top of page
< Back

The Sisterhood of the Callistemon

Claire Watson

Instagram: Claire.Be.Watson 

Twitter: Pitsofdesclaire

"My piece is a fantasy short-storied, centering on magical top-surgery. It seeks to discuss the isolation and hypocrisy of TERF ideology. In this piece, I've constructed an institution, inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry, wherein women* use embroidery to make enchantments. My characters struggle to find their place in this institution. While it explores the transphobia of this institution, it also points out how this strict idea of 'womanhood' is also harmful, though not necessarily in the same way or extent, to girls and women.

Writing about conservative magical institutions, attended by teenagers - yes, I think I wrote this to cope with She Who Shall Not be Named's crusade, and how that ideology is doomed to implode. While it's about all this, it is a happy piece. The named characters accept the trans character, and help him, through magical top-surgery, become who he is. Because of that, I would trigger warn for mild gore, but it is not written to upset. I wanted to write something fantastical, that could be enjoyed by all ages."

The Sisterhood of the Callistemon 

[Content warning for mild gore]

‘Blessings fall on delicate hands,’ Dear Thistledown said as she fingered the linen rippling out of the embroidery hoop. She looked at the clumps of thread scattered across my bench. ‘Though, I wish you wouldn’t waste so much fabric.’ 

A cream cloth draped over my bench like fondant, and I saw the snips of thread as nonpareils rolling over my confection. My fingers were raw and littered with blood blisters. I wished for an apron to wipe my messy hands clean, but settled instead for the emerald sash of my robes. It was an altogether sweet scene that I had embroidered for Dear Thistledown, my tongue swelled at the sight. 

‘What you stitch, is no short of magic, Darling Harriet.’ But I feared that it only rotted the Dear’s teeth, as she let out a haggard sigh. ‘So why, isn’t there any in it?’

How was I to answer? If I answered honestly - I don’t know Dears, I haven’t made an enchantment in the whole sixteen years I’ve been here. Either I’m talentless or have terrible teachers - then I’d warrant a smack to the head. If I pandered, and said - Oh, I didn’t realise it was supposed to be enchanted. There, I know now for next time - then I’d also be smacked, and made to sit in the corner. 

I responded with pursed lips and a steady gaze. For that, Thistledown cast my work across the room. The wooden hoop clattered against the stone tiles, making all the Darlings prick their fingers and yelp. 

Her voice was shrill, bouncing about the chamber. She spread her wings like a seagull. If only she could fly like one. ‘It is the dream of all these girls to pull needles into such beautiful pictures. They long for what you have,’ she squawked. ‘If I were them, I’d take up my scissors and snip away your fingers! Then I’d stitch them onto my own palms, in hopes I could sew as you do.’

My sisters, my Darlings, stared at me. Their faces blisteringly crimson against their white dresses. Thisledown’s face was equally red, but also hot and puffy from yelling. Perhaps I was the only one in that room without a blush spreading through my cheeks. Most of my works were damp from some Dear yelling at me. 

‘What beholds you to make such a mockery of our work? A mockery of everything that we - that women - have created? We’ve not spent an age wasting inside homes cultivating our craft to have it squashed by some bed-headed girl that would rather make carpets than enchantments.’ A deep breath shook through her body. 

‘Do it again. Do it until your fingers are nothing but nubs. Do it, until you are able to weave magic.’ 

Then she turned on her heel, and left. Her robes, which were stitched with rows of thistles, blew gusts as she stormed off. As soon as she left, I let my cheeks swell and my eyes smart. Over the past few weeks I’d found it desperately hard to cry, as I found myself stripped of my resilience. I was nothing more than a wilting leaf, soft in the palm of this cold monastery.

It was the plainness of my dress that did it, this time. I glanced at my peers out of the corners of my eye. They sat dressed in their white undergarments. Over their workstations lay their pink robes, in the process of being filled with some foliage. Droplets splashed against the thick fabric, and I watched them sink into the fibres, a reminder of what I was not.

The Sisterhood of the Callistemon sported pink robes, the same bright colour as the bottlebrushes that encircle the monastery, which flowers we use as our embroidery needles. The other Darlings, girls who have not yet been sworn into the sisterhood, wear plain pink robes until they have honed their craft. Once they have been deemed worthy by the Sisterhood, they embellish their robes with a leaf of their choosing. Different leaves lend to different enchantments. Thistles can make even the weakest thread impenetrable, while ivy leaves can stop a stitch from falling out. Pine needles are the most popular design, as it promotes resilience not just in the thread, but in the fabric as well. Only the bodice is left blank. 

When the girl’s work is deemed satisfactory, they attend a ceremony in which the residing Dears sit shoulder to shoulder and stitch a golden hoop across the breast of their dress. The Darlings become Dears, and take on a new name, inspired by the leaf they’ve chosen.

I never gave much thought to what leaf I’d choose. I stared out of the slit of a window, and to the old gatehouse that lay in a tangle of moss and ivy. I never considered who I might become, if only I was the girl they wanted me to be. Perhaps something that’d let me take flight, like sycamore seeds, and leave this monastery once and for all. 

It wasn’t a particularly difficult room to fill, but the scent of freshly baked banana bread wafted through the gatehouse tremendously. Darragh didn’t hesitate in stuffing his face with the yellowish loaf. I could tell by the way he smiled, that the bananas had been just ripe enough to melt on his tongue.

‘This is why you haven’t left yet,’ I said with a laugh. ‘You just wait on me to bring you food.’

‘I’d be hopeless out there!’ Crumbs flew out from his lips as he spoke. ‘Can you imagine me, me of all people, hunting?’ 

‘You wouldn’t consider a bit of gathering?’ 

‘I’d have better luck with a spear than eating every other berry I find, praying that it’s not poisonous.’ 

I shook my head, and spread a generous slab of butter across the bread. ‘I’m sure they’ve invented a stitch for that. Maybe not an anti-poison stitch, but an antidote stitch, surely.’

Once upon a time, there was a great battle that decided the future of our worlds. It was many, many years ago, and would have been buried beneath the ashes of time, were it not for the hands of unnamed women, who worked painstakingly at immortalising the war through the art of embroidery. You might expect that such an important artwork would be cared for and revered by all who came to see it, but alas, it fell to the neglect of men as it was shoved into basements and nabbed by bandits and rival armies. When men finally understood the importance of the work, they unfurled it to find that not a spot had been left on the tapestry.

The women who had made the tapestry, squatting shoulder to shoulder for hours on end, knew that it was their one and only chance to leave their mark on history. It was believed that this was the birthplace of our enchanted craft, though I’ve no doubt that magic had been woven into stitches before. The women sewed enchantments into their art piece that made it impervious to staining, tearing, and wrinkling, and they told not a single soul. 

They died, buried under the ashes of time, nameless and thankless. Monasteries were built in their honour. These monasteries were meant to be safe-havens for women, where not only were they safe, but respected too. For these stitches became the foundation of our modern world. 

Dears, women who had spent their life training in the craft, were sent out across the seas, to embroider war flags with boons, to stitch speed into the sails of ships, and to weave good fortune into the cloaks of royals. They crafted aprons that, when worn, ensured that the food made could cure any ailment. Perhaps in the book you’re reading, a thin thread spirals around the spine, so that the writing bloats or shrinks to whatever size suits your eyes. 

It was a great time to be a girl, the people said, for there was no greater place than the monastery of the Sisterhood of the Callistemon, where vibrant bottlebrushes formed pink fairy rings around the stone towers. 

Me and Darragh ate our banana bread in hiding, and dreamt of what the outer world might be like. Leaving was as much of a fear as it was a fantasy, for all we knew were these walls lined with tapestries destined to keep us warm. Even the gatehouse, which had fallen into crumbling disrepair, was embroidered to keep the rain out and the heat in. 

Darragh rolled his head back and let out a laugh. The umber crust trickled down his front. ‘Who’s going to stitch that then, you?’

I tossed the remains of my loaf at him. ‘Well it certainly won’t be you.’ 

We both sighed together, and turned our attention to our surroundings. Darragh had made a bed from old cushions and blankets, piled into cosy lumps. The Sisterhood had no idea that he was still here, and every morning he woke up inside these walls, the risk of being found grew greater. If I could sew, sew with magic, that is, I’d have sewn socks that made him silent, and a jacket that hid his shadow. 

‘Maybe one day,’ I mumbled.

‘Maybe one day I’ll finally leave.’ 

Maybe it was a great time to be a girl, and there was no greater place than the monastery of the Sisterhood of the Callistemon, but Darragh wasn’t a girl. There may have been one in his place when he first arrived on the monastery’s steps, but not anymore.

Darragh was hesitant to meet my eye, but they glimmered when he did. 

‘I’ll be ready soon. I promise.’

He nodded. ‘I know.’ 

We were a strange pair - like two buttons that lay rattling around the bottom of a sewing kit. We were ill fitted to this place; while Darragh often compressed what was left of his girlhood beneath the green sash of his robes, my girlhood failed to reach the expectations of the monastery. It was strange to me, I had no problem with being a girl, but still they rejected me almost as harshly as they had Darragh.

He still wore his pink robes, though he had since fashioned them into trousers that could wrap around his waist. His were decorated with the white petals of a dogwood tree. He had made it to the end of his assessment, but all he lacked was the golden hoop. I remember how much the Dears loved him, before they found out. He had the ability to strike his needle through the world and stitch a new continent, and he wouldn’t break a sweat. It was ironic that all the world prided the Sisterhood on leading the fight towards gender equality, while all the work they produced solely benefitted the world of men. There’s not a single stitch to alleviate menstrual cramps or soak up blood. I didn’t say it then, and I wouldn’t say it now, but I wondered if this worldly imbalance was why the Dears had hated Darragh.

Darragh smiled at me then, and it reminded me that there was more to life than these stone walls. ‘It’s not like I’ve anything to lose.’

‘I know, I know. but I need to get it right.’

‘Hey,’ he said. ‘You got this, okay? I quite literally trust you with my life. Which is a big deal, but know I’d do the same for you.’

That night, I readied for bed while Dear Acer examined the day’s work. 

‘It really is beautiful, Darling.’

‘It doesn’t matter, it’s not enough. She hated it.’ 

I looked at Dear Acer, her face illuminated in the candlelight. A few years ago, when it became apparent that I had not made any headway in learning the craft, magical craft, of embroidery, I was forced to begin private lessons while the other Darlings ate their dinner. 

Dear Acer was kind. Her face was wrinkled in such a way to look like sheets of velvet folding in itself. Her cheeks sagged, making her face all the more plumper. Light pooled in the crevices surrounding her eyes, and her thinning hairline glistened like a newborn’s. I thought she was gorgeous, and hoped that when I was her age, mine would hold the same sweetness as her face did.

She sat like a whelk, curling into herself at my workbench. With her plump and shaky fingers, she pulled the embroidery thread apart. When I was younger, she would tell me stories, so as to distract me from the day’s grievances. 

It was through her that I found I actually quite enjoyed embroidery. To me, it was like painting, only it had the added experience of touch. I used different knots and stitches to create a varied sensory experience, so that if you closed your eyes and ran your fingers across my work, you’d see it all the same. 

I outlined these with dark backstitches, both to illustrate the dark shadows inhabiting our monastery, but also to give the feeling of mortar that seeped beneath each brick. The stones themselves were a simple, but not to be dismissed, satin stitch. I had just been perfecting a gradient effect, where I blended together different threads. The threads were darker on the outside of my thread, but as they travelled inwards, became a silvery colour. Dear Acer was quite pleased with this, she always enjoyed how I had liked to play with light and dark. 

‘You’re a lucky girl, Harriet. As soon as you come of age you’re free to live the life you wish. You won’t be bound to the obligations of a gift.’ She took a sip from her tea, which was made of pink petals.

For these flowers, I used a feathered stitch. I didn’t like to just stick to the one colour of thread, and instead of relying solely on pink, I had used a mixture of reds, oranges, and purple.

‘But you’re happy, aren’t you?’

‘I am as happy as can be. Still, I can’t help but wonder… It’s silly.’

I turned to face her, her face glowing with an excitement she had kept hidden for years. ‘You can tell me anything Dear, and I promise I won’t find it silly.’

Dear Acer finished her tea, and wiped pink droplets from her chin. She sighed. ‘Suppose I’m too old to be keeping secrets from friends.’ She looked at me knowingly, and I felt the warmth of her tea settle in my chest. ‘I always wondered about the person I’d be if I could wield magic the way I saw fit. Of course, I am grateful to the sisterhood for the wonders it has bestowed upon me, and many wonders I have seen thanks to our role in society. Once, I stood on the bridge of a ship, and fantasised how it’d feel to stand on a pirate ship, to build a mast that’d never let go of me as I swung in the bristling sea winds.’

‘You wanted to be a pirate?’ I couldn’t hide my shock.

‘You said you wouldn’t find it silly.’

‘Swashbuckling Acer…’

‘Enough of that. Let an old woman dream.’

We both turned to look out the window of my embroidery, at the fantasy of the world that lay beyond our walls. Out there, tides were calling for wayward travellers to ride their waves. I couldn’t stop the words from spilling out.

‘Dear, I’m leaving.’

Acer nodded, as though she had known this for a long time, but hadn’t let herself indulge it.

I continued, the words like tufts flying from my lips, ‘Could you come with me? Come with us.’

She looked from my embroidery, the drawing of a window, to the real window that watched over my bedside. Outside there was only darkness. She had begun whispering, so quietly I hadn’t noticed it at first. 

‘But who will I be, if not Dear Acer?’

‘What was your name before, do you remember it?’ 

She turned away from me, unravelled herself and stood up from her seat. She marched towards the window, and for a moment I thought she might try and squeeze herself out, but she stopped. ‘When will you be leaving?’

‘Tomorrow night.’ It hadn’t been decided, but I knew that any longer in this monastery would break me. I wasn’t as strong as Acer.

‘Then let me see you off. Who are you travelling with?’

‘My friend Darragh,’ his voice rattled in my mouth, shamefully. ‘He used to go here.’

‘I think I remember him, was she - he - the one with the dogwood petals? I had hoped he’d found a new sanctuary.’ She wrapped her arms around herself, tucking her fists into her sleeves. ‘One that was pleasant to him’.

I couldn’t respond to that, but I leapt from my chair and wrapped my arms around Acer. 

She stroked my back. ‘I see many wondrous things in you. You’ll make magic yet.’

I pressed my face against her to stifle a great sob. ‘Then come and see it. Please.’

‘Darling, darling… I’ve had my adventures. You’ll be alright, I know it.’

‘Then will you tell me one last story? One of yours, if you please.’ 

When she pulled me away she pressed a heavy kiss onto my forehead. There was a damp patch where my tears had stained her dress. ‘Alright then, one last time. Let me clear this away while you get ready for bed.’ 

She began piling my threads into an inlaid box. When my back was turned, I caught her reflection creeping across my bed, I watched her tuck my embroidery into her robes. That had broken my heart and mended it in the same beat.

I wasn’t a failure, I was just in the wrong place. I’d find where I belong, me and Darragh would, together. And if we couldn’t find it, we’d carve it for ourselves. Build our own world from scratch. If the sisterhood could do it, then we certainly could too. 

I burst out the door into the shivering night air. Spools of thread bounced in my satchel, daring to spill free. I feared leaving a trail of brightly coloured thread in my wake, so I held the bag tight against my chest. My bare feet slapped against the damp Earth, as nightingales sang on branches clothed in shadow. 

Darragh stepped out into the moonlight, ushering me inside as I wheezed and panted.

‘You’re late,’ he said, a laugh playing upon his lips.

I collapsed into a pile of feathers. Darragh had gutted the moulding cushions to carry what little belongings he had. 

‘Fighting chickens?’ I asked, still catching my breath.

The pale light slanted across his face, and though he smiled at me, I saw the frantic gleam in his eye and his red, puffed-up cheeks. I hadn’t seen him this afraid in a long time. The memory of him trembling as the Dears spat, unveiling him before all the Darlings, flashed across my mind. How his frame caved in, as he was made to remove his robes and walk out the steps of the monastery. He was just a boy.

Fear leaked out of him like sweat, and I made a vow then that he’d never feel ashamed again.

‘Come on.’ Standing, I pushed through my own fears. ‘Take off your robes and lie down by the window, where I can see you.’ We didn’t dare light candles. One slip and we’d be found. 

Darragh did as he was told, while I grabbed my needle and thread. I’d done this a thousand times, could do it with my eyes closed, but the needle slipped between my fingers. Darragh unbound his chest, and lay with arms bent across his form like broken wings. If I couldn’t make the Dears pay for what they’d done, then the least I could do was help my friend be free. 

At last, I fed my thread through the eye.

‘For your skin,’ I handed him a vial of pink oil. ‘It’ll help the needle go in.’

‘This will work. I feel it.’

I placed my hand on his stomach, now slick from the oil. His breathing was scattered, though he was trying to mask it. ‘We have to try. If it doesn’t-’

‘No. It will.’

Once, when we were only small, Darragh and I had been playing out by the flowers. We were playing hide and seek/ Darragh slipped into the pink brush, and found a starling skewered on the sharp petals. Pink needles pierced its chest, as thick blood mottled its feathers. At that age, no one knew I was a lost cause. Maybe that’s what did it. Without thinking I plucked a needle from the brush and Darragh snapped some thread from his waistband. We were only kids, but as I look back, I see how much Darragh trusted me. He gave me the thread without hesitation. It was a basic stitch, one you learn early to close up wounds. 

As I pulled the thread along the bird’s barely moving chest, I saw the string turn golden, before burying itself into its feathers. The starling cocked its head to me, as its feathers singed with sparkling light. I think Acer thought I made up the story as a last hope, but I still remember how its claws scraped my palms as it leapt into the sky. 

‘It will,’ I repeated.

He clutched my hand, and together we took a deep breath. He nodded, in the pale light, and I plunged the needle into his chest.

It didn’t hurt on entry; it was the pulling it out that caused Darragh to scream. Immediately, I shoved a fistful of feathers into his mouth. As quickly as I could, I wove a running stitch along the curve of his breasts. He howled each time, horrified by the feel of thread tugging under his skin.

As I sat back to change my thread, he pulled out the ball of sopping feathers. 

‘Talk to me,’ he pleaded, sweat trickling down his temple. ‘Distract me.’

This time the thread slipped through the needle in one go. The thread was green, the same green I would’ve used for my robes.

‘Okay, okay. right now, I’m sketching the leaves. Roses. Like we discussed.’ I started to embroider his sternum. ‘Because roses are sturdy, and so are you. But, roses typically have thorns,’ I continued, over Darragh’s wincing. ‘But your roses will be thornless. You’ve been through enough pain-’

‘You could say that again.’

‘I don’t want to risk tying you to that. You’re not your pain.’

I wish I could work faster, but Darragh’s life was in my hands. There were medical stitches, and there were embroidery stitches. What I was doing, would have the Dears screaming at me as they had at Darragh. I had to be precise. I didn’t know what would happen if I wasn’t.

‘The petals are going to be green. It’s unconventional - like you - but it can mean so many things. We decided on this colour, because it means life.’ 

I hadn’t even finished outlining the flower, when we heard the gatehouse door creak open. 

All hope drained from Darragh’s face. He shook his head, mouthing no, no, no. Fear shook through his body, and he began to cry. The needle was startlingly cold in my hand, and I felt that if I just kept my back to the door, then it wouldn’t be true. To the monastery, we were already heathens, but if they found that my thread had pierced someone’s skin in some hack-job surgery, I’d be seen as a traitor to humankind with Darragh as my accomplice. 

I held Darragh’s hand. Someone must’ve seen me dash across the garden, or found my bed empty. I told myself that it was just a bird, or bat, or mouse. Even as I watched the intruder’s shadow stretch across the ceiling, I convinced myself I was dreaming. My nerves were getting the better of me, it was just the light, it was my own shadow.

But I smelt her, before I saw her.

‘Is it too late for my adventure?’ Dear Acer whispered from the edge of the room.

My tears then were free to fall, but I smiled. ‘Never.’

‘Then let me help you. Goodness knows what you’re doing.’ She picked up her needle and nestled beside me. ‘Beautiful as always, Darling. But at this rate, the sun will have risen before you’ve finished a flower. What stitch are you working with?’

‘Stem stitch.’

‘Goodness.’ She chuckled as she shook her head. ‘No point in changing it now. I’ll start on the petals, how does a back-stitch sound?’

‘It’ll work.’

‘Course it will. Darragh darling, you let me know if you need anything. We need you in one piece, and that’s something a needle and thread won’t fix.’

He gave a weak thumbs up, and collapsed back into the cushions. 

This time, he was ready for the pain, and managed to get by on gritting his teeth and tugging at my robe. Somehow, this closeness helped to ground me. There was no going back now, and so there was no point in worrying about what might go wrong. Acer worked at my side, our elbows poking each other, our shoulders rubbing together. This was how it should be.

‘Tell me-’ Darragh mumbled.

‘Finishing up the stem stitch. Then, we’re going to fill it in with a satin stitch. Hopefully, that won’t hurt as much,’ I explained. ‘Then, we’ll take out the running stitch, and if I’m right - which I am - that’ll start the enchantment. 

Acer hummed. Her bony fingers were fast, and she was done outlining the petals while I was still finishing off my last leaf. I still had a lot to learn, it seemed. 

‘Green means growth, too,’ I went on, re-threading my needle. ‘When we’re done, we’ll gather our things and take off. There’s that village nearby - we’ll stop there and rest. Not for long, because the Dears will see that we’re gone, and with Acer, they’ll want to find us.’

‘If I’m putting you in any danger…’ 

‘No, you have to come with us!’ I leaned in closer to her, so that my head bumped into her shoulder. ‘We need someone that’s been outside, that’s actually been in the world. We need you, Acer. And if you’re not doing it for us, do it for yourself. You deserve to see more than these walls, they all do.’

‘We’re hardly imprisoned, Darling. Dears are sent out all across the world to work.’

‘Right. To work. And they have to come back. That’s not freedom. By the time we’ve come of age our lives are already set in stone - wound in thread. I didn’t fit into that, nor did Darragh, and look what they’ve done to us.’

I watched Acer’s eyes grow wet in the moonlight, and my heart swelled.

‘Oh Acer, I’m not blaming you. It’s a handful of people from a long time ago, and that handful of people gets to decide what everyone else does. What about you? In a second they could cast you out as well. Say they think your fingers are too stubby to weave thread. What then? They’d cast you out and everything that you were told was fixed just bursts at the seams.

‘And what am I working towards? To embroider the cloaks of Kings that sit on their thrones pushing people like Darragh and I further onto the seams?’ I was furiously filling in the petals on Darragh’s chest. ‘That’s not the life I want, it’s not who I want to be.’

Acer didn’t respond for a few moments. She was busy helping me colour in Darragh’s stitches. Darragh was quiet too, his breaths had steadied. His skin was hot beneath our fingertips. 

I took a deep breath. ‘I’m sorry, Acer. It’s not you I’m mad at.’

‘No, you’re quite right. It is…’ she struggled to find the words. ‘Hard to listen to. I agree with everything you’ve said, and I wish that I was as wise as you when I was your age. But it is hard. I’ve been in this world, in this Sisterhood, far longer than you have been. It isn’t that I see their side, it’s only that I’ve been stuck inside it for so long.

‘They say that embroidery is a delicate art, because once you pierce your canvas there is no undoing it. But stitching is not just an art, it’s a form of care. You cannot undo holes, just as you cannot undo your life. But you can mend, and you can right wrongs, and you can change. It isn’t always easy - you cannot darn your problems away - but you can grow, like green roses.

‘I think we’re almost done now, what do you think?’ She asked, snapping her end of thread.

I leaned back, to admire our craftwork. It was our last moment to clean up any mistakes we had made along the way. 

‘We’re ready. Darragh, are you ready?’

All he could do was nod. 

Acer rested one hand on my shoulder, and took Darragh’s hand in the other. There was a drop of magic in me. Now more than ever, I needed it to spill out. I took my needle, and pushed it beneath the pink running stitch. Being as gentle as I could be, I tugged the thread free. One by one the stitches came loose. Darragh scrunched up his face, while fighting back a smile. Perhaps, the magic was already working. 

‘I’m so proud of you,’ Acer whispered in my ear. 

Where the pink stitch was once laid, dazzling beads of light appeared. They grew until the room was drowning with warm clouds of gold. I hid my face in my hands, as hot tears slid down my cheeks. But peeking through, I watched Darragh rise into the air. Light trickled down the thread in his chest, and burst into flashes of green. For a moment, it seemed as though the flowers were real, as petals peeled from his skin and flurried about the gatehouse. He was in bloom. 

Then, all the light was sucked into his breast, and the petals flew back to their buds. Darragh’s body went taught, as he rose higher and higher. His fingers twitched, agony contorted his face. I stopped myself from screaming out.

As the light encased him, the worst-case scenarios flashed through my head. I saw him bursting into flames. I saw him collapse to the floor, totally unchanged. Worst of all, I saw him collapse to the floor and go limp. His body disappeared into a bundle of light, and it grew painful to watch. I closed my eyes.

Before I knew it, it was dark again. My vision was patchy, as my eyes tried to readjust. I fumbled towards where Darragh had been, my heart racing faster than it had all night. 

His warm hand took mine, and pulled me into a fierce embrace. We clutched each other, and crumpled to our knees. As I held him tight, I knew by the sudden gap between our chests that it’d worked. Our hearts beat together, uninterrupted.

Acer rushed forward and wrapped her arms around us. The three of us began to sob, and then we began to laugh. We helped Darragh climb back into his clothes, as the surgery had made his arms stiff. Each time he took a breath, he winced a little, but he was desperate to leave. 

We tiptoed out of the gatehouse, and took one last scornful glance at the monastery, and its dagger-like flowers. I gazed at Darragh in the moonlight. He had been beautiful before, but it seemed that the golden glow had become trapped beneath his skin, for his smile was radiant and filled with a fire that I had not seen in years.

Taking his hand, which was as warm as could be, the three of us took off into the night, and set our eyes on the world beyond, and all its unknown wonders.

bottom of page