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Jackson was making coffee. The morning news blared and the kitchen smelled like toast. Gala, in  thick woolen socks, came in, making no noise.

She went to the cupboards and took out her breakfast things. Her movements were quick and mechanical.

What are those bandages?

I burned myself.


What do you mean, how? What does it matter?

Don’t get like that with me. I’m concerned; that’s all. You’re always burning yourself. Like you’re doing it to yourself on purpose.

Ha! Yeah. Fuck you, Jackson.

You burn things all the time. You burned the tupperware. You burned your hair, and you almost burned down the house. Who would’ve cared that it was an accident? 

She said nothing.

But still. 

He said this as if his meaning were crystal-clear.

They ate in silence. The radio announcer was blathering offers in a special voice reserved only for such behavioral conditioning. The sound was a placeholder for conversation neither could come up with. Mornings were hard enough without having to be interesting. 

Jackson finished first and locked himself in their only bathroom. Gala went out on the balcony to smoke. He’d be out of the bathroom in fifteen minutes, like clockwork. Her stomach would rumble in its own time, and she’d take over—unless he decided to go straight into the shower. Then she’d have to wait, or go shit in the woods like a goddamn bear.

Jackson, hurry up!

This was his cue to get sour with her. She saw it that way. Their every interaction was just a tug ‘o war to see who could drag who over the line. 

From the second floor of the house, Gala was as high up as the pines. Her sharp sense of smell could detect their resin. It would be a shame to lose all this, she thought, as she pulled on her boots and grabbed a jacket off its peg and the keys.Walking through pine needles was a beautiful sensation. She found a spot, dug a hole, and crouched. She would throw away the tp in the outdoor trash can.

The house down the hill almost did burn down. They had fought just before he was leaving for work. She became distracted. Did that make it his fault? She imagined the house smoking, flames taunting the breaking windows.

Then it was real.

She didn’t need to see; she could smell the smoke.

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