The soft glow of the fridge light illuminated a small tan face. Her dark hair stood in all directions, spiked from a fitful few hours of sleep.
“There’s nothing here for him to eat.” She mumbled.
A soft rapping at the kitchen door brought her mind back to the mission. She was awake during these early morning hours for a reason. Fingers skittered along the glass window of the door.
“Tabitha.” A voice, giddy with energy, whispered. Without another thought Tabitha pulled the door open gently. Her friend, a few years older and much lighter and blonder, balanced on the edge of the stoop. “Do you have food?” Eager eyes searched her empty hands.
“No, momma hasn’t gone to the store.” His shoulder’s slumped slightly.
“Well, that’s ok.” He nodded towards the stars. “Come with me, I have something to show you.”
Tabitha’s small home was positioned just on the outskirts of town, the woods to one side and the train tracks to the other. The trains had stopped running when Tabitha was young, she didn’t remember the way the house rumbled as they flew past. When the trains stopped business stopped and Tabitha’s family, like all the others, were left with few options.
Her friend bounded towards the woods. “Zeke, wait!” Tabitha had to jog to keep up with with his wide gait. He stopped just inside the tree line, where the shadows began to overcome the dim moonlight.
“Come on!” He hissed with an impatient wave. “Look.” From his dusty pockets he produced a book of matches. A sly smile spread danced across his lips. Tabitha watched eagerly. “You wanna see a trick?”
She jumped excitedly. “Yes! I’ve been waiting for you to come back so I can see your new tricks. Did you learn a lot while you were gone?” Zeke’s smile revealed crooked and yellowing teeth.
“You bet. Watch.” With a scratch the match was lit. Zeke held it between him and Tabitha. “Ok, before I do it, I need to know. Will you come with me?”
Tabitha furrowed her brow in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“Will you come with me?” Zeke leaned closer, the match glowed in his blue eyes.”Have you told your parents about me?”
“No, of course not. You said …” He dismissed her words with a flick of his wrist.
“I know what I said, but girls don’t always listen.”
“Hey now! I listen just fine and no, I didn’t say anything.” Zeke nodded, comfortable in his friend’s assurance. He turned to face the small house and let a slight blow escape his lips. The flame flickered, died, then re-emerged in the air before him. “Wow … How are you …”
He blew it towards the house gently, “Go.” He whispered.
The flame curved with the wind towards the house. It flickered and grew with every slow movement. Zeke and Tabitha stood frozen, watching the magic unfold.
“That’s amazing. How do you make it do that?”
“Shh, just watch.” The flame grew larger and it floated closer to the small house. As it closed the gap from the woods Tabitha’s breath caught in her throat.
“Zeke, it’s going to hit my house.” Beside her Zeke nodded his head and clapped his hands together.
“Now you’ll have no choice. You have to come with me.” His fingers gripped her wrist as the flame collided with the old wood and began to eat it away.
“Zeke! My parents are in there!” Tabitha wrenched her wrist from his grip but he closed his free arm around her waist and pulled her in close to him.
“We have to run now.” He whispered in that giddy voice.