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She was supposed to be my forever.
I fell for the one girl I could never have…
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I stare up at the blood-painted ceiling of the Stop & Shop. The place I used to call my home. Its wooden floors are stained with soot as the wallpaper and everything in between burned to a crisp.
What went down here, in this town, never should have happened.
Immense pain and unrelenting suffering.
Death might have been quick, but the mark it left on this place—on me—is permanent.
And it was all because of me.
My actions. Every misstep. Every obsession and every desire.
It all led to this moment.
None of it should have ever happened. Not me, not my fiery rage. None of it … But especially not her.
Dixie Burrell. The one girl I always wanted but could never have. Not truly. Not fully. Never completely mine even though I tried so fucking hard.
Damn … I even killed for her.
And it fucking ruined us both.
I should’ve never set my eyes on her. Should’ve never let her get close and witness the real me. The dark monster hiding within.
She should’ve never stepped foot in this shop all those years ago. Should’ve never opened her pretty mouth in front of me and spoken a single word with that sweet, sinful voice of hers.
Because with her sassy stubbornness, that gorgeous body, and fascinating mind, she left her mark on my heart and tainted my very essence. Blackened my soul until nothing but fire and ash were left.
And now she’ll be my undoing.
I sit down on a chair and witness the decimation around me, the beautiful chaos of the smoke filling the air, and the flames licking the windows. I don’t intend to move even an inch.
I’ve set my memories on fire.
And with them, I’ll burn too.
For a few seconds, I stare at the match between my thumb and index finger as the flame torches the wood to a crisp. Right before it reaches my skin, I chuck it into the grass, lighting it aflame.
I’ve always loved the crackling fire. The scent of coal and soot. The way the flames destroy everything around it.
I go to my knees and chew the inside of my cheeks as the fire burns away a patch of grass, leaving nothing in its wake. The blank slate that appears is soothing to the soul, as my folks would say.
If they were here, they’d probably scold me. I know I’m not supposed to ignite things, but I can’t help it. Whenever I see the glowing sparks, I light up with a smoldering passion. It feels powerful. Like I’m a giant crushing a fly.
“Whaddya doin’?” an obnoxious voice behind me says, but I ignore it like I always do.
Better not engage, my papa always says. As if he’s afraid I’m going to start a fight. He’s probably right.
“Hello?” the voice says again, this time fluctuating in tone.
I turn my head and stare at the kid … or should I say girl, judging from the long hair and short skirt. And a pretty one too. Not that I’d ever admit that, especially not to her.
None of the white girls like boys like me.
A skin color unlike theirs.
Neither of which I can do anything about.
“Are you gonna burn down the playground?” she jokes, cocking her head.
Is she really curious, or is she just trying to mess with me like the other kids do?
“Can you talk?” she asks, raising her brows.
I frown. Of course, I can. “Yes.”
I don’t even know why I say something back, but I don’t want her to think I’m mute either. Maybe now she’ll go away. I just wanna be left alone with my obsession.
Instead of leaving me in peace, she drops to her knees beside me and watches the smoldering grass incessantly. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen anyone else interested in fire.
“It’s so hot,” she says, holding up her hands as if she’s trying to warm up. “Is that why you do it?”
“Do what?” I mumble.
“Burn the grass, silly.” She smiles at me, and it honestly makes me stutter.
“I … dunno. I just like fire.”
She frowns, but she doesn’t look scared. Unlike most kids I tell.
“What’s your name?” she asks.
“Nice. I’m Dixie Burrell.” It’s silent for a few seconds again. I have no clue what she wants from me, but she keeps talking anyway. “So how did you do it? How’d you start the fire?”
“Matches.” I shrug.
She makes a face. “You’re allowed to use those? My pop won’t let me near them. He’s afraid I’ll destroy things.” She sighs out loud.
“I stole them.” I almost feel proud to say it.
She side-eyes me, but then a wicked grin appears on her lips. “Damn …”
I grin back. Never saw a girl’s eyes sparkle that much when they’re close to me. Most girls think I’m scary.
Suddenly, she shrieks. “There’s a bug! Look!”
A beetle crawls through the grass, desperately trying to escape the blaze.