Before We Burn

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Feelings are Fatal


“Where did you get that disgusting thing?” Oaklyn’s mother snarled.

Her lips twisted in disgust while she observed Oaklyn holding the bear tightly to her chest.

“It was given to me,” she answered with a temperament of her own.

Her father remained silent in his chair. A glazed look in his eyes took over as he gazed emotionlessly at the floor.

“Get rid of it. It’s hideous and dirty,” Oaklyn’s mother growled.

After glancing down at it, she shook her head and turned away. She was about to make her way up the stairs until she stopped in her tracks.

“Oaklyn Kathleen Willows, you will not turn away from me. You get rid of that thing and sit down!”

Oaklyn balled her first and blinked away tears before she swiveled on her heel.

“So, you think you can keep ordering me around like I’m one of your employees? At least someone cares about how I’m feeling!”

Theresa inhaled through her teeth and shifted on her feet. Her hands went to her hips while she slowly lifted her head.

“You know, Oaklyn, not everything is about you. We’re all-”

“Right! It’s always about you, and dad sits in his damn chair all-day without saying a word,” she spat, and she could no longer hold back her cries.

“I hate piano and photography, but I have to do it because Brian loved it, and when I do, I’m not good enough. What about what I want?”

Her mother laughed sarcastically, then slid her tongue across her teeth. Anger showed in her face and reddened her eyes. She glanced at Russell, who seemed to be in a different world.

“We’re spending thousands of dollars for you to go to school and adore the flute. All of the things you have in your room are items that you wanted. How is that not enough?”

She held up the dusty stuffed animal into the air and gestured toward it with her other.

“Yet, you won’t let me keep something that might have meaning to me. I’ll even wash it.”

Theresa pointed an index finger and wagged it in the air. “Who gave that to you?”

Oaklyn swallowed hard.

She didn’t know much about Wesley, but she knew enough to understand her mother wasn’t going to accept him.

Maybe they’ll finally pay attention to me.

“Wesley,” she stated.

She put one foot on a higher step in preparation to make a run for it.

Russell’s attention was grabbed by the mention of a boy. It was the first time he looked at Oaklyn since the therapy session a week prior.

“Wesley who?”

She swallowed a smirk. “Wesley Michaels.”

Theresa’s eyes almost popped out of her skull. Russell shifted in his seat uncomfortably with a grunt.

He appeared as if he was about to speak, but her mother spoke out before he could.

“Absolutely not! His father is a murderer!”

“Wesley isn’t.”

Her mother scoffed. She gestured to her father to jump in, but he kept silent. He only rubbed his eyes, then left the room to vanish into his office.

“That we know. You are not to see Wesley again.”

Oaklyn dropped from the stairs with her mouth open in shock.

She was twenty-one years old. She understood controlling a bit of her education, but not who she was to hang around.

“No! He’s the only one who doesn’t look at me like some freak.”

Her mother took an aggressive step forward. Her hand wrapped around the leg of the stuffed animal and tried to yank it away from her.

“He’s only hanging around you because you’re the only one who’s giving him the time of day,” she barked. “Once he’s satisfied, he’ll leave you. That’s the kind of crowd he hangs around. You’ll see.”

Oaklyn shook her head as she heaved the bear toward her. She panicked when it began to rip more her mother fought with her.

“Let go!” Oaklyn cried.

Instead, her mother pulled it harder then, the animal tore in half. The stuffing cascaded around them like leaves on a chilly Autumn day.

She broke down when the remains of the toy fell to the floor. She wailed into her hands.

Her mother went to reach for her, but she jerked away from her.

“Don’t touch me!”

She ran past her and out the door.

Theresa yelled to her, but she refused to turn back. She didn’t know where she was going, but Oaklyn wanted to be where she would be happy.


When she peered up at the waterslide platform, she conjured the motivation to ascend the concrete stairs by herself.

The sun had set over the skyline, and the stars were glowing overhead. The night wind blew through her hair, and she regretted not grabbing a jacket on her way out.

She walked up to the railings and peered down at the ground. The landscape appeared tiny from how high she was standing.

“Wouldn’t it have been better if it was me instead?” she asked herself aloud as she continued to sob.

She lifted her head to gaze at the city lights.

Taking a deep breath, she leveled her feet through the spaces of the bars and hiked up. She grabbed onto a pole that held up the roof to keep her balance.

The gust blew more intensely than it had when she was on the concrete floor.

She despised how her father didn’t try to voice his opinion during their argument. He allowed her mother to chastise her in such a way, it only made her feel more deserted.

The only one who seemed to appreciate her and took the time to not tiptoe around her was Wesley.

Kyle tried, but there was still a speck of pity that came over whenever he spoke to her.

She wished for others to treat her normally again.

He’s just going to leave you like the others, she believed. What if she’s right?

Wesley had his issues to take care of regarding his father and his life.

Oaklyn called herself a fool for letting him get so close.

“I can just drop,” she murmured. “No one would even know.”

When her fingers let go one-by-one, her waist was snatched from behind and lifted back on to the platform.

“No!” she cried as her arms thrashed to grab the railing, but the arms around her were too strong.

“I would,” Wesley breathed heavily into her hair when she fell against him. “I would know.”

Oaklyn sobbed hard and smacked his chest with shaky hands.

“Why would you do that?” she screamed at him. “Why? Why!”

Amid her struggle, he cradled her face in the palms of his hands. His forehead laid upon hers, and he shushed her until she settled down.

“Come on,” Wesley whispered.

He grabbed her hand as he stood up, then wrapped an arm protectively around her as they walked.

She was worried that he was taking her back to her house where she’d meet her mother, but they walked up to another home.

The small ranch house was broken-down but still held a charming atmosphere to it. A few flower baskets dangled on each side of the quaint porch that was shuttered in by a black screen.

Many of the windows shadowed with closed blinds. Oaklyn assumed it was because of the various people that would try to peep into their home.

Wesley grinned shyly at her before he shuffled her into the front doorway.

A loveseat and a recliner were in the front room that focused on an outdated glass television. The patterns of the furniture upholstery looked to be from the 1970s.

Homemade canvases and artwork hung from the yellow-tinted walls that had once been ivory. The aroma of stale smoke greeted Oaklyn’s nostrils.

Wesley guided her through the house. The rest of the flooring was hardwood hadn’t been glossy in what seemed to be decades. Scrapes decorated the paneling in random areas of the floor.

When he opened his room, she saw art supplies stacked in chaotic piles on almost every tabletop surface. His bed was big with a black metal frame around it, and the covers were pulled back in a jumbled mess.

When he went to move a pile of clothing off of his bed, Oaklyn’s eye caught the attention of a painting he had just been working.

“Is this me?” she asked raspily from crying.

Wesley’s ears turned crimson, and he awkwardly rubbed the back of his neck. “Um, just don’t look at that.”

He reacted quickly by taking it down off of the easel, then hid the painting in his closet. He glanced up at the ceiling above his bed and hastily moved to conceal it with a poster.

She giggled to herself at the spectacle of his struggle to keep his balance on top of the mattress.

“We never have visitors, so-”

“You don’t need to hide them; they’re beautiful,” Oaklyn smiled softly.

However, he successfully taped a band poster in place.

“My cousin won’t be home until tomorrow afternoon. So, you can stay here for the night,” Wesley said quietly, nearly a whisper.

She nodded, then grew shy once she realized he was staring at her. “Your cousin?”

“Yeah. Minny took me in when they arrested my father. I’m,” he paused, “very grateful for her help. No one else in my family would.”

The silence became tense between them.

Wesley deeply inhaled before he attempted to rush out of his bedroom.

“You can have my room. I’ll be, uh, out here,” Wesley shyly gestured toward the front room. “Don’t try anything. I’ll know.”

“This is your bed. I don’t want to take it from you,” Oaklyn insisted.

He paused for a moment, and then his shoulders slumped in defeat.

He knew it was useless to debate with her. He was also too worried to let her room by herself, but he didn’t want to come across as invasive.

He brought out a pair of basketball shorts and a shirt from his closet, then offered them to her.

She noticed he was already in a pair of sweatpants and a black wife beater.

She wondered how he knew she’d be at the amusement park if he had been lazing around his house after he came back.

Without another word, she changed once he left the room. She silently eyed the artwork that hung around his room until he came back in.

His torso was missing his tank top, and the waistband of his American Eagle underwear showed underneath his sweats.

His figure was lean but muscular. The lines of a V decorated his hips. His light hair tousled from when he changed out of his shirt, and the color of his eyes no longer seemed chilling.

They both stood in awe of each other.

She had his shorts rolled up to keep them from falling off of her waist. Her hair was taken out of her bun and fell to her stomach in chaotic waves. Her turquoise eyes were more apparent due to her crying.

Wesley cleared his throat and allowed her to sink into his covers first, then he followed after her.

Oaklyn laid awkwardly on her back then, silence fell between them again.

However, the air shortly changed once Wesley tugged her into his chest and encircled his arm around her.

“Will you be able to sleep?” he asked softly.

She shrugged. “No promises.”

He smiled and let out a slight chuckle. “That’s good enough for me.”


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