Smoke Gets In His Eyes

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I laid there, tracing my caramel fingers along his spine. I was counting the lumps and bumps along his vertebrae. I wondered if the woman he cheated on me with days before did the same. I wondered if she placed kisses along his shoulders and back to wake him of soothe him. I wondered why he had done this to me, to us, and what we were to have. I remembered my mother telling me that I was the most delicate of her daughters, the strongest of any of our line. It was her and my aunt, that told me what I held inside of was powerful, dangerous.

I never thought of it that way.

Most kids that I knew had phases where they played with matches, lighters and even the eyes on the stove. But I was about 6 when I found out I was a pilot light. My mother saw me reach towards her big barbecue pit and with only my thought I moved the flames, wrapped them around my hand. I remember my mother grabbed me shook me, her brown eyes meeting mine, her caramel complexion ruddy with fear and panic. I’m still not sure which. She looked me over, checking for burns or anything strange. She wasn’t angry, no. “You.” She held me, I remember the heat between us. I don’t know if that was her core or mine.

I got up from the bed I shared with Micah. I saw his chest rise and fall. I looked at his olive skin with the new moonlight over it. Still heavy with sleep from the lovemaking earlier. I walked to the bathroom to get my red robe. I tied the sash and looked in the mirror. I smoothed my hair, freshly flat ironed for this reconciliation. I looked in the mirror and grabbed the side of the sink. I saw the flames around my manicured hands, the white acrylic tips looked like cigarette lighters. I squeezed my eyes shut, focused on keeping that core shut.

Don’t give in, Arcelle. Don’t do it. You know what Mama said. Rage is always an accelerant.  Don’t let her out. 

I thought about the phone calls. I thought about the text messages. I thought about the lies and him sneaking out. I thought about the kisses that had cooled.  I thought about his body being in tune and inside someone not even half of what I am. My feet were hot. The bathroom started to warm like an oven does when it turned on. Mama told me that I could never tell Micah what I was. I needed to tell him. We talked about having a baby, getting married.

I was going to tell him. I was going to tell him.

I looked up and heard the backdraft in my ears. I looked in the bathroom mirror. My eyes were white. my hair was white-blonde. The core broke. I had engulfed.

I walked through the bathroom door to the upstairs bathroom and went to the bedroom. He was still asleep. I raised my right hand and focused. From a spark from the bed, I waved my hand and the bed was engulfed. I heard him screaming, heard the fire crackled. “Arcelle! Arcelle!” I focused on the chair by window and it was engulfed. “Arcelle!” The room was smoky, I heard him cough and fall to the floor. I walked through the flames, just like I did went I was 12 and set my crush’s garage on fire. I walked over to him, hearing the flames go down the stairs. I heard the windows break.

I stood over him. He groped towards me. I let him touch me, willed the fire to jump from my feet. I heard his flesh sear, and him curse. He got up from the floor, flailing towards the wall. I remember my Aunt Kenne coming to me that night in the back of  Andre’s house. She reached through the fire that surrounded me, turning me around. “Chelle! You cannot keep letting this take over you! You gotta get some control!”

I scoffed at that. I pushed the memories away. I pushed away the cautions and let the core open. I turned from him and waved my hands towards the ceiling. I watched the fire flow from my hands and towards the ceiling I made my way down the stairs. I heard him screaming, screaming for me. I touched the staircase and grinned when the balcony caught fire. I stretched my left hand to the living room and watched the room engulf. I turned my head and watched the dining room alight.

At the bottom of the stairs, I turned to watch the staircase burn. I exhaled, and heard a stumble and something drop. “Arcelle!”  More coughing. “Arcelle!” He was on the landing, looking for me. “The house,” coughing. “Fire! Baby, the house is on fire!” I squinted, feeling more of me break open. I felt myself levitate, and I stretched my arms in front of me, and made my hands fists. I focused my energy and screamed, satisfied when I heard the house begin to crumble.


“Baby, wake up! You’re burning up.” My eyes opened to see Micah. He was stroking my cheeks. “Babe, even your tears are hot. You okay?” I sighed, feeling his hands in my hair. “Yeah, I’m fine.” I turned nestling back into the strength of his chest. “I can’t let anything happen to my girl.” I closed my eyes. “I’m fine babe. I’m fine.”