Fury seared deep in Brooklynn’s veins, building with every second that passed. The fleeting minutes burned her anger higher, much like the engulfing flames over her beloved house in front of her.
For the briefest millisecond she felt a pang of guilt, but squashed it immediately. This was not her fault; she had done everything right for years. Ten years of what she thought was bliss, broken and wasted in the blink of an eye.
How did it come to this?
She clutched her squirming Pekingese, Khali, closer to her chest as the little dog snorted and licked at her chin. Khali was the only thing Brooklynn thought worth keeping out of all the entire eight years’ worth of possessions in that house. All the clothes, jewelry, and even the family quilt that her grandmother had passed to her on her wedding day were turning to ash as she stared in awe at the flames.
She thought about giving Khali over to her friend down the street just to break any thread attached to her old life, but the dog had been the only gift to herself that was really and truly hers. She had gone to the breeder specifically to get Khali as a gift to herself last year because Gunther, her husband, had forgotten her birthday.
That should’ve been the first red flag for Brooklynn, but she had let it go at the time. He’d told her that work had gotten crazy and, with all the late nights and meetings out of town, her birthday had just slipped his mind. A lot had slipped his mind in those months. Things that she failed to notice because they had been together for so long. A year of dating before his proposal, another year before they found their perfect house together and then eight years of a marriage she thought was TV perfect.
What should have been the biggest clue were the family dinners. She had really missed those flashing, bright signs.
Family dinners have always been a bit on the rough side though, especially the ones where her mother deigned to show up. Gunther knew their relationship was strained. He had sat with her at most of her therapy sessions and heard all the stories. Had even cried with her when she recapped the one time the woman had slapped her so hard across the face even makeup couldn’t cover the bruise entirely. Child Protective Services were called out but, because there were no other marks and neighbors spoke so highly of her, nothing ever came of it. However, Brooklynn learned to put the milk away faster that day so she wouldn’t have a repeat incident.
He knew all of this and still tried to push Brooklynn to mend the relationship with Moira, her mother.
Every family dinner where her mother actually attended Gunther would go out of his way to compliment her in some way. Brooklyn thought it was just his way of trying to break the tension between the two women, but she should have known better.
All the times he had been “out of town for a meeting” he had really been a few towns over staying at a hotel and the several times a week that he had been “staying late to finish work” he had actually just been a few miles down the road.
At her mothers.
The fifty-something year old woman still had the ability to ruin every good thing in Brooklynn’s life and laugh about it the entire time she was doing it. Her mother had been laughing about it behind her back for months. Laughing about how she lured her perfect daughters’ husband away from her. The fury burned hotter in Brooklynn’s veins as she thought about that phone call only a week ago. Moira’s cackling on the other line as she recounted each and every time Gunther had made his way into her bed. And, If Brooklynn didn’t believe her maybe she should look through all the bank statements, she had giggled. Which she did and was devasted by every hotel transaction, like a punch to her stomach.
Sure, maybe there could’ve been a slew of other reasons. She couldn’t exactly trust her mother to be honest all the time, but the pictures Moira had sent the next day abolished every doubt while simultaneously destroying everything good inside Brooklynn.
Hence the towering building currently up in flames in front of her.
Gunther had called again on her way in the door, second day in a row, to tell her he wouldn’t be home tonight. He gave no reason this time before he hung up the phone. Didn’t give her a chance to say goodbye even if she wanted to. He either knew that Moira had told her and didn’t care enough to fix things or he was tired of giving her the same lie and didn’t care enough to say it again.
The dial tone shattered what was left of her sanity.
After she gently placed the phone on the counter, she had looked around her kitchen and only saw the happy memories they had being slowly tainted. She couldn’t tell if she wanted to cry in that moment or slam her fists into something hard enough to bleed the pain out of her. So instead, she went to the nearest gas station and bought them out of gas cannisters, telling the clerk she broke down and still had a long way to go.
Some of it was true. She was going far, far away. Leave the mess for Gunther to figure out while she figured out a life off-the-grid. It would be hard, she was sure she would be caught eventually and have to pay for this stunt, but by that time hopefully Gunther and her mother would get at least a fraction of some karma coming to them.
Right now though, as the blaze grew higher and the smoke thickened around Khali and her, Brooklynn numbed herself. She gathered up the snorting canine and walked in the opposite direction to the sound of the sirens she heard coming.