I watched, my head resting on my hands, as the candle flickered. The fire danced. It’s strange how something so powerful can be so beautiful. How can it consume everything in its path, yet still glow with a warm passion?
I waved my hand over the flame, it caresed my fingers, warmth trickled through them.
“I’m getting worried about you,” A tall, slender girl approached my desk. She moved a pile of laundry off the chair beside me and sat down.
“Go away, Jetta. I don’t need your words of wisdom,” I mumbled to my sister, still transfixed by the flame.
“Angie? You’ve gotta stop with that candle, it’s getting unhealthy.” Sure, Jetta had it easy. The dark skinned, brown eyed high schooler had nothing to worry about. “I’m serious. When’s the last time you went into school?”
I snapped back to reality and looked at my hand. I couldn’t stand to see the worry on her face. It was too real. “I’m doing the homework, I don't need to go in.”
She tilted my chin upwards. My eyes met hers for just a moment, but I pulled away. “You need to stop acting like you're my mom.” I knew those words stung, but I didn’t care if she got hurt. She would never feel how I did.
“Angie, I know you miss her-“
“Stop acting like she’s dead! She’s not. She’s alive and well, yet refuses to come into the house, our house. It’s not like mom can’t see us, she doesn’t want to see us.”
“You’ve gotta get out of this funk you’re in,” When I stayed silent, she sighed and wrapped a blanket around my shoulders, “get some sleep,” I heard the door click into place behind her as she left the room.
Part of me wanted her to stay, wanted her to be there for me. But the other part, the more overpowering part, wanted to be by myself. I wanted to forget the rest of the world.
I pulled the cozy blanket tightly around my shoulders and looked out my bedroom window. The sky was filled with grey clouds, reflecting my mood. It had looked like it was about to rain for days now, but not a single drop had come down. Our town had been in a drought all winter. The plants had withered away like my hope for the first sign of spring.
Pulling my greasy hair into a ponytail, I layed down on my bed. I traced the flowery pattern on my quilt until I drifted off into a cold, restless sleep.
“Angela, time to get up!” Jetta waltzed into the room, her bright-eyed self was just as obnoxious as always. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, “I have a surprise! And you’ll actually like it.” The springs on my mattress squeaked as she sat down.
I raised an eyebrow, “yeah right.”
“It’s cool, I promise. But, you have to take a shower. You kinda stink,” she teased as she swiped a long strand of copper colored hair from my cheek.
“I don’t feel very well,” I mumbled, making up an excuse. I couldn’t bear to hurt her feelings again, but I’m not ready to go outside.
“Are you sure?” She pressed the back of her hand to my forehead and frowned, “you don’t have a fever.”
“I’d rather stay home, but thanks for the offer,” I turned away before my sister could argue.
She sighed and left the bedroom, like she does every morning.
I flung my quilt to the end of my bed and lit the candle on my dresser.
I pulled a chair to my bedroom window and looked out.
The world was still, the air was cool. I tapped the glass, the warmth from my fingertips made the condensation scurry. I breathed on the glass, then I drew a smiley face with my index finger. I chuckled at the face I drew. It was supposed to be me, but it kinda looked like a goblin. It’s crazy how such simple things can give you pleasure.
“Angie, I’m meeting mom at the park, you wanna come?” Jetta entered my room and I groaned.
“I’m sleeping,” I muttered.
“Come on, you haven't seen her in forever. She’s sorry about everything and wants to talk to you.”
“If she really wanted to talk then she would come here,” I snapped back.
“You know it’s more complicated than that.” When I didn’t respond, Jetta continued, “I’ll let you stay home today, but someday I’m going to drag you out of here,” She ducked through the doorway, closing the door on her way out. I laughed at the idea of Jetta trying to pick me up. She may have been older, but my years of soccer and softball have paid off. I was far stronger than Jetta. She knows I’d win the fight. But maybe determination makes you stronger.
I tossed my sheets on to the floor and lit the candle beside my bed, even though sunlight was streaming in through the window. I walked into my closet and, remembering that I’m about as tall as a grape, pulled my desk chair over. I stood on it and stretched my arms upwards until I felt the soft fabric of my stuffed bear.
Yeah, I’m thirteen and I still snuggle with a teddy bear. But it’s comforting. Thomas is the only thing constant in my life.
I hug the light blue bear close to my chest and lay down. I’m tired. I’m tired of letting my mom’s choices get to me. Keeping me from living. hope swelled in my chest. It fluttered softly. Like an ember, it was ready to spark when the time was right. My eyes watched the flame of the candle. It flickered. So much could put the fire out, yet the spark refuses to give in.
“Angie?” Jetta entered the kitchen, and, surprised to see me downstairs, she dropped her blueberry bagel.
“Hey, I thought we could go somewhere today. There’s that new boutique that opened up downtown and-“ my sister rushed over and squeezed me tightly. Suddenly, I forgot everything else. I forgot about the hickory kitchen cabinets lining the walls. I forgot about the floral wallpaper peeling at its seams. I forgot about mom and her new husband, her new family. All I could feel is a loving sister, one who would always be there for me. Always.
“I love you,” I mumbled through her thick sweater, which pressed tightly against my face.
“I love you too, Angela.” She stood up, the most beautiful smile spread across her face, “let me grab my wallet and we can walk over. How does that sound?”
The corners of my lips twitched. “Great.”
Jetta turned the key, locking the door to our blue, suburban home. She pocketed her phone and headed down the sidewalk. I stopped.
“Angie, what is it?” She turned to see me staring up at the sky.
“Do you feel that?” I say, holding out my hands to make sure it was real.
I smile, “the rain.” A fat drop of water landed on my sweatshirt, turning it a dark purple. And, for the first time in weeks, I laugh. It felt good. I was alive once more. Maybe things would work out. The ember in my chest burst into flames, my hope came along with it.
“Finally, some rain!” She spun around, her pleated skirt flared around her. Like fire. Jetta looked at me and smirked as the rain came down heavier.
“What is it?” I laughed again. By now I was drenched in water and I could barely hear Jetta’s soft voice over the pounding of the rain.
“Race you downtown. Loser buys hot chocolate,” she pulled her hair into a ponytail and moved to a runner’s stance.
“Oh you’re on!” I shouted, coming up beside her. “You ready?” I wiped water from my eyes. It didn’t feel harsh, heavy. It felt fresh. Like the world had just awakened. Like I had just awakened.
“Go!” Jetta screamed and we took off down the sidewalk.