The Devil's Quill

Christina (preview)

Katherine Kim

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Less than two weeks since the move to suburban Pennsylvania, and I already collected a gallery of friends at my side. I imagined myself a curator limited to gathering works of pearl, marble, and alabaster. And like any self-respecting curator, I prided myself on the vast collection.

Until one of them came to life.

“Christina,” she said, her voice a low crackle of a Victrola warming up. “You’re the new girl, aren’t you?”

I opened my mouth, then closed it. I nodded and knew I couldn’t tell her my name; what kind of pretentious curator introduces herself over the masterpiece she receives? And besides, this girl wasn’t stone like the others; she blazed with light, the steel of her shoulders glistening under the fluorescent rectangles.

This girl was a phenomenon.

She smiled and offered a hand. “I’ll walk you to your next class. You seem a little lost.”

For words, I added in my head as I scrambled down the hallway to keep up with her confident strides.

 

Every day, Christina came to school with her brown hair curling into the nape of her neck and her bangles singing on her thin white wrists. She possessed a charisma that intoxicated everyone around her: boys and girls alike.

“Doesn’t it get irritating?” I asked her, when she calmly turned another hopeful Homecoming invite down – this one from a tall redheaded girl with sharp cheekbones and a crooked smile.

“Not if they keep giving us presents,” she said, holding out the daffodil bouquet the redhead shoved in her face. “Here, take them. There’s no room in my locker, and I’ll probably forget about them and let them die in my backpack.”

The tissue paper wrapped around the flowers collapsed where my hand touched it, and it made my fingers brush with Christina’s for a brief moment. Then she pulled away, her face nonchalant as ever, leaving me at her locker holding a bunch of half-wilted daffodils. Some people saw the flowers first, and shook their head at me sympathetically, thinking me another rejected contender.

 

Christina leaned closer, red lips splitting to reveal a brilliant smile. “Hey. It’s going to go fine. We won’t get caught.”

“Right,” I said automatically, looking at the poor house that would find itself egged in minutes.

One of Christina’s friends – Danielle or Becky or Monique – snorted. “Don’t be such a prude. Your mom won’t find out.”

I ignored her. “You chose the wrong night to be a Bond Girl, Christina. I don’t think anyone can run away in those heels.”

“Et tu, Zoe?” she clutched at her heart, her bare shoulders illuminated by the moon. “For that, you’re definitely getting the first throw.”

A chorus of complaints rose from the alabaster girls surrounding us.

“What? No fair, Christina, you said I’d get it this year!”

“That’s bull. Zoe’s only been here for a couple of months, make her wait like us!”

“Quiet!” Christina snapped, and for a moment, she looked a holy terror, Caravaggio’s Medusa come to life. Then she smiled, reached into the folds of her dark dress, and handed a single egg to me.

Whoever crossing the street that night must have stared at the sight of Vesper Lynd and Loïs Mailou Jones viciously painting a house with egg yolk.

 

Snow rained down onto the slate rooftops, and I thought of Pissarro trudging across the pale lanes, breath puffing from his eagerness to paint the winter scene.

A laugh across the phone interrupted my silent reverie.

“Don’t tell me you’re making art parallels again, Zoe.”

“Why not?”

“It’s snow, for god’s sake. What do people even use to show snow? A blank canvas?”

“Hey, I’ll have you know Kandinsky’s Winter Landscape used next to no white.”

“All right, Miss Curator. Back to the topic at hand, please?”

“What was it again?” I teased, and I heard her muffled laughter.

“Chemistry homework?”

I closed my eyes and groaned, running a hand through my bushy curls. “Damn. I forgot about that. Mansfield’s going to have a fit if I don’t start it today.”

“Hmm. You’re welcome to do it at my house.”

I sat up. “What? It’s a blizzard out there, Christina, I’d be lucky if I didn’t freeze!”

“Well, you better hurry up then. It’s 342 Fatale Lane, and don’t worry about the distance. I haven’t heard anyone in this town keeling over in the winter.”

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Christina (preview)