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Lost as a Light Is Lost in Light

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Afterwards, Claire lights fires. She buys big bags of tealights and surrounds herself with them, burns through match after match starting them all, and sits surrounded by a sea of flame, dazzled and overheated and it’s still not right, it’s not enough.

Mom finds her like that one afternoon and panics. Claire argues that she’s fine, holds out her unburned hands and then—unprompted, angry that nobody’s listening—strips to her underwear, turning to show flushed and sweaty but undamaged skin. Mom still brings her to a shrink, and takes away the matches.

“How do you feel about your father leaving?” the shrink asks. Her voice is gentle, coaxing.

Claire curls and uncurls her fingers, remembering divine light spearing out of them. “Mad,” she says, because it’s true and because it’s what people are expecting.

The sessions don’t do anything, because Claire isn’t stupid enough to tell anyone her entire family has been possessed and the real reason Daddy left was because he took her angel back, and the shrink couldn’t fix it even if she knew what was really wrong.

Mom won’t give Claire her allowance in cash anymore, and when she takes the last of what she had left and tries to buy a new box of matches the store won’t sell them to her because she’s a kid. The stove in their new house is electric, nothing she can stick a piece of cardboard or a twig into.

So she can’t have any more fires, but she starts waiting for thunderstorms. She loves them, loves being surrounded by the rain and wind, the thunder rattling her bones and reverberating inside her lungs, leaving her filled up and overwhelmed as the lightning bursts white across her vision.

“Claire,” Mom says, crying, when she finds out about that too. Her hands are colder than Claire’s rain-wet ones. “Claire, you have to stop. I don’t—I don’t understand, but I can’t lose you too. I know it must have been awful...”

She’s holding Claire so tight it hurts, like she expects Claire to yank away any minute and go find an angel and say “yes”, scream it until her throat is raw and then it isn’t because nothing hurts, there’s no space for pain or fear or anything else and Claire is back in the heart of a star, flooded with fire until every shadowy hollow of her soul is lit again and the chill emptiness is gone forever.

“It’s okay,” Claire says, and she wishes she were lying. She wishes she couldn’t remember looking up as Daddy walked away, as Castiel went with him—she’d held on as hard as she could and Castiel pulled away like she was nothing—and seeing the look on Mom’s face, so utterly lost and alone.

She wishes Mom weren’t looking like that again now, like Claire is the last thing she has, like the demon took as much of her as Castiel did of Claire and neither one of them is whole now. She wishes she didn’t want it, that she weren’t broken somehow—Daddy hadn’t even wanted Castiel back and she doesn’t know why she does but the world is so flat now, so three-dimensional—she wishes that she could let go instead of chasing light and sound and heat, glory, fury, the edges of time.

Claire says, “I’ll stop,” and she wishes it weren’t true. When she’s older she can chase angels again, she promises herself. When Mom doesn’t need her quite so much.

Outside the storm still rages. Claire watches it over Mom’s shoulder.