The light began to fade from his eyes as I crawled across the floor in an effort to reach my Papa. My fingertips were raw and bloody as I struggled to carry myself closer to him, digging into the rough wooden floors with each drag of my body.
“I’m coming,” I panted in between breaths. I choked on the smoke filling the room, my eyes watering. “Just hang on, Papa. I’m coming.” Another pull across the floor. Glass and debris dug into the soft underside of my arms, causing me to hiss in pain, but I pushed onward, my left leg dragging uselessly behind me.
I woke gasping for breath, drenched in a cold sweat, clutching the hilt of my dagger as if my life depended on it.
“It was just a nightmare,” I told myself, though that did little to ease the ache in my chest over the remembered pain. I miss you so much. I clenched my legs muscles, confirming that they still worked, and rubbed my hands over my face. I pushed back the wet, loose tendrils of hair that had escaped my braid during my fitful rest and had just returned my dagger to its resting place under my pillow when my senses registered the smell of smoke.
I scanned the room, frantically looking for the source. “You have got to be kidding me!”
I untangled my body from the sheets, tripping and falling into a heap on the floor before I was able to crawl out of my covers and retrieve an old T-shirt. I frenziedly swatted at the bedroom curtains with the T-shirt, but the flames continued to rise. There was no other choice but to rip the curtains from the window. Flames licked my fingers as I ran to the kitchen.
I threw the curtains into the sink, turned the faucet on full blast, and watched as the water quickly snuffed out the flames. The curtains were ruined.
Turning the water off, I slid down the smooth wooden cabinets until my butt met the cold tile floor.
I folded my arms across my knees and rested my forehead against them. Closing my eyes, I took several deep breaths. My heart raced from the effects of the recurring nightmare. This was getting out of hand. Up until a week ago, I hadn’t had a nightmare in close to a year. But Daniel’s death was bringing them back with a vengeance. I needed to get a handle on them before I burned my apartment down. Again.
I missed my parents, but it’d been over six years now. They weren’t coming back, and I needed to let it go. My subconscious needed to let it go, and I needed to let Daniel’s death go. Not the case, no, I wouldn’t let that go. But his death was affecting me in ways I couldn’t allow to continue.
I sat on the floor and breathed deeply to calm my nerves. I was beginning to feel chilly from the fine sheen of sweat on my skin, but I was too tired to get up and do anything about it. Every muscle in my body ached. The clock above the stove read 4:00 a.m. I’d slept a solid twelve hours, but it didn’t seem to have done much good.
I grabbed hold of the formica counter and pulled myself up off the floor. Sliding my hands over to the edge of the sink, I braced my arms there and stared at the ruined mess of curtains. Grabbing the sopping mess of fabric, they made a wet plop when they hit the bottom of the trash bin I pulled out from underneath the counter.
Squeezing out the moisture before tossing them in the trash was more effort than I was willing to put into it.
I quietly closed the cabinet door and made my way back to my room. I stripped off the yoga pants and tank top I’d been wearing and retrieved new clothing before padding into the attached bathroom. I set the clothes on the vanity and winced when I caught sight of my reflection in the mirror above. “Damn, you look like hell,” I told my reflection.
Cupping my hands, I splashed cool water on my face, not bothering to close my eyes.
The cold water was refreshing against my skin.
I wasn’t in the mood to shower, but once I stepped under the warm spray, I’d feel better.
Rather than risk using my pyrokinetic abilities, I waited for the water to heat on its own. After what I’d just gone through, my concentration was crap, and I didn’t need to melt the pipes.
After wiping the fog from the mirror, I deftly plaited my dark brown hair and left the ends to rest down the center of my back.
I stared at my reflection for several minutes and toyed with the end of my braid.
I had my mother’s rich brown hair, but our similarities ended there. My eyes were golden brown where hers had been a striking hazel. My complexion, more olive like my papa’s, while hers had been a milky white, and my locks were smooth and straight. Hers had cascaded in curls around her shoulders.
I tugged on my braid. I should just cut it. It was the the logical thing to do, but I never seemed able to bring myself to follow through.
I remembered my papa chiding me as a teenager over my hair.
“Just the thing for an attacker to grab hold of!” he’d scold during our sparring matches.
But my mother had loved my hair. She’d brush it every night for me while growing up. I could still feel the phantom touch of her delicate fingers when I thought of her.
We weren’t so close at the end. Something had started to drive a wedge in our relationship that I could never put my finger on. When I looked back, I wished I could have figured it out and fixed it.
It sucked knowing she was gone and my hair was all I had left to remind me that she had in fact loved me.
Every little girl remembers her mother brushing her hair.
Shaking the memories away, I left the bathroom. I was exhausted, but wide-awake, and knew sleep would elude me. I might as well do something productive. I sheathed my daggers and carefully secured them at my hips before shrugging into my leather jacket and pulling on my boots. I made sure to lock my front door securely and gave the other doors on my floor a passing glance, wondering which one Inarus had moved into.
If I had to bet, I’d say it was the one directly across the hall from mine. I didn’t know why, but something about it felt different. An energy of sorts that called to my fire.
I shook off the feeling. “You’re reading way too much into nothing.”
I jogged down the four flights of stairs to the street. Did it matter what apartment he inhabited?
Maybe later today I’d ask to borrow a cup of sugar. Get to know my new neighbor a little bit.
I snorted. Yeah. Like that was going to happen.