The dry doghouse caught and held the flame from my lighter. It began slowly, like the fire was blinking it’s little eyes at the new world around it and deciding where to go next.
But when it decided, it grew very hungry, very fast! Maybe the old dog hair, and maybe the old wood were tasty. I’ll have to remember that the next time I needed tinder.
“Charlie, Hide!” Wendy hissed. She was already behind some low brush. I ducked beside her before anyone noticed the flames.
It was a strong fire, small, yet robust. The roofing smoked heavily, but the flames curled around the eaves in triumphant fingers of orange and yellow. I just watched as it danced higher around the walls of the house, and finally engulfed the whole thing. The doghouse was only a black shadow inside the whirling kaleidoscope of red-orange.
“Charlie, it’s beautiful!” whispered Wendy.
“Mhm,” was all I managed, entranced.
Then Wendy kissed my cheek.
I snapped to attention and looked at her. She leaned in for a second on my lips, but I leaned back.
“Hey!" She looked upset that I would refuse her.
I just stared at her stunned. Her eyes again captured me. They looked a little angry now, with the flames reflected back in them.
"Charlie! Run!" Wendy's eyes had snapped up to the house. Ol' Man Corbet had come running outside with a bucket. Wendy took off down the alley away from Crotchety Corbet's house. I followed her close on her heels.
When we had rounded the block and were walking slowly back toward our homes, my heart racing with the exertion, Wendy turned to me again. 'You were saying?" she prompted.
"Um. I was saying.. that.. that I don't kiss on a first date!"
"Don't you think I'm pretty?" she batted her lashes and grasped her hands behind her back, swiveling on her feet so she turned in the evening light like a wind chime in the breeze.
I did think she was pretty; stunning in fact, with her eyes full of fire. But my tongue wouldn't unglue itself from the roof of my mouth to tell her. I nodded and swallowed, almost audibly.
She giggled and reached for my hand. "Well are we on a "Date" or not?"
"You said so!" she pointed out and smiled. She had a captivating smile.
"But I have to get back home before my parents realize I'm gone. If Crotchety tries to frame me..." My eyes went wide.
"Why would he think it was you?" Wendy looked at me like I had said the stupidest thing in the world.
"Because he knows I burn stuff." I answered vaguely.
"Well, let's get you home, then." She sighed. Her date was over.
We jogged back to my back yard, zig zagging through back fences and shrubs so no one would spot us. I climbed in my bedroom window and she snuck into her backyard through a loose board in her fence.
Sure enough when the phone rang moments later, I was innocently reading a magazine in my room half-dressed. My Mom opened the door, phone to her ear, and asked, "Charlie, you haven't been out tonight have you?"
"No, Mom. I've been right here." I lied, confidently.
"Mr. Corbet, I assure you he has been here the whole night!" She said as she closed my door.