At the time I didn't realize that her coal black eyes were peering through the picket fence. But if I'd carefully searched the spaces of black bewtween the perfectly cut slats, I'd have found my fire reflected in the dark mirror of her eye.
At my age, I was a late bloomer. I was just beginning to see beauty where it hid in the freckles across her cheeks or in the way her hair mimicked flames when the wind blew. She'd lived in the house next door to me for as long as I could remember. But it wasn't until she left the letter on my doorstep that I knew any beauty besides that of fire.
"Do you know how dangerous this is?!" my mother shrieked, "You could set the house on fire, or the electrical wires, or the entire neighborhood!"
The screen door squealed open and slammed shut as my father burst onto the scene and wordlessly grabbed the hose that was attached to the side of the house. He wrenched the handle to the left and came running at my beautiful fire with his deadly spray. The anger that reared up inside me was surprising. I felt my face curl into a snarl as my lovely flames hissed, steaming with agony, dying a fast but brutal death in an artificial rain.
"That was completely irresponsible," my father growled.
But their words meant as much to me as the grass beneath my feet. For all I cared, their words could burn. I stormed into the house and slept fitfully with nightmares of screaming flames.
The next morning was like the eye of the storm. Things were momentarily calm. I breezed out onto the front porch. And found her letter.