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The Flamed Rose
Beneath the shade of a giant sycamore tree, an old, broken house once stood strong and erect, a marvelous sight in which an occupant may capture the envy of neighbors and fellow townspeople. Beautiful stone patterns arranged by the most talented architects in the area coated the outside and an elegant wrought iron fence and gate traveled along the perimeter of the property. Without surprise, an eager new homeowner claimed the estate within days of its availability. But since its construction approximately a century ago, only a few unfortunate residents have been able to call it Home.
Shortly after the sudden, almost undetected, egress of the first householder, a quiet cemetery provided a portal through which one must pass to enter the forest nearby. It was also on a select patch of this land that the great sycamore tree stretched its branches to shield the sun’s rays. As the years passed, the house sheltered others who have been known to stay only for a short while. Meanwhile, the small pool of shadow collected several white tombstones, each without a name to bear ownership.
The house endured a period of abandonment, a time when no one- not I, nor any other known citizen- dared set foot onto the unknown territory. Until one chilled August day when the morning train came in from the South and delivered a Miss Evangeline Evermore.
She arrived alone, pathetically disoriented from her journey, and oblivious to the introductions directed at her. When asked if she needed aid in arranging accommodations for her stay, she replied politely that she will be lodging at the Westbrook Manor. At this statement every individual within hearing range gasped in chorus with each other. Twenty years had passed since that particular residence had been last disturbed. The disappearance of the occupier, and all others before, gave the townspeople great apprehension. She would not last two weeks.
They whispered, they gossiped, and they warned but Miss Evangeline stubbornly ignored their comments and went about her business. She made regular trips around town, growly lightly into the friendships between common interest and they accepted her into their lives when it seemed apparent that she would not be leaving any time soon. She even managed to steal stares from the gentlemen who often travel without the accompaniment of a lady. This was her town and she continued to treat it as such.
Until one rainy day just after a storm had passed through, Miss Evangeline returned home to find a single red rose placed carefully upon her doorstep. Her curiosity didn’t hide as she wondered which clever mind thought to leave her such a gift and had, in a moment, lured her into the game. The rose remained on display in the front window until it began to wilt a week later and this generous stranger brought yet another.
For two months a rose appeared exactly as perfect as the last every Saturday evening. Whenever a gentleman passed her way, she turned to glance, obsessively seeking any sort of indication that he may be the distant admirer.
However, one Saturday evening the annual festival was scheduled to take place in the center of town, an event in which everyone would arrive dressed in magnificent costume and not return to their homes until the early hours of the morning. On this night full of joy and celebration, Miss Evangeline was not in attendance. She’d decided to wait at home once again for the arrival of the flower, hoping that her admirer might reveal himself. And of course, how could a woman- this naïve, ignorant woman- resist such a kind and innocent gesture?
As the crisp October night, masked in fog and shadowed pathways, progressed, Miss Evangeline waited and just as soon as she’d been ready to shut out the lights, a faint, barely audible pat on the door echoed through the house. But as she reached for the handle, her small palms grasped air and nothing more. The heat rose from outside, slowly building and maintaining life enough to engulf within minutes the doorsteps leading to the trapped woman inside.
The rose had arrived, indeed, ignited by the very hand that placed it there.
Miss Evangeline, shocked to stone, stared wide eyed out her window into the eyes of the arsonist, a long, terrified, spine chilling stare. She struggled, unable to push the door open, unlatch the windows, or find any successful route of escape as the fire advanced to the interior. Shouts and screams erupted from the burning house but the hollow forest, impervious to her desperate cries, answered with silence. The flame licked, spat, and hissed at every corner of every room, invading every inch it could reach.
The town and I gathered and stared in a daze at the ashes of this legendary house, too taken aback to comprehend completely the events which had taken place only hours before. That was the last anyone saw Miss Evangeline Evermore. And the next morning, under the protection of the sycamore’s shade, beside the last nameless gravestone, rested a single red rose.