A/N: I didn't have time to write a chapter for HTBAS this week, so here's one of two short stories to fill the void. Hope you guys enjoy! :)
One, one, two, three, three, three, three, four, four, four, five. Cassie counts, her mouth making the correct movements but no sound leaves. The sound stays within the confines of her mind. She finishes and walks over to her piano. She hasn't played in years, but if she closes her eyes and runs her fingers across the time worn keys she can hear the sounds she used to be able to coax out of it. If she focuses even more then she can almost hear the crooning of her dog, Lucky, like he used to. While she could coax a beautiful sound out of a piano, she couldn't coax one from her vocal chords. That was Lucky's job.
Eventually she tires of the piano she can never play again and makes her way to the fireplace. Many a winter day had she spent curled up against the warm bricks doing homework or reading or watching TV with Lucky's head on her lap. Soon she tires from her memories that she could never repeat. She walked slowly into the kitchen, her mother's lessons still somehow instilled in her. Cassie! I've told you a million times to never run in the kitchen. You could pull a cord or hit something and start a fire! Was what her mother would always yell at her. Now at eighteen Cassie knew her mother was exaggerating but still she would never play around in the kitchen.
She ran her fingers across the counter, one thing her mother prided herself on was keeping the house clean even with as busy and hectic as life is. As Cassie dragged her finger away a layer of black soot now covers her finger. She doesn't notice and continued her wanderings through her house. She explored each room of her house as if it wasn't her home but a stranger's. Each room brought back memories of family and friends, of times spent celebrating milestones in her life.
Her birthdays, the first time she brought home a guy from her father to threaten, prom night, countless sleepovers, the party she threw when her parents were out of town, her acceptance into college, her graduation. Each room held loving moments and memories.
Cassie's life had always been good. Having all this time to reflect on that it became so much more obvious. Her wanders finally bring her to the end of the hall to her room. She never left her door completely closed anymore, her angst teenaged years long gone and goes in. She slides under her comforter and quickly falls asleep letting her dreams overtake her.
Cassie's mother cracks open the door to check on her sleeping daughter. She always does this whenever Cassie comes home even if she's nearly twenty and in college. She closes the door smiling as Cassie's father and sister get home. They decide to let her sleep through the evening, the train ride was long from her college. Later Cassie's family disappeared into their rooms for bed and Lucky scratched to be let in but eventually resigned himself to the couch.
During the night the smell of smoke wafted through the house. The smoke slithered up the stairs, creeping into each room. Cassie's father was awakened by the smell and Lucky's frantic scratching and barking at the door. Cassie's father rushed downstairs to see a fire spreading from the kitchen to the living room. In a panic he grabbed Lucky and quickly grabbing his family and rushing them out. Quickly they fled outside and all the neighbors called for the fire department.
The firefighters leisurely fought the fire, with no one inside they could take their time as the family sat outside across the street watching their entire lives burning away. The family sat lost in their thoughts covered in borrowed blankets when Cassie's mother stood and screamed.
At the same time a few firefighters ventured up the burnt stairs of the house checking for any remains of the family's lives. When they open the door at the end of the hall they find the door hard to open. When they finally force it open the smell of burnt hair and flesh assault and accost the firefighters and they step back abruptly. Finally one of them speaks.
"No one was supposed to be in here."