Fiction by Klarissa Lisette 



She stares at her phone, consumed. It’s a habit of hers–when she doesn’t take her medicine, she tunes in and out like the world is a radio station she has a spotty connection with. 



She mournfully parts with her Wikipedia article on the historical significance of morning glories and fixes her gaze on me. Last month it was medieval torture devices–regional interpretations of Santa Claus the month before that–but she’s been on a gardening kick for three weeks now. I’ve learned so much about perennials of the southeast I’m beginning to feel like they’re a third member of our relationship.  

“You still going to Victoria’s tonight?” 

“Yeah. She’ll kill me if I don’t. I’ve never met someone so serious about themed parties in my life.” 

“And you’ll stay at my place after?” 

My place isn’t much–a rented room in a college apartment complex, where the hallways reek of beer and bass shakes my plants off the windowsill on weekends–but she grins at me. 

“So forward, Evie,” she says, fanning herself dramatically. “Buy a girl dinner first. But yeah–I’ll stay if you’ll have me.” 

“What’s the theme again?” I remember–of course I do, she’s been talking about it all week–but I’d ask stupider questions to hear the low tones of Astrid’s voice. 

“Tarot. I think I’ll be the Moon.” She pulls a face. “I need to touch up my roots, but I don’t have time. I hope the people are ready for a gritty, revised take on celestial beauty.” 

“I think they add depth to the look,” I say, tucking a two-toned strand behind her ear. “Like a halo.” 

She jerks away suddenly, hacking wetly into her elbow. 

“You know, I’ve always admired your adult asthma. I think it keeps you relatable,” I croon. 

“Don’t be an asshole,” she says, voice raw. She coughs again. This time, something dislodges and falls into her open hand. 

We stare at the white feather cradled in her life line, the vane slick with spit. 

“Sure you shouldn’t stay home?” I ask, watching her throat work against its remnants. 

“I’m fine,” she says, plucking it from her palm and tickling my nose with it. I swipe the spit off, scowling. “You ex-Catholic schoolgirls worry too much. It’s just a cold.” 

I spend the evening of the party the same way I pass most evenings when Astrid graces guest lists: taking a long, hot shower, washing my sheets, and pulling out the lush, silky pillowcases from the dented bottom drawer of my rented dresser. I light the candle she likes, the one I think smells like childhood afternoons spent languishing in polished pews and set it reverently on my nightstand. By the time she finally returns, it’s drowning in its own wax, spluttering and coughing up plumes of black smoke. I blame myself for anticipating her being back in any sort of predictable timeframe. When she appears, she hovers on the threshold of my bedroom like it’s sacred ground, closed to the night’s revels. 


“Hey yourself. Did you eclipse the rest of them?” 

She smiles then, warm and easy. Every part of her glitters. Most parts of Astrid usually glitter–her opalescent rings, the beading on the delicate vintage slips she insists on wearing to every occasion–but tonight, she’s especially clinquant. Her skin glows gold in the dim bedroom, and even her roots are stark-white. 

“I thought you didn’t have time to touch them up before the party,” I say, indicating the space buns she’s twisted her hair into. 

“I didn’t.” She reaches for her scalp, feeling for the line between her frizzed platinum and dark, glossy roots. “Must be my angelic disposition,” she says, and her smile grows wider, the corners of her mouth stretching thin. 

She perches on my bed–freshly made, clean sheets pulled taut against the mattress–and I settle in behind her, beginning to undo the buns one by one. The glitter dusted onto her roots drifts into her deflated curls as I work. I watch the shapes fall through the curtain of white—iridescent stars and hearts and sharp crescent moons, dancing in the glimmer of her skin. 

“You’re a nice girl, Evelyn,” she says, and sighs. 

“So I’ve heard. Do you think I’m too in love with you?” I ask, plucking an especially persistent star from her roots. It’s a game we play, and one I always know the answer to. 

“No,” she says, and leans her head back onto my shoulder. Her cheek brushes my own. It’s sunlightwarm. “I think you could be more in love with me, even. I think your devotion should know no bounds.” The light radiating from her skin flares, gilding her features. I flush with warmth. 


“Yeah. But I’m benevolent; my love endures forever.” She picks her head back up, straightening so I can finish my work. 

“Sentimental tonight, aren’t you?” 

“Eh, maybe it’s the liquor.” 

“You’re wicked,” I say, tugging at her scalp in retribution a little harder than I mean to. 

“Wicked? How could I be?” 

It’s hard not to believe her. She reaches for one of my hands in apology and presses it to her cheek, which is velvety with foundation and powder. Her grin curls against my skin. I can feel her sticky, saccharine lip gloss smearing off against my knuckles, but can’t find it in me to be bothered. She turns my hand over and presses a kiss, featherlight, against my palm. 

I scream. 

The kiss burns like a hot coal, searing my skin even after I tear my hand away, even after I find it under running water before I can clearly think that I want it there. Astrid’s voice is distant, filtered through the bathroom door. 

“Evie? What happened?” 

“I think you should take a vow of celibacy,” I say, gritting my teeth through the pain. “Your divinity doesn’t agree with me.” 

“Stop flirting, Jesus Christ–are you really hurt?” 

Astrid makes it into the bathroom, barely big enough for the two of us and perpetually in need of a deep clean. She squints into the water-spotted mirror, at the smoking brand on my palm where her lips ghosted my skin. It’s marred, pink and shiny, cauterized before it could even bleed. A tear tracks golden down her freckled cheek, glinting under the harsh fluorescents. Leftover glitter, I think, mouth dry. My eyes sting when I look at her, and the burn below my fingers pulses like a second heartbeat. 

“I should go,” she breathes, a fluttering sound, thin as vellum.  

After that, Astrid keeps her distance for a little while. She ignores a barrage of “Hey, you alright?” texts, and spends a full weekend keeping the historical significance of morning glories to herself, even after I call hoping she’ll explain it to me again. I keep my apartment door unlocked in case maybe she lost her keys, and sleep with my phone on my pillow, ringer on full volume. I’m wrestling with whether or not it’ll seem too needy to show up at her place when she finally texts me back. 


ASTRID AT 6:34PM SAID: evie 

EVELYN AT 6:34PM SAID: Hey! It’s good to hear from you 

EVELYN AT 6:35PM SAID: I was getting worried lol 

ASTRID AT 7:49PM SAID: i feel like death 

ASTRID AT 8:05PM SAID: please be home 


This time, she doesn’t hesitate on the threshold, slipping into my kitchen like a wax effigy faced with immolation. Her hair is even paler now, the flayed, translucent color of a cut so deep it takes a few seconds to start bleeding. Her eyes are bloodshot and swollen, and her forehead is so hot I curse myself for never picking up a thermometer. I know better than to ask what’s wrong; the answer is still healing on my palm. 

She shivers against the layers of gauzy scarves and shawls she’s swaddled herself in. When I peel the first one from her shoulders, hazel eyes blink back at me. They’re clustered on her skin like lotus seed pods, honeycombing her shoulders, her arms, her face. The unblinking parts of her are pierced with pinfeathers, the white down at their tops stained Paschal pink with blood. By the time I get her into my bed, I’m wondering whether my geriatric Honda Civic will make it to the hospital in a pinch, whether something mortal has any chance in the face of divinity. 

“You think I’ll be okay?” she asks. 

“Yeah,” I say, with a sinking feeling in my gut. “Of course.” 

“If you want to repent, now might be your last chance,” she jokes weakly. 

I brush my lips across her forehead, wincing at the heat. When I bring a hand to my mouth, I can already feel a blister forming, a balloon of fluid pooling in the dip of my cupid’s bow. 

Astrid falls asleep twitching, her thousand eyes leaking against my bed sheets. She’s too hot to touch, so I crank my fan on high and wrap the blankets around myself in a shroud of cotton and chenille. I’ve done enough repenting for a lifetime, but I’m not above bargaining. 

God, I think. Let’s not get too personal here; this is a business meeting. 

I’m not a bad person. Well–I’m not a really bad person. I’ve never murdered anyone or cheated on someone or lied when it really mattered. I’ve been good enough. 

Well, maybe not good enough for you. But you’re supposed to be eternally loving or forgiving or whatever, so let’s assume we’re both negotiating with clean slates. 

Besides, you owe me. 

I think of the smell of incense winding through the air every Wednesday morning from when I was 10 until I was 18. I think of Saturday night services and Easter vigils and midnight mass, and how hot dripping beeswax can burn if you’re an altar server being distracted by your own daydreams of the nice girl who sits next to you in French. I think about finally packing my bags for college and about how I still tell my dad how I don’t have a boyfriend when he asks, which is less of a lie and more of a half-truth. I think about being 13 and believing I was a stained, impure thing, capable of redemption if I could bloodlet everything true about me and bleach myself into a relic, lifeless and devout. 

Anyway–you’ve punished me enough. Don’t take her. She’s the only thing I’ve ever had to myself. Don’t ruin this too. 

I think of all the things I love, everything I’m good at. I think about all my own aborted attempts at hobbies–knitting lopsided hats for friends, baking burnt-bottomed cookies for my family, taking up sewing so I could mend any tear in Astrid’s filmy dresses. I think about brushing Astrid’s hair after every party, the soft, fizzy scent of her perfume. I think about how maybe adoration is the only thing I’m capable of; that at the bottom of it, I am grey and lifeless. That I have tried so hard to be devoted to everything; and that maybe at the end of the day I am something irascible, something incapable of really loving anything, because at the bottom of it, all my love comes from want. 

Let me have Astrid. You can take the rest. 


I wake in the middle of the night, sheets damp with sweat. There’s a whirring sound overhead, like my ancient ceiling fan has finally gone haywire. Astrid is gone. 

A faint light issues from the corner near my desk. I must have forgotten to blow out the candle, as preoccupied I was with her apotheosis. But no–it’s too bright to be the candle, especially after having been burning for four or five hours. It’s a shape–a dark shadow— 


It’s flesh, I realize, arms and legs twisted into concentric circles, which orbit each other at a dizzying pace. Odd shapes jut through the warped skin: a shoulder blade, an elbow, a knee, a wing. Hazel eyes stud the circles’ rims, blinking back at me as though unsure if their thousandfold sight can be trusted.  

“What are you?” The wheels spin faster, churning until the thing hovers in the air just above my bed. 

A mouth opens somewhere deep within the twisting skin. A choir of voices answers me, layered and echoing and distorting one another. They’re all Astrid’s. 

“A reward for your devotion.” 

The angel edges closer, looming over me. It’s hotter than Astrid was, a furnace against my skin. I smell my own hair burning and the balsamic scent of chrism, dripping hot on my brow from its open mouth. I think of my clean sheets, of Astrid healthy and wicked and mine. I spit, mouth too dry to produce anything but a pathetic spray, which turns to steam before it can make contact with divinity. 

“I don’t want you,” I say. “My girlfriend was devilish.” 

“We all are, beloved.” The light is bright enough that I can make parts of her out now. Within the vortex, her lips are cracked and dry. All her eyes are weeping. 

I shrink into the corner between my headboard and the wall. Fall, I want to beg her, but my mouth is empty, always the sputtering wick to another’s flame. 

“Be not afraid,” she whispers, and it’s just Astrid then, her voice thin and fallible.  Her mouth opens as though against her will, and sound begins to pour from it, terrible as brimstone, as tongues of fire. 

I tremble. 

The song of an angel is not meant for mortal ears; it’s meant to redeem, to rip, to rend. At the end, it’s Astrid and I, her mouth stretched impossibly wide with song, my skin melting away like so much beeswax. There are eyes inside her terrible mouth too, studding her cheeks and tongue like sores, rolling in their sockets. Ichor tears rush from her in all directions, splattering my bedroom with molten gold. My devotion is a holocaust, smoking into nothing. 

About the Author:

Klarissa Lisette is a junior at NC State University majoring in English. Originally from the grey Northeast, she now happily resides further down the coast. She is a lover of frills, fruity coffee, and ill-tempered felines.

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