Ella Sanders

United States

A Singed Heart

November 19, 2019

The fire in my heart died long ago along with everything else. I had loved my mother, once. Before my father left. One day he was there and the next he was gone. 
At night I would lay on my back and through the thin walls, hearing shouts and anger infused voices tossed about. When my father left he took a piece of my mother with him. My mother became very distant. I would try to speak to her about what happened, but her answers were curt and her eyes, glazed over. She always looked slightly past me as if I weren’t there, a speck of dust gone to the wind. A sullen look had plastered itself on my mother’s face, aging her faster than before. She hadn’t cried though.
I cried the day he left. 
The days after I concealed myself in the shadows of my room, away from the window where voices of children, playing games, echoed from below. One day the electricity went off and when it came back on the clocks were stuck at a specific time. I hadn’t bothered fixing them, it’s not like we were going anywhere. And even though the heavy maroon curtains were always drawn downstairs, the absence of joy blanketed the house into sickening darkness, one that even night could not provide. 
The house held an air of vacancy. Every surface of our house was covered by a thin coating of dust until eventually, the smell of musty air blended with the old scents of whiskey stained within the walls. The fridge was also on the verge of emptiness, though I had been careful to use the ingredients wisely while cooking meals. 
“Mother,” I hesitate, my throat feels rusty from the dust. We haven’t talked much since he left. Most of the time, I just poured my thoughts out into my journal, wet with tears. “We need more food. The fridge is almost empty.” Her gaze was slightly to the right of where I stood, focusing on the painting of flowers behind me. “Mother, how am I supposed to cook without any food? How can we eat? You can’t just stay hidden from the rest of the world forever.” My anger took advantage of my deep hunger. It fueled me like caffeine and I suddenly felt strong, something that I hadn't felt in a long time. This new sense of energy heightened my rage. She continued to gaze behind me without a word. I gradually raised my voice. “How am I supposed to live if you can’t get up and take responsibility like a real mother would?” A flash of hurt rippled over her face as she glanced toward me. Her icy eyes were trained on mine, yet she refrained from speaking. I knew my anger would soon dissipate, but I had yet to hit the climax of it. “You know, I wish it was you who left, not dad.” Her gaze fell to her lap and I knew I had hit a weak spot in the sturdy wall she had built up her entire life, a castle entirely to herself. 
Still, no words. 
I turned to walk away before anything else unwanted slipped out. By the time I hit the bottom of the steps I could barely make out the whisper.
“I’m sorry.” The raspy, weak voice was barely recognizable compared to the strong presence of the women I once used to idolize. Only after I heard her let out her breath did I know who it belonged to.
Deep breaths she would say when I was young. Just listen to the air and synchronize your lungs. In and out. Do this whenever you must overcome an obstacle in life, little Dinah. She did her breathing exercises a lot when my father first left. 
I continued back up the wooden stairs.
The smell is what I remember most. It left something behind, imbedded in me. The thickness of the smoke mixed in with the stale air. The smell stuck like sweat to my clothes for days after, a constant reminder. It all pulls me back, back into the depths of the fire. It had happened that night. Red, orange, yellow, black. It started out as wisps, licking the chipping green paint off the building until it consumed the wall whole. It rapidly spread throughout the old Victorian house wrapping around the porch and reaching the peak of attic, cascading through the open windows and down to the hard earth. The sounds of the fire trucks rearing the bend onto our quiet street as they line up in a disarray along the curbs, I remember it all. Voices poured through the walls all around, but none seemed familiar. Suddenly, I was in an ambulance, flashing lights flooding in from all directions. A last glimpse at the house, now engulfed by hell itself, showed me the answer I had been dreading. Nothing else had survived the wreckage. Nobody. I was all alone with everything swept away along with the flame in my heart.
Breath, Dinah. In and out. I could hear her say.     



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  • November 19, 2019 - 5:41pm (Now Viewing)

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