Rich Fire

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I never really liked Shakespeare, but there was one quote of his that really stuck with me, other than his fabulous insults: “Temptation is the fire that brings up the scum of the heart.” This had never really meant a lot to me at the time; I had, admittedly, been looking up college-level papers about Othello to ‘help me’ with my own essay. However, after I was under less academic duress, I thought about the quote. I wondered what kind of temptation could bring up any kind of unknown scum of my soul; after all, I pretty much knew what my flaws were and how to counter them.
I had always liked bonfires, specifically midnight ones; they relaxed me when nothing else could, seeing the smoke and the bits of flame dance into the air spontaneously, with their own live disappearing into the darkness of the night. But this fire was different. Instead of reading a good book or texting one of my numerous friends or strumming aimlessly on my acoustic guitar Peyton, I was staring at the flames, my eyes filled with their own fire that was cooled by my tears. The flames were made from a notebook and a Teddy bear and a three hundred dollar jacket that wasn’t mine. I stared into the flames that leaped out of the granite bonfire pit with no expression, my face hard, my lips pressed together. My little brother came out onto the back porch, his head tilted to the side.
“Cathy?”
“What.”
“What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, Dylan. Go back to bed.”
“Something’s wrong! I can tell!”
I glanced at him, at his sandy cowlick and his triumphant expression. I envied him, like I envied all kids; they didn’t understand how good they had it until they were able to look back on their childlike innocence and understand just how much they did – or could have – gotten away with. His friends probably didn’t betray him like mine had, and he still had his virginity. There was no “probably” in that sentence; if he didn’t, I would kick his scrawny butt from here to next week. Which was, in fact next year. Which would be an anniversary. Which, in fact, was no longer an anniversary. But that hurt far too much to think about at the time.
My life as I knew it had ended two days after Christmas and there was nothing I could do to about it. The scariest thing was that I had absolutely no control over what was happening to me. I had always been able to control myself and what was going on in my life; I had the fifth Ace in every single goddamn situation. But someone had stolen the best poker hand I had ever gotten in my life. (Did I mention that I’m a fan of gambling?) I wondered what my friends would think when I got back from winter break, or even at the party I was going to in four days. I had four days to look into a new life and come up with a new resolution for a party that I was actually hosting. I had no effing idea what to do, so I was sitting alone in front of a fireplace at two in the morning, which was the loneliest thing I had ever done. Usually Jason was with me, in some way shape or form. I had to do something to get his attention. And not just his attention; everyone’s attention. I was a drama queen, that was for sure, but I wasn’t going to be “Most Unforgettable” unless I really was most unforgettable. And some rich girl who gets dumped and cries about it isn’t exactly unforgettable. So I had to be who they all thought I was: spontaneous and uncontrollable as a wildfire.
I had no idea I was going to lose even more control than I had originally thought.
I stood suddenly, making Dylan jump. “I’m sorry,” he said quickly. “I’m sorry! It’s just, the fire was bright, it woke me up, and you were screaming–”
“It’s okay,” I said with a small smile. He blinked, his eyes huge. I knew that my face was freaking him out, with my evil smile and the shadows on my face. But I had a plan. I wasn’t about to be forgotten so easily. “Go back to bed. I’ll be in soon.”
Dylan cocked his head, looking worried. “Why did you throw Beanie in the fire?”
I stiffened at the name of the burning Teddy bear, then looked at Dylan from the other side of the fire. A log fell on top of the smoldering jacket, sending sparks through the air.
“Why do you think?” I asked quietly. Dylan didn’t say anything, but turned around and went back inside, his bare feet slapping against the wood porch. I got the emergency fire extinguisher and blew out the fire, tossing the near-empty canister into the perfect lawn. I turned my back on the charred remains of my memories and entered the silent, cold mansion that reflected my heart.





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