How far would you go to save your own life? Would you kill the one you love?
I want you to put your hand over your heart. Press down against the skin, meld your fingers into the flesh, and listen to the beats. Can you hear how that one organ is keeping you alive? One pump. Two pumps. Three.
Alice White Cabot would consider you lucky. She can press down in that same exact spot and she would feel … nothing. She is under the curse of the Heartless, and on her nineteenth birthday she will have to rip out the heart of the one she loves or she herself will die.
Kallin Grimm is a regular nineteen-year-old guy from the Chicago suburbs. He’s completely normal, except for the strength he can’t explain. Not to mention, Kallin is in love with a girl that he has never met. The only means of communication between the two of them is through an enchanted journal. Whatever is written in one can be seen in the other. For the past year Allie and Kallin have shared their secrets and their souls, which is why Allie knows they can never be together. It is the only way to keep his heart safe.
Enter the dark world of curses, secrets, and a history as old as time. The novel opens on Allie’s eighteenth birthday. With one year left, she, along with her best friend Miles set off from California to find out more about the curse, her past, and to stay as far away from Kallin Grimm as she can. Their first lead is in Chicago. Maybe this curse is stronger than she thinks. Tick-Tick-Tick.
Who would you choose?
Prologue: “Happily Never After”
On Lighthouse Avenue, inside the house at the end of the street, lives a girl with no heart. This is not to say she is cold or unloving, but it is literal and true. If you peeked inside her pale skin, peeled back her veins and muscles, you would find a cavernous hole of sorts.
Her name is Alice White Cabot, and she is eighteen-years-old today.
A light turns on in the shed behind the Cabot house. Beyond the roses that line the aged rocks on the side wall of the large house, past the stepping stones, a few feet farther than the toad rot, gundly flax, and verbena flowers (I’m sure we will get to that later), and finally we reach a small wooden box. What served as a gardening shed, now is filled to the brim with papers, maps, pens, various supplies, two pictures, one knife, and the girl in question.
Allie sits at the window on a small black stool with the knife in her hand. Her dark hair and blue eyes are the only vivid colors in the otherwise grey shed. She is absentmindedly cutting her finger again and again. Three droplets of blood bead off of her fingertips and fall on to the white carpet. Not flinching, she stares out the window at the snow falling like feathers from the sky. Allie thinks she must have heard that somewhere, some time ago. When and where are lost to her.
It’s Christmas and almost time for dinner. She looks around the ancient space, with its empty flowerpots and cobwebs, and knows this is the last time she will be in this room that has given her solace for so many years. When her mother first died she hid under the desk in the corner and read every book she could find; mostly adventure stories, like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Robinson Crusoe. The ceiling leaked and mice occasionally set up house, but it was her special place.
The gash on her finger has closed and all that remains is dried blood crusted on the knife blade.
On top of the cluttered desk is a purple music box. She gets up from her seat and places the knife on a dilapidated shelf. She gingerly opens the golden latch. A ballerina springs to life, and a haunting song echoes throughout the four walls of her sanctuary.
She pulls out a note. On the front of the folded paper, the words Happy Birthday are scrawled in pretty script.
My darling Allie,
I wish more than anything I could have given this to you myself, but I know Gram will be there to do it for me. You must feel the time slipping away like I did. There is so much I want to say and so much that I, myself, don’t know how to explain. I cannot tell you what to do my love. Whatever you decide, no matter what, you are my sweet bean. I know you will choose to be better, to be good. You are so loved and that will never change.
Her face is scrunched up, her nostrils flared and forehead taut, but she will not cry.
Allie grabs the knife again. She cradles it in both of her hands for several seconds before she takes the hilt and turns the blade towards her stomach, so close that the tip digs into her belly button.
Her breath mingles with dust in the unheated shed. Allie holds the knife like one would hold a brush or maybe a spoon—casually, yet calculated.
With no other thought she plunges the weapon into her stomach, causing blood to immediately pool onto her white sweater. She makes no sound, not even a whimper. Both eyes are popped open, wide and surprised, while her other expressions remain suppressed. As quickly as she put the blade in, she pulls it back out.
Allie drops the knife, and it clatters across the floor. She raises her hands and clutches them to her stomach, probing the area gently. 1 … 2 … 3 seconds pass.
She lifts her T-shirt revealing a smooth layer of skin, like the day she was born. The wound is gone; not so much as a scar to remind her of the pain.
Today, Allie White Cabot does not feel like celebrating because in one year’s time, she has to rip out the heart of the one she loves, or she will die.
“Damn it! Damn it! Damn it!”
But, until then she is cursed to breathe and live and what she doesn’t want more than anything else, she is cursed to love and be loved.
The curse of the Heartless.
What do I know? I’m just the mirror who watched the curse come to life. I’m just a mirror who is trapped like the rest … destined to bend to the will of the curse or break under its power like so many before.
This is not just her story, but it is his as well. Kallin Grimm, the boy who loves the girl.
The boy who can save us all.
Allie walks over and snatches a map of Illinois from the clutter on the desk. There is a bold red circle around the city of Chicago.
“See you soon,” Allie says. She opens the door. A gush of cold air blows inside, causing the music box to slam closed. The melody stops abruptly. She wonders if that’s what it will sound like when she dies.
A snowflake lands on her lip and she licks it off. It will all be worth it. If she can keep him safe.
About the Author:
Emily Hansen is a writer currently living in Baltimore City. She grew up in Illinois and will always call Chicago home. She graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a BA in Fiction. She is a 9th grade English teacher. She became a writer because she thinks that people should not have to look far to find magic in their lives. Her obsessions range from depressing poetry to one or ten cups of coffee a day. Grimm and White is her first novel.
3 print copies Grimm and White