Once upon a time, there were twin sisters named Syndi and Abby Synger, each of them more terrifyingly beautiful than the other. Nary a boy (or even a man) could look upon either of them without losing his calm as his mind wandered into fantasy and desperation.
One day, the Synger sisters went to a fortune teller at a fair. They didn’t think much of it, really only went on a lark, but the fortune-teller told them “I see your path and it is a rocky one. Your beauty is an enemy to your love, for any man who falls in love with your beauty will suffer a terrible fate if you let him.”
At first, they merely thought the prophecy curious. Syndi mused “I thought fortune tellers were supposed to tell you what you want to hear?”
“She was probably just jealous,” Abby concluded. “Wanted to take us down a peg or two—well, we’ll show her!”
They weren’t—or didn’t think themselves—the type who would change their lives based on a prophecy. But it wasn’t just a prophecy they witnessed.
First it was Aaron Knoll.Syndi was out on an island in the bay, sunning, and he swam to her, but lost his breath and drowned when no one was looking.
“How do we know it was me he was swimming for?” she asked her sister, but Abby only looked at her until she realized of course he was.
Then it was Abby’s turn. Matt Golding stood outside her window in the rain, serenading her, and caught his death of cold. He had pneumonia, but still she visited him.
“Why did you do that?” asked Abby.
He could barely speak, let alone sing, but he managed to get out “You… are… so… beautiful… to me!” He died in agony three days later.
“That’s crazy!” Syndi insisted. “People don’t die of pneumonia—not anymore!”
“They’re not supposed to drown in the Bay, either,” countered Abby. “I’m telling you, this is the Curse!”
“Fine, then. The Prophecy. Whatever.”
“Well, we can’t just let that horrible old woman win!”
“You want to keep on killing guys who like you?”
But it wasn’t just liking them, and they both knew it. Syndi had been encouraging Aaron. Before she swam out to that rock herself, she sent him a come-hither glance that made him swoon, made him seek out his swim trunks. (Her glances weren’t quite powerful enough yet he’d follow her in his clothes.) It wasn’t enough that he loved her beauty, his love had to be requited. She loved that he loved her for it.
And Abby. She had truly loved Matt’s singing. She thought he was a wonderful person and she’d used her beauty to seduce his love.
“Never again,” Abby vowed. The red hair that was their pride and joy, she felled, sending it all down the drain to clog and salting the earth that grew it by continually bleaching it to hell. She wore make-up to hide her adorable freckles—not enough to stay pastily out of the sun. She covered herself in tattoos with rings through her nose, in her lip, in her cheek, not because she liked them, thought because she thought they looked good, but because she didn’t.
When she did take lovers, she did it through sheer force of will, overpowering them with her offputting frankness until they buckled under her sex. And the moment they sighed for her, the moment they said “It’s not the tattoos I love, it’s you,” it was over. They couldn’t come back.
But Syndi. She went the other way. “I’m not going to change who I am just because of some stupid witch,” she insisted when she saw what her sister was putting herself through. So she kept her beauty.
“You’re crazy,” Abby insisted. “You’re going to kill everyone. I swear to God, Syndi, every single guy you ever meet!”
But she didn’t. Not every one. They would fall in love with her, of course, just by looking—who wouldn’t? She was used to that. But she would never spare a second glance.
Once, she almost married a blind man. “You’re wasted on him,” her boss said to her after a meeting. “He could never really appreciate you.”
Which was why she let herself love him. Until one morning she was straddling him and he commented on the smoothness of her skin, on her scent and taste, on the sound of her voice.
That doesn’t count as beauty, does it?
Later that day, he was hit by a bus in the street and died instantly.
“You’re crazy,” Abby told her again after the funeral. “There’s no way you can live without love. It’s not physically possible!”
This angry challenge from her self-righteous sister was all Syndi really needed. She would not change who she was, she would only change what she wanted.
“You’re a cold-hearted bitch, you know that?” said man after shallow, ignorant man the last time she turned him down (and sometimes not even the last). Couldn’t they see, she had the warmest heart that ever beat. She expressed her love by sacrificing it to keep these men alive.
Every now and then, though, she found she couldn’t help herself. She’d notice something, or a girl-friend would whisper to her in confidence, and she would unleash. “You’ve been a bad boy,” she would whisper in the night, and he would die within twenty-four hours.
It gave her a reputation.
But that still didn’t stop suitors from lining up.
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