A Pale Blue Lighter

Posted: July 17, 2008 in Beauty, Dark, Death, Drama, Fiction, Imagery, Life, Musings, Snippet, Women

“It just rained,” I tell her. “You might not want to go out there.”
She tosses her head and ignores me. “I need a smoke.”
I was fifteen when I met Amy, a girl with dark hair and bad skin and an apathetic demeanor that hung around her like a group of screaming teenage girls flocking to a rock star.
She saunters in front of me as we walked to the stern, swinging her skirt-covered ass from side to side like Marilyn Monroe. Not used to this kind of thing, I make a valiant attempt at keeping my gaze straight ahead rather than at a 45 degree angle. She looks back languidly, half-smiling in a teasing fashion.
As we slide the door back, ocean mist sprays across the deck, moistening our faces. Amy slinks over to a white box that loudly proclaims LIFE VESTS in bold block capital letters and plunks herself down on the damp container. She takes a pale blue lighter and a small carton with one cigarette in it out of her purse. I lean on the railing and gaze out at the sea.
The waves look like a roiling field of glass, a breathtaking collection of greens and blues and gray sea foam. There is no land for miles around us, no sight of any other naval vessels. As I’m searching for signs of marine life, perhaps a shark lurking just beneath the surface, I can hear the scratch of a lighter behind me.
There’s a thin, flaring hiss as the cigarette ignites, and I hear her sharp intake of breath as she takes a drag.
I glance back to her as the lighter’s scratching hits my ears again.
She’s staring, transfixed, at the cigarette carton in her hand as it’s engulfed in flames. The fire is swirling, spreading along the pack like creeping, debilitating disease. I can see smug Joe Camel as he wilts and fades into ashy repose. The carton is being devoured, the flame getting closer and closer to Amy’s thin fingers, but she simply stares at the conflagration as it advances. The blaze starts to lick at her fingertips.
“Amy!” I cry, and my voice shakes Amy out of her trance. She drops the pack to the ground and crushes it beneath her heel, snuffing out the flame and leaving a wet pile of cinders on the deck.
She sniffs, stands and throws her cigarette to the ground, stamping it out quickly. I look down at it to see that it’s barely been smoked at all.
“Damn it, my ass is wet.” She makes a weak attempt to slap water off of the back of her skirt with no result. She sighs.
“Doesn’t the talent show start soon?” I ask her, hoping that we can leave the issue of the flaming cigarette box behind.
“Yeah, might as well go inside.” She makes a move to the door and slips in a puddle of water, falling back against me. She steadies herself with a hand on my shoulder, and I notice that just the tip of her index finger is dark, almost scorched.
“You okay?” My question goes beyond an inquiry to her balance.
“Yeah, I’m fine. It’s just these damn heels.” She pushes away from me and I watch as she wobbles unsteadily to the door.
We walk inside and head down two levels to the theater area, where people are already gathering in anticipation of the performances to follow. The stage is a typical half-circle ensconced by a thick curtain that faces a large maze of comfortable chairs and glass tables and wrought-iron railing that separates seating into three separate areas, each one raised successively higher than the last like a layered cake. Near the back of the theater there are huge drapes of rich tapestry that hang suspended from the ceiling, swathes of crushed velvet that look like they belong in the collars of old English lords.
Amy and I take a seat in the rear, settling into the chairs and relaxing as the lights dim all around us. The announcer jumps onto the stage with a fervor that generally only manifests itself in manic children’s television shows.
“Our first act is a dance by our teen group. Please, make them feel welcome.”
As the applause from the crowd swells, I can see Amy staring at her pale blue lighter out of the corner of my eye. We had both neglected to join the efforts of the other teens for the talent show so that we could see how many would make fools of themselves.
The curtain peels back from the stage like an orange being unwrapped, and five teenage boys tromp out onto the stage. Resplendent in thick make-up, tight-fitting high heels and huge balloons poking up from underneath their shirts, they look like fifty-year-old drag queens.
Amid the titters that come from the crowd, the music starts; “Disco Inferno”, a classic hit by the Trammps. The boys on the stage are dancing clumsily along, moving their arms and legs frantically, testing the limits of their tight tank tops and leather miniskirts. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Amy reaching into her purse again.
“Burn baby burn” croons the recording over the robot-like movements of the teenagers. The novelty of cross-dressing has worn off on the crowd, who is waiting patiently for the next performance.
The small bottle that Amy had squirreled away earlier now comes out in a quick flash of red and white lettering as she unscrews the cap and splashes the vodka onto one of the thick drapes hanging behind us. Her lighter comes up.
A thin scratching sound, a hiss and a flaring roar as the expensive fabric is set ablaze. A gasp, a collective turning of heads as the crowd realizes that pyrotechnic effects have now been added into the program. I spring up, away from the burning tapestry as it trembles beneath the might of the alcohol-fueled inferno, I pull Amy away with me. The panicking crowd swarms around us in their stampede to get to safety.
Eyes as fixed upon the orange-and-red consumption of the theater as they were on the flaming carton of cigarettes, Amy leans back against me and sighs with contentment.
“Isn’t it beautiful?”
“No,” I whisper, flames dancing in my widening pupils. “No, we need to get out of here!”
I grip Amy’s thin wrist and charge out of the theater with her in tow. Already, a sprinkler system is coming on and I can hear an alarm wailing high above the frightened murmur of the crowd around us.
I keep moving, out of confusion and fear, back to the stern where Amy had ignited the cigarette box. We stood by the railing, the sea spray sloshing into our faces. I didn’t care about that at the moment, however.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” I ask, both baffled and angry at what has happened. “Why did you do that?”
The pyromaniacal sylph standing before me shrugs casually, as if I’d just asked her a math question that she didn’t know how to answer.
She smiles at me, a look that is almost reminiscent of the way she had gazed at flames. “Wasn’t it beautiful?”
“No, for God’s sakes! You tried to destroy a theater on a boat! You don’t see what’s wrong with that?”
“I–”
I don’t let her finish. My hand shoots out quickly and grabs her purse. Amy’s eyes widen as she struggles to keep it, but I wrestle it away from her, and its contents splash onto the soaked deck. A wallet, Kotex, keys, and the accursed pale blue lighter lay sprawled across the damp steel ground.
I lunge at the lighter at the same time that Amy does; my grasping fingers reach the small cylinder first and Amy attacks me, thudding her small fists into my chest.
“It’s MINE!” She growls at me with ferocity and a demon’s gleam in her eye, yet this only serves to make me hurl the lighter into the churning sea below us.
“NO!” She screams, and before I can react, she’s balancing herself on the railing high above the ocean like an Olympic diver ready to bring home the gold. I desperately make a grab towards her.
Her knees bend slightly, they push, and my fingertips only grasp air.
With wide eyes and shaking hands, I grip the edge of the railing, gaping at the airborne girl below me as she crashes into the sea.
For a moment I think I see a frantic limb thrashing above the sea.
It could be a trick that my brain is playing on me, but that doesn’t seem likely.
Because clutched in Amy’s drowning grip is the pale blue lighter.

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