The Fire and the Liar

Submitted into Contest #110 in response to: Write about a character on the road — and on the run.... view prompt


Drama Crime Fiction

TRIGGER: Suicidal Thoughts|||||

The breeze coming through the vents sent the smoke smell embedded in Miranda’s hair flowing throughout the car. The stench from the fire had seeped into her clothes like a perfume she wore every day and the odor kept rolling up to her face as the heater blew on full blast, making it impossible to escape.

Twenty-minutes earlier, she had been standing so close to the fire she felt the flames licking at her cheeks as if they were taunting her. Their calls left her tempted, almost compelled to step into the burning house and let the fire consume her and release her from the misery her life had suddenly become.

The sound of Piper’s gentle crying from inside the running car latched onto her and pulled her back from listening to the fires beckoning. Her desperation had grown over the years and had brought her to the point where she was ready to collapse along with the house that lied crumbled at her feet.

All she wanted to do was step into the fire, stop her pain, and finally feel free of life’s troubles, but Piper needed her, and brought her back to reality.

Miranda was all her daughter had left in the world, and she couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her with no one and a family history riddled with holes.

Earlier in the day, before the violent blaze consumed her home, and prior to her life spinning even more out of control, Miranda had found out that Piper had a sibling on the way. The new baby was someone that Piper would never know, a sibling another woman was carrying.

Jake had finally come clean about his affair, which sent Miranda storming out of house, desperate to run and wonder if she should ever look back. He didn’t want her anymore, and had plans on starting a life with someone who made him happier than she ever could have.

For a while she had suspected there was something off in their marriage and relationship, but she never wanted to confront him about it, ignoring it had been her solution.

In the months leading up to his declaration, Miranda had noted that Jake had become oddly distant, and often snuck out both day and night with no explanation as to his whereabouts. Miranda fell asleep on her own, or just stayed glued to the show she was watching and never asked where he had been.

After spending the day ignoring the issues in her personal life, she came home with the mentality that she was ready to scream from the rooftops that she was finally ready for the divorce she should have asked for years ago. The separation was something they both silently wanted, but had spent far too long hiding it deep down and denying it to themselves.

As she neared their quaint house tucked away in the trees, she was finally able to see the small shack he had carried her into five years earlier after their courthouse wedding. In front of her sat the same two-story wooden house with the perfect front porch, but this time it stood tall and engulfed in flames.

Instantly, she knew the blaze hadn’t been set on accident. Jake was a local sheriff’s deputy and could more than likely sway the fire marshal into calling it an accident. He had joked a couple of times about what a housefire would mean to the old farmhouse, but Miranda never took it as something that he was seriously considering.

The house had been left to Jake after his father died, and it had been paid off for as long as Miranda could remember. Jake’s intentional arson would likely leave him with an insurance payout that he could use to help jump start his new life with Allie.

Miranda stepped back from the fire and made her way back to her car, ready to move on. Her hand tapped on the trunk of her car twice as she heard the sound her ring made as it rapped on the metal. She slid the thin gold band off her finger and studied it between her two fingers before holding it up to her eyes and watched the fire burning between the hole of the circle.

A scoff left Miranda’s mouth as she dropped the ring onto the driveway and opened the door to a crying Piper. She tried to soothe her while she too felt tears forming in her eyes. Piper’s cheek felt cold as Miranda pressed her warm lips on it and fought against crying.

When she finally got Piper’s cup in her mouth and she settled down, Miranda fell into the driver’s seat of her well-loved sedan and watched the rubble of the smoldering house disappear behind her.

A single tear slid down her face that rolled quickly over her soft completion and fell into her lap. Her hands rested on the steering wheel and slightly trembled as she drove on and stared out the windshield.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she quietly muttered repeatedly to herself, unsure of who she was apologizing to.

Piper sat quietly in the back, gently tucked into her car seat and strapped in tight. Miranda adjusted her rearview mirror to get a look at her daughter and saw hints of the flames leaving her sight as they pulled out of their long tree-lined driveway.

On the highway, she passed by two firetrucks headed the opposite direction of her towards the house. Her hands gripped the wheel tighter as she drove on and pretended the trucks and subsequent ambulance that followed meant nothing to her.

The road felt longer than it ever had as she drove through the darkness and the gentle flurry of falling snow slowly became heavier. Piper had been rocked to sleep by the car’s gentle vibrations not long after they left the driveway and hadn’t made a sound since.

After heading north for close to an hour, Miranda pulled the car over into a gravel cutout, turned off her headlights, and rested her head against the steering wheel as she allowed herself a moment to sob. Piper rustled in her seat a tad but stayed locked into her unconscious bliss.

Miranda rolled the window down just slightly to ensure the door wouldn’t lock behind her and felt the sharp breeze blow through the crack. She turned the heat up to compensate for the draft and stepped out into the cold night air.

Her hands reached up and pulled her hat down farther over her ears and she zipped his jacket she had thankfully grabbed that morning shut as she let the snow beat down on her face.

She laughed a couple of times, quiet subtle breathy laughs that could have been mistaken for a sarcastic scoff. There was no explanation for her laughter, but it kept coming out of her as she stared upwards into the night.

In the ten years since graduating high-school, Miranda had worked odd jobs around town. For a while she was a maid at a small bed and breakfast, then she tried her hand at waitressing, and finally she landed a job as a secretary at a local elementary school. She had never been very good at any of the jobs she held and couldn’t find her calling when it came to employment.

When she got pregnant with Piper, she abandoned any idea of bettering or educating herself towards an actual career and set her sights on being a stay-at-home mom, a job that proved to be more work than an office one.

Standing out in the cold with no house or support system left, she felt lost in the world, unsure of where to go next. Her parents were dead, she had no siblings, and the rest of her family had always been worthless.

She had no one.

Her laughing ceased and Miranda walked back to the trunk and slammed her fists on it twice. She desperately wanted to beat on it constantly until her fists broke against the impressionable metal, but her fear of waking Piper stopped her and helped calm her down.

“I hate you,” she screamed into the quiet night sky five or six times, wishing it would answer her back.

She waited in the silence for a response, knowing none would come. All she heard was the whistling sound of the wind whipping over her car and the hum of the engine she prayed wouldn’t give out.

Miranda fell to her knees and allowed the tears to run down her face for close to five minutes. They stung as they rolled down her cheeks and the night wind whipped against them.

When she finished with her pity party, she stood and wiped the tears from her eyes and looked at Piper through her window. She was still sleeping quietly, all nestled and tucked into her seat with her favorite blanket curled up near her face without a care in the world.

Piper was everything and had possibly been the only reason Miranda and Jake stayed together. Their marriage had been on the brink of divorce when she walked out with a stick with two pink lines and their whole world changed. Jake an Miranda had never planned on having any kids, but somehow her pregnancy brought them together for a brief time.

Knowing he was already preparing to run, Miranda begged him to stay and had convinced herself that she couldn’t do it without him. He finally agreed, and for a while the two fell into a short lived romantic spurt where everything seemed like it would turn out okay for the family of three.

But after Piper came, and the initial joy had worn off, Jake and Miranda fell back in the show of a marriage they were putting on and the two fell back into their hidden role of being roommates.

Miranda cleared the image of Jake from her mind and climbed back in the driver seat. She felt her tires spin against the snow dusted rocks and pulled out of the road’s cutout, continuing the drive she didn’t know the end destination for.

The next town she approached would be her stopping point. Her thrown together plan included finding a motel and paying for it in cash so Jake couldn’t call the credit card company and find out where she swiped it.

If he wanted to abandon her, she felt no remorse about doing the same to him. She planned to get up first thing in the morning and pull out as much cash as she could and start over, just her and Piper.

In the middle of nowhere Montana, caution for a railroad crossing appeared suddenly in the distance. The arms lit up and lowered themselves to signal the arrival an inbound train just as her car arrived at the stop bar.

Miranda halted her car at the appropriate place and watched the lights flash back and forth in a harmony that was just slightly out of sync as they sucked her into a trance.

In the distance, she could hear the train whistle growing louder as it approached. Her hand shook as she moved it forward and put the car in drive and weaved herself between the arms of the safety guards. The car finally came to a stop directly on the peak of the tracks.

Her breathing grew heavier, and her heart rate sped up as the horn sounded and the train came into sight. The light grew larger as it came closer while Piper continued sleeping soundly like she did every night.

Nothing had gone right for Miranda as of late; a burnt down house, another woman carrying her husband’s baby, and almost nothing to her name. There was nowhere to go, and her future felt bleak at best. Her mind began rolling over the idea that maybe it was the time to end it for both of them.

Sitting on the crest of the tracks, she felt something for the first time in a while. She felt fear creeping from the back of her neck down through her spine and the adrenaline rush sent her heart racing and brought goosebumps to her skin.

She felt alive, but ready to die all at the same time.

As much as she wanted to at least save Piper, she convinced herself that she couldn’t. Miranda had it in her mind that it was too late, and that Piper was stuck with a mother that was choosing the cowards way out for them both.

The train’s horn sounded through the cold darkness as Miranda stared into its light that flooded the night. The horn blared repeatedly as it begged her to move, vacate the tracks.

Her hands grew shakier as she gripped the steering wheel tighter than before, ready for the incoming blow to the passenger side. She didn’t want to go through with it, but ending it quickly seemed like the best way to go, and she hoped Jake would know it was his fault.

The continuous deafening scream of the horn finally woke Piper up from her deep slumber and she started talking quietly in the backseat.

“Mama,” she said, muttering one of the four words she knew.

Tears filled Miranda’s eyes as Piper’s gentle voice snapped her out of the suicidal reality she had fallen into.

Her hand instantly moved to the gear shift as she threw the car in drive and sped off the tracks as quick as she could. The car came to a stop roughly fifty yards from what was almost the site of her death and watched the train fly by with ease in her mirrors. 

September 06, 2021 16:21

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Mila Van Niekerk
16:32 Sep 15, 2021

OH MY GOSH I WAS SO SCARED SHE'D GET HIT BY THE TRAIN BRUH HOW CAN YOU DO THAT TO YOUR BABY LIKE- This story was really well written; I really liked it. I just think that you should use past perfect tense when talking about the pregnacy, or anything else that had happened in the PAST past. Like... this story is written in the past tense so whenever you mention something even further back, it should be PAST past tense. So like: Miranda HAD begged him to stay, her pregnancy HAD brought them together, etc. That's just what I know from my curr...


Elizabeth Gordon
17:13 Sep 15, 2021

Great feedback! Thank you so much.


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Antonio Jimenez
04:58 Sep 24, 2021

Oh wow, this is a powerful story. Honestly, great all around. The characters felt real, the descriptions were clear, and the story was perfect. Great job! Would love for you to check out my stories and leave a little feedback. Thanks!


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Kirstyn Cox
17:11 Sep 12, 2021

That poor Piper!!! I’ve got to know what’s coming next!


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Melissa Reed
17:00 Sep 12, 2021

I need more! Can’t wait for more chapters to come out!


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16:25 Sep 12, 2021

Totally left me wanting more


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