On Mariah Hendon

Some described her as ‘bright’ and ‘bubbly,’ and I supposed she was, most of the time. I happened to know she had a flickering blue flame trapped in a corked glass bottle, one small enough for her to hang from a delicate chain, which she wore around her neck, hiding the whole ensemble beneath her shirt.

To my eyes, the little flame glowed right through the fabric. Sometimes, I couldn’t tell if she wore it or if it smoldered inside her rib cage, where her heart ought to be. If she caught me looking at the fire, she would hold her finger to her lips. “Shh…”

One day, when we were alone, she slipped the bottle from beneath her shirt and held it out on her upturned palm. She wore a fierce expression that had nothing to do with me and everything to do with proving the world wrong.

She uncorked the bottle and poured the fire out onto the ground, like hot, molten liquid. It caught on the dead grass and roared upward in a shower of golden sparks. In a blink, it was higher than our heads, hungry red, devouring everything.

I tasted the smoke of burned up dreams on the back of my tongue. “What is it?” I asked.

She placed dark sunglasses over her eyes in one smooth motion, the better to watch. The lenses reflected twin dancing suns back at me. She smiled and said, “Passion.”

As the fire ate the forest around us, I put my hands out toward the heat. “Passion,” I agreed.

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