Let it burn
Family dynamics are complicated. Everyone knows that. You have your kitchen witches who can feed an army in the blink of an eye. People forget how dangerous they can be. The talent for pouring your will, your essence, into a pot bubbling on the stove, is not one to take lightly. You can heal people with it, or you can kill. If you let the bitterness coiled in your heart touch your hands while you’re stirring that sauce, you can set someone to wasting away from hunger that will never be satisfied.
Then you have the peacemakers. They can charm a room with a breath. Not the kind of charm that worms its way into the blood and can build enough wanting to start a war, but the kind that diffuses a storm before a fist is thrown. When the air is never cleared, peace becomes more valuable.
There are all kinds of families, and all of them are complicated. Every home is walls that have soaked up the love and hate that only ever lives inside a family bound by blood. The problem is, when you’re the quiet one, the one nobody sees in the corner behind a book or slipping between the shadows because you’re still so very small and they haven’t learned to notice you yet, people forget that you have eyes, and a mind, and though you will eventually inherit some of the talents your family is known for, you are still yourself.
Some people are magnets for souls that need unburdened. Whether they like it or not. The luckiest can take the occasional hit of someone truly confessing in need, because these are balanced by all the flibbertigibbet streams of consciousness who are still too afraid to ask, but still need to be heard. The talent for seeing is often coupled to a talent for nudging. If you’re going to help, you have to be able to sway a soul in the desired direction. It’s a pity so many with this talent, misuse it.
They forget that your gift, is to remember. They forget you don’t sleep when you’re supposed to. They forget you understand more than you should. When you’re small, they forget who they are supposed to be. The words flow in a constant hum. Your dreams wake the house and you don’t know why. They’ve forgotten, but you can’t forget at all.
Then one day, you sit in an empty house, surrounded by the rage and screams and memories of bones that were never yours, breaking. You sit there, with a piece of bread. The bread is supposed to belong to you. It is absolution and exculpation and in that bread is not one drop of regret for what you have been asked to do.
You listen to the room, with its desperate sussurations imploring you to do what you came here for or get out and be damned.
“Family dynamics are complicated. Everyone knows that,” you make certain to speak clearly, because you’re only going to be able to say it once. You pour oil over the piece of bread, the way you’re supposed to, and you can’t stop yourself from fidgeting with the matchbook, to light the candle in the center of the table.
“I spent years swallowing what you all forgot I could hear. Every time, it burned, like acid on my tongue. You forgot I was there, you forgot that remembering is my purpose, you forgot that of all the talents we carry, this one scars deep and quick. You forgot even though you woke with the screams that I never uttered, ringing in your ears. And yet you ask this of me.”
The room is ready to shatter. You hold it there. There should be something more meaningful than this, something that guarantees you walk away cleanly from the things these restless, long-dormant ghosts have weighted you down with since you were old enough to hear them. If such a thing exists, you haven’t found it yet, so you make do with what you’ve got.
“I wasn’t built to be this family’s sin-eater. I’ve done it, for far too long, but I will not do this.”
It’s easy, then, to drop a match into the oil, and listen to the screams of those who never once asked for forgiveness, as they burn.