The day the radiator caught the apartment complex on fire was the day Janet lost her virginity, doing breathing exercises under a dirty comforter six blocks west. It was the striped sweater, the one her mom had bought her on sale at Walmart last fall, that’d done it–that’d turned the dresses and blouses scattered across the floor into kindling.
“Are you all right?” Brian said, pulling on a clean pair of boxers.
Janet nodded, hands shaking as she fixed the clasps on her bra. She said she needed to get home before it got too dark, that walking through this neighborhood at night always made her a little uncomfortable, that she needed to make dinner, that one of her roommates would be worrying after her. It hadn’t been what she’d expected.
Standing in front of 84 Fuller Street, gripping the underwear she’d stuffed into her coat pocket as she put her feet into her shoes, her arms into her dress, she found her bedroom window. She noted how the red brick surrounding it had turned black and soft. She wondered if it would taste like the burnt toast she made in the oven every morning, if spreading peanut butter on it would make it better. She cried and her face was salt.
The former residents of 84 Fuller fell asleep at the Holiday Inn down the street that night. They kissed each other’s faces in the dark and had dreams of white sheets and soft hands. Janet, lying in the middle of a starched queen mattress, stared at the ceiling and remembered the sound those woolen stripes had made as they landed atop the warm metal, how one sleeve had fluttered with the machine’s vigor and slipped, dangling to the floor.
Published at Goon and Darling Do Flash Fiction on June 18, 2013.