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The Fires Had Just Started

By Billy | December 26, 2009

“Come in. Welcome, child,” she said with a kindness of which I was more than wary. “This is a home. This can be your home. For a while.” The last word hurt her more than it hurt me.

The green Honda she picked me up in looked from it’s place in the drive at me as if to say, “I’ll be here too, but don’t worry. In there is even better.”

Usually I don’t hitch hike. Usually I sleep under bridges or abandoned places. Usually I start planning my shameful return the same evening I leave.

Tonight was unusual. Tonight I heard the word, welcome, tonight I heard the word, home.

Hannah was her name. I suppose it still is. Hannah. The first and last word Hannah said to me was “Jesus.” The first and last word I spoke to her was, “I.” That about sums up the two of us. I, me, me, me. She, grace, love, God.
Jesus, boy, this is no road for y’uns to be walking about in. Get in, I don’t care where you’re goin, I’ll take you there.
I… I. I am heading your way. Thank you.

Our first car ride together was mostly silent. I had everything to say to everyone, but no will to let it surface. She adjusted the volume on the radio and swallowed the silence hard. She learned to be silent when I needed silence, pry when I needed cracking, laugh when I needed noise, and smile when I needed light.

As I stepped into her home for the first time, I imagined I’d stepped into a jack-o-lantern. Usually people look into these places. Warm, serene, glowing. Completely contrasting the world around. We were the happy ants feasting on the unending supply of goodness. It rained less when I was around Hannah that night.
When the first fire broke out, I started packing my things. I was pretty sure it was time to hit the road, this time for good. No new Hannah for me, no biological family, no home. Hannah caught me with my foot hanging out her sun room window as I tried to slip quietly into the night. She squeezed hard on my hand as she tugged me back into the room and I braced myself for the beating I never got but always deserved. This is it, I thought, justice. This is what I’ve been waiting for, order.
Miss Hannah has the most perfect hug.
There were no locks on Miss Hannah’s doors. The front door, the bathroom, her bedroom, nothing. I felt like there were bars around me after that day. The smell of smoldering wood stung so sweetly in my nose I nearly split in two. The full moon offered no comfort. Though no one was hurt, I felt dirty as a murderer, and I wept bitterly that night.
More later.

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