Lavender felt almost deafened amongst the silence of her grandmother’s small cottage in Rangeley, Maine. She swept hair out of her face as she hummed- a feeble attempt at emulating the buzz of the insomniac city she loved and missed so much. She fell asleep to the distant whirr of cars and the static from her mother’s tv from a few feet down the hallway of their apartment. Her bedroom walls were painted eggshell, blank enough to lose her thoughts and fall asleep as she stared at the ceiling in the dark. Her grandmother’s cabin was different, though. The openness of even the single room felt foreign and claustrophobic. Lavender had never experienced being lost, as she had memorized all of New York City, it had seemed. But in rural Maine, the paths twisted through woods and brambles, and animals watched through the underbrush.
She swung her bare legs over the edge of the bed, the long t-shirt she wore acting like a dress as the hem fell to her knees and rested there as she gingerly began to trod towards the open window opposite her. A gentle creak of the floorboards drew her attention, and she gasped- quickly covering her mouth afterwards. She let her air out slowly, contrasting the sharp intake of breath. Mango, the family cat, had seemingly been watching in the darkness and decided to emerge as Lavender attempted her escape. She cursed her own hypervigilance, and Mango’s eyes glowed in a way that seemed to say:
The cat bounded onto the windowsill and out, leaping onto the roof where he would, surely, sleep for most of the day as the rusted tin was warmed by the sun. Mango seemed to be an oddly nocturnal creature. Lavender made a sour face and closed the window after him. No doubt, he had other ways into the house, and when her grandmother accused her of punishing the cat, Lavender could simply feign innocence saying that she had gotten cold, and had decided to close the window. It was freezing, after all. The smog of New York City seemed to provide an eternal warmth, even when it was frigid outside. But Maine’s air was so...clear. The move was entirely overwhelming. Lavender missed the eggshell walls. She missed the hum of her mother’s tv static. She missed her city of perpetual consciousness. She missed home.
She threw herself back onto the bed that’s mattress was too stiff and that’s pillows were too flat, and she let the tears she had been fighting since she arrived go. It didn’t feel real until this very moment. The fire, the wallpaper of the living room giving way, the way her mother screamed for her and her brother to get out.
Go get help!
Jordan helped Lavender down the fire escape and onto the street. She screamed and screamed for her mother to leave the building. To go with them. To save herself. She knew what her mother was after, though, and she questioned for the millionth time since the fire if it was worth it. She tried to writhe out of her brother’s arms, eyes blurry with tears blackened by smoke, hair and tongue coated in ash, to go and retrieve her mother. Jordan pulled her far enough away from the apartment complex that the heat was no longer caressing her face. It was raining that night.
It was raining. Even the heavens tried to save her.
Lavender had showered countless times since the flames licked at her heels, but her hair still smelled like ash, and her mouth burned with the taste of it. She could only liken it to a cough that wouldn’t leave her throat. She wouldn’t talk to anyone until her grandmother retrieved her and her brother from the shelter they stayed at in the first week following the incident. Even now, words did not come easily. She kept her thoughts to herself, because her thoughts consisted of theories as to what could have happened. How did her home become a smoldering mess? Who did it? And where was her mother? That last question ate away at her the most. When the old apartment was investigated, they didn’t find any trace of human remains. Not one. “House fires are not hot enough to disintegrate bone” the police chief had explained apathetically to a crying Jordan holding a crying Lavender outside of the apartment complex. This was not meant to hurt, nor was it meant to comfort. It was just fact. But hope flickered to life inside the young girl: It was possible that her mama had survived. But if she did, where was she now? Was she hurt? Was she hiding? Was she being held against her will? Was sh-
Lavender’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a small tapping on the window pane.
She rolled her eyes and walked softly over to the window to let the cat in. As much as she hated the annoying animal, she was desperately touch starved. She had not even accepted a gentle hand on her shoulder since she arrived at the shelter, and that trend was continuing now. Lavender cradled the cat in her arms as she would a baby, and stepped towards the bed, gently laying down with the cat still pressed lightly against her chest as though he were a stuffed animal. She fell asleep as the sun rose, and pretended the purring was the hum of television static.