chapter one: disobey
excerpt from GIRLY, a novel by Elizabeth Merrick

When her mind said: The Devil the Devil, she thought:

I am not going to think about the Devil—

And so there he was.

The line from his cheek to his chin like an almond, his eyes bright, thick flecks turned fast so she could never see them clearly, his mouth the same silvery smudge.

I am not going to.

His fingers, reflective, vaporous, came to her heart.

It was too much then—the Devil couldn’t resist. He’d tried to talk to her before, in that androgynous voice Racinda imagined for him, but this time, it was something more real—a woman’s voice.

The deep edge of treble, and soothing, and kind.

Honey, don’t worry, she heard the Devil say, and in that music of the Devil’s voice Racinda saw Ruth’s hair spinning into brightness and the green spills of life out in the fields, in Button’s garden, honey, don’t worry, the Devil said, and Racinda knew just then, just for a second that the Devil was not what she’d thought, Racinda just for that one second knew it was something other than the Devil, and that this voice was actually for real, this voice was actually trying to soothe her.

But Amandine had trained her well, and when that second finished she convinced herself that voice was him, poor baby, she thought the touch of a smooth hand on her chin was something to cower from.

Hi, the woman’s voice said.

Racinda felt the Devil’s girly hand in that voice, she felt a giant, empty, new space where her sister misbehaved, where rebuke thee meant nothing, came out as jumbled syllables, where the words to real things were unformed yet, still tones and melodies, colors, the feeling of walking into a cloud.

Something shifted at the edge of the hill in her mind, where the road curved away to her mother’s house—Racinda turned her head fast, expecting to see an animal scuttling off. But it was nothing, just shadows. A boy’s face, and a man’s face, that she’d never seen but would know in time.

Hi. The Devil? A sweet, feminine voice. How could it be so terrifying, and so close-in, and so full of adoration?


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