S: The Brightest Flame | Abigail K.Mauro
BC: Ada Blair, | crippled by pyrophobia, feels all alone in the world. One day, when an unbelievably cheerful orphan named Rachel visits Ada, she finds her life starting to change for the better. | ________________________________________________ | Critical Acclaims for The Brightest Flame | "An amazing story about tragedy and friendship that cannot be overlooked." - Michelle Truong | "This story is poppin' like my lip gloss." - Isabella Churilla
FC: The Brightest Flame | By Abigail K. Mauro
1: The Brightest Flame | Dedicated to Michelle Truong and Sarah Mohr for support and encouragement
2: "So, er, ma'am... who exactly have you lost?" "M-my poor daughter, Cynthia, last month... to t-tuberculosis..." "Oh, I'm sorry for your loss. I'll see what I can do, ma'am." I took my client's hands in my own pale ones - immediately, her face slackened and her hands went limp. Closing my eyes, I focused on her mind and sent to her emotions and thoughts of calming ocean waves. When she had finally accepted and unlocked her mind to me, I delved into it, opening all the doors to which she allowed me to enter through. Your name is Lydia Smith, I thought to her, and you're 34 years old. You come from a middle class family, and you currently own a pleasant flat on High Street. Thank you for allowing me that passage - now, please open to me your memories of your daughter.
3: After sifting through Mrs. Smith's memories of her late daughter, I opened my eyes. People were usually unnerved by the grayish blue shade and illuminating quality of my eyes, not understanding them, but I could tell that Mrs. Smith had begun to trust them. I threw her a quick smile as she pulled her hands away, and then continued on with my task. "Cynthia Rose Smith, I call to you with no intentions of harm or malice. I call on behalf of your mother, Lydia Marie Smith. If you will, please make yourself present to us," I said, repeating the words so strange to others yet soothingly familiar to me. "Mum?" An airy voice called out. As Mrs. Smith's eyes lit up, I smiled once more, then closed my eyes again to allow them their privacy.
4: Mrs. Smith was very satisfied with my service, and complimented me on my mediumship with a teary voice. "Cheers," I thanked her modestly, taking her payment and bidding her a good evening. Before I closed the door to my shop, Ada Blair's Readings, I heard a few unpleasantly familiar calls of, "freak!" and "bloody witch!". Too depressed (and also too fearful) to care, I sighed and retreated to the back of my shop. I collapsed onto the soft but worn down armchair that I gave readings in and smiled in melancholy to myself. "September 13th, 1885... happy 16th birthday to me."
5: Utterly bored, I undid my braid, then began to redo it. In a short amount of time, my raven black hair was once again in a long weave, thrown over my shoulder. In a spur of impulsive courage, I glanced over at the unused fireplace in the back of the room and shuddered heavily. The weather is getting colder... but I still refuse to go near fire. It shall be another long winter, I mused. Mum, dad... I know you wouldn't want me to be like this, but I can't help it after- My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the shop door opening, then closing again. In the front of my store stood a very thin, brown-haired girl.
6: Straightening up, I called to her, “Hello miss.” She paused for a moment, then grinned widely so that her green eyes crinkled. “Wotcher, lovely store you have here. You know, there aren't many psychics in Weatherby. Actually, I don't suppose there are many psychics in all of England, either,” the girl replied cheerfully. For a second, I watched her in silence, stunned by the fact that such a poor looking girl could act so energetic, and also use such a friendly greeting on our first encounter; she was almost as odd I was!
7: “Er, I suppose not, thank you. I haven’t met any if they’re out there, at least,” I told her calmly. She was still beaming, and her yellowish teeth almost looked white compared to the ragged state of her clothes and dirtiness of her face. “I’m Rachel Ashdown by the way, I work in the shoe polish factory up the road. You’re Ada, yeah?” She, Rachel, asked. I nodded slightly, and gestured for her to sit in the chair opposite of me. Rachel practically danced over with a gleeful aura that I admired. “Wotcher, miss,” I responded with a slight smile. “You can call me Rachel, it’s alright.” It was then that I could tell she was different than everyone else.
8: I grasped Rachel’s small hand in my larger one, and felt a rush of emotion and thought flowing into me. Was her mind so open like this all the time? Your name is Rachel Ashdown, I automatically read, and you are 14 years old. Young, aren’t you? Her aura flared with what we know as laughter. You’re an orphan I see, but you used to belong to wealth, and believe your parents are still out there... I hadn’t even realized that my eyes had closed as I opened them again to see Rachel staring at me with a smile. “That was brilliant,” she laughed, leaning back in her chair, “and everything was right. You’re very mysterious, Ada, but I can tell that you’re a lovely person. Lonely, though, and troubled... your eyes show it.”
9: It was my turn to stare at Rachel. She was so unique, so... innocent! Yet, I could tell that she had faced tragedy, even more than I had, and she kept faith. We were so alike, yet so different; and also, because of the instant, unintended connection that had happened... we were now on the same wavelength as well.
10: After that first meeting, Rachel and I grew to be close friends very quickly, no doubt helped along by the fact that our essences were now intertwined. Whenever she got off work, and whenever I wasn’t seeing any clients, we would go around town together, exploring and laughing all the while. Honestly, it had been years since I had been as happy as I was when we were together; Rachel Ashdown was truly my best friend, and also, time proved, the one who saved me.
11: On October 5th, just after I had finished a reading with a client, Rachel walked in to find me with tears rolling down my freckled face. Dashing up, she immediately pulled me into a hug without even asking what was wrong – needless to say, that was when I broke and began to cry even more, shaking both uncontrollably and silently. “Ada, mate, what’s happened?” She asked with gentle concern, pulling away when I had finally composed myself. “I-I just... a client, the last one th-that was here. He, er, lit a match to light a c-cigarette... it’s stupid, I know, but I just don’t like f-fire,” I told her lamely, sputtering out words.
12: Rachel just listened intently and nodded. "No, it's not stupid, I understand. I hope you didn't tell him to sod off though, right?" I let out a shaky laugh and shook my head. As Rachel smiled and helped me to my feet, I noticed that her skin was somewhat paler than before. When I asked her about it, she shrugged and said it was probably just the light, and that neither of us should worry about it. Even though she said that, I did worry. Very often.
13: It was the night of October 22nd when I had my first night terror. Smoke is filling my lungs; it is clouding my sight. I scream for someone, anyone to help me. I realize that there is no one coming to help, and begin to run toward a nearby window - I look out onto the street below and I don't see my parents there. Panicking, I shout: "Mummy! Daddy!" My calls are never returned.
14: I bolted upright in bed, gasping for breath and drenched in a cold sweat. I could've sworn that I still smelled smoke filling my lungs and stinging my eyes, even though I was sitting safely in my bed. I felt that my eyes were wet, and realized that I had been crying in my sleep; of course I had. That was a nightmare of the night that my old life came crashing down around me - that was a dream of the night that my parents died in a house fire. I had been 12 years old.
15: For the next two weeks after that, I had the same terror every night; and every night, it became more vivid, more real, and more terrifying. Winter weather was coming, for it was then November, and I was even more determined to not light a fire than usual. Every day when I saw Rachel, I told her about the dreams, and she listened to and soothed me. Every day, I was so caught up in telling her about my own traumatizing past that I failed to notice that energetic Rachel was now becoming more tired, skinnier, and coughing often.
16: Finally, the nightmares ceased, and my mind and senses were no longer impaired. It was as I was happily telling Rachel so that I noticed that her cough was not only violent, but wet. "Rachel, your cough is getting worse. Is everything okay at the factory? And the orphanage?" I asked softly, grabbing one of her shoulders. She looked at me through tried, olive eyes. "Ada... have you ever heard of tuberculosis?" My heart froze.
17: Rachel gave a strained smile. "Oh, of course you have, you seem to know everything, Ada." "You... you're coughing up blood now, aren't you?" I questioned in a small voice. To my horror, Rachel nodded. "Rachel, I-," my voice cracked slightly, and I cleared my throat. "I... you know the range of my abilities, right? Aura reading, clairvoyance, mediumship, psychometry, telepathy and empathy... you think that's the full list, yeah? You... I could try something new. Something called faith healing."
18: It was the day after that when I attempted to heal Rachel. I managed to get a small amount of energy to her, but only enough to slightly numb her pain. I wasn't strong enough to do any real help. "Oi, don't let this get you down," Rachel declared devotedly, "I'm a lot more comfortable now. It's alright, everything's alright. And, besides, since you're a medium, you'll still be able t talk to me after-," "I can't communicate with family or friends," I interjected, "It's just this ultimate rule. Only strangers."
19: Rachel processed this, then nodded slowly. "Yeah, I suppose so, mate. But it's still alright." We sat together in silence for a few minutes, the ticking of the clock sounding impossibly loud, before she spoke again. "I wonder what sort of bloke my dad is now. I remember my mum was always kind and compassionate, but I wonder if she's changed. Ada, if you meet them one day, please get to know them. I'm positive they'll love you." I nodded and smiled weakly to that. "Oh, and Ada... I have a request for you..."
20: I watched her with pale, attentive eyes as she said, "I don't want to be buried. I think it's a restrictive thing to do, don't you? Well, I suppose you could ask a spirit about that someday... but, anyways, I don't want to go in the ground. I want to be cremated, and released in a lake. So, do you think you could, uh..." As Rachel trailed off, I looked into her eyes and nodded slowly. "Yeah, Rachel... I..." I paused, then looked away. "I'll ask a spirit about that someday."
21: A week later, I walked to Rachel's orphanage to see how she was doing, as I hadn't seen her in two days. It was that day when I was told that I couldn't see her then, or ever again.
22: As I was sitting at Rachel's bedside, clutching her icy, pale hand and staring at her closed eyes, the word that I had so often denied came to me and stayed there: pyrophobia. I looked away from her body, and realized that when she came into my life, she left change in her wake. While Rachel had done so much for me, I began to question what I did for her when I realized the answer.
23: Here I am, standing on the shore of this large lake in Weatherby, West Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, where I suppose there aren't many psychics. In my arms, I hold an urn; in my mind, I no longer hold demons of my past nor crippling fear. With steady hands, I open the urn and let ashes fall out - ashes that I created for a good friend. I watch the ashes fall onto the surface of the water, and see myself reflected; for a moment, I see the water ripple, and I think the reflection now has olive green eyes and mousy brown hair, but it's gone in a split second.
24: After I let go of Rachel ashes, I began to head back to my shop, but was pulled aside by a sturdy man in a trench coat "Hello, sir, can I help you?" I asked. He smiled under a brown mustache, more to himself than to me. "Actually, Miss Blair, you can."
25: As it turns out, that man was Inspector Frederick Abberline of Scotland Yard, England's best and most renowned detective agency. Abberline told me that he had caught wind of a credible psychic from word on the street, and he sought me out in hope that I would join the Yard. Needless to say, I said yes in a heartbeat. People around my shop began to respect and accept me more, seeing as I was with the most prestigious detective agency out there and all.
26: Thanks to Scotland Yard, I also ended up meeting Sebastian Tyler, to whom I'm now engaged. We started out as friends, as most blokes and birds do, and then somehow became a couple. He's a very sweet and funny guy, and handsome too - ash brown hair, deep brown eyes, and he's taller than me (which is saying something). | Around spring of 1887, there was an arsonist going around. Ironically enough, I single-handedly caught him. During all of this, I was still subconsciously searching for Mr. and Mrs. Ashdown, and began to really wonder why they would leave such a wonderful child at an orphanage.
27: It's now 1888, and Sebastian and I have moved into a flat together. I, along with all of Scotland Yard, am working to figure out who this notorious Jack the Ripper is, and catch him before he kills yet an 11th person. Last night though, I discovered that I have an ability neither Rachel nor I found before: premonitions. I dreamt of where Jack the Ripper would be, and set off to go there at dawn. I'm now running after him, reaching out to grab his hand; I'm so close now! I finally reach him, and upon grasping his hand, am flooded with images. I see a somewhat young couple, I think curiously, and now you're creeping up behind them. It's 1884 though... that's right, Scotland Yard never found the murderer from then! But wait... this couple... they're... With a shriek, I leap back, and Jack the Ripper is off again.
28: The couple I saw in those images were Mr. and Mrs. Ashdown. They're both dead, and have been for four years... Rachel never knew. | With a new drive, I'm chasing after Jack the Ripper once more, and I end up cornering him. Before he can hurt me, the rest of Scotland Yard is taking him in, and covering me in a shock blanket, which I quickly shrug off. I run at full speed to the graveyard near my shop; I stop at a headstone marked Rachel Ashdown, 1871 - 1885. Though a passerby wouldn't know, there is no casket or body lying underneath, for Rachel is free in the world. I kneel down and touch the smooth gravestone.
29: "Rachel... looks like I won't be meeting your parents." I pause and think, then smile broadly. "You already know that though. Oh, of course you do. You must know everything now, Rachel."