Heart Flames

The cold, dry air blew through the forest. The trees swayed from side to side, occasionally dropping twigs or leaves on the hastily built campsite. The concoction of the sounds from the day quietly dissolved into the thin, night air. The only noise in the whole forest was the sound of the fire crackling and the wrinkling of the piece of paper I clutched tightly in my hand. The sparks from the flame were almost as bright as the stars in the night sky.

I quickly scanned the paper, stopping over certain phrases. I traced the picture on the paper with my finger as I looked at the fire. The girl was only seven or eight and had innocent, sky blue eyes. Her blonde hair was tied back in two, thin braids. She was clutching her left elbow, obviously not feeling comfortable, but her gentle, half-moon smile was the most enticing feature on her fair-skinned, gentle face. I examined the words written over her head, and my eyebrows went up. The paper read: Wanted: Brynn Cooper. For theft and embezzlement.

Jason walked over and sat down next to me on the log. He took one look at the picture and burst out into laughter.

Spinning around, I gave him a nasty look. “What do you think is funny about any of this?”

Jason ran his hand through his cherry red hair and smiled. “At least no one is going to recognize you.”

I couldn’t help but smirk. “They should’ve used an older picture,” I giggled. “Nobody is going to believe a little kid did all that.”

“Of course they won’t, you’re almost fourteen,” Jason got up, “and you had better hair when you were seven.”

“Hey!” I smacked his arm playfully. “At least it’s better than your Wanted picture.”

He rolled his forest green eyes. “Welcome to the club.” He threw on a red sweatshirt with stains and holes. He turned around towards the shelter we built out of sticks and mud. “Hey Brynn, are you comin’?”

I glanced back at him. “Nah, I’m gonna stay out here.”

Shrugging, he climbed back into the entrance

I faced the fire, watching the flame fall and rise. The thick, smoky scent and sudden, red flares were comforting in the dry, cold forest. Looking at the paper, I felt a sudden pang of sadness. Control your emotions Brynn, I chided myself, don’t go wishing things that will never happen.

Sighing, I tossed the wrinkled, half torn paper into the flame and got up to leave just as something caught my eye. In the flame, I saw a faint image. I took a little step closer and immediately stepped back. It was a face. A very familiar face. The same face I would see if I looked in a mirror or a puddle. Nervously, I padded closer. Yes, it was definitely that face, but she was different. Her blonde hair was neatly combed back instead of flying all over her face. Her blue eyes weren’t glazed from exhaustion, they shone bright and carefree. Her clothes were clean clothes, not dirty and speckled with dust.

Who are you, I silently demanded. She didn’t respond, but she started laughing. I felt my face grow warm. Don’t mock me, I glared at the face in the fire. She laughed, and I saw another familiar face emerge.

Her eyes were sky blue, but in contrast, her curly, dark hair was as brown as fudge. Her light body was wrapped in a sleek, dark red dress that complemented her figure. Even seven years later, I could reach deep into my memory and remember her laugh.

“Momma?” I gasped. I inched forward so close that I could touch her face. I never saw her so happy. All those years that I had stayed in that miserable house, she was always crying or yelling, one or the other. Smirking, she hugged my reflection close to her chest.

I felt my eyes dampen. I was faintly aware of a tear silently streaming down my face, but I didn’t wipe it away.

Control your emotions. Control the flames of desire.

Control the flames inside of you.

The two figures turned as the flames shivered. I saw a masculine face emerge, with a carefully trimmed mustache and an almost bald head. He had chocolate brown eyes and his eyebrows were raised almost as high as mine were. I didn’t know what to think. Horrifying images of that drunken man swinging a chair at the lights, smearing mud all over the house, keeping me tucked in a closet for hours. My father had changed.

They looked so happy, they laughed and hugged each other. In reality, that never would have happened. Kissing Momma on the cheek, Dad hugged me tight. I felt tears pouring out of my eyes as I lifted my finger to touch. It was so dangerous but so close. I shouldn’t be wanting things that would lead to disappointment. A life full of disappointment.

How do you control the flames inside of you? How do you control something that you want so much?

Slowly, carefully, I brought my finger up to the flames. The fire licked my fingers playfully, as if inviting me in.

Stop. Stop. Stop. Control the flames. Don’t do it.

I wanted it so bad. I can’t control my emotions. I can’t control the flames. I can’t stop wishing for a life that was gone.

Inching forward, carefully…

SPLASH! Water drops sprayed onto my eyelids. Blinking, I watched the steam rise into the air. Feeling a cold hand jerk me backwards, I spun around. “Jason! What are you doing?”

“Saving your life. Thank me later.”

“What’s wrong with you?”

“No. What’s wrong with you?” Jason looked at me quizzically. “You were gonna stick your whole head in there.”

“Oh. Thanks.”

“What were you doing?”

Shuffling my feet, I looked down. “Okay, this is gonna be weird. But I saw my whole family — honestly! I did! Don’t give me that look,” I glared. “But they were all so happy and — ”


“I wanted to join them. They were all so caring and kind — Jason! What’s the matter?”

Cold eyes stared down at me. Jason crossed his arms, and his mouth was drawn into a snarl. “Never say that you want something,” he growled, “that is impossible to get.”

Jason’s gaze hardened. “Silly expectations and worthless aspirations leads to disappointment,” he murmured softly. “You and I know that better than anyone. You have to control your emotions. Control your emotions. Control the flames of your heart’s desires.”

Control the flames of your heart’s desires.


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