Jackie’s POV ~~~ 4 years later
I took a crumb of bread, threw it in the fire and watched it burn. Between bites, I saw the fire dance, tendrils of the flames swirling around the scraps of wood. The smoke breathed into my bones like a dragon, and my spirits raised up a bit higher like a knight’s war call.
I like watching the fire. My mother said I got that habit from my father, and he said I got it from her. My puzzling parents, as always.
I wish it was always now.
Two candles, in a shelf by the door, one extinguished and the other desperately holding onto its light represented them. The remaining flame climbed up the wick, and fell again, raising itself back up in a continuous cycle. My father’s flame, it was, still alive after the eight years he hasn’t came back, maybe more so than ever.
Suddenly, the fire puckered up, licking the corners of the paper behind. Cautiously, I fanned the paper out, but not before the last thing I wrote on it scorched, painted a dung colored brown. September 31,—- the year was gone.
Flustered, I crumpled up the paper, snowballing it into the fire. The white tumbled into the raging orange, as the red consumed both the colors.”Phoo!” I blew out my father’s last flame. “Bye bye, mother and father .” Memories flashed by, and as always, came back to stab me in the chest, the knife cold and hard.
I slammed the door, scrambling into the grass, blades brushing against my bare ankles.
Today, the grass was a bit pointed, frozen by last night’s frost. The ground was sparsely covered at this season, but nonetheless, this was the day that Jack fought the beast a hundred or so years ago. I was just waiting for the bells to ring, when the townspeople would gather around the beanstalk, fruitful with flowers and life.
“Heyo!” Christian greeted me, grinning widely. His limp brown noodle-like hair was in a ponytail, and he was wearing a tan scumbag shirt. A bandage was taped on his cheek, newly acquired. “What’s up? Such a normal day, isn’t it?” He was trying his best to be a charmer.
“Today is the hundred and eighth anniversary of Jack slaying the giant! Did you forget?” I pulled his ear.
“It’s today?” He seemed startled, scratching his head stupidly.
“It is, you dunce!” I let him go, and he hopped like a bunny, freed from my grasp.
He hollered, “Oh boy! I can’t wait! Let’s go, Jackie!” He held my hand, racing toward the middle of the city. He ran, almost tripping me off my feet. Tendrils of his hair flew in my eyes, as I blinked rapidly, in a bewildered flurry of hair and quick wind. Soon, we were at the Beanstalk. I could see why he was, in fact, the Running Champion of the Hallows.
“Come one, come all!” The village minister welcomed the swarms of people with open arms, his blubbery form, jolly, unfitting with his outfit of dark black, “Today, we preach the powers of Jack sent by God, hundreds and hundreds of years ago!” The good-hearted man was yelling his blessings, sitting on the circular structure of smooth stone, surrounding the green plant, sprouting into the clouds.
From my place below, I saw vines swirling around the stalk, light pink flowers blooming, and as my eyes eventually climbed up to where it seared the hefty layer of puffy clouds. The scent of vanilla coated the air, my most recent favorite smell of candles. Wanting to smell more of the delicious scent, I followed my nose, landing on a precious pink flower, on the lower vines of the Beanstalk. As I went down to smell it, the petals collapsed on each other, closing its doors to its sweet center. I turned my head, as another heavy waft of vanilla flooded my senses. The flower opened back up again! Rushingly, I bounded for it again, unceremoniously greeted by an explosion of mustard pollen dust. With my face caked in yellow, I dumbly looked onto my friends in front of me. What an embarrassment!
The group of raunchy boys laughed at me, including Christian.
“Look at Jackie, smelling the flowers! Such a girly-girl, isn’t she?” Tom, the big, strong one of the group teased.
“At least I’m not as dumb as you!” I annoyingly played with his hair, “Shut up!”
“Shut up?” He was outraged, “How about you shut up!” Tom punched me the stomach, sending me flying with the blow, “You weak little girl!”
I got up to my bearings, cracking my neck, ready for a fight. This guy was not messing with me again! Gritting my teeth, I kicked his shins, confusing him. He stole a single glance at his ankles, when I delivered a solid punch to his face. He ricocheted into the rock hard stone, grunting like a caveman as he got up to his feet. Tom stared me down, his expression like a bull chasing red. From the corner of my eye, I saw bloody teeth scattered behind his large body.
“Guys! Break it up!” Christian yelled, pushing Tom away from me. His heels screeched against the dirt, dust emitting from them.
“Yeah, Tom!” Kev was on his side, cheering him on, like a little rodent. He pumped his skinny arm into the air, screaming an almost incompressible war cry, “Kill her!”
“Stop it!” Christian stopped pushing Tom. He gave us both a sly smirk, “Do you guys really want to be fighting in front of the minister?” The minister, noticing Christian’s cue, frowned at us. It was the first time I’d ever saw a negative emotion on him, and like his cloak, it certainly didn’t fit him well.
“Or…” he added, “The minister’s daughter? You know her, Kev. It looks like you’ll be her man quite soon.” For good measure, he added a high whistle.
“Really?” Kev questioned. He didn’t quite get Christian’s plan to stop our fight.
Instantly, Tom straightened, a fragile blush forming on his cheeks. I sat down, fixing my hair and brushing the yellow pigment off my face. They aren’t anything but embarrassments! I thought to myself, I couldn’t believe what Maria would do if she saw me like that! I’m so stupid! I tossed the last of the dust off my clothes, scooting to the front. All the townspeople will be here soon, so I needed to get a good, frontward seat for the storytelling. Even if I heard the story a million times, the story of the boy who killed the giant, I never got tired of it.
“You’re so funny!” Maria tapped my nose, giggling. Neatly, she folded her legs, crisscross-applesauce, hands on her knees along with a playful smile splayed on her face. Her black hair curled carefully around her chest, covering one half of her schoolgirl tie. Her glasses were large saucers, and developed bifocals from when I saw her last. “I saw the little duel you had there. And the explosion with flower dust!” A mischievous daft shone from her voice, “You like flowers, don’t you?”
“Y-y-y—yeah.” I stuttered. Staying calm in front of a rich person wasn’t easy, especially when you eat candies from the bottoms of shoes. “I do.”
“What’s wron—” Maria was interrupted by the tolling of bells, always playing the tone they do at midnight. This morning, it marked not only the noon hour, but a special ceremony as well: The 108th Storytelling of Jack, the hero of our village.