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I didn’t imagine it quite like this.

I had thought about the end a thousand times, milled over a hundred scenarios. I imagined pouring rain and slamming doors and raised voices. You were pinning me against a wall or pounding on my car window or on your knees, every time begging me to stay.

I hadn’t imagined silence, blue skies and an empty driveway. 

The call came while I was sitting at Sonia’s, the dry cleaners, waiting to pick up Mom’s favorite suit. The number wasn’t one I recognized. I hesitated, letting it ring a few times before deciding to pick up.

“Jane, hi, it’s Nate,” your roommate spoke before I could say hello.

“Oh, Nate. Did Carter lose his phone again?”

Losing things seemed to be your favorite pastime. Your phone, your wallet, your old Iron Man tee shirt, which I would later find tucked between the wall and my bed. It’s now in the box of your stuff I keep in the hall closet. You didn’t keep many things around. You used to say it was because you were afraid of losing them.

I wonder if that’s how you felt about me.

Nate hesitated on the other side. “Not exactly. I was calling to see if you had heard from him.”

You hadn’t spoken to me since the afternoon before. That was also a habit of yours, falling into a mood and keeping to yourself for a bit. It never lasted long, though. You would usually just sit in your room and burn notebook pages until Nate got pissed about the smell. Sometimes you would drive out to the city limits to take a look at the skyline. I didn’t mind the time we took to ourselves; we both needed the air once in a while.

“No, I haven’t. Is everything all right?” I was afraid to ask, afraid of the answer.

“Not sure,” Nate said. “All his stuff is gone.”

The man at the counter called me over, Mom’s suit in his hand. I told Nate to hold on. Phone tucked to my ear, I paid the man and headed out the door with the garment bag slung over my shoulder. The sun made the air feel heavy that day. I remember the smell of dry, heated pavement and how my car’s leather seats burned the back of my thighs as I slid into the driver’s seat, the inside of my knees instantly sweating.

“Gone? All of it gone?”

I run my hands around the burn marks you had made on the ceiling of my car, between the two front seats. You always carried matches around in the back pocket of your jeans, waiting for a chance to set something on fire.

I remember being so mad at you. “I can’t ever sell this damn thing if you’re going to burn it down.”

You grinned at me, showing off your slightly crooked front tooth. “Wouldn’t that be fun?” You winked and tossed the empty matchbook out the window.

Nate didn’t answer for a few moments. I could hear him opening and closing drawers. “Yes,” he breathed. “Well, his clothes, his books, his damn matches.”

My hand dropped from the roof and rested on the steering wheel. I dug my nails into the tough leather and watched them make small impressions. I tried to focus on the cars passing by, the mechanical stop and go motions of the traffic. My pulse had quickened about four paces. I don’t remember hanging up or if Nate had said anything else. I don’t think there was much else to say.

I don’t remember how long I stayed parked in the lot of Sonia’s, letting the sun beat through the windshield. I just remember tracing my fingers around those damn burn holes.

I wonder if that had been your plan all along, to set me on fire

Submitted: March 23, 2014

© Copyright 2022 KarlynnK. All rights reserved.


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"..burned the back(s) of my thighs.."
"..I run (ran-- past tense) my hands around.."
This is a really good start! I love the use of 'you', as it's a personal word and makes the reader feel much more involved; much more intimate. I was drawn into this; its short, mysterious and I want to know more about these characters. It flows beautifully, almost like a poem, and I like how you ended it off; the reference to 'fire' and matches is interesting. I hope to continue; great job :)

Wed, March 26th, 2014 9:20pm

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