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When the Moon was Ours
Author:Anna-Marie McLemore

Ivy’s eyes tensed and narrowed.

With that pinching of her eyelashes, Miel knew she’d made a mistake. Now Ivy knew Miel had seen. She would hold against Miel her witnessing this sign of the Bonner girls losing their power over this town’s boys.

Ivy tilted her head, watching Miel’s wrist. “Why do you kill them?” she asked, neither horrified nor concerned. More curious. More like she thought drowning those petals was a waste.

Miel sank into the relief of Ivy changing the subject, then realized this was something she wanted to talk about even less. She knew how everyone looked at her, at her roses. The rumor that, if a girl slipped one under a boy’s pillow, if he breathed in the scent while he slept, she could make him fall in love with her. Or that, for even better effect, the petals could be sugared and baked into a vanilla cake or lavender alfajores, but only with the secret recipes used by the girls in the violet house.

For that second, her nervousness around Ivy, her feeling that she was her handmaid waiting for dismissal, softened. Miel might have been as strange to Ivy as the Bonner sisters were to her. She lived in a house as violet as blueberry cream. Roses grew from her wrist, and Aracely, this woman she lived with, invited lovesick men and women to lie down on her wooden table so she could cure their broken hearts.

If Aracely had been there, she would’ve told Miel to stop standing there, stop waiting for la bruja to give her instructions.

Miel tipped her head, a greeting and a good-bye.

But then her heart pinched. The Bonner sisters had rarely talked to anyone but one another and the boys they loved and wrecked. Lian had been quiet but friendly enough when she and Sam had to do a group presentation on the orographic effect; Sam wrote the report while Lian drew and colored in all the pictures. When Miel got her period a week early, Chloe had, without comment, slid her a tampon under the bathroom stall. They were neither rude nor warm; they just preferred one another’s company to anyone else’s.

Now maybe Ivy was lonely enough that she’d talk to anyone. Chloe had been gone for months. She’d missed Lian turning eighteen and Peyton turning fifteen. (Ivy, sixteen, wouldn’t have her birthday until December.) Now that Chloe was back, Miel imagined everyone as formal and careful, so attentive to Chloe that she felt smothered and the rest of the sisters felt both jealous and grateful not to be her. Lian and Ivy and Peyton would have crowded together not to miss her, to make it less obvious that she was gone. Now they would all try to shuffle apart to make room for her.

Chloe had been sent away the same week she started to show. Her baby now lived with the aunt she had stayed with these past six months, and, likewise, the boy she’d been seeing was sent to live with relatives in a town so far away Miel had never heard of it. Her sisters must have both missed her and considered her a stranger. This tall young woman who was now a mother, who was angled in her arms and nose but soft in her hips and breasts.

“Ivy,” Miel called out.

Ivy turned.

Miel was one of a hundred girls who would sleep better if the Bonner girls lost their peculiar power. But she couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for Ivy.

“If you ever need anyone to talk to,” Miel said.

Ivy paused, and then nodded, saving Miel from having to say the rest, and herself from having to hear it.

sea of islands

His mother knew.

She’d stayed the night before at the Hodges’. Mr. and Mrs. Hodge were in the city until morning, so they’d asked her to watch their children. She’d probably told them bedtime stories about a brother and sister crossing a forest guided only by stars, or a girl learning the language of Kashmir stags and musk deer. Or one Sam had heard from his grandmother, the story of a girl named Laila and a boy called Majnun.

Now his mother stood in the doorway. As soon as she looked at him, he caught the slight lift of her chin, half a nod, that told him she understood.

She looked tired but not wearied, this morning’s kohl drawn over the smudged echo of yesterday’s eyeliner, so soft gray ringed her eyelashes. The kohl, and the way she painted it on, was one of the few traditions from their family she’d held to, that one from her mother’s side. Her father, Sam’s grandfather, had given her washed-out blue eyes that looked even paler the way she lined them.

Neither surprise nor disappointment crossed her face. Only a breath in, a steadying. As much as Sam wanted this to pass by without comment, he knew better.

Finally, she said, “Well, I hope you were both safe.” She set down the red and blue tapestry bag she’d taken over to the Hodges’. “I’d hate for you to get that girl pregnant. Aracely would murder me.”

He was supposed to laugh. He knew he was supposed to laugh.