By Amy Dollery
AGAIN and again I whisper into the fire. I watch the flames lick and grow, my breath causing the coal to burn hotter. I smell the dusty scent and I picture you.
Again and again I picture you.
In my mind I see you in the pub at the top of the hill. Warm by the hearth. I watch you look into the fire and see the same flames, that I see here.
I will my words to carry to you. To float into your consciousness. To gently persuade you to put down the half drunk pint in your hand. To murmur to you, to slip your coat on and let your legs slowly, carefully carry you out of the bar. I watch as you leave the chatter mid flow and I smile at the words left hung in the air and the men’s mouths left hung open.
You will walk down the street, where we have both lived since birth. Past the grey cottages faced sideways and the new built houses strange in their conformity. The darkness of the night will keep you walking in the middle of the road, and a fog will blur the houses on the edge, until you can only see the one home at the bottom of the hill. The home where I have left a lantern hanging.
You will not be aware of your house. It will have become nothing but a shadow. A trickery of light. And your wife inside, sitting quietly waiting for you, clever enough to know something is amiss, but not smart enough to do anything about it, will shrink into the darkness. Shrink completely out of your sight. You will pass that door and walk towards me. Towards the lantern swaying in the wind.
I will welcome you in. The warmth of the fire and the glow of the lights, will pull you in out the fog. You will sit beside my fire and you will drink my wine. You will forget there is another life. Together we will hold hands and together we will watch the flames.
My mother tells me to stop. She has told me to stop a hundred times. She stands beside me now rubbing her thin hands together, her face pale and weak. She begs me not to whisper into the ashes, not to call upon the flames. She tells me I am playing with fire, that I do not know what I do.
I do know what I do. I know exactly what I do.
She tries to hold my hand and tell me that there will be others. That I tried and I lost and but there will be others. If I just stopped.
But she is wrong. There will never be anyone but you. I know it and you know it. You knew it when we were children, playing together in the fields. You knew it when we began to grow and you knew it when we first kissed. You knew it until the new girl arrived in the village and stole you away. Until she bewitched you and fooled you. Until she made you forget.
But I never forgot. I never will. And as the moon rises this night, closer than it has been for 70 years, I know it is time to remind you. It is time for you to come home.
Again I whisper to the fire. Again and again I say your name. I can feel my mother’s disapproval creeping up my neck. Her worry digging into my back. But my will is too strong for her and in the end I turn and scream. She pauses and I feel her invisible fingers leave my body and return to her, where she gently rocks forward and backwards occasionally shaking her head.
I return to the flames. I picture you so hard, every part of my body quakes. Beads of sweat have broken on my forehead and my hands are white where I grip the mantel of the hearth. The flames are raging now to match my passion. Growing with my words. They are starting to grow too high. Too high for the fire place. But I don’t care. My heart is beating so hard, I fear it will burst through my chest, but I feel alive. Powerful and alive. The flames begin to grab the air around them, to lick the furniture, to engulf the rug. They start to dance around the fabric of my dress, to crawl up my hemline. My mother rises out of the chair in anxiety, but the flames own me now. And just when I don’t care how it ends, I don’t care what the flames do, your shadow passes across the window. The room quietens as I hear your knock on the door and as I move to let you in, the flames return to the fire.
© Amy Dollery 2016