Gravel crunched under the tires of the blue Chevy pickup truck as it veered onto the property. I sat in the backseat, my head slouched on the window as my eyelids slowly drooped closed. A hand reached out from the driver’s seat, riveting me awake. “Casey, you’re home,” the rough voice of Mr. Allen made me stir even more. Blinking my eyes open, I could make out the familiar surroundings of my home. The old rickety wrap-around porch with the built in swing, chipped baby blue paint around the corners of the house, and the old, untouched tractor that sat on our lawn. Pops always told me that it was the Riverton’s’ pride and joy. The ranch had been passed down for generations in the family. The tractor was just a small part of history for us. Mr. Allen was my best friend’s father. Tahlia and I had spent the day together shopping and learning how to sew with her mother. Although, everything had to be cut short when midnight rolled around. Mr. Allen had insisted that he’d take me home- despite my stubborn attitude to stay.
Unbuckling my seatbelt, it clicked and slithered back into its place. Mr. Allan adjusted his brown cowboy hat before tipping it forward. “Tell your parents I say hello, will ya?”
“I will. I’ll see you later,” smiling, I opened the door and hopped out. My feet hit the ground with a thud as I slammed the car door shut. I waved my hand good-bye as Mr. Allan left the ranch. The air felt hot and sticky against my skin. The clothes I had on clung to my body like a second skin. It was a hot summer in Nebraska, probably the warmest and driest season we’ve had yet. Fireflies flew around in sparse luminescent pinpricks. Pondering to myself, I pulled up the memories of catching fireflies in mason jars with my pops. It was a sort of tradition we kept up after I turned five. Making my way up the porch steps, they groaned and creaked under my feet. All the lights were put out in the house, sinking the atmosphere in a cold and sinister pit. My parents both had their vehicles parked in the driveway, but the house still looked desolate. Usually at this hour, mom and pops would be awake to see me come home. They have never once gone to bed before I came back. Something didn’t feel right.
I could feel it in my bones and rushing through my veins. There was something wrong. My hand grasped the doorknob, and to my astonishment, it had already been open. Swallowing down the lump in my throat, I entered the house. My hand found a light switch, but every time it clicked on and off, the power seemed to be down. Hairs started to rise all over my body as a sudden sheet of ice covered me from head to toe. The place was completely ajar, leaving me frozen still in the deafening silence. My breath hitched at the sound of muffled voices coming from upstairs. I stayed rooted in my spot, paralyzed to think that those were the sounds of my parents. The smell of gasoline hit my senses like a punch in the face, and I shriveled my nose with disgust. Then that’s when it really hit me. My chest felt heavy with sheer fright as I realized what the smell meant. My heart crashed erratically in my rib cage as I stared at a tall silhouette standing at the end of the long hallway. I wanted to scream- I wanted to cry.
In his hands he held a box of matches. Just as the match stick struck, a desperate scream ripped through me as the flame hit the floor- hissing and slithering up the walls and floors until everything was engulfed by a hungry fire. I raced outside, falling to my knees as I fumbled for my phone in my ripped jeans. My fingers couldn’t stop shaking as I tried to hastily dial the cops. When I heard the voice of a man on the other line, all I could squeak out was a hoarse, “Help me...” After saying that they were on their way, I couldn’t stop the hot tears that streamed down my face. My breaths came out choppy and deep. Sirens could be heard reverberating through the streets until they reached the ranch with fire trucks, ambulances and police cruisers. No matter how many questions they pressed on me, all I could feel was a hollow hole being dug inside me. Two body bags rolled away on bright yellow stretchers, making my hands curl into fists. I confessed on seeing a person wearing a hoodie. It was all I could make out from the darkness. I was only ten years old, and I had already lost my foster parents. I wasn’t ready to be tossed back into the system. I couldn’t start over after everything’s that’s happened. Police officers could go on and on about the good adoption agencies out there and where I would be placed. But nothing was going to change my mind. I wasn’t going back there. I didn’t have a home left for me anymore. I was alone.
Of all the places I could go, there was only one location where I knew I would be safe and taken care of. I didn’t care what people would say, I needed a safe haven where I could plan my retaliation against the person who shattered my life into pieces. Revenge can be a deadly burden. Especially when it eats you up on the inside.