The Girl and the Flame

For ten years Amanda has been shut away from the rest of the world, kept away from her family and and potential friends. All because she is . . . different. After ten years of living her life under the careful watch of the nurses and Miss Ryehart, finally, she wants out.

Please give me some suggestions for the title, I don't like the one I'm using now :)

Chapter 1

Letters in the Flames

by: _Ripple_
The flame flickered and danced in the slight breeze that was blowing in through the half opened window. It's glow was reflected in Amanda's eyes as she gazed at it almost lovingly, the flame that she had conjured from the palm of her hand. She blew on it gently, playing with it, making it's dance grow faster and wilder, suddenly she heard footsteps coming up the hall and snapped her palm closed, extinguishing the flame. A few moments later the door swung open and a nurse walked into the room, her high-heeled shoes clacked quietly as she walked across the cold white floor. Amanda tried to keep her expression blank, but the nurse saw how tightly she had her fist closed. 'Show me your hand please Amanda', she said in her sickly sweet voice, the voice that all of the nurses seemed to share. She reluctantly opened her hand and held it before her, her skin was red where the flame had been. The nurse shook her head, frowning disapprovingly. 'You know you shouldn't be making fire', she said in a voice so patronising that it almost hurt her ears. 'It's not normal, it's not natural. There's something wrong with you, and it's not going to get any better if you practice it' She finished. Amanda groaned inwardly, she had lost count of how many times she had heard that. She didn't feel like there was anything wrong with her, it felt normal, it felt natural, it felt right. 'I'm sorry Miss', she said. 'I won't do it again, I promise', the nurse sighed, even her sigh was patronising. 'You say that every time Amanda, but I always find you doing it. When will you learn to keep your promises?', She sighed again, Amanda felt she could have punched her if that was what it took to alter her plastic expression. 'Maybe I'll keep my promise when you let me out of here', She snapped, As usual, she guessed exactly what the nurse would say. 'You know we can't let you out of here, you're a danger to the community. What if you were in public and you accidentally started one of your fires? One that couldn't be put out by water? You don't want to hurt people, do you Amanda?', Amanda shook her head, no. It was better not to argue, you never won with these kind of people, you didn't even have fun arguing with them. 'I'm glad to hear that Amanda',The nurse said with a smile.The nurse left the room and came in a moment later with a tray of food. 'Your birthday's only a month away now isn't it?' She said, changing the subject. 'How old are you turning this year? Fourteen?'

'Fifteen', Amanda corrected her, one or two of the nurses always got her age wrong. She stood up and took the plate of food, then she froze. 'Fifteen?' The nurse whispered. For the first time the nurse's face showed a real emotion, and that emotion was horror. 'Are you sure Amanda?' She stuttered. Amanda nodded.

'What's wrong?' She asked, shocked. The nurses were never upset, and if they were, they never showed it. It was totally new to her, for a nurse to actually act human. The nurse turned her face away and started arranging something on the wardrobe, but Amanda was sure she was only pretending to do so. 'I'm so sorry Amanda', She sounded as if she was crying, but she couldn't be, could she? People never cried in this place. 'Sorry for what?', She demanded 'What's wrong?', The nurse turned to face her again, her face was expressionless, but Amanda could have sworn some of her carefully-applied makeup was smeared. 'I'm sorry for . . . for getting your age wrong', she said weakly. 'I should know how old you are by now, after all these years.', it was a terrible lie. The nurse gave a nervous laugh. 'I remember when we brought you in Amanda, you were only five years old', "Brought you in" was a nice way of putting it, but Amanda thought it was best not to mention that right now. Suddenly the nurse took a step closer to her and grasped her hand. 'Amanda', She started. 'You know that the nurses all really do love you. Even if we don't seem like it, even if we seem cold to you, we really do', Amanda was speechless. She had never heard anyone speak like this to her before, not many people had ever been this nice to her. The nurse let go of her hand. 'I have to go', her voice shook as she spoke, and she left the room, closing the door behind her. For a moment Amanda just stood staring at the door, trying to work out what had just happened. Eventually she sat down at her desk where her breakfast was, it was some kind of cereal, she didn't know any of the brand names, but suddenly she didn't feel hungry. What was so sad about her turning fifteen? Sad enough to make someone burst into tears on the spot. She stared at the cereal, as if the soggy flakes would spell out the answer, but no ideas came. She didn't know how much time had passed lost in her own thoughts when she heard a knock at the door. 'Come in', She called, and the door swung open. Another nurse walked in, she didn't know any of their names, she only called them 'nurses', as she was told to. 'You haven't eaten your breakfast', she said, stating the obvious.

'I wasn't hungry',Amanda muttered, it was only half the truth. The nurse stared at her for a minute, as if she was trying to work out what was going on in her head, but the she shrugged and said. 'Someone will collect you for school in ten minutes. I expect you to be ready by then', Amanda nodded. The nurse turned and left without another word.

Amanda quickly stood up and got ready for what they called 'school'. Really it was just her and three other children locked in a room for seven hours answering questions. Ten minutes later a third nurse came to get her. She led her through the long maze of corridors, although Amanda knew the way so well by now that she could have walked it by herself with her eyes closed. Eventually they came into a large hall. The entire building was made of a white plastic material, the same as her room. In the middle of the hall were four square rooms made entirely out of clear glass, all connected together. Amanda made her way into the one furthest from her without needing to be asked. She knew the days routine off by heart now, it had been exactly the same for the last ten years of her life. In the glass room was a single desk, she sat down on it and waited patiently for Miss Ryehart to arrive. Miss Ryehart was her teacher, but as far as she could tell she had many other jobs. In fact, Miss Ryehart seemed to run this whole building. She was the only person who's name she knew, even if it was only her last name, and she was the only person who she actually liked in this place. When Miss Ryehart entered the room she gave her a smile, a real smile, 'How are you doing today Amanda?', She asked in her sweet, childish voice. A real voice.

'Same as always', She replied, smiling back. For a moment she wondered if she should ask her about the nurse, but then she decided against it. Miss Ryehart slid a sheet of paper onto her desk, 'It's a test today', She said. 'Have fun'. Then she left the room to see the other children. Amanda picked up her pencil gazed down at the sheet of paper, but her mind wouldn't focus. The letters and numbers seemed like nothing but a blur of strange symbols today. Eventually she looked up from her paper, which was still blank. Miss Ryehart had left already. She gazed around at the other children sitting at their desks. To the left of her was a boy with short brown hair, he was bent over his sheet of paper, but his pencil was lying untouched on his desk. Beside him was another boy with shoulder length black hair, his pencil was speeding over his paper just a little too fast, and she wondered if he was actually writing anything. In the furthest room was a girl with short black hair, she looked Chinese, but it was hard to tell from this distance. It was torture, being able to see them clearly, being so close that she could have touched them, but not being able to speak with them. The glass was completely sound-proof, she had never met any of these people, she didn't even know their names, and yet she spent five days a week with them. She sighed and returned to her sheet. She had written down only a few answers when she got an idea, a stupid idea that wouldn't work, but she would try it all the same. She looked around to check that none of the nurses were around, the hall was empty. She slowly raised a hand in the air and began tracing letters. At first in didn't work, a few sparks appeared where she pointed, but they soon went out. On the third attempt flames flared up in mid air spelling out the words. 'My name is Amanda'. The boy closest to her raised his head and stared at the fiery letters in awe. They hung in mid air for a few seconds, before fading into nothing. He glanced around the room, then stood up from his chair and silently traced the words onto the glass. 'I'm Daniel'. She smiled at him, and he smiled back. She felt warm all of a sudden, and not the warmth that fire brought her, she felt happy. She was making a friend, a real friend, not someone who's job it was to keep her company. She started to write something else, but suddenly she heard something banging on glass. She looked up from the letters she was tracing to see the black-haired boy banging his fist against the glass. He was pointing with his other hand to something in the hall, his face was angry. She followed his hand to what he was pointing at. It was Miss Ryehart. She hastily tried to extinguish the flames, but it was too late, she had seen them. She strode over to the glass room, her face completely expressionless, she slid open the cold glass door . 'Come with me please Amanda', Her voice was calm, but hidden behind it was anger. Amanda followed her without a word, it took her a minute to realise that Miss Ryehart was leading her back to her room. As she predicted, they arrived at the door after a few minutes. Miss Ryehart motioned for her to step inside, then followed her into the room. 'Amanda', She said, shaking her head. 'How many times do I have to tell you not to make fire, for any reason? It's just too dangerous!', How many times had she heard this? It was a lie, and they knew it. She wasn't dangerous, when she summoned fire, it obeyed her will. It would hurt no one, as long as she told it not to. And yet they kept her locked away in this place, shut away from normal people, people her age, who she should be laughing with and making friends with. Her mind wandered back to the others whom she had only ever seen separated by two inches of glass. 'Miss Ryehart', She hesitated, but the woman was gazing at her expectantly. 'Why aren't I allowed to speak to the other children here?' A question that she had always asked herself, but had never been given the answer.

'That's not what we're talking about right now', She said coldly. 'We're talking about you and your abnormality,' An abnormality? So that's what they were calling it now. It seemed like every week they had a different name for it. 'But why?', She begged. 'Why can't I speak to them just once?' Miss Ryehart sighed.

'You've asked me this question hundreds of times-',

'That's because you never answer it!' She cut it. 'You never answer any of my questions! Like how long will it be before I can see other people? Or why is-',

'Amanda!', The anger in Miss Ryehart's voice silenced her. Amanda clenched her fists, she didn't want to be silenced anymore. She had had enough of waiting. When Miss Ryehart spoke her voice was perfectly calm. 'To answer your questions', She said. 'You are not allowed to spend time with the other children for the same reason we keep you here, so that you do not endanger them. And as for how long it will be before you can see other people', She hesitated, as if she knew that the answer would anger her, 'You will not be allowed on the streets until you've completely lost the ability to create fire, which may not be for a very long time if you keep practising it,' Oh she was clever, so very clever. How had she never realised it before? She was going to have to choose, between fire and freedom, and Miss Ryehart knew which choice she would make. The woman smiled, a cold, triumphant smile that she had never seen on her warm face before. 'You'll finish your test in here, and I expect you to behave'. She sneered, and left the room before Amanda got a change to complain. She sat down at her desk, her hands were shaking with anger. 'I expect you to behave', she kept on turning the words over in her mind. There was a message hidden in those words, a threat.

Behave. Seven hours of school passed slowly.

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