callisto

Written by Jessica Liu
Art by Leah Prodigalidad


Callisto was in love. 

And she was terrified, because she was a Hunter of Artemis. And Hunters weren’t supposed to fall in love.

But who was she kidding? 

It wasn’t like it was something she could control. It wasn’t like she could restrain her heart like she did her prey when they pulled and pulled on the nets that Britomartis wove.

It was wrong. So wrong. And it was wonderful.

Callisto was in love with a fighter, with lithe and strong limbs, hands and veins that ran like rivers she bathed in. She was in love with a leader, eyes that glinted silver like the stars, or perhaps the moon, with quiet determination. A friend. A teacher, a-

“Dreaming again, Callisto?”

Callisto woke with a start.

Artemis was standing above her, one hand on her hip, the other gripping her bow, a teasing smile on her face.

“Yes, my lady,” Callisto stammered. “I- I mean- no, my lady, I-“

Artemis smirked.

“Oh, Callisto,” Artemis shook her head in amused resignation. “What am I to do with you? I’ll have to keep an eye on you, won’t I?”

Yes, you will.

With an easy grin, Artemis jogged off into the clearing, and Callisto laid back down with a sigh.

That was close.

Callisto closed her eyes again, and let herself drown in her fantasies.

Lips, hands, curves, hands, collarbones, beautiful, beautiful

She rested a cheek on her forearm, knowing she would drift off any moment, and no doubt dream again.

She always dreamt of the same thing. She always dreamt of her.

Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, whose arrow never missed her prey, had captured Callisto’s heart.

Advertisement

I ran into you in the halls

Written by Jessica Liu
Art by elizabethaferry


I ran into you in the halls the other day.

Shit, was my first thought.

I ducked into the bathroom quick. Took a few deep breaths. Calmed my turbulent heart rate. Walked out. 

Why the hell were you still standing there?

You waved to me with a huge grin. You idiot.

“Hi,” you smiled, so casual, so jolly, so stupid, so you. “Where are you going? Let me walk you somewhere.”

God, I hate you.

My no thank you’s blurred into my yeah sure’s like they always did when you were around. 

Somehow, we ended up walking side-by-side, like we did at Little Tokyo and Old Pasadena. A million memories, captured in film, of late night walks and late night talks replayed in my mind.

“I’m actually lost. I’m looking for 3091,” I confessed, scanning the room numbers.

“Isn’t it, like, the second week already?” That all too familiar lopsided smile. 

“I’m not the best with directions,” I replied. 

I remembered all the times we went on the Metro together, the way you knew how to get anywhere, but still stubbornly refused to help me out because my utter lack of navigation skills was amusing.

I remembered the time we got lost on the way to the Union Station. 

Did you remember the time we got lost on the way to the Union Station?

I opened my mouth to ask you how you’d been. I halted my breath with a sharp inhale. 

Why did this feel so normal, so easy? Why did it feel so natural?

Silence. I was so scared of saying the wrong thing, the right thing, to let a hint of wistfulness peek through.

Because what if I fell again? Just like before. A little at first, and then suddenly crashing down, all at once.

I could hear my breathing behind my mask. It reminded me of the night you asked me to meet you at half past ten. It was later than I had ever been out. I should have been terrified. Sitting under a tall palm tree, shivering in my airy top, slipping on your purple hoodie, my warm breath painting watercolor clouds in the sky every time I spoke.

A side-ways glance. Eyes meet. Look away.

An accidental brush of our arms. Flinch away.

I really, really hate this.

You looked different. You looked good. You’d gotten a haircut, put on some actual pants, even thrown a ratty leather jacket on top. 

Foreign. All I remember thinking. Foreign.

The sight was nearly enough to bring tears to my eyes. 

I admit, I hated your old sense of style, mostly because it was non-existent, loved roasting you on your questionable haircut, and teased you on your habit of wearing the same crusty shorts every day no matter what the occasion.

But all of that was you. All of that was what I knew.

It wasn’t the 3-month absence, a you-shaped hole in my life that hurt so bad, marking the absoluteness, the permanence that I so desperately wanted to avoid. Rather, it was seeing you again that day, in a new light, in a new place, as a stranger.

“You always said you weren’t a leather jacket guy,” I said, cursing the longing note that bled into my words. 

I looked up at your face, searching for something, anything, that I might recognize.

You laughed, shrugging your shoulders. But you didn’t say anything.

Why didn’t you say anything?

Was I kidding myself, torturing my heart by hanging onto every word, every glance? Reopening old wounds by entertaining scenarios that only played out the way I wanted them to in my dreams?

Our footsteps echoed against the empty hallway. A clock ticked above. 3:06. I was late to my English class.

Someone walked by us. You smiled at them. 

You always gave out smiles too easily, like you had an unlimited supply stored away. That used to bother me before. 

If you looked at everyone like that, then how was I supposed to feel when you looked at me like that? From underneath your dark fringed lashes. With a twinkle in your eye, like you were trying not to laugh, or make a joke that I would have definitely taken offense to. 

How long would you haunt me as a what-if, as a never-was

3095. 3093. 3091.

“There it is,” you said.

I grabbed the door handle.

“Alright, bye.” I never looked back. 

I had art class, and my paint brush glided over the cream canvas, leaving behind beautiful stains of color. 

Indigo and lavender daydreams faded into the gray of a distant and fleeting memory.

my heart, for you

Written by Jessica Liu
Art by Kayleigh Gallagher


My heart isn’t mine anymore
Here, you can keep it

I cut it out of my chest last night with a sword
it didn’t even hurt, I swear to the Lord

Don’t mind all the cuts and the scrapes
from the last time I gave it away

I saw it two months later in a lost and found
that was a half an hour drive away from my town

It was still in the gift box I wrapped it in
with my beautiful burgundy violin

But it was alright
I took it home that night
put it back in with a little ice

I didn’t even cry for God’s sake,
it was nothing compared to the heartbreak

Please ignore the unsightly stretch marks
that run down the sides like gills on a carp

Those stripes formed when my love wore thin
my patience tested by my own kin

Tried about a million creams
spent too much on skin care regimes

I know it’s not perfect
but neither am I

Hope you’ll accept it
you know I’m shy

It’s looking for a forever home
to feel like more than just a temporary loan

So put it on a table, stack it on a shelf
don’t worry about me, it won’t affect my health

Just look at it once in a while
it would be happy if you could spare a smile

It doesn’t need sunlight or a watering schedule
if it’s with you I know I don’t need to worry

I know you’ll make it feel real special.

10 things I want to tell my younger self

Written by Jessica Liu
Art by Pixabay


10. Sunscreen. Three finger lengths. Every day. Rain or shine.

9. The easiest and tastiest sandwich recipe you’ll ever need: 2 slices of whole wheat bread, fig jam on the bottom, mayo on the top, turkey, brie, arugula, top with salt and pepper and enjoy. 

8. Don’t be afraid of being alone. In middle school and high school you are going to be spending a lot of time in the library during brunch and lunch. That’s okay. You’ll find your people eventually, and don’t let them go. Good friends are rare, and friendships can fade so easily. Put in the time and reach out to people you want to hang out with. Ask them to go on a walk, a picnic, grab boba and lunch, go thrifting, anything.

7. Prioritize academics, but don’t push yourself too hard. It’s not worth it to take 6 classes and burn out 5 weeks into the semester. Focus on learning the course material, not just passing, and don’t make school your entire personality, because that’s just pretentious and really annoying.

6. Phoebe’s a shitty friend and you need to stop letting her treat you like a doormat. 

5. Be kind to your body. Please. It’s your only forever home, so take care of it. It labors every day to help you run, walk, move, dance, laugh. Stop punishing it for not looking like something it was never meant to look like. It’s beautiful, so beautiful, and deserves more than Coke Zeros and midnights hunched over toilet bowls.

4. He hurt you, and you’re allowed to take all the time you need to let go. Healing should never be rushed, and honestly, I think it’s beautiful that you are able to care so deeply for another person, to open up wholly and vulnerably, choosing to trust them with your heart even if it means the possibility of them shattering it into ten thousand pieces.

3. Your parents aren’t perfect. They’re just people, and really, really flawed people at that. They love you, but sometimes don’t know how to. Forgive, but don’t forget. Love them, but never blindly.

2. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. No one in the world has hurt you like I have, and you didn’t deserve any of it. I wish I could take back my words, hurled at you in school bathroom mirrors. All those 2am’s you spent, falling asleep with muted sobs, and I kept silent through it all. 

1. I love you.

Birthday blues

Written by Jessica Liu
Art by Suzy Hazelwood


Today is my birthday: April 6. It is currently 3:02 pm as I am typing this. I am still on campus, sitting in front of the library on an uncomfortably hard plastic chair underneath an umbrella, one of the few places I can find that manages to shield me from the sizzling sun. Southern California is weird. Yesterday it was chilly, about 60 degrees, and today it’s 98. The weather really needs to make up its goddamn mind.

Anyways– I have always felt a sense of melancholy on my birthday. Ever since I could start remembering things, I really don’t think there’s ever been a birthday where I haven’t cried. I’m not sure why that is exactly, but I’ve sort of just accepted it.

Nostalgia is an emotion I have pretty often and it tends to hit exceptionally hard on my birthday. It’s a weird thing, to get one year older, to have grown a couple inches taller, a bit smarter (questionable), and a little more mature. I’ve always been someone who likes to look back in time, rather forward. Though it is probably untrue, I always feel like times were better in the past. I miss the days where I was young and ignorant, naively blissful, and innocently optimistic. As I’ve grown older, cynicism has hit me like a bowling ball. I worry that I am going to be that one nihilistic middle-aged lady that people cannot stand to be around because she’ll be a Debbie-downer. 

I have just turned 16, not at all close to becoming remotely middle-aged. But honestly speaking, I do think a pinch of cynicism is good, like cautionary pessimism, to protect my heart from unattainable expectations. Which brings me to my next point.

My expectations are far too high. I am extremely hard on myself, and push myself to overachieve and go above and beyond when it comes to anything, including celebrations and gifts for people that I care about. This in turn translates to also having steep expectations when it comes to others. I recently took a love language test, and surprise surprise, one of my love languages is gift giving. I really don’t want people to drop hundreds of dollars and buy me expensive gifts. What means the most to me is something thoughtful, perhaps something handmade or cooked, that shows that they care about me and have paid attention to what I like.

There still is something nice about your birthday, though. I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection lately. I think birthdays breed introspection. Today I woke up, thought wow, it’s been another year. What a crazy year. Not my best, not my worst, but one of growth. The COVID-19 pandemic took up half of the year, which I took advantage of to up my fashion game and complete my first semester of online university, filled with Zoom connection issues and frantic 11:58pm Canvas assignment submissions. So many people that started the year off with me aren’t around anymore, and I hope they’re doing well.

I met someone this year, for the first time in my life. He sort of fell into my lap because I was not in any way looking for someone. His birthday was late last year, and we celebrated it on a quiet night, smiling at each other in the playground of our local park. The first time we talked, he mentioned that his favorite baked dessert was chocolate lava cake, which I took a mental note of, as well as the fact that he always complained about his lactose intolerance. The night of his birthday, I called him out on a walk, and we had mini chocolate lava cakes in glass ramekins, and I reassured him that I had used dairy substitutes. Time seemed to slip through my fingers like the fine grains in the kiddie sandbox we dragged our feet through, and my mom was worriedly texting me, as it was 12am already. He walked me home, thanked me twice, and gave me a hug. At the time, nothing had ever meant more to me.

He’s graduating in a month. I haven’t talked to him in 16 weeks. And I wish him nothing but the best. Funny to think I used to believe he was the one. Sometimes I still do. And that’s okay. Life just doesn’t work out the way you want it to sometimes. I stared at his green online dot on Messenger this morning, wondering if that happy birthday text would come in. It never did.

I lost a lot of friends this year. I changed schools, which might have played a role of some sort, but I honestly saw it coming. The friends I lost were already drifting away, and this year I realized that I have been spending time with people who make me feel emptier than if I was just alone. So I’m learning to be okay with letting people go. It’s painful, but better than trying to force a connection when it’s not there.

I’m slowly becoming more excited to grow up, and for once I am looking towards the future with anticipation and cautious optimism. Losing people I cared about and depended on emotionally this year has made me realize that I really just have myself. That was scary, because I didn’t believe in myself or my capabilities. 

I threw myself into writing, using blank Google docs and the iPhone Notes app to jot down thoughts and emotions that had become too overwhelming to keep inside of me. The bottled-up words that spilled out prevented those feelings from leaking out of my eyes or in the form of a frustrated outburst.

This year was a journey. Rocky, dreamy, giddy, unpredictable, definitely not perfect, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

Happy birthday to me.

Persephone

Written by Jessica Liu
Art by John William Waterhouse


Persephone went with Hades willingly–that’s what people didn’t know.

Hades hadn’t kidnapped her. She chose to go. And she hated herself for it, but if she was presented with the choice again, she wouldn’t have changed a thing.

She still remembered the first conversation she had with him, complaining about her dad’s overprotective authoritarian parenting.

“Yeah, Zeus can really be a douche, sometimes,” Hades said.

Persephone laughed, a surprised cheery sound. She hadn’t heard anyone other than her mother be so blunt about her dad in a while. It was refreshing.

“That’s for sure,” Persephone looked at Hades. Like, really looked at him. 

No one had ever stared at Hades so intently before, and he felt self-conscious.

“Is- is my hair-” he raked his nails through his dark, curly hair, matted from his constant helmet-wearing.

Persephone laughed.

“Your hair’s fine,” she told him. “I just always thought your eyes were black.”

“Are they not?”

“No,” she decided. “They’re indigo. Almost purple. Like an iris, or a hyacinth.”

“Yeah, right,” he scoffed.

“I’m serious.”

“You’re full of shit,” his cheeks were burning. She could make the lord of the underworld blush. 

Time seemed to stand still when she was around him. She couldn’t remember the last time someone had asked her so many questions about herself. He asked her what her favorite fruit was. Pomegranate. What her favorite flowers were. Hyacinths and petunias. Her biggest pet peeve. Her mother chasing away all the men who came near her. 

As they were parting, Hades whispered, “Come on, Persephone. Meet me after the sun sets.”

So she waited until it was dark, and slipped on a dress far too light for the drafty cold night.

Her mother was still asleep. She told herself she’d be back before sunrise. She ran through the meadows where she’d lived her sheltered life, picking daisies and eating persimmons. It was later than she’d ever been out, and she was meeting a man she’d met only a few days prior. She should have been terrified. 

“Persephone,” Hades stepped out of the shadows. He had picked a narcissus, whose petals looked like watercolor splatters of mustard and ivory, and pinned it behind her ear. 

Oh, all the things she wanted them to be.

They made her giddy with hope, with possibility. They kept her up at night, when she was entertaining scenarios that only ever played out the way she wanted them to in her mind, in her dreams. 

So when he asked her to go to the Underworld with him, how could she say no?

“I’m scared,” she had said at first. 

“What are you scared of?”

“I’m supposed to be scared of you.”

“And are you?”

She was silent. And he didn’t make any attempt to reassure her, or convince her. He just stood there, quietly staring at her, with those unnerving midnight eyes. Was she? She should be. He was everything her mother had ever warned her about. 

“No,” she whispered.

He smiled, a light curve of his lips.

“Okay,” he said. “Then I don’t see what the problem is.”

He held out a calloused hand. Persephone took it, and they disappeared into the night. 

The underworld was much different than Persephone had imagined it. It wasn’t dark, it wasn’t fiery, and it didn’t look like a place of torture. But the occasional wails from souls reminded her that it was. She shuddered, and stepped a little closer to Hades. She was so glad she wasn’t mortal.

She followed Hades to his throne room. 

Persephone was falling. She never meant to. But she couldn’t help it. A little bit at first, and then all at once.

One day, Hades came into her room. Something was different, and she could tell. Words spilled from his mouth, and all the blood rushed to her ears, blocking out everything. 

“I’m so, so sorry,” he ended.

About what? Sorry about what? 

Persephone didn’t understand. She didn’t understand what was going on. Whatever “it’s not you, it’s me” bullshit he had said wasn’t making sense. And she definitely couldn’t see clearly with the blurry film that had formed, obstructing her vision.

How many girls had seen their reflection in those eyes? How many girls had he promised the underworld?

Her narcissus looked like a lie, was picked by a cheat, felt like goodbye and reeked of deceit. 

Her mother was already waiting for her back at home with a knowing smile. 

She knew that little girls were a dime a dozen, and a man would never stay. 

It was winter. All the wildflowers had wilted. Fuschia and violet daydreams faded into the umber of a distant palm tree. 

What was a first love if not ephemeral, to have lost it as quickly as it arrived, have it come and go when the seasons change?

She met him in October; he came with the autumn leaves. Left a chilly night in November, whispered goodbye like a winter breeze.

Her eyes were rivers. Her heart was glass. And nothing had ever hurt as bad.

All the things she wanted them to be.

I fall in love

Written by Jessica Liu
Art by Valeriia Miller


I fall in love with souls
dyed the color of ebony
that bleed dark ink
of bitter smiles and salty tears

I fall in love with eyes
that open like windows
into worlds of fantasy and chaos

I fall in love with hearts
naive and pure
porcelain dolls that have yet
to be sloppily glued back together

I fall in love with messes;
hasty strokes of acrylic
running across a cream canvas
in beautiful stains of
sienna and lilac

Darling if this is true
how could I not
fall in love with you?

Reminiscence

Written by Jessica Liu
Art by Alex Conchillos


There is a group of people standing in the dark. Each one staring straight ahead, lost in their own thoughts. A girl is lying on the ground, sleeping peacefully..

Her dad allows a small smile as he thinks back to his last birthday. He was turning forty-nine and his daughter hadn’t so much as mentioned a present or a cake.  Trying not to feel disheartened, he forced a smile and didn’t bring it up. 

What was the big deal? He thought. I’d be happier without any birthdays; I’d be younger that way. After dinner, he went to the garage to finish some work he hadn’t completed. 

Suddenly, his daughter sprinted in and told him to close his eyes. She took his hands and led him into the kitchen. She was bouncing with anticipation, excited as she stared expectantly at her father’s emotionless face. Her dad’s eyes remained closed.

“Oh, you can open them now.” She giggled. Her dad slowly opened his eyes and a surprised gasp escaped him. 

“I thought you all forgot.” He beamed at his family. They never disappointed him. His daughter urged him to make a wish and blow out the candle. Then, he cut the cake and smiled at the pile of cards and drawings on the kitchen counter. Afterwards, they watched a movie together as a family. Even though it was simple, the care and love that went into planning it made the birthday memorable. 

Her mom looks up at the stars with a rueful smile. Though she could barely remember her online passwords, she remembered a specific memory like it was yesterday. 

When her daughter was six, she loved to go to the nearby park, sit by the pond, and look at all the ducks and geese for hours. She whined and begged for a baby duckling to keep as a pet, but was always denied. One day, when she and her mom were at the park again, she made an impulsive decision. She ran to the tall reeds near the back of the pond and reached in. Her goal was to find an egg and hatch it herself; she had read online that waterfowl imprint on the first creature they see, whether that be their mother or a naughty five-year-old human. 

Obviously, the ganders were not okay with this and chased her away, honking and snapping their beaks. Her mother looked over and swallowed a scream. Her tiny daughter was being chased by four huge geese with menacing orange bills. She ran toward her daughter and grabbed her hand as they sprinted away, terrified. 

Her daughter lost a flip-flop in the scramble. Mother and daughter had a good chuckle after that. There was no one in the world who understood her more than her mom. 

Her brother looks down at his shoes. He wasn’t as close to his sister as some of his friends were with their siblings, but they made some memories that would bring a smile to his face whenever he thought about them. 

When he was seven, he took piano lessons and won points for his hard work and practice. Points could be used to win prizes. He looked at all the cars and toy trucks, tempting him, but after an hour of indecision, finally chose a purple Tinkerbell wallet. It was for his little sister. 

His mom smiled and took a picture of her two children together. They hugged each other and smiled with toothy grins. 

“我的好哥哥!” My dear brother! His little sister beamed. 

A lump settles in her dad’s throat. He remembers the first time his daughter saw him cry. The kitchen light reflected off his round glasses until he had to take them off to wipe away his tears. Her words stung like rubbing alcohol in a paper cut. He could see the guilt in her eyes after but he also knew that she had meant every word. And he didn’t disagree.

The nights he spent working in his lab and the humming of machinery drowned out everything he wanted to avoid back at home. Increasingly frequent I’m not coming home tonight texts allowed him to not think about questions he never wanted to answer.

He hadn’t even been home the night it happened.

Her mom dabs at a tear in the corner of her eye. 

Her daughter used to be a playful, carefree child, but lately, she was always in her head, quiet, and forlorn. One day, she was sitting at her desk and her eyes started welling up. Her mom looked over concernedly, but didn’t know what to say.

After a while, she asked her what was wrong.

Not wanting to talk about it, her daughter just shrugged angrily. She couldn’t quite figure out what it was that she wanted either; she didn’t want to explain, but she also wanted someone to care.

Unsure of what to do, she reassured her daughter that everything would be alright.

Words meant to comfort were received with anger and indignation. Her daughter’s constant moodiness was testing her patience greatly.

“What do you kids even have to worry about? You think too much because you don’t have enough tasks to fill your idle time! When I was younger than you, I had to work in the fields every day just to make sure there was food on the table!” she snapped. What did kids these days have to be stressed about—to be depressed about? She couldn’t understand it.

Her brother couldn’t remember a time he had a big argument with his sister. They didn’t even have anything to say to each other, much less to argue about. 

Last year, a family trip was made to the kids’ grandparents’ house. On their last day before going back home, their mom said she wanted to take a picture of them together with their grandparents. Reluctantly, her son and daughter stood next to each other with stiff bodies and forced smiles.

“Hug your little sister,” the mom chided her son.

As he went to put his arms around his sister, she flinched and made a face. 

“Ew, no.” she ducked away. 

Embarrassed, he turned back to the camera, holding up a half-hearted thumbs-up instead. The photo turned out nice, but everyone could see the uncomfortable tension between the two siblings. 

Their seven-year-old selves would’ve been so disappointed by that picture. 

Family members, relatives, and friends all interrupted their busy life schedules to come together tonight. She was a niece, cousin, friend, sister, daughter. 

She always thought that she wasn’t important to them—that she didn’t matter to them. They wouldn’t care. They wouldn’t care at all. 

Loud sobs that can be heard from miles away echo in the dark. Countless people gather tonight to mourn a girl who believed that not one would bother to show up.

A sea of people, with shining eyes, remembering a girl who took her life.

Note: If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States: 1-800-273-8255.