Burn the Memories by Acrazycookie4
Gabe had taken a liking to fire.
From the first time he’d attended a bonfire as a small boy, forced there against his will by his parents who were too cheap to find a baby sitter, he’d encountered fire, and loved it. The blistering heat when he got too close, the smell of wood burning, and the sight of the sparks shooting upward, reaching for the stars that they could never join. The grasping hands of adults saying it was too dangerous would not deter him from this new wonder he’d discovered.
Almost as interesting as the fire itself were the things burning to create it. Many sticks, leaves, rocks, and other random objects from the party made their way into the blaze. Even the ugly hand-me-down sweater he’d had thrown on before his family had left for the party. That nasty wool lit up so quickly.
There were no other children there, so it was just him. And the fire. He felt bad for it, stuck in it’s circle by nothing more than big rocks. It was so bright and powerful; it was a shame it couldn’t just break free. And so he sat next to it all night long, tossing things in randomly and and enjoying the warm heat that reddened his face.
“What happened to your sweater, Gabriel?”
“I got hot, so I took it off.”
“Well, we’re leaving. Where is it?”
“I dunno. I went to find it but it was gone.”
“Ugh, you smell like smoke. Well, come on, dad’s in the car.”
Gabe felt the warmth stay with him for a moment as he walked away, but once he made it to their car it was like his own inner heat had been sapped from him. He shivered, looking out the window longingly at the still raging fire.
Matches became his new friends. He liked the sound, smell, and look of a burning match. It wasn’t anything like the bonfire, but it would do for him in his bedroom. Until his mom found all the burn marks on his floor, and used up matches under his bed.
As Gabe got older, he became craftier. He had matches hidden in all sorts of places, and lighters, tons of lighters. His friends were very enabling toward his habit. In fact, it was one of his friends that really got him into burning things, rather than just staring at the flame itself. First it was small campfires while they hung out at each others’ homes or by the woods. Then it went further, burning specific things, stolen things. His friend, Tom, was worse than he was.
“Cindy dumped me,” Tom shared sadly one night, sitting on the edge of the small forest near the end of town.
“I’m sorry, man. You two were together since eighth grade. That really sucks.”
“Yeah. But…” And here he pulled out a handful of objects from his bag, smirking devilishly in their campfire-light. A locket, a small notebook, what looked like a crumpled up pair of panties, and other odds and ends came out of his backpack.
“Are those hers?” Gabe asked, shocked.
“Duh. I’m burning them.”
“Why? Are you nuts? That’s her shit, man.”
“So what? She was a bitch and she hurt me. I think it’s only fair I hurt back.”
So one by one each thing was lowered into the flames. The locket (“Her grandma’s,”), the notebook (“Her diary,”), and even the panties (“…”) each dropped away, curling and crackling in the fire.
And at the look of pure satisfaction and content on Tom’s face afterwards, Gabe couldn’t bring himself to scold his friend. In fact, if anything, it made him wonder what he himself could burn to feel better.
Gabe’s own girlfriend, Amber, was a bit of a pyromaniac herself. But even she thought what Tom had done (and what Gabe was secretly thinking of doing) was too far. “You’re pushing it,” was all she’d say, shaking her head. Gabe didn’t think he’d have the balls to steal her things just to burn them if they broke up. She’d probably do the same to him, honestly.
Tom was vengeful for a long time. Gabe tried to be understanding, but he had his own things to deal with. They were eighteen and about to graduate; he didn’t have time to think about his friend’s ex. And he didn’t think Tom should, either. But telling him that was like asking for a fistful of fire to the face.
“O-oh, Gabe, I thought you were hanging out with Tommy and Amber today…”
Gabe paused in the doorway, closing the door behind him and in the middle of toeing off a shoe when he spotted his mother sitting at the table.
His parents had done a decent job, hiding how rough their relationship was. Gabe had only ever caught butt-ends of conversations–arguments–before matters were dropped. It had been going on for years, even before the first bonfire, if Gabe remembered right. And unfortunately for his mother, she was one of those who, for some ridiculous reason, stayed with their spouse and loved them even when treated like complete shit.
Boxes were sitting by the doorway with such quickly scrawled labels Gabe couldn’t decipher them. And his mother was in tears at the table. Her face was splotched with red, but not the familiar, comforting red of fire-heat. Her hands kneaded and twisted a handkerchief, and she bit her lip at his look.
“Your dad is leaving…”
“I won’t badmouth your father in front of you, Gabriel…”
But she explained. She’d known his dad had been fooling around, and with a friend of the family’s, no less. But like a fool she’d stuck around. Said nothing, done nothing.
But Gabe was livid.
“Where is he?”
“With her, I’d assume…”
“I’ll be back later. I-I’ve gotta go cool off or–”
After cramming his shoes back on, Gabe ran out of the house, ready to shout and scream. He knew where his dad’s tramp lived, and after running for miles, fueled by adrenaline and blood lust he stopped in front of her house. His dad’s car sat in the street outside.
It was dark at this point, and Gabe had to sit on the curb and rest for minutes before he could breathe properly again. And think. He hadn’t thought the whole way there, just focused on his destination, but now–
That selfish son of a bitch. How dare he hurt his wife, Gabe’s mother? How dare he just decide he was done and was going to leave? Who did he think he was? What gave him the right to be so harmful?
Ironically, his father had been very religion-driven. That was how Gabe had gotten his name, Gabriel the angel himself. He’d had every intention of bringing his own message to his father and the slut he’d decided to leave them for. Words and words and words–
Gabe’s head ached, and his anger swelled and was fueled by his thoughts and questions. What now? The idea that he and his mother were just being abandoned by this man, who’d been in their lives for years, hurt so much.
Well, what better way to pay back a hurt than with more hurt? Maybe this could be his message, instead. And he did always carry matches…