Chasing Lucky - Jenn Bennett
There’s a long-held belief in my family that all the Saint-Martin women are romantically cursed. Unlucky in love, doomed to end up miserable and alone. Supposedly, one of my early New England ancestors angered a neighbor—big surprise—who then paid the wise woman in the village to curse us. All of us. Generations upon generations. Like, None of you will ever get your happily ever after, so mote it be, enjoy the heartbreak.
I’m seventeen and have never had a boyfriend. Only had one true friend of any kind at all, really, and that was a long time ago. So I haven’t had a chance to personally test the curse in action. But even though my family is ridiculously superstitious, I know that everything bad that’s happened to us amounts to a bizarre series of unfortunate coincidences. Moving back here to the curse’s place of origin isn’t the end of the world, no matter what Mom may say.
As I stand in front of Beauty’s city limit sign, taking the photo I always snap when we relocate to a new place, I ignore my mother’s irrational woe betides! about love and instead focus my lens on what this sign represents to me—my future.
See, Mom and I move around a lot. And by “a lot,” I mean seven moves in the last five years … seven different cities up and down the East Coast. We’re pros. We can skip town faster than a mobster who got tipped off that the cops were on their way.
One place is like another, and after a while, they all start to feel the same.
It’s the place where the all the important things have happened in my life. It’s where I was born—the birthplace of every Saint-Martin woman, all the way back to that silly love curse. It’s where Mom and I lived until I was twelve years old, and where I’ll finish high school next year, fingers crossed.
But most importantly, if things go as I hope they will, it’s also where my life is going to change. Monumentally. I have epic plans for the future, and they all start with this sign, right here. Everyone else may just see “Welcome to Beauty,” but not me. I see:
Hello, Josie Saint-Martin. Welcome to the Beginning of Your Life.
“It’s freezing out here, shutterbug,” Mom calls from the small moving truck parked behind me on the side of the highway. Our car, aka the Pink Panther, a 1980s cotton candy colored VW Beetle with too-many-thousand miles on the odometer, is hitched to the back. “Haven’t you taken this one before? Forget tradition. It’s not going anywhere. Shoot it later.”
“Don’t rush me, woman,” I call back, capping the lens of my vintage Nikon F3 camera before I settle it into the brown leather case that hangs around my neck. The City Limits photo is tradition, sure, but taking photos of signs is my artistic vision as a photographer. Some people like photographing landscapes or people or animals, but not me. I like billboards, snarky church signs, obnoxious neon diner signs, street signs riddled with bullet holes. They all tell a story. They communicate so much with so few words.
And Mom is right about one thing. Unlike people, signs are always there, twenty-four seven, waiting for you to take their picture. You don’t have to text them to ask if they’re coming home for dinner. You don’t have to be mad at yourself for being disappointed when they text back: go ahead, order takeout and eat without me. Signs are dependable.
I climb back into the moving truck, and as I pull on my seat belt, some rare emotion flickers behind Mom’s eyes. Whatever the opposite of excited is, that’s what she looks right now. Her anxiety over our move to Beauty started with Mildly Stressed, and on the drive here it escalated to High Anxiety, but now I do believe we’re up to Scared Shitless.
And Winona Saint-Martin isn’t scared of anything, so that leads me to believe that something big is waiting for us here—something Mom has failed to tell me about. Again.
Whatever it is, it must be bad. Worse than an old family story about doomed love.
“Seriously, you’re starting to freak me out,” I tell her. “Why are you so nervous about moving back here?” The reason we left when I was twelve is temporarily gone: the matriarch of the Saint-Martin family, Grandma Diedre. My mom’s mother. They had a major falling out. Shouting. Tears. Police were called. Huge drama, and some