Eloise by Christine Arumainayagam

Her parents never slapped her, never raised a fist at her, never yelled at her so loud the spiders were shaken off the ceiling. But they didn’t exactly take care of her, either. They let her wander.

And one day, when she was just barely three years old, she managed to wander up the cabinet and onto the kitchen stove, where a pot full of water bubbled and spat violently onto the floor. For a moment she was captivated by the jumping blue flames beneath, flashing orange and red every now and then. Curiosity soon replaced awe; she wanted nothing more than to play with this burning, flickering, colorful substance.

The scream bounced off the walls and up the stairs and filled every inch of the house with pain. And nobody came to save her.

Ever since then, she’s been careful around flames, especially the cool-colored ones that blaze underneath kitchen appliances. Every time she catches a whiff of smoke, she automatically smells burning flesh underneath her nose. And she’s pulled fire alarms with enough frequency to get her expelled from every elementary school she’s ever stepped into to this day.

So that’s why, eight years later, she’s seated in the principal’s office and knitting her fingers together, and trying not to think of the scars that crawl their way up her body, and wondering what her parents are going to say to her this time around.

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