Open Fire Book 1: Embers

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Chapter 1

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“uuuggghhh,” I groaned. I reached out of bed to shut it off before anyone else woke up.

orphanages,” I thought, “where the words ‘sleep in’ don’t exist.” I sat up, well, not technically, it was a crumpled, but still upright position. I blinked through the fuzzy haze that clouded my sight, yawned, and ruffled my hair. Although it was already ruffled plenty from sleep. Every morning it was the same, with no changes, nothing new, and I liked that. I was the type of person who liked a schedule. Granted it was a little repetitive, but it was life. But this morning just happened to be different, and I didn’t know whether that was good, or bad, nor did I want to know. I slouched out of bed and immediately cringed as the floor made a loud and obnoxious creaking sound.

Why has the floor got to be so damn creaky?” I thought.

I tip-toed as quietly as I could across the room, although the creaks were unavoidable. A couple of kids tossed as I passed their beds, but none of them woke up. That was one of the bad parts of my sudden change in schedule, I had to get up before everyone else. I quietly walked to the door and turned around to make sure they were all asleep. I didn’t want one of them following me and snooping on, well, whatever was going on. I pushed the curtain we use for a door to the side and continued to wince as the creaks persistently got worse and worse. I crept down the stairs (they weren’t much better) and around the corner to the bathroom.

I slowly opened the bathroom door, not an easy feat I’ll tell you. The door doesn’t have a handle, but you still have to turn the mechanism inside the door to open it. We are very low-tech around here if you haven’t already noticed. Even having a Kleenex would be an upgrade for this place. I started to brush my knotted hair and prepare for… well… whatever I was supposed to be preparing for. Nobody would tell me, as much as the not knowing annoyed me. They all quoted this exactly,” You’ll find out when the time arrives.” That was annoying on a whole new level. What if I wanted to know now? I’m patient for a teen, but this was driving me crazy.

“God-damned hair why the hell is it so damn knotted!” I muttered to myself. Honestly, guys have it easy, with their short hair and all. And even some girls who naturally have that nice, soft, silky hair that never gets knotted. Then there’s me, with hair that knots as soon as I finish brushing it.

“Are you ready?”

I jumped, startled by her sudden and sneaky appearance. By her, I mean the caretaker, Agatha Harkins. I gave her the stink eye and let the teentude lose.

“Yeah, suuure, I’m totally ready for something that I know nothing about.”

I turned back to the sink and started brushing my teeth with a smug look on my face. I thought I had done well. There were no words, anywhere in this universe, that could counter my sarcasm. But apparently, there were silent actions that could.

She looked at me with exasperation and tapped her foot, waiting for a real answer and probably an apology. I huffed with annoyance and accidentally spit out some toothpaste. She was ruining my fun.

“Yef, im weby,” I said, grudgingly

She started tapping her foot again, this time she expected an apology. I rolled my eyes and spit out the remaining toothpaste.

“Sorry.”

She sighed “I suppose that’s the best I’ll get.” She said

I looked at her and tried to look apologetic, I don’t think it worked. She handed me a small stack of clothing.

“Here, this is what you’re going to wear.”

I looked at the clothes, it was a black cold shoulder shirt with black and gray sequins across the top, whitish-blue skinny jeans, and a set of brown Knee-high boots. They looked like nice clothes, but that just made me more suspicious.

“Why do I need these? I already had some clothes picked out.”

Miss. Harkins smiled,” because these clothes are ten times better than those ratty sweats and stained shirt you planned to wear. That’s why.” She stated simply

I gave her a pained look.

“Don’t be hating on my sweats OR my shirts. They would’ve been just fine if you weren’t so damn picky.” I whined

She laughed again and pointed to the edge of the tub, indicating that I should sit down. She started to do one of those half up half down styles with my hair. It felt like she managed to pull on every small hair there was, but the result was at least somewhat worth the pain. Once she finished, she looked me over again, still trying to tame the stray hairs that were sticking out everywhere, then fixed the sleeves of my shirt. I didn’t like how exposed my shoulders were, but when I went to fix it, she slapped my hand away and gave me a pointed look.

“There,” she said,” you look beautiful.”

I laughed

“I suppose so, I look like a high-schooler who didn’t want to wear a dress on picture day.”

She looked away from the doorway to me and raised an eyebrow.

“So, what your saying is I’ve dressed you like a rebel?” she inquired.

I laughed, “Yes, I suppose that’s what I’m implying. I still don’t quite understand how not wearing a dress makes one rebellious, but that’s the adult logic that I will never understand.”

Mrs. Harkins smiled and shook her head. Today was starting to seem better than I had originally thought. She started walking me towards the Living room. I must admit I was a little shocked, we never go in the living room, for whatever reason it wasn’t allowed, something about keeping the furniture in one piece. It just made me more curious as to what happened to have that rule established. We turned the corner and I suddenly got a feeling…I don’t know what it was, call it intuition I you want, but I just felt that and that I needed to get as far away from here as possible. I must have stopped walking because Miss. Harkins frowned and said,

“Phoenix…are you O.K.?”

I looked at her in confusion.

“Yeah…I think so, I just felt a little off for a moment there.”

Miss. Harkins looked at me worriedly. She turned around and kept walking, looking behind her a few times to make sure that I was following. I slowly started walking again, ignoring the instincts that were screaming at me to turn around.

“So… now that we’re here, you plan on telling me what’s going on? Please?” I asked

She looked at me with concern. Not exactly what I was expecting.

“I can’t tell you what’s going on. I don’t know the full details myself. What I can tell you is you’re going to be leaving soon…I think.” She said uncertainly.

I sighed, I was annoyed, tired, hungry, and to add to all of the normal day-to-day issues, there was an ominous feeling emanating from the Living room. What’s worse is Miss. Harkins knew what was going on, but she obviously didn’t like it, and that was a warning sign all on its own. As I turned to open the door, Mrs. Harkins stopped me and said,

“Phoenix, don’t do anything stupid.”

I nodded, I would have promised, but knowing me, there was no guarantee. I then turned, opened the door, and walked through to what I was sure would be my imminent doom.

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