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Lips Touch Three Times
Author: Laini Taylor

GOBLIN FRUIT

There is a certain kind of girl the goblins crave. You could walk across a high school campus and point them out: not her, not her, her. The pert, lovely ones with butterfly tattoos in secret places, sitting on their boyfriends' laps? No, not them. The girls watching the lovely ones sitting on their boyfriends' laps? Yes. Them.

The goblins want girls who dream so hard about being pretty their yearning leaves a palpable trail, a scent goblins can follow like sharks on a soft bloom of blood. The girls with hungry eyes who pray each night to wake up as someone else. Urgent, unkissed, wishful girls.

Like Kizzy.

One Fierce with Wanting

Kizzy's family lived in the weird house outside of town with all the anvils in the yard and the tick-ridden billy goat that rammed the fence whenever anyone walked past. The mailman wouldn't come up to the door, which worked out fine, since no one ever wrote to them. They didn't even get credit card offers and junk mail like normal people did. Kizzy's family wasn't normal.

They had no TV but knew hundreds of songs -- all of them in a language that Kizzy's teachers had never even heard of -- and they sat on rickety chairs in the yard and sang them together, their voices as plaintive as wolves', howling at the moon. There were a lot of hairy, blue-eyed uncles strumming old, beautiful guitars, and stout aunts who dried flowers to smoke in their pipes. Cousins were numerous. Small and swift, they were always aswirl in the women's skirts or dodging the goat like wee shrill matadors. Kizzy's mother wore a kerchief like she was some peasant in a foreign film, and her father had lost two fingers to a wolf back in the Old Country. He'd killed it to get his fingers back and he kept the little bones in a pouch around his neck, along with the teeth of the very same wolf who'd swallowed them.

The women of the family were in charge of the garden, and the men hunted whatever was in season (or wasn't). They did things in their scattered, crooked sheds that most suburban kids would only ever see in a documentary, or perhaps on a church mission to a third-world country -- things involving axes and offal and an intimate understanding of how to turn an animal into a meal.

Kizzy hated it all, and she kind of hated herself too, by association. She hated mirrors, hated her ankles, hated her hair. She wanted to climb out of her life as if it were a seashell she could abandon on a shore and walk away from, barefoot. No one else on the whole landmass of North America, she was sure, had such a stupid life.

Besides the anvils and the goat, there were plenty of no-name cats in the yard, always slinking and slipping along the edges of things, and there were chickens, a peacock that screamed "rape!" (as peacocks do), and some cars on blocks. Ghosts came from miles around to whisper and mope and feed, and sometimes strangers passed through in big, battered cars filled with all the things they owned and stayed a few days, playing accordions, swigging moonshine, and singing ballads whose words had never known paper but lived only on the rasping edge of their own voices. Kizzy liked the ghosts but not the strangers, because her father made her give up her room for them and they always left it smelling like feet.

She was sixteen, smart but unenthusiastic, a junior at a public high school she referred to as Saint Pock Mark's Finishing School for Cannibals.

Saint Pock Mark was her nickname for the acne-scarred principal who used any pretext to talk about his time among the cannibals as a missionary in Borneo, where as a younger man he had suffered parasites and bodily mildew in the service of the Lord. His thin lips got even thinner whenever Kizzy was brought to his office for skipping school, and she took a wicked pleasure in inventing imaginary religious holidays to explain her absences. She knew he'd sooner grit his teeth and accept her stories than call her parents, who yelled on the phone as if it were a futuristic device, and whose loud exclamations in their own language Kizzy had half convinced him were gypsy curses.

Even more than most teenagers, Kizzy hated to be seen in public with any member of her family, and she chose to walk to school even in the sleet or the rare skimpy snows. Freezing was preferable to the rusting junk-heap cars and belly-scratching uncles. She was deeply susceptible to mortification: easy to embarrass though hard to disgust. At home she did unsavory chores that ought to have gone extinct with the old days, like rendering lard and chopping the heads off chickens.

She drank too much coffee, smoked, had a thrilling singing voice when she could be persuaded to use it, and was saddled with a terrible nickname at school that she feared would follow her through life. She had two friends: Evie, who was fat, and Cactus, who was sarcastic and whose name wasn't really Cactus, but Mary.

"Shut up, Kizzy. You have not chopped the head off a swan," Evie declared as the girls walked home from school on a Friday, smoking.

"Um. Yes. I have," Kizzy replied. "We needed one of its wings to put in my nana's coffin." "Uh! Guh! Horrible!" "Please. That swan was a total bastard." "But you cut off its head? That's totally cruel."

"Cruel? I cut off chickens' heads all the time. It's not cruel. It's, like, food, Evie. You do know food isn't born wrapped in plastic, right?"

"You ate it? I am so telling Mick Crespain you're a swan-eater."

"I didn't eat it! And I'm sure you'd walk up to Mick Crespain and start telling him about my eating habits. He'd be like, Um, who are you?."

"No, he'd be like, Um, what's a (tizzy?"

"He knows my name! I sit right behind him in Trig. I've totally memorized the back of his neck. I could pick him out of a neck lineup."

Cactus had been silently exhaling long plumes of smoke but she interrupted now and said, "Hell with Crespain's neck. What I want to know is, why would you put a swan's wing in your grandmother's coffin?"

Kizzy replied as if the answer was obvious. "So her soul could fly. Duh."

Cactus laughed and choked on smoke. "So what'd you do with the other wing?"

"We're saving it for whoever dies next," said Kizzy, laughing too. "Swan wings don't grow on trees, you know. Or," she added, with a glance at Evie, "maybe you don't know."

"Maybe I don't care!'

Cactus was still coughing. She managed to say, "God, Kizzy. If I had your freak-ass family I'd totally get an eye patch and write pathetic books about my childhood and go on Oprah to tell about how I had to behead a swan so I could put its wing in my grandmother's coffin."

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