The Girl with the Knife

Second Place Winner / 2023 Wintermute Writing Contest
Content warnings: gore, death 

Everyone said Violet was born lucky.

While most people searched for their match—spending millions of dollars on matchmakers and cardiologists—Violet already knew who carried the other half of her heart. She had the mark to prove it.

Over her breastbone, a purple knife pointed toward her stomach. Red veins sprouted from the hilt and patterned the blade.

It was barely the length of her middle finger.

On the surface, it could pass for a tattoo. Violet had seen the mark etched into bone on an X-ray, the knife like a shadowy promise in the radium glow of her sternum.

Across the country, a boy her age wore the same knife, red as blood but veined with purple.


One day, Violet’s mother found her bent over the toilet.

Her breasts had just begun to swell. Fat gathered around her hips, grew thick on her thighs. With her period came bruises and cuts and nausea.

Each time she vomited, her knife throbbed to the bone.

“Don’t fret, darling. This part only lasts a few years.”

Between sections of hair, Violet saw her mother in the doorway. Mauve looked like the other socialites in their family: purple skin, beehive wig, and cat-eye sunglasses.

Heels clicked against the floor as she came near. When she brushed Violet’s hair back, the whisper of silken gloves made her shiver.

“Years?” Violet croaked. She spat into the toilet, gagging at the taste.

Her eyes slid to Mauve’s chest. The sheath dress parted to reveal a sparrow several shades lighter than her knife. Feathers that were once gold had faded to flesh.

Violet looked away.

“It’s always been this way, darling.” Mauve opened her clutch and retrieved a cigarette holder. “But men? Half a heart troubles them differently.”

Violet stuck her head over the toilet.


On her sixteenth birthday, Violet received a box of knives. They ranged in size and shape. Some were dappled in places, while others had a smooth finish. Each one gleamed with sharpness.

Violet ran her finger along a knife that was as big as her forearm. The blade curved and had a flat edge with hollowed-out grooves. At the handle, she paused, feeling the weight of it.

It looked good in her hand. Right.

“What’s that, darling?”

Mauve strode through the kitchen, dressed in a skirt suit with gloves. Layers of talcum powder gave her purple makeup a lighter sheen. The sparrow—visible through a sheer section of her shirt—was outlined by lavender skin.

Mauve stepped closer. “Ah. The first courtship gift.”

“He’s been at culinary school,” Violet murmured. “He likes to travel. At least, that’s what his letters say.”

Mauve took her other hand. She flipped it over, studying the fresh crop of bruises.

Violet wet her lips. “I want to learn.”

“Learn what?”

She glanced at the knives. Under her dominant hand, the metal had begun to warm.

It was strange to think of them as something beautiful. For so long, Violet had stared at her chest in the mirror, studying the strange mark, wondering how it reflected any part of her.

“That can be arranged, darling.”


They started with the smallest knife.

“This is a boning knife. See how it curves?” After Violet nodded, the five-star chef lifted his hand, balancing the blade in his palm, like a treat. “It should have a sharp point and a narrow blade. Use it to remove bones from poultry, meat, or fish.”

He eyed her. His lips pursed, mouth shrinking under a peppery mustache, but said nothing.

The next knife was a few inches shorter. He held it in front of her. “This one is called a breaking knife. Tell me why.”

With some difficulty, Violet tore her eyes from the dance of the blade. Their kitchen lights shone on every inch of metal. Soft music blanketed the silence, composed by a piano player in the sitting room.

“For breaking bones?” She ventured.

He set down the knife. “For cutting through small bones. The curved blade will give you enough leverage.” His hand hovered over the blade with hollowed-out grooves. “You can use them on tough skin and cartilage, too.”

“And this one?” Violet murmured.

“A cimeter. This beauty has a Granton edge with divots.” Tapping the steely dimples, he gestured from her to the blade. “See these? They prevent meat from sticking to the knife.”

When he turned his back, Violet lifted her hand to rub the knife between her breasts. She couldn’t repress a whimper as a cut reopened beneath her armpit. It formed bloody crescents on her shirt.

Without looking at him, Violet squeezed her arms against her sides.

A wad of tissues appeared in front of her.

“It will all be worth it when you’re made whole.” His voice had gentled; his eyes had become less wary.

“Yes,” Violet said.

She ignored the broken blood vessels on her hand.


By her seventeenth summer, Violet could wield each knife in her collection (including a new cleaver). She had practiced with multiple chefs over the years, honing her skills as courtship gifts arrived every other week.

Cuts of Parisian soap and perfume like wine. Silk dresses spun with amethyst or books covered in violets. Spanish elm boxes surrounded by the husks of cocoa shells. Small wooden tongs to select chocolate with a floral, smoky scent.

Violet would unwrap these gifts and pretend to admire them. If no one else was around, she would stuff them inside her closet, tearing their purple tissue paper in the process.

Whenever she saw the knives, Violet would sigh in relief. Her lessons were the only time she forgot the pain.

“Don’t you find that ghastly, darling?”

Lifting her eyes from the pig, the shower of red on her apron, Violet exhaled at Mauve’s curious smile.

“I know I should.”

Glancing at the pig, Violet remembered her first time in pink innards. Muscle and tissue and blood that wasn’t hers. Cracking bone that sung with classical undertones of piano. It had drenched the kitchen in copper.

Even that didn’t repulse Violet.

Mauve wrinkled her nose and withdrew a cigarette. Today, she wore a shapeless dress that fell to her knees. A tea-colored beehive had been applied to her head. On top of it, sunglasses perched like a crown.

Threads of smoke rose in the air. Mauve waved her hand through it, dispersing the nicotine with a flick of her wrist. To anyone else, her movements would appear languid, almost drunk.

Violet frowned. “We prepared a few cuts of beef. I’ll make them for dinner.”

“You mean you’ll ask the staff to do it.” Tapping her cigarette holder, Mauve gestured toward the sliding glass door. “Grandma is joining us for a garden party today. You know how traditional she is.”

Pursing her lips, Violet set down the cimeter. “Oh. Okay.”

“Don’t wilt, my little flower. You can make me dinner some other time.”

“You should still eat beef, tonight. Something with iron.”

Mauve smiled through the smoke. “You, too.”


For the next year, Carmine courted Violet and her family.

Violet would often go to bed and wake without pain. The first few times, she marveled at the clean, unbroken skin. The ease of movement. The food that stayed in her belly.

Within a day’s time, contusions would flower on her body.

Violet took to the knives. Now, she kept them in her room. It no longer mattered if anyone knew.

The only knife Violet avoided was the one staked between her breasts.

On nights without Carmine, Mauve kept her company in the bathroom, hair limp and makeup smudged. Powder streaked Violet’s hair whenever Mauve pulled it back. Her hands were caked white, wrinkled deep like rivers.

Violet spent hours examining her skin in the sheen of knives. She slept less and less.


Months before her twentieth birthday, Violet diligently practiced with her knives. She knew what she had to do, now.

Each knife felt like an extension of her hand. She expertly butchered pig and poultry and fish. She drizzled salads with truffle oil. She skinned purple potatoes, chopped radishes and other roots.

Most of all, she excelled at tenderizing meat.

Clearing the extra fat, awash in blood, Violet barely paid attention to the world around her. It was only the absence of her mother that made Violet aware of classical music drifting from the other room. In the distance, a lawn mower roared to life.

She wiped her hands on a towel but didn’t bother to wash them. On her tongue, the tang of iron lingered. It swelled in the air and sat heavy over the kitchen.

Swiftly, Violet ascended the plum staircase. Fresh cuts pulled on her leg with every step.

She found Mauve in her room, dressed in a threadbare robe. Purple pansies danced along the sleeves.

There weren’t pictures on the walls—only lighter squares where frames used to be. A large bed dominated the middle of the room. On a nightstand, cigarette stubs burned in a crystal ashtray.

She circled the large bed.

Mauve wore no makeup or skin paint. Bags puddled beneath the delicate skin of her eyes. Limp grey hair dangled over her collarbone.

A constellation of bruises mapped her body. Many looked new, but others should have faded. Somehow, they clung to the surface, refusing to drop deeper.

As the robe slid further down, Violet’s eyes fell to the mark on her chest. Even the sparrow looked puffy and raw.

“Not to worry, darling,” Mauve rasped. “I don’t feel them anymore.”


The day before her wedding to Carmine, Violet traveled to their new home and unpacked her knives.

Boning knife. Breaking knife. Cimeter. They were three among many.

She meticulously checked and cleaned each one. In the overhead light, her cimeter gleamed, divots rippling like water.

Carmine arrived after the sun had set. As tradition dictated, he wore the same suit as when they met. Violet, too, looked the same.

She led them to a candlelit dining room. On the table, two plates had been piled with an array of meat: seared steak, baked chicken, steamed lobster, and fried pork. They had been perfectly prepared. Violet knew this.

In an hour, she also knew the tranquilizer would take effect.

Carmine smiled and hummed and consumed. Across the table, his eyes glittered with every bite. He didn’t realize something was amiss till the third glass of wine. Violet set down her fork. As she rose from her chair, Carmine sank into his, lips split in shock.

Violet retrieved the knives she hadn’t used for their meal. The ones he had given her all those years ago.

They were beautiful in candlelight.

Setting them on the table, she turned to straddle Carmine. His eyes couldn’t focus on her. Even his limbs wouldn’t respond, though every so often, he would twitch. Drool dribbled from the slackness of his mouth.

Violet ripped open Carmine’s shirt. She studied the knife on his chest. The inverted colors. The mingling of purple and red.

For a moment, Violet hesitated. Her hand held one of the smaller knives to his chest. She slid it up, up, all the way to his neck. With her other hand, she grasped his throat, fingers spread like bars.

Violet wondered if they bit him the same way.

She slit his throat. Arterial blood sprayed everything. Beneath her, Carmine convulsed. The involuntary spasm did not unseat her.

Next was a cleaver the size of his head. With force and momentum, Violet hacked through muscle tissue. Bone chips pierced her skin. Gore embedded in her nails, gloving her to the forearm. Blood soaked her face and hair and clothes.

She finally wore red.

As Violet cycled through the knives, Carmine stopped moving altogether. She thought this would have been easier with a saw. Or a hammer.

But none of those things would have felt right.

Wielding the cimeter, Violet severed his heart from the ruby-red chest cavity. It made a sucking sound as she pulled the organ through pulp and walls of smashed muscle. In her hands, the half-heart steadily beat.

It was tinier than Violet thought it would be.

Somehow, Carmine’s heart fused her body with his touch, but none of the repulsion or fear. She bent to cradle its slickness against her chest. This close, the two halves slipped into rhythm, singing in time with each other.

Violet drew a deep breath.

Above her ribs, the knife no longer burned.

Alyssa Jordan is a writer living in the United States. She likes to make surprise balls and drink coffee. In 2020, she won The Molotov Cocktail's Flash Monster contest. You can find her on Twitter @ajordan901 or Instagram @ajordanwriter.