Elena steps onto the dry grass from the old driveway. What was once a path for cars and tractors is now overgrown with patches of grass and weeds. Mother Nature, slowly taking back what was hers and erasing evidence of the entrance to the farm. Elena walks across the lawn. The yellow grass crunching underneath her shoes. The ground is dry, just like that night.
She sees the shell of what was once a barn. Slabs of charred wood and rusted panels still holding their ground, surprising her that summer storms have not completely knocked it to the ground. Behind the barn is acres of what used to be corn. Elena has forgotten how many acres the field is. It has been almost a decade since her parents owned and worked the farm. Now after years of neglect, the acres are filled with weeds and sprouting trees that have seeded themselves there. Now, very dry like that night.
Elena walks into the skeleton of the barn. Sunlight coming in from between the wood, making gold bars on the ground. This was where the horses were sheltered. Her father had adored them. He had badly burned his hands, trying to save them from the fire. He later died from the infection. The fire started in the cornfield and moved to the barn.
Elena sat on what is left of a blackened bench. She notices a shadow blot out the bars of light in front of her. She is not alone. Her spine stiffens at the intrusion.
“Hello?” she says.
There is no answer.
“Is someone there?” she asks again.
A young man turns the corner and looks into the barn where Elena is sitting.
“Can I help you?” she says, getting aggravated.
“Elena?” he answers.
“I’m sorry, do I know you?”
“It’s me, Donny.” he walks farther into the barn.
“Donny?” she stands from the bench. “I didn’t recognize you.”
“It’s been so long, I should have said something. I hope I didn’t scare you.” he says.
“What are you doing here?” asks Elena.
“I noticed a car pull into the driveway. No one’s lived here for so long, I was wondering who it was.” he answers.
“Your family is still next door?”
“Yeah, we’re still here.” he answers. “I see your mom has sold the property.”
“I’m going to college next month, so no point in keeping it. I’m surprised she kept it as long as she did. The new owners have it tomorrow, so I thought I would pay one last visit.”
“It’s too bad you guys moved away.” says Donny.
“Once my dad died, my mom didn’t want to be here. She’s happier in the city.”
She gets a flashback of her at nine years old. Her mother is yelling for them to get out of the house. There is an orange glow through the back windows.
“Well, I hope school goes well with you. I should get going.” Donny turns to leave the barn.
“Are you in school?” she follows him.
“No, I’m still helping my dad with farm. Never got caught up with school.” he answers.
As Elena looks across the field, she gets a flashback of the fire in the cornfield. She watched it from the driveway while sirens wailed in the distance. She points to a nearby tree.
“Remember when you used to push me on the tire swing that was over there?”
“Yeah, I remember.”
They walk across the lawn to where Elena’s car is parked on the driveway.
“We should keep in touch.” she says. “When I come home from school we should go out sometime.”
“Maybe not.” Donny answers. He looks uneasy, almost embarrassed.
“What’s wrong? We were friends a long time ago. Our parents were friends.”
“It’s best I don’t see you again. Put all of this behind us.” Donny starts stepping away from her.
“What do you mean?” Elena is getting uncomfortable.
“I’ve had a secret for a long time. Something I need to say.”
“What is it?”
“The fire. It was me.” says Donny.
Elena gets a flashback of the horses screaming in the barn.
“What does that mean?”
“It was an accident. I was just a kid.” Donny is getting emotional.
Elena takes a moment to grasp what Donny is saying.
“Are you saying you were the one who caused the fire?” she asks.
“It was an accident, I swear. We didn’t mean it.”
Elena gets a flashback of a firefighter approaching her mother on the driveway.
“Have you told anyone?” she demands.
“What do you mean, we didn’t mean it?”
“My brother and his friend made a dare on me. We were just kids, we didn’t know any better.” Donny is getting choked up.
“What happened.” no question. She’s demanding the rest of his explanation.
“My brother and his friend brought me into the corn to make a crop circle. While we were bending cornstalks, they both lit cigarettes. His friend gave me one, but it made me feel sick. I threw the cigarette into the corn behind us. A little while later we saw some of the stalks on fire. I tried putting it out, but it was too late and my brother pulled me away. We ran out of the field and never spoke of it since.” Donny looks out of breath.
“You should have told my mother - at least somebody.” stammers Elena.
“I’m so sorry, I was a coward.”
“You’re still a coward! That fire is the reason why my dad is dead! My mother has never been the same!” yells Elena.
“I was just a kid. I didn’t know any better. Please, don’t hate me.” begs Donny.
“You were old enough to have told someone! How could you just run!”
“I can’t make it better. I just thought you deserved the truth in case I never see you again. We were friends.” rasps Donny as he holds back tears.
“Were friends. Never come near me again.” she demands.
Elena steps into her car and quickly drives out of the property, leaving Donny on the driveway.