Afire Love

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This is my submission for Target's
#OnceUponNow contest. If you'd like to see this story published, please come back and vote for it ON THE 14TH AND FOLLOWING WEEK.

I'd like to thank my sister, Ali Novak, for always supporting me.

I'd also like to thank all of my followers, because without you guys I'd be nowhere.

I hope you enjoy!

**

I remember the pain in his eyes more than anything. They were hauntingly beautiful, something people tended to overlook when they saw his face. There was something so wrong about it all. Green is such a spirited color, a vibrant shade that brings life back to the world every spring when the snow melts away. But when I looked into his eyes, I was not reminded of freshly trimmed grass or springtime flowers. When I looked into his eyes, I saw pain and regret and the life of a boy who no longer wanted to live.

It was a blessing and a curse to see those eyes finally at peace.


**


"You are simply stunning, Bella. You grow more and more beautiful every day. Isn't she just gorgeous, Richard?"

My grandmother was rather chipper for a Monday, though even when she was in one of her moods, she liked to brag about me to her friends that had come to visit at the hospital.

Richard, a man she supposedly dated in college, nodded his head in agreement. "She looks just like your daughter," he said.

I felt my polite smile falter at the mention of my mother. She had died many years ago, but it was still a touchy topic. Everyone, except me of course, seemed to know everything about her. I'd heard countless stories of her beauty and charm, but I held no memories of my own. She was a stranger to me, and seeing how much she was loved made hearing about her extremely hard.

My grandmother reached forward and grabbed my hand in hers. "She does, doesn't she? Though she has a bit of her father in her."

At the mention of my father, he walked into the room carrying a stack of books and a carry out bag from my favorite Bistro. Spotting Richard, he shook his head. "It's been years Richard, I'm glad to see you've stopped by to visit."

As my father engaged in a friendly conversation with grandmother's old boyfriend, I crept forward and snatched the carryout bag off the pile of books so that I could carefully inspect each one. My father, and just about everyone I'd met, knew there was nothing I loved more than reading. For the most part, it didn't matter the subject of a book. Anything with words intrigued me. Truthfully, I liked books more than people.

I didn't recognize any of the titles before me, but one of the books showcased a solid black cover with a beautiful crimson rose. Though I wasn't one to judge a book by its cover, I was fascinated with it enough that I grabbed the novel and slipped out of the room. I spent a lot of time at the hospital and it was always hard to read in my grandmother's room, especially since there was a constant flow of friends and family coming in and out. It wasn't that I had a hard time concentrating, actually, it was the opposite. I was so good and shutting everything out when I read that half the time my grandmother introduced me to one of her friends, I barely glanced up, too fascinated with the world resting in my hands. My father knew I couldn't help it, but it was impolite to ignore others and therefore I was banned from reading in her room.

That's how I developed the habit of wandering the hospital until I found an empty room. Of course I knew this was against the rules, but it was always fun finding a new spot to sit down and devour a book. I took my time as I walked about my grandmother's floor going from room to room, trying to find one that was either unoccupied or had good lighting, something that was hard to come by in a hospital. I'd just rounded the corner to the north hallway at the same moment my grandmother's doctor stepped off the elevator. He knew I had a habit of wandering, and was usually the one who caught me walking about or poking around in places I shouldn't poke around in. If he saw me, he'd know exactly what I was up to. So, before he glanced up, I grabbed the handle of the door to my right and pushed it open. The room was almost completely dark, and as soon as I slipped inside and closed the door, I knew I was not alone. In the very corner, a tiny night light protruded from the wall, casting an eerie green glow across the room. I could make out the shape of the chair on the far wall and the hospital bed and the human that resided in it.

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