Pyrophobia

The EMT injected Beth with a sedative. A police officer held me back and warned that it was in my best interest to let them do their job. I told him to go to fuck himself as Beth slumped into their arms. They carried her into the back of the ambulance and strapped her down.

In hindsight, sedating her was the right thing to do. Beth was insane with grief. Once their attention was on the fire, she would have tried to run into her mother’s burning house again. She said she heard Jenny screaming for her mommy and daddy. No one else heard screams and Jenny couldn’t have called out for us. She was only three months old.

The next day, a call came from the county morgue confirming that the human remains in the debris belonged to Beth’s mother and our daughter. Our lives were forever changed.

Some days, I’d catch Beth standing over the stove top with the flame turned on, laughing, and cooing at it like a baby. I let it continue until I noticed the blisters and burns on her hands. When I tried to stop her, she became violent and screamed that I couldn’t take Jenny away from her again. She comforted the flames telling them that Daddy couldn’t understand.

Beth spoke with our dead child until she died when my house burned to the ground with herself inside. The police said Beth was responsible for the fire. But I knew that moment I lit my cigarette. I can hear their voices in the embers. I feel their happiness together. I want to be a family again.

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