Rachel awoke the next morning and found that she didn't want to get out of bed. The day had started, but she wished that it hadn't. She lay back against the bare mattress, feeling the fibers sticking to her sweating legs. The gray light of the early morning painted the room in an eerie sort of glow. The walls were white and covered with marks and tiny holes and dents. There was one large scratch on the wall next to Rachel's bed. In began about four feet from the ceiling. It ran half the length of the wall, traveling in a misshapen arch. Powdery drywall crumbles were revealed at the very widest sections of the imperfection. Rachel stared at this, wondering what could have caused it. What events could have led to a great scratch like that? The man on fire appeared in Rachel's mind and her body tensed every single one of its muscles. Her tendons were taut.
Rachel heard the low murmur of talking in the next room. She strained her ears and gathered her focus, trying to make out the words. It was Nita, presumably speaking to Amorey.
"Come on, get this on....no! I'm not dressing you today. You know how to do it yourself! Stop with the blocks. I'll let you organize them after you get dressed."
Rachel frowned. It was strange to see such a little kid taking care of a baby. Rachel wondered why Helene or Octavio didn't take charge of the task.
"In the criminal justice system there are two kinds of people," Amorey's high-pitched baby voice uttered. "These are their stories."
"Amorey, shut up," Nita snapped. "You can't even do it right, so just be quiet. Here, wear this dress."
"The weather today is cold and partly cloudy."
"Amorey, this is all you have. Do you want to wear one of my shirts instead?"
"They'll think I don't know what all!" Amorey exclaimed.
"Fine, then put this stupid dress on and I'll put some of Dad's socks on your legs to keep them warm."
"I do declare!"
"Shut Up, Amorey!" Nita sighed. "You're the most annoying human being on this entire earth.
"I love you and you love me!"
"Only because I have to, dummy."
It was then that something loud and rough burst into the air waves. It was a static-ridden sort of yelling. Rachel's body jerked from the surprise of it and the voices of Nita and Amorey were drowned out by the cackling laughter and harsh voices of two men. In her newly-awakened state, it took Rachel a span of several seconds to realize that what she was hearing was the radio, set to an impossibly loud volume.
"Did you think she was hot?"
"Man, I'd like to put her over my knee and spank her. Just spank her with a two by four!"
"What?!" A woman's deep voice exclaimed. Rachel wasn't sure how she should be able to tell what the woman should look like, but the image of a black woman with shoulder-length black curls came to mind. Her eyes were a soft brown and her skin was the same shade of Miss Maxanne's.
"Howard! That's ridiculous!" she exclaimed. "Stop telling these girls all the disgusting things you'd want to do to them. You're not ever gonna cheat on your wife."
Cheating...what did that mean? Did it mean cheating at a game or something? But then what did spanking another lady have to do with that? Cheating must have something to do with being with other ladies that you weren't married to.
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***Long-listed for the Watty's 2018***Rachel lives in constant fear that she will burst into flames. She can feel the heat building in her gut. She keeps buckets of water under the bed. She keeps them to fend off the flames that her body may create...