I saw him watching me across the crowd. My hands were clenched together as I walked, anxiously putting one foot ahead of the other in a sequence of missteps. The closer I got to the fire, the harder it was to hear people talk, the crackling was so loud. I heard something crack under my foot but I didn’t stop to look. He was too close now.
I mentally cursed my parents for making me attend Trick’s first Burning. While my stupid brother basked in the youngest-child glory, I had to settle for rebellion. But these are just labels. In fire, there are none.
A loud noise exploded on my left, which made me awkwardly tilt and lose my balance. The ground smelled like cinder and soil. As soon as I hit it, I heard someone laugh. Somehow, my audience always found me.
‘You okay?’ a red-hair with strain all over her face asked. She looked like a Moreen but she had the nose of a Misha.
‘Yeah, sorry.’ I said and hurried to walk away before the nameless girl responded.
The brightness of the event always unnerved me. Normally, I’d be nowhere near the flashy-clothed Olden circle or the dreaded screeches of the sing-alongs. I sighed, wishing I was on the edge of the cleft, playing word games with my best friend, Silo.
I could sense my new stalker watch the back of my neck because it crawled like crazy. I might as well have had ants camp on there.
I jumped. My mother was standing a few feet from me, staring me down with her trouble-face. I quickly focused back on my brother taking his first step into maturation. Of course, it would be long before he was in any way mature. Some people never mature anyway, so why the pretence?
Meanwhile, the fire grew hotter and my skin crawled with the build-up of a bad allergy. I scratched my arm and sure enough, a large peel of skin came off. I tugged on my sleeve as fast as I could. My stalker was standing close enough to see and far enough to miss my blunder. I panicked and scoured the ground. The skin was gone, just like the other times. I buried my face in my long hair to hide my embarrassment. Why did I have to be such a freak-show?
When I looked back at Trick, he was already handed the green Oculus, which shone as bright as the fire did. My own green eyes teared up when I saw the proud look on our parents’ faces. Five years ago, my own Burning ritual had gone unnoticed by the majority of people gathered for his.
My brother. The saint.