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Calla's named like lilies, and she's so white and tender that she bruises if she rolls over wrong in bed. She's got sparking blue eyes, but rag-tangles of black hair (like crows fighting over the last bit of bread), and when she was born, her mother died.

The nurse (all curl-haired and pointy-faced), leaning over Calla's crib, was her mother's sister. Aunt Cara (c's all the way down, with Mama Caroline and Gramma Cassie). She spit three times into Calla's face and made a cross and it hung over Calla's crib, glittering whenever the dirty sunlight filtered through the window of their hovel and struck the crossbar.


She runs all the time. Runs from her cousins and their friends, who throw rocks. Runs at school around and around the track. Runs home. Runs up and down stairs. "She's fast!" they say, and avert their eyes from the tangles of her hair and the glinting in her eyes. "Poor girl," they say, when they see the bruises. "Poor girl," they say, when they hear about her mother.

Around thirteen, Calla the Lily decides she's had enough of being the poor girl. She holds Brian the Snot down by his pointy throat and punches him until they pull her off.

He loses three teeth and she none, and after that, she breaks hearts, arms, faces, and everything she can.

Eventually she breaks Aunt Cara's arm, and then she's gone before they can call the cops, Calla off running down the dark street with a backpack over her shoulder and a song of rage and fear in her her heart. She's bruised all over her insides and she's got Aunt Cara's bruises up and down her arms from bony fingers.


She's homeless. Plays tricks with quick fingers for money, plays drums on street corners, gets things thrown at her, gets hauled in for vagrancy. Picks up smoking, puts it down again. She gets hard, fast, but she still bruises easy and still has that crow-tangle hair on her head. She breaks the arms of pimps who think her quick trick fingers and her white body will sell for money.

She hums at night now, and she hears the voice of her mother. Gramma Cassie didn't tell her they were witches, but after fifteen years of bruises and curses and crosses above her bed, it all makes sense.

She thinks about it, Mamma Caroline muttering in her head, and the next time someone crosses her, she hops up and down on the largest crack she can find down a twisting side-street until they get run over by a car.


Calla likes to think of herself as a rebel, just like all the other kids on the street. She likes to think of the mundanes as marks, curse-spots. Sometimes she'll have them cross her palm with silver. Sometimes she demands maps from them, because she's curious now about all the cracks she can find on the side-streets, and all the strange places Mamma Caroline guides her too, muttering.

Bit by bit, Calla finds the cracks to strike a man dead, the cracks which widen in hearts so you fall in love. She finds the ones to turn aside attention, slipping into so no one can see. She finds the ones where coins tumble, and wallets fall, and the one where she can squint to see the next day.

She catches a man one day, filling the crack where the hearts widen out, and she shoves him into it, good and hard. His name is Jeffrey, and when he stands up, his skin is bruised all violet like the palms of her hands. There's stars in his eyes, those wide innocent eyes (brown and streaked with green) staring up at Calla Lily, and she takes his hands and lets him take her home.


Out again in a year after he gets tired of her calling out to Mamma Caroline in the dark. All the cracks in the world can't get him back, so she steals his money and goes back out on the streets.

Back in the alleyways, she's white but dirty all over, and she mumbles constantly now to herself, day after day. Calla Lily's got all the cracks in the city, and she tends them with a rusty crowbar, widening the paths her Mamma shows her. Some days, palm crossed with silver, she'll take someone by the hand and take them down to their crack, shoving them wide in, feeding them up to the neck.

Sometimes the cracks promise her things too, but caught in her lily garden filled with asphalt and cement and Caroline's whispering, she doesn't ask for anything anymore to take her away from the land of the black purple bruises and her mother's voice.

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