II. The Bonfire

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The bonfire was set too close to Legion Lake. As the night dragged on, it would take little more than one draft of lake wind to blow out the small flame. Gia considered this as she made her way down the rickety rotten staircase to the man-made beach, deciding that once the fire went out, she would call it a night as well. 

The infinitesimal pyre, made from old mahogany dining room chairs Cress Thomas found at the local dump, burned hot enough to warm Gia's face, but still she zipped her jacket up to her chin and pulled the hood over her head to block out the wind. She suddenly missed her braids with guttural fierceness. On more than one occasion she had tied them around her neck in a makeshift scarf. 

Her arm swung down from her hood, catching itself in the hanging loop of a camera strap. It was the bulky kind, attached to a large digital camera Gia had only seen in the hands of professionals with a job and amateurs with a direction. 

"Oh," she said, yanking her arm away. A large body came with it, stubbornly attached to the camera on the other end. She looked up to find a pair of silver eyes the color of spilled mercury staring back at her. "Oh." 

Gently, the boy removed her arm from the camera strap, placing it around his neck. He lifted the curtain of dreads framing his face to settle the leather against his deep skin. "Gotta be careful with that," he said. "It's my life's savings." 

His voice was not the tenor of New England accent she was used to. The words drawled lazily through lips stained sepia. She had heard the accent before, from her grandmother down in Savannah, but they didn't talk about her or her grandfather. Not anymore. But the familiarity of the boy's sound brought a twang of missing them that Gia had not felt in some time. 

"You straight?" he asked, as Gia stood staring. He waved a large and calloused hand in front of her face. She took in the completeness of his face. There was almost something sinister in the arch of his eyebrows, the unnatural glow of his eyes as he watched her. She found herself stepping backwards, the heel of her rainboot hitting the bottom step with a knocking sound that echoed too loudly for a night filled with so much noise. 

But she didn't have to pull herself together quickly, or ruminate on why this boy felt so strange to her. She was a wolf with its hackles up around him. 

"It's about time," a screech sounded from the pack of bodies huddled by the fire. In the distance, the group appeared as a vibrating shadow against the glare of the fire, but Meghan broke away until Gia could make out her familiar edges. 

"I have," she started, turning back to the boy beside her. But he was already across the beach, his back waning as he moved further away until he too was just a moving shadow. Gia talked herself out of insanity as she made her way to Meghan, who danced like she was sleep-walking with a near-empty cup in her hand. 

As Gia got closer, the fire reached towards her with fingers alight. The group ducked away while Gia paused, reaching her hand out in greeting. The flames settled down, letting out a belch as an added chair leg was consumed. Gia wasn't afraid of fire. She had already been to Hell. 

Gia's nose twitched at the scent of used rose-scented matches that Dreama Parker had swiped from her mother's incense shop on Duquette Road. She sneezed into her hand and pulled her sleeves over her hands. Her skin flushed from the fire. It was impressively warm for such a mediocre reimagination of a funeral pyre, intended to represent the death of summer. She laughed inwardly at the irony. Five of their classmates would miss their senior year because they were scattered beneath the earth, rotting away in Beckett Forest. She could almost see their faces in the flames, Connor Donoghue's the easiest to conjure. The freshest.  

"Twenty minutes, my ass," Meghan slurred, her lisp dragging out the s-sounds. Her eyes desultorily took Gia in. 

"I said thirty," Gia responded, looping her arm through her best friend's. 

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