The Poison Eaters and Other Stories

Free The Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black

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Authors: Holly Black
almost incapable of speech. “I won't come again,” she shouted.
    ” You will,” said the enkanto . He pulled himself up onto a branch of the tree, then hooked his foot in the back and climbed higher, to where the thick green leaves hid him from view.
    "I will never forgive you.” Tomasa meant to shout it, but it came out of her mouth in a whisper. There was no reply but the gentle night breeze and distant radio.
    Her hands were shaking. She looked down at them and saw the loop of gold chain still dangling from her fingers.
    And suddenly—just like that—she had a plan. An impossible, absurd plan. She made a fist around the gold pendant, feeling its edges dig into her palm. Her feet found their way over brush and vine as she darted through the town to the tamarind tree.
    The elf was sitting on one of the boughs when she got there. His eyebrows rose slightly, but he smiled. She smiled back.
    "I've been rude,” she said, hoping that when he looked at her he would think the guilt in her eyes was for what she'd done, not for what she was about to do. “I'm sorry."
    He jumped down, one arm touching the trunk to steady him. “I'm glad you came."
    Tomasa walked closer. She put one hand where the old man had bitten him, hoping that he wouldn't notice her other hand was fisted. “How's your arm?"
    "Fine,” he said. “Weak. I can move it a little now."
    Steeling herself, she looked up into his face and slid her hand higher on his arm, over his shoulder and to his neck. His green eyes narrowed.
    "What are you doing?” he asked. “You're acting strange."
    "Am I?” She searched for some passable explanation. “Maybe the potion hasn't really worn off."
    He shook his head. His black hair rustled against her arm, making her shiver.
    She slid her other hand to his throat, twining both around his back of his neck.
    He didn't push her away, although his body went rigid.
    Then, as quick as she could, she wrapped the chain around his neck like a golden garrote.
    He choked once as she clasped the necklace. Then she stepped back, stumbling on the roots of the tamarind. His hands flew to his throat but stopped short of touching the gold.
    "What have you done?” he demanded.
    She crouched down in the dirt, scuttling back from him. “Release my sister from your curse.” Her voice sounded cold, even to her. In truth, she didn't know what she'd done.
    "It is my right! She insulted me.” The elf swallowed hard around the collar.
    Insulted him? Tomasa almost laughed. Only an elf would let one girl stab his tree but curse another for being insulting. “I won't take the chain off your neck unless you make her well."
    The enkanto's eyes flashed with anger.
    "Please,” Tomasa asked.
    He looked down. She could no longer read his expression. “She'll be better when you get home,” he muttered.
    She crept a little closer. “How do I know you're telling the truth?"
    "Take it off me!” he demanded.
    Tomasa wanted to say something else, but the words caught in her throat as she reached behind his neck and unhooked the chain. She knew she should run. She'd beaten him and if she stayed any longer, he would surely put a curse on her. But she didn't move.
    He watched her for a moment, both of them silent. “That was—” he said finally.
    "Definitely bad luck,” she offered.
    He laughed at that, a short soft laugh that made her cheeks grow warm. “You really wanted me to come and visit?"
    ” I did ,” he said with a snort.
    She grinned shyly. Balling up the necklace in her hand, she tossed it in the direction of the stream.
    "You know,” he said, taking one of her wrists and placing it on his shoulder. “Before, when you had your hand right here, I thought that you were going to kiss me."
    Her face felt hot. “Maybe I wish I had."
    "It's not too late,” he said.
    His lips were sour, but his mouth was warm.
    * * * *
    By the time that Tomasa got home, the sky was pink and birds were screeching from their trees. Eva was already awake,

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