She sat quietly in front of the empty fireplace, shivering from a cold that never went away. They had taken away her matches too long ago for her to remember. If she closed her eyes she could pretend that the smell of burning things lingered in the room, smoke coiling into her nostrils and playing tag in her lungs. She could see the flames dancing to a song all their own, and she started swaying to the same tune.
They had said it was the final straw, burning a disease-ridden rat alive. She had never killed anything before that. That much, at least, she remembered. She hadn't known it would die; she even mourned its death and celebrated its life by burying its remains in the rose box outside her window. Had she been able to find something she thought it would be okay to destroy instead, she wouldn't have done it; she just didn't want to get in trouble again for burning a rug or a tablecloth or a priceless tapestry. Yes, she had done all of those things. She liked watching things burn.
Now all she watched was the memory.
She had been locked in this room, surrounded by nothing but innocuous objects for a very long time. She had caused a scene at a dinner party not long after the rat incident; apparently, it was bad manners to run off with a leaded crystal candelabrum from the dinner table's centerpiece just because there were eight lit candles for her to play with. This last evidentiary act triggered a massive influx of psychologists and exorcists. When none of them were able to find a 'cure', she had been locked away, fated to be forgotten by those who had proclaimed to love her.
When they caged her like a dangerous animal, they left the fireplace as a reminder of her supposed insanity. It was the only thing in the room that could hold her attention since her windows had been boarded up. She missed the sun and the spots it left behind when she looked at it for too long. It was a wonderful substitute for the fire they so adamantly deprived her of, a giant ball of flame, suspended high above for all to see. But they must have come to the conclusion that her psychosis ran deep enough that she would escape and set fire to the world so they turned her room into a dark and dusty dungeon.
She didn't understand why they had gone to such extreme measures; she didn't think she was insane. She, in fact, felt quite normal. She thought she had a healthy curiosity about the way things worked. Had she been drawn to water or ice, she may have drowned or frozen something, but she had never felt the need. Fire was always her passion.
There had been a boy back then. He had watched the fire with her, so long ago that she didn't remember his name, only his amber eyes. She thought about him often. The play of fire in his eyes had been almost more beautiful than fire itself. She heard a door open, but she stayed quiet in her delusion, content to see nothing but fires long since put out. Someone sat down in the chair behind her, a large hand falling onto the crown of her head.
The smell of smoke was suddenly more potent, more acerbic than she remembered. It took her a moment to realize that the smoke was real, and her eyes flew open in astonishment. A man sat there, his eyes shut in enjoyment, a white tube hanging between his lips. The end of the tube was smoking. She studied his face for a moment, but she didn't recognize him. He was stationary, but the tendrils of smoke twisting together and disintegrating in the air were not. Her eyes followed the gray strands as though they revealed the path to heaven. The sight of the tip of that stick becoming bright orange when he inhaled entranced her as well. It was burning, but there was no flame. She frowned, her eyes never leaving it as she waited for flames to appear, but she soon grew impatient. She snatched the paper plate full of the lunch that had gotten cold in her daydreaming and tossed it onto the marble before tearing the stick from him and touching it to the food. A smile formed in her eyes as it started smoking more.
The man laughed and took it back. "These might do you more good, luv," he said with a smile, placing it back in his mouth with one hand while he dug in his pocket with the other. Moments later, a pack of matches lay like bait in his hand. She spared him a glance, her eyes falling on the rueful smile twisting his lips, her eyes narrowing as smoke blew out through his nostrils, much like the fire-breathing dragons in the books she read as a child. She wondered if he could breathe fire for a second, before her eyes returned to the item she knew could bring flames to life. She stared at the matchbook with hope, moving with lightning speed to take it as though she expected him to play keep away. Lighting the plate on fire with a brilliant smile, she began flitting around the room grabbing as many items as she could find that would make a pretty fire. She giggled as she watched the objects burn. She turned and planted a kiss on the man's mouth, inhaling the smoke from his lungs and twirling around in exultation.
Beaming blissfully, she folded herself into the fireplace, her eyes never leaving the wide, shock filled amber ones staring back at her. She spoke for the first time since the lock was put on her door. "I've finally come home."