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My name is Sadie Hines. I am four-foot-nine with blonde hair and pale eyes that pierce the darkness. I firejump.
The sun-scorched grass stabs my skin where I sit watching the sky. Whispering softly, the wind stirs my hair and sets the clouds above me into motion. They shift shape, experimenting with different looks before beginning their graceful dance in a field of blue.
As I brush my hair from my face, I shift my gaze to the sun. Heedless of the faint burning in my eyes, I track the ball of fire as it sinks steadily towards the horizon. Years ago, my mother scolded me, saying the blaze would blind me. Nevertheless, I’ve watched the sun every evening since the first “Flickering” and still have my vision. I wish my mother wasn‘t so gullible. Another gust of wind pushes my hair over my eyes and brings with it a shrill voice.
“Sadie! Quit laying around and get in here!”
Sighing, I stand, brushing off the grass embedded in my skin. I steal one last peek at the sun wishing it would move faster, wishing it would set sooner, wishing The Flickering would come earlier.
“Sadie!” calls my mother again and I set out for the house, crunching the dry grass under my bare feet. I think my mother hates me. At the very least she doesn’t like me. Most people don’t. They think I’m too quiet, stuck up. I’m not. I’m just bored.
Reaching the sliding glass door, I dig my heels into the ground and pull with all of my weight. The door inches open and the rancid smell inside assaults my senses. My mother is cooking. As I step into the stench, I glance at the bottoms of my feet, knowing how much my mother will hate that I was outside barefoot again. They’re black with filth. I barely have time to hope my mother won’t notice when she comes barreling out of the kitchen, spoon in hand.
“Honestly, Sadie! How many times do I have to call you before your slow brain finally understands?” She gestures towards me with the wooden spoon, sending tomato sauce flying. “Hurry up and set the table.”
I’ve heard my mother use that tone of voice before, full of spite and irritation. Undoubtedly, she ran into my father at work today. If there’s anyone in this world my mother hates more than me, it’s my father, and it doesn’t help my cause that I look so much like him. Today was not the day to go barefoot.
I nod at my mother and turn to clear some stray papers off the table, shuffling my feet to hide my dirty heels. I manage two steps before she notices. A sound of disgust comes from her throat and her fingers grip my arm tightly, whirling me around to face her.
“Again, Sadie? Really?” she screams in my face. I cringe. “You went out barefoot, again? You tracked dirt into my house, again?” She sends her hand flying in my direction. The impact against the side of my face stings. Raising my eyes to my mother’s flushed face, I wait for her to continue. She clenches her teeth and I brace myself, anticipating another slap. Instead, she leans in close, her hateful glare darting over my hair and freckles, settling on my eyes. My clear blue eyes. My father’s eyes. When I avert them, she growls, face still close to mine, “Why did I get you?” Then, she turns wildly and marches back to the kitchen, leaving me in the dining room with a stinging face and dirty feet.
* * * * *
Perching on my bed, I endure my second punishment for the day. On top of the slap, I am sentenced to a night without dinner. Considering my mother’s cooking, it’s not much of a loss. I shift on my bed and my mind wanders back to my mother’s comment, “Why did I get you?” I flinch. Slapping is a common occurrence, as is scolding, but this is something new. In the past, my mother has always been irritable and quick-tempered, but never so outwardly resentful. My earlier suspicions have been proven - she hates me. That’s all right. The sky loves me.
Twisting, I return my gaze out the window. The clouds, once ostentatious dancers have become weary, spreading out in thin layers across their vast ballroom. I throw open the dirt streaked window, ignoring its loud protests. In the distance, the sun dips lower, just barely kissing the horizon. Sunset. Thrusting my head into the cool air, I inhale the sweet twilight. My pulse quickens and I swing my legs over the ledge to wait for the Flickering. As the sun crawls lower, my heat beats more rapidly, the rhythm changing with the colors of the sky.
Soon now, very soon. I lean forward, clawing at the peeling paint on my window ledge as the last of the sun sinks below the horizon. Darkness unfurls across the sky. Finally. I look down to my fingers and a grin splits my face. The Flickering has arrived.
A soft glow radiates from my fingertips, casting a blue light on my clothing. I raise my hand, encouraging the light. When the flames find the oxygen they need, they cautiously stand from their crouch on my nails. Leaping from the ledge, I cross to the center of my yard, feeling the grass prickle my toes as the cool flames breeze up my hand. The fire stretches, embracing my arm and eventually licking at my hair. Blue light. Everywhere blue light. Shadows break-dance in the Flickering of my flame.
Everything is amplified - the breath of the night air against my face, the sound of the grass shifting under my feet, the clean scent of the fire around me. As the flames engulf me, I look to the sky - a great dome of black over my blazing hair. My heart reaches for it, trying to escape my chest and claim its place in the darkness.
Stretching, I prepare for The Jump. Carefully, I bend my legs, making sure not to smother the flames. At this point, it probably wouldn’t be possible anyway. As I arch my back, I shift my weight to the balls of my feet.
Air streams by me, combing my hair with its quick fingers. Laughter chases me as I rocket upwards. Laughing! I’m laughing! My smile broadens and I continue to shoot through the night. Tenderly, the sky reaches out, drawing me in, and cradling me in its cool arms. Around me, the darkness shrinks back, cowering from the intensity of my light. I reach higher still, somersaulting and rolling in the sky, before finally coming to a stop in my familiar spot beside the moon. I gaze into the vast expanse in all directions, loving it and feeling it love me in return. The sky - the being that has taken me, and claimed me for its own - the only place I am truly alive. My name is Sadie Hines. I am a Firejumper, a dancer of the night, a star.