Auburn Ashes

And even now I remember her well; even now as I stand among her friends, family, neighbors; among passerby drawn in by the morbidity of such a young girl's funeral, and all I can think of is that red-brown hair that glinted in the moonlight. And her eyes – nothing special as eyes go, but I loved them as I loved her: knew them as I knew her, had known her forever. In a past life I had known her, she told me, laughing in the darkness and reaching out for me. But that is not what I remember. No, what I recall is the fire eating away at her hair, like flaming silk that no one remembered to put out. And that is where my anger lies – in those auburn ashes, not ebbing away as it should be, but lit anew by black-hot fire.

                They don't know if it was self-induced. In English, that means that they wonder whether she set fire to her bedroom herself, or if it was an accident. Or planned. I know but I will not have her memory defiled by men in black suits who send worthless prayers to heaven, or perhaps hell, for her soul. If I say nothing, it is not real; even now, as workers with rough hands and hearts and minds rummage through the debris in what used to be her house. It cannot be true if it is not accepted, and I will never accept it. Like butterfly kisses a whisper of her voice plays about in the ruins of the building – why did they have the funeral so near the broken building, where her broken body lay for so many days before anyone remembered the silent girl? –  and I can feel it tickle my spine in the too-yellow sunlight, beneath a sky that is too blue as well – so blue that it hurts to look at. It must hurt her, too, looking down from wherever she is, and – no, she is not anywhere but here, she is merely hiding. If I keep telling myself so perhaps someday I will believe it.

                Like molten silver droplets her voice now echoes about the church. I know she is here; I can feel it. And I am looking about for her amber hair, reminiscent of those auburn ashes, but I cannot find it. As I stand up, searching, the priest's tenor voice stops its endless chant and his eyes bore into mine. Leave them, my mind says, leave this world and leave those bastards who care nothing for you – who cared nothing for her – bastards! – and I run in my terror, searching forever for her life, for her golden tears…they haunt me still, dancing before me like her spirit, her soul, used to do. I let out a cry and suddenly realize that all eyes are on me – there is silence, as though they are asking me. Begging me for something I cannot allow myself to give. What are you doing?

                I snatch up a packet of matches that I find in the back of the church. There is an audible gasp from all onlookers, yet I do not hear it in any level other than my conscious, which is so blessedly unconscious – finally. I strike the wooden match and let it burn away for a moment – only a second – and it falls to the floor next to my bare feet. 

                Nothing more than a minute pile of grey ashes. That is what I will become, and so much sooner than I could ever have hoped for…

                And in either heaven or hell I shall be with her for always.