[I decided the other day that (a) I was running low on content and (b) everything I write seems to be a sprawling epic, at least by blog standards. As a result, I gave myself a challenge: write around 500 words. Now you know. - RJ]
Molly could sense the building burn. Years of memories, gone in moments. The flames licked around love letters – why had she kept them, as they served only to keep fresh painful memories? – and mementos of happy times. Postcards from Victoriana and Steelhead; a painting she bought from the artist in a small alley in New Toulouse; patterned Asian fabrics from a bazaar in…well, it no longer mattered. All gone.
Mrs. Cabreri, her elderly housekeeper and the only other inhabitant of Molly’s home, had the evening off, and was visiting her daughter on the other side of Caledon, staying overnight. Molly herself had only recently retired for the evening and was lying awake in her bedroom, in the bed her grandfather had crafted, when she smelled the first wisps of smoke. Even then, the flames were doing their work on the first floor and the heat built up to the point where the bedroom door was hot to the touch. Still, Molly had a chance to move quickly, to throw on a few garments over her nightgown, to find an exit from the house that was not yet blocked. Outside the bedroom window a crowd of neighbors grew, watching the spectacle and waiting for the fire trucks to fight their vain battle with the flames. Molly supposed that their real aim was to keep the fire from spreading to nearby houses, but she found some comfort in imagining that firefighting was a calling, and that, to a fireman, no house was too far gone to save, no job too hopeless to attempt.
It seemed to her that, despite her advantages, her life had been a succession of unfulfilled potential. Her father had underwritten an extensive education, and she trained for the Law, but she found no one willing to take her on to complete her training. She turned instead to the fine arts, and developed some skill in sculpture, but never had the spark of creativity to take her designs to the next level. As a young woman, she fell deeply in love with a handsome man with the zeal for social change of a revolutionary. Unfortunately, that zeal led him to take increasingly bold steps to undermine the government, and his quest ended at the end of a noose. More recently, after some years of resignation to her status as a spinster, she met another man who wooed her. Though he was of modest means, she supported them both. She put the house and all her assets in both their names. One day she woke to find the house empty, the man gone, along with her assets, and a new mortgage on her property. Molly had sought relief first from the bank, then from the courts, but had no luck each time.
Now, at 53, her youth gone, her income gone, her bank account depleted, and her home about to be repossessed, she understood that her chances were all behind her.
That was when she had doused her study in kerosene and struck the match.
Now tendrils of fire snaked their way through the bedroom door, and smoke obscured Molly’s vision. A satisfied smile of accomplishment crossed her face.