A spark burst to life on the end of a short stick not yet torn from its cheap matchbook. Within seconds it had grown into a proper flame, enough to light a cigarette, enough to burn a letter, enough to ruin lives.
One life had already been ruined by a flame like the one now flickering in the shifting air currents, at once the same and yet so different. For just as a rose by any other name is still a rose, so a flame by any other name is still a flame, by any other description will still burn and scar and destroy. It does not matter whether the flame is literal or symbolic; it does not matter that it can melt skin and char bone or melt hearts and steal souls. A flame of passion will consume the heart just as completely as a flame of heat and light will consume the body, both leaving behind nothing but ashes and charred remains.
Just beyond the lit match, an iris as blue as a tropical sea looked on as the small flame burned more fuel and grew larger. The eye belonged to someone who had been burned to such an utter completion that she no longer felt anything at all; just as physical nerve endings can be overloaded with agony, so can emotional and psychological nerve endings in the same way be damaged beyond all feeling. She knew logically that the flame would soon overtake the pitiful match and ignite the rest of the matchbook, but she couldn’t bring herself to care. He sure as hell didn’t. If the entire matchbook caught fire, she would be burned; but, she reasoned, at least then her appearance would match her heart and soul. No one else in the dim, smoky bar seemed worried about the diminutive flame. He wouldn’t have worried about one little lit match; why should she?
Theirs had been a whirlwind romance—kisses, passion, adventure, lust, promises made and just as quickly broken, lies, resentment, and anger. What had started as a tiny spark of attraction burst into a bonfire of passion in far too short a time; it consumed all the oxygen in the small space of their tryst and sputtered out suddenly. One continued on his merry way, blissfully ignorant to the damage done, while the other collapsed into a benumbed pile of ashes.
Devoid of all feeling, she gathered as many ashes as she could carry and deposited herself onto a barstool at the watering hole where he worked. Before she could retrieve a cigarette to light it, much less order a drink, she spied him at the opposite end of the bar, pretending to wipe it down as he openly flirted with a woman wearing far too much makeup and far too little clothing. She opened the matchbook and used a perfectly manicured fingernail to strike one of the pitiful sticks. As the flickering light reflected in the sea-blue of her eyes, the anger and betrayal in her heart grew in intensity along with the size of the flame as it devoured the matchstick. As the flame leapt from the stick to consume the entire matchbook, the boiling fury in her heart suddenly turned ice cold. She didn’t care that the flames were no longer under her control; she didn’t care that her rage had devoured her heart and soul just as completely as the flames had begun to consume her hand. She simply no longer cared.
She found that apathy was not quite to her liking, so she embraced the heat of the searing flames and welcomed the power it lent her. With a final glance at the opposite end of the bar to see that he still took no notice of her, she gathered up her ashes yet again, using the flames to fuse them into a being that, while not at all healthy, was at least once again whole, and she turned and walked out of the bar. Her sea-blue eyes caught the reflection of the alcohol-fueled flames as they leapt from the orifices of the building, devouring it just as completely as the raging passion that consumed her soul.
Yes, love was like a flame, providing light and warmth when tended carefully and delivering total destruction when recklessly abandoned. And revenge…well, the old proverbial saying got it wrong. Revenge is a dish best served hot.