A Head on Fire

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It looked back at her as if it knew. It knew exactly what it symbolized, the menace and meaning behind its mundane self.

Although Rachel knew that this was impossible, the fearful part of her heart believed it, the part that was willing to believe just about anything that made the world a more frightening place.

The small silver utensil lay against the orange, textured plastic of the cafeteria lunch tray displaying sharp metal prongs. The prongs protruded from the U-shaped portion of the tool. This part was the face, and the prongs were the flames.

And then if it wasn't a face, it was at least a head. It was a bulbous, unnatural sort of head and the prongs were the tendrils of flame and smoke. This head came down to a stiff, armless body. Rachel didn't want to touch it. She didn't want to connect her energy to it. But the being lay there in all it's grotesque glory, requiring use.

The part of Rachel that was able to reason knew that this character could not hurt her. In fact, it was not a character at all. But the fear in her said that if she picked it up, if she held something in her hands that so distinctly resembled what she most feared, then maybe she was just asking the universe for trouble. The universe would see what she held and punish her for becoming so brash and careless. Maybe if she didn't act as though she feared the universe, it would have to prove to her why she should.

"You still don't use forks?" Yasiris asked.

Rachel's head snapped up from her lunch tray. She regretted so much that she'd shared that bit of information with her Best Friend Forever.

Yasiris smiled, her lips shimmering with purple gloss. She raised an eyebrow, the corner of her plump lips twitching. Yasiris had been Rachel's Best Friend Forever since the first grade, when she'd marched assuredly up to Rachel and said plainly, "Do you want to be friends or what?" Rachel had answered in the affirmative and they'd been inseparable ever since. For years, they'd spent almost every weekend together, playing Barbies or making up detective stories.

Although something had changed this school year. Rachel had felt the stirrings of something unknown towards the end of fourth grade, when Yasiris started to wear new clothes and pay more attention to her hair. Since the start of fifth-grade four months ago, the new differences between them had become glaring. Yasiris wore lip gloss every day now. She didn't care about detective stories or dolls. The bulk of her attention was directed to boys and music, both topics she'd never uttered a word about back in third and fourth grade.

Then there was the way that Yasiris talked to Rachel now. She'd always believed Rachel about her burns. She'd always tried to help Rachel come up with ways not to spontaneously combust again. Keeping buckets of water in the closet had been Yasiris' idea, and Rachel had been dutifully filling them before going to sleep every night, ever since Yasiris had first suggested it back in third grade.

Yasiris still listened to Rachel talk about her fears, but she did a lot more smirking and eye rolling now. Lately Rachel had found herself wondering if Yasiris even believed that Rachel's burns had come from spontaneous combustion, or if she was only humoring her. People did that sometimes, usually grown-ups.

"Really, Rachel," Yasiris continued. "You can use a fork. It won't kill you."

Rachel fidgeted with the edges of her lunch tray.

"I just don't like them. They look like a head on fire."

Yasiris rolled her eyes.

"I don't know why you always say that. No, it don't. How in the world does a fork look like a head on fire?"

"Here," Rachel pointed at the fork, keeping her finger hovering a full two inches away from it. "The prongs look like flames and the round part of it is the head. It looks like a guy's head on fire."

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