumn and Briar. I check the timestamp: 2 hours ago. Briar told me the plans were cancelled. My mind flashes back to my childhood. When I was in elementary school, my two friends and I decided to go to the movies. The problem was one of them, Olivia, didn’t like the other, Madison. Therefore behind my mother’s back I called Madison and told her the plans were cancelled. Strange how some things come back and bite you in the butt. Even 17 years later.
I thought the movie coincidence was a strange fluke. But for the past few months things have gotten strange. Everything I’ve ever done wrong to someone else, is coming back years later and happening to me. I decide to call Brayson Mitchell, the guy I ran into on the street months ago. All this began a few days after our aloof encounter.
“Yes, my name is Lavender Rookard. Is this Brayson?”
“Yes, that’s me. How can I help you?”
“I ran into you a few weeks ago on the street. I made you drop all of your things, which I am very sorry for. But ever since then, weird events have been occurring. I wasn’t sure if you knew anything to do with it.” There was a long pause. I was about to hang up until I heard him take a deep breath.
“Coffee shop on the corner of fifth avenue. Be there. 3 sharp.” The line cut off.
“Let me get this straight. Your ancestors were wizards and the magic passed down through every generation. When your aunt and your mom got into a fight, your aunt cursed the journal and now whoever touches that little green glowing ball in the middle will be under the Curse of Karma. So when I picked up your journal, I was cursed,” I recap what took him thirty minutes to explain.
“Yes.” I look into his eyes. I can’t believe I’ve never noticed them before. They’re a soft gray. The more I stare at them, the more they send a chill through my bones. I think eyes say a lot about people. I believe we take their power for granted.
I take a sip of my black coffee with two sugars. I look at Brayson a little longer. I notice a long scar on the right side of his jar. When he notices me staring at the deep cut, he asks me to remind him what my name is.
“Lavender. But I’ve always gone by Ven.”
“So, Ven, what have you done so bad that karma has come back to repay you for?”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“You’re 5’2 and petite. You have a face sweeter than candy and you’re awfully quiet. What damage could a girl like you do?” I look down at my hands and play with the bottom of my sweater.
“How do I end the curse,” I ask him, changing the subject. He looks at me, his eyes going right and left looking into both my eyes. He gives me a feeling I’ve never known existed. I feel like adhesive tape to him. In this moment I can tell he sees all the ghosts that haunt me. All the people who have broken who I am. All the nights I sat on my balcony at 2 in the morning, looking up at the stars wishing I was up there with them.
“You don’t,” he responds. “You’re not holding any magic power inside of you.You can’t stop it. You have to live through it until all the harm you’ve done to others, comes back and harms you.” My mind traces back the past few months. The last time the Curse of Karma has affected me was three weeks ago. “Is there a lot more things you’re anticipating to happen to you?”
“Just one,” I say, looking down again.
“How frequent have the events happened?”
“They’ve happened twice a week, but nothing has happened in the past three weeks.”
He looks at me with confusion. “Then you’re free. The curse is over. It wouldn’t wait that long. What did you think you had left?”
I open my mouth and pause. I look into his eyes. I don’t know why, but I trust him. “When my dad was on his deathbed, I didn’t visit him. I was too angry at him for cheating on my mom. I let my dad die without saying goodbye or that I love him,” I pause. “My last words I ever said to him were ‘I hate you’ ”
He grabs my hand. “Ven, karma did repay you. Sometimes the punishment is just having to live with it.”