Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fire Lily: Chapter Two

The shower ran for forty minutes before it fell cold. Not that it mattered to Lily. She wasn't in it. Getting wet would just get in the way. But her mom couldn't know what she was doing, that she was lighting up, and the rainfall made a great sound screen.

She snorted and furrowed her eyebrows. It just wasn't working. She slammed her eyes shut and tried to remember. The first time was the most vivid, but the second and third were pretty clear, too. Her memories danced from one to the other, dropping the wrong things in the wrong places. Her mattress in the girl's room at school, the stall in her living room where there should have been a couch. She groaned.

"Focus," she muttered. "Just pick one."

The memories taunted her, tossing her bureau into the living room and dumping the TV by the stall. The only things right between the lot of them was the fire and the smoke.

"Okay," almost a sigh.

The smoke couldn't betray her. All three times it had been thick. Thick enough to hold. And all three times it hadn't bothered her. Her lungs took it in as eagerly and efficiently as it did the clean air. Not once did she sputter or cough. Instead it warmed her more thoroughly than anything ever had. It stirred in her belly, like a ball of tender, loving fire. It moved through her veins, licking into her fingers until their tips were beyond rosy pink and deep within the realm of blazing orange.

Her eyes snapped open. She could feel it now, straight from her thoughts. So warm. So comforting. She did it. She'd brought back the heat. After all the struggle and the doubt. She glanced at her hand.

White as bone. No sunset glow or primrose pink. The blaze snuffed out in her belly, and the heat left her limbs in haste. Instead of inferno came cold. More than before. It was the kind of cold that locks tight on the bones and leaves the front door open for its good friend, despair.

Even the lone tear that tumbled over her cheek felt like ice. The bathroom swerved and twisted. Something in her stomach leapt to her throat. The thrumming of the cold shower urged it on, seeming to become a sinister drum. Her fingers clenched the side of the sink, and her other hand the tub, as she hurled into the sky blue toilet.

Frosty sweat froze on her forehead as she caught her breath. Of course it didn't work, she scolded. You're crazy. Crazy crazy. Just a stupid crazy. She stared at her shaking hands, still clasping porcelain, knuckles white on the grip. A second wave burned up her throat, but she fought it back down. The stench of the last rush still hung between her teeth, a painful, sickening, reminder of her failure. Salty tears crashed to the bowls murky water.

Knk! Knk! Knk!

"Huh?" She pulled her head up and wiped her eyes. The sound seemed so distant and unreal. She wondered if she'd even heard it at all.

"Lily? Are you okay in there?"

So it was real. She opened her mouth to answer, but something gross scented her words. She spat it into the toilet and called out a little loudly: "Yes, I just swallowed some shampoo by mistake."

"Well don't make a habit out of it." A laugh carried beneath the door crack. "And do be careful with the conditioner. I assure you, as a dessert it is equally unkind."

"Okay." She rolled her eyes. Even for a librarian, her mother thought herself far too clever.

"Dinner is ready, so finish up." The clomp of shoes carried off, then hurried back. "And I'd prefer not to have an outrageous water bill this month. I don't understand why it takes you an hour when I'm only in there for twelve minutes."

The footsteps fell away again before she could respond. Lily sighed and looked down at the murky bowl. Her insides gave a final false heave as the mess swirled away, and she was alone again except for her rotting breath.

Why didn't it work? Why? Why? Why am I so crazy?

A cold tear glinted in the lamplight. She wiped it away, along with her thoughts. Her mother would get impatient if the shower didn't end soon.

The cold water was daunting, but for the lie to work she had to get a little wet.

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