“Sweet Revenge” by Kirsten Bilger

   After two years Amanda Kur still woke up from her fitful sleep screaming. It was the same nightmare every night. Rubbing her eyes, Amanda rolled out of bed and crept to her mother’s bathroom. She had been staying with her mother the past two years. This was Amanda’s routine now. She stayed with her mother, Heather, throughout the day, tried to find work, slept fitfully at night, and then splashed cold water on her face to stay awake.

   As Amanda stood in the bathroom, looking at her scarred face and mangled hair, she could not help but remember what she used to look like. Her short, blonde hair hung down to the bottom of her neck limp when it used to hang down to the middle of her back, full of waves and bouncy curls. Her blue eyes were once full of life and joy. Now they showed someone in pain, someone who was trapped. Splashing water once more into her face, she could not help but remember what happened five years ago.

###

   It was just like any other day. Amanda’s husband, John, was off at work and would be late getting home. He and his friends would be at the bar until who knew when, drinking and having fun, and he would make his way home eventually. Amanda did not have a job, as she recently got laid off. So while John was off working, she stayed home every day and cleaned.

   Amanda and John lived in a two story house with three bedrooms. She hoped that someday another bedroom would be used. She wanted a baby, but John always refused, saying that they did not need a baby crawling around the house. Amanda recalled the time that she asked John when they could have a baby and John replied that they would never have a baby. Amanda had called her mother, crying, and told her what John had said. Her mother was very upset about that. and simply stated, “You’d be better off without that piece of trash!”

   As Amanda started cleaning the house, she could not help but remember that tomorrow would be their anniversary. John would not be home for it, as usual. He got a call from work saying that they needed him to go to Boston for a few days. He had been called to Boston this time of year for the past six years. Heather would come comfort her daughter throughout the day and would tell her that John should start paying more attention to her before something bad happened.

   That night, as Amanda sat in the kitchen, she felt exhausted. The house was clean, dinner was on the table, and it was getting late. It was close to midnight before John finally came home, drunk. He walked right past her without a “hello.” She heard his footsteps climb the stairs, walk to their bedroom, and she knew that he would be passed out in bed. Sighing, Amanda ate a couple bites of dinner and cleaned up the leftovers. Once the food was in the fridge and the dishes were done, Amanda went up to bed to sleep.

   That night Amanda dreamt of fire and choking on smoke. She coughed and wheezed, trying to get some fresh air into her lungs. The black smoke grew thicker and thicker until it swallowed her up. When she woke, she thought that she was still dreaming. Her room was filled with black smoke, making it hard for her to breath. Shaking John, she screamed, “John, wake up! I think the house is on fire!” But John never got up. She went to the door to go find where the fire was out, but the door burned her hand when she touched it. Instantly, the skin on her hand blistered. Crying from the pain, she raced back to John and tried to wake him. Still, John did not wake. She screamed out to him to wake up, shook him, and hit him, but it was no use. She knew from past experiences that once John was as drunk as he was, he was passed out cold and nothing would wake him.

   Amanda, tears flowing even faster now, went to the window and pulled it open. She did not want to leave John, but she did not want to burn either. She climbed out onto the roof and jumped into the bushes below. As soon as she landed, she heard a crack and a sharp pain in her arm, but she could not worry about that now. She got up and ran to the side walk. Staring at her house, now engulfed in flames, Amanda sank to her knees. Neighbors appeared and soon so did the fire trucks and ambulance. Within thirty minutes, the flames were out. Paramedics stayed with Amanda and took her to the hospital. She watched as they drove away, knowing that her house, her life, and her husband had just been destroyed. Nothing would be the same anymore.

###

    Looking in the mirror now, the tears flowed fresh down her cheeks. She lost her husband. He was far from perfect, but Amanda had loved him nonetheless. On her way to the hospital, the paramedics had to keep applying ointment so the burn on her hand and a couple on her cheeks would not bother her as much. While at the hospital, he mother had shown up and comforted her. But Amanda did not feel comfort. The fire chief had come to see her before her mother had. He told her that someone started the fire intentionally. There were many matches littering the floor. The only question that was left unanswered was who started the fire.

   As Amanda was heading back to her bedroom, she noticed a faint light coming from the living room. She walked quietly in, thinking her mother had fallen asleep on the couch again. Her mother was in the living room, but from what Amanda could see, she was not sleeping. Heather was sitting on the couch, examining herself. It was the first time in a few years that Amanda saw her mother in shorts and a simple t-shirt. The last time she saw her mother like this was three years ago when she had taken her to the beach. Back then, her mother’s skin was flawless. Her skin was just the right shade of tan and there were no blemishes. Tonight, however, Heather’s legs and arms looked scarred, just like Amanda’s face. How could that be? Was it possible that Heather was nearby the night of the fire? Impossible, thought Amanda. Right?

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