I think it's time to share the prologue with everyone!!!
No one ever suspects the quiet.
If you sit in the corner, usually, you will be left alone.
But there’s always a chance that you’ll be a target to someone.
They see the quiet that you’ve built around yourself and it’s like a beacon to them.
Their scope becomes set and all it takes is one hit.
I stare down at the entry with tears in my eyes. The high school journal is normally kept in a box, in my closet. When I get dressed, the box practically beckons me to grab the worn journal and read through it again.
I’d like to say that everything written inside is just theatrics and nothing really happened, but it’s all true. I know every story and emotion written on these pages.
With a flick of my wrist, I shut the journal and gently place it on the smooth surface of my vanity. My index finger traces the cursive E on the front of the journal in slow motion. Stalling. Somehow, the thought of leaving my room and meeting my family downstairs makes my gut churn. I don’t want to act like everything is fine in my life.
My long fingers hover above the knob on the vanity. Tucked away tightly is a list I am determined to follow.
Every day that passes is more time I’ll never have back.
Determination boils to the surface.
Sounds of rain rap lightly above my head. There’s something therapeutic knowing that around me the ground is being cleansed of past marks left behind from a careless creature or object.
Strong winds come with the rain. Glacial air seeps through the cracks of the patio doors that lead to the balcony. New York, the weather here is always unrestrained.
I’m used to it. This is my normal. For that reason alone, I hate it. I know I should make a change.
So much in my life has remained the same. Where exactly has that gotten me?
Without knocking, my younger sister walks into my room like she owns it. “Okay. I have the magazines you wanted.”
Eden has strength that shows with every step. She carries features that most would try to hide. Bold nose, strong cheekbones, and pale skin. Her dark red hair is pulled back in a tight bun that should look severe, but she pulls it off.
Eden loudly drops a stack of magazines. I glance up at her. “Thanks for getting them. Did Mom notice?”
“Nah.” Eden grabs the computer chair across the room and scoots close to me. “She’s getting her war face painted on and that could take hours, so we’re good.”
It’s almost six o'clock. In a few minutes, we are expected downstairs. Dinner at the Wentworths’ isn’t a regular affair. When you step onto the first floor, your clothes are required to be perfect, along with everything else. I learned at a young age that the name Wentworth is all about image. Upkeep will always be the top priority. You need endurance to survive in our world. The people our family rubs shoulders with believe that money can change whatever you’re unhappy with ... or your plastic surgeon can.
I peer into Eden's light brown eyes, identical to mine. We share so many physical features. But the minute one of us opens our mouth, the similarities come to a screeching halt.
I straighten my back and grab the first magazine in the pile. “Thanks for stealing them.”
“No problem. But why did you have me go all Nancy Drew and sneak around the house for these stupid things?” Eden points at the magazines her private school sends once a month.
“I plan on crossing every name off my list.” Only a few weeks ago, I created this list with Eden, and even though she may have forgotten about it, it’s still on my mind.
“Seriously?” Eden makes a noise and widens her eyes. “That was just for fun.”
“I’m going through with it,” I continue. “This burn list is not a maybe. It’s just a matter of when.”
“So, let's say you cross off every name on the ‘Burn List’ ... what happens after that?”
How will it feel to be rid of all the demons from my past?
I’ve tried so hard to use those two annoying F words: forgive and forget. It never works. I can forgive, but no matter how hard I try, the memories never fade. Forgetting is the worst because there’s a trigger for every memory. I have so many around me, I’m constantly on guard.
I know I’m hardened from everything, because after my family’s last annual Fall party, I sat with Eden on my bedroom floor, with a bottle of our mom’s Pinot Grigio in between the two of us, and created my Burn List. Eden giggled and smiled the entire time. I think she considered this a What If list.
The next morning, our little list was on my mind. I woke up still dressed in my gown and with a hangover that made me cringe with every step. I grabbed that stained list off the floor and read through the ten names.
I pictured what it would be like to see the regret and recognition on all ten faces. A sick sense of power unfurled in my belly.
Something broke in me that night. It has stopped being a game and is now a reality. The Burn List is the only way I know to escape my past, my means to forget.
It’s simple: I want revenge.
My eyes drift away from the magazine. I drop it onto my black skirt and look up at my sister. “If I do this, I feel like I’ll be correcting everything that has happened.”
Eden lowers her head and stares at her feet. “This feels weird.”
She picks up the crinkled paper. I keep my hands firmly at my sides so I won’t reach out and yank it from her. “Our list,” her eyes scan down the paper, “I think it goes deeper for you.”
“It does.” And, honestly, how it doesn’t for Eden is beyond me.
Repeatedly, she taps her fingernails. Her face is becoming pale, and I know she’s getting uncomfortable. “How? By bringing it all back onto them?”
Eden’s heart is kind and pure and true.
I used to be honest and good. Now, I’m bitter. Three years ago, my kindness covered me like a pure white blanket. Soon after, my white heart started to have tiny flecks of the truth splattered against it.
I think it all goes back to durability. How strong is someone when devastation knocks on their door and becomes a squatter in their lives? We’re all tested at one point or another. Eden picked herself up easily and comforted the rest of the family. We crumbled and she stood tall.
“Is it wrong that I want justice?” I ask.
“No, no, no.” Eden holds her hands out in the air. “But I’ve let it go, why can’t you?”
There is no answer I can give her. I look down and run a finger against the dark polish on my nails. Doubts are starting to seep into my head, about whether I can do this—whether I have enough guts in me to cross each name off one by one.
I may be bitter and hurting from the past, but I’m not vindictive by nature. The Burn List is completely out of character for me. Just writing it out felt strange, I wonder how it will feel to actually go through with it.
But then I picture my sister when she needed me the most. She was innocent and didn’t know what she was getting herself into.
My heart squeezes tight.
“What are you thinking?” I ask Eden quietly.
“I’m thinking that your mind is a scary place.”
“Not true, I didn’t pull this plan out of my ass yesterday. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time.”
I decided a while ago that I didn’t want physical damage done. Physical wounds fade and disappear. I want emotional harm because those wounds never heal properly. I’m not telling Eden that…
I look at her with sad eyes and rest my elbows on my thighs as I lean closer. My voice is soft but firm. “I’m doing this for us...”
Eden releases a shaky breath and gives me a firm nod. “Do it then,” she demands quietly. “If you need this, do it.”
I pat her hand and smile. “That’s exactly what I needed to hear.”
She clears her throat and discreetly wipes away a tear. “So, Emiliana Wentworth...” Eden drags out, using my full name. “Who’s your first target?”
I go through them all, but purposely leave one out. With every name comes my plan for each of them. She listens with unblinking eyes.
When I finish, she picks up one of the many magazines and points at it. “Why did you have me gather all these if you have everyone’s payback plotted out?”
“I still have one,” I say cryptically. “I don’t know when to hit this person, I just know it needs to be big. Look through the magazine.”
“What’s the name I’m looking for?”
I tell her reluctantly. The name has been ingrained into my brain for years. Eden’s face turns pale. She recognizes the name.
There’s a method to my list. Each person is in order from how they hurt my family. Start from the lowest and end with the highest.
We sit quietly. The only sound comes from our hands turning the pages of the magazines. They read more like gossip columns. A few months ago, I wouldn’t have cared less about what was written on the pages. But now, they hold all the information I need.
Eden goes through her magazine slowly and I know she isn’t with me. She has tunnel vision and all she sees is the past.
“I’m done,” Eden says sadly. She stands and tosses the magazine on the ground. “I’m going downstairs. I can’t keep looking through these things, trying to find someone that I don’t want to remember!”
I pause in my search and look over at my sister. She stands with her hands on small hips and blinks back her tears. I walk over to give her the tightest hug I can manage. “I’m sorry,” I pull back and give her a weak smile. “You can go if you want to.”
“Thank you.” Eden is halfway to the door when she turns around to look at me. “When you find enemy number one, don’t tell me, okay?”
The door clicks softly behind her. I walk back to where we sat and pick up the magazine off the floor. I stare at the cover, a picture of a few students walking through the halls with bright smiles on their faces. When I went there, boys and girls were separated. They had their own private school and so did we. A year ago, they converged.
My steps are slow as I walk across the room and scan the back page. Close to the bottom, in small block letters, is the name I’ve been searching for. I read through the entire article. Twice. This small article holds all the answers I need.
I have a plan.
I lay the magazine on my desk. With a red marker, I circle the face that destroyed my life.
“I know everything you did,” I whisper at the picture. The face still smiles. I press my finger deep into the paper and my nail makes a line through the smiling face. “You’re going to regret everything.”