(WP) Phoenix’s Fire

(WP) Phoenix’s Fire

               The mansion that had once stood proud on the hill was nothing more than a pile of burned wood and stone.

               The family that had lived inside were all dead, burned to a crisp in their own beds.

               Still, this wasn’t exactly an open and closed case.

               The only member of the de la Fuego family that was unharmed was the youngest of them all, an infant named Phoenix.

               The firefighter who had saved her, a young woman by the name of Stone, was in shock. She’d even spoken to several local news stations about the incident.

               “Unfortunately, I did not arrive in time to save the rest of this poor child’s family. But I climbed what was left of the stairs, and I could’ve sworn that I heard a baby crying. I walked into her bedroom and there she was, sitting in her crib, unharmed, crying her little lungs out.”

               Stone looked away from the camera, a comely blush darkening her cheeks. Tears ran down her cheeks at the memory.

               “That little girl has some lucky stars, she does. She’s a living miracle.”

               **

The infant was placed in the care of Child Protective Services while the police and fire department investigated the circumstances of her family’s death.

The case grew more perplexing as time went on.

In the care of a social worker, Phoenix grew. She grew from a tiny infant to a chubby, apple-cheeked toddler with a cap of dark curls and bright amber eyes that were the same color as honey.

The social worker taking care of the child began to notice strange things about her ward.

The near-constant smell of smoke faintly wafting off of her, reminding Miss Haypenny of a campfire.

The way Phoenix’s eyes glowed whenever something went wrong or she was denied what she wanted.

Miss Haypenny began to suspect that the little girl she’d taken in was extraordinary.

**

Eventually, the investigation was put on hold. There was no accelerant used, nothing to suggest that the fire had been more than an unfortunate accident. People throughout the city donated to pay for the de la Fuegos’ funeral, though they had mostly kept to themselves and were called eccentric by the kinder folks in town, and weird and unfriendly by the others.

Miss Haypenny put the papers through to have Phoenix adopted, though if she were being honest, she had grown used to the little girl in her own home.

But perhaps it was better that she be adopted by other people. There was only so much of herself she could give.

And, if she was being completely honest with herself, Phoenix scared the hell out of her.

She suspected, somehow, that the girl had started the fire that had killed the rest of her family.

But that was crazy, the stuff of fiction. After all, this wasn’t a Stephen King novel.

Still, she could not quiet the voice inside her mind, that said that something was deeply, irrevocably wrong with Phoenix de la Fuego.

**