Short Story: Diamond, Rough
Author: Vanessa Kristovich
My First Story Hub
This is the first short story hub.
Short stories these days are one of the most difficult genres to place, so I have decided to share some of my stories here, on hubpages. I hope you enjoy them. I also hope that you will comment about what you like or didn't like about it, as I am not closed to editing it still further. Join me now on a little journey through the life of Diamond, a young serial arsonist....
Tools of the Trade
Talking Heads "Burning Down the House"
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The Last Dance Doll House Full Burn Footage
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Over 3,200 short stories can be found in American Literature's Short Story Library, including many of the greatest short stories ever written. Our collection continues to expand and we also feature a Short Story of the Day. If you are a serious short
“It's not my fault,” Diamond screamed at the statue of the Virgin Mary.” I didn't know they were home. They were supposed to be in Savannah.”
Diamond was not a murderer. The death of Anna Smith and her young son, Albert, was an unintentional, just like her father’s death had been. Diamond always did her homework before she set a fire. The Smiths were supposed to be out of town on the day the house burned down. She didn't know that there was a change of plans, and that the mother and baby decided to stay. Now they were dead, and Diamond feared for her life.
Diamond looked at the face of the Madonna. There was a great peace in the Saint’s expression, and the statue’s eyes were so well carved that she could see the look of love in them as they glanced at baby Jesus. Diamond’s face, with tight-lipped frown and wrinkled brow, was not at all peaceful.
Diamond was a beautiful child. She had a face that even the angels might envy, with large blue eyes and a halo of curly platinum hair. Almost from birth, she knew how to beguile people with her smile. “Pretty baby,” they would coo at her, and she would giggle and give them her “come hither and give me candy” look.
Her mother tried to keep her safe, but her father was a sadistic man. Throughout her childhood, Diamond watched as he abused his wife. Her beautiful mother, with kind eyes that looked at her as the Madonna looked at baby Jesus. She saw him slap her, and kick her. She also watched her mother stand in between her and her father to protect her from his wrath. She watched until one day the beast bludgeoned his beautiful wife, and then he pushed her down the stairs to make it look like an accident. Diamond was too young to understand why he did it, or how he got away with it.
Diamond leaned closer to the candle stand, enthralled by the power of the little lights. They were like miniature stars, each one shining a small beacon to some unknown soul who cried out for guidance. Diamond struck one of the wooden matches that were left for visitors. She watched its spark come alive. Then she began to light all of the candles, one at a time. With each one, both her excitement and her anxiety grew.
“What do I do now?” she asked. “What!” she shouted. Diamond threw herself upon the kneeler with her face buried in her hands. She was not sorry. She enjoyed the fires; fire had been her liberator. She would continue to set them, but she had the deep belief that life gives back what you put into it.
Diamond thought back to her mother’s funeral. There was an older woman there with thoughtful eyes and a stern face. It was Mrs. Madsen, her first nanny. She took care of Diamond until she was seven. Then one day, after an argument with her father, she mysteriously disappeared. Diamond thought she saw him carry her unmoving body to the back yard, but she didn’t understand the significance of this. Now she looked very pale, and she felt very cold as she took Diamond by the hand and led her away from the crowd that surrounded her mother’s coffin.
Mrs. Madsen leaned over the child, and she whispered “Don’t you worry. What goes around comes around. He’ll get what’s coming.”
“Diamond!” With mother gone, there was no one to silence the roar of the monster. Diamond looked around to see all six feet of angry father rushing toward her. “What are you doing over here? Who were you talking to?”
“I was talking to Mrs. Madsen,” she said, but when she turned around, there was no one there.
Her father raised his hand to slap her but thought better of it.
“I told you never to tell stories,” he said. She felt the sting of tears behind her eyelids, and squeezed them shut. She would not allow them to escape. She was afraid of how he might react to them.
It was only ten days later that she began to see the depth of his ugliness. It was dark, and she was getting ready for bed. Her father usually reached in and turned out her light without as much as a “good night!” But tonight was different. He came inside her room. He was wearing an odd sort of grin that she didn’t recognize, but one she would never forget after that night. He picked her up and laid her in her bed. “Good night, Punkin” he said. Then he kissed her, not in a fatherly way, but full on the lips. She felt his large, bony hand glide up her leg, and under her nighty, as he touched her in a most unfatherly way. Diamond’s eyes opened as wide as they would go, and she screamed with terror. Her father’s face contorted in anger, and he quickly clapped his hand over her mouth.
“You listen, Missy,” he said. “If I ever hear you tell anybody about this, you can find yourself somewhere else to live. Or maybe I’ll just take care of you like I took care of your mother. Do you understand me?”
Diamond shook her head. Her father pulled the covers over her, turned out the lights, and left the room. She balled up in fetal position around her pillow and cried herself to sleep.
She dreamed of an old woman standing next to her mother. “Don’t worry, dear. He’ll get his,” Mrs. Madsen said.
Her mother nodded her head. “What goes around comes around,” her mother said.
That night was the beginning. For years after that, her father would come into her room. Each time, it was worse. At first, he would only fondle her or kiss her on the lips. Then he began to put his tongue in her mouth. Then he forced her to touch him. Finally, he raped her.
Diamond hated him, but at the same time, she learned to take advantage of him. He didn’t feel guilty about what he was doing to his daughter, but he wanted it to remain a secret. He lavished her with gifts. When she reached puberty, he forced her to take birth control, but he started to treat her more like a wife. He bought her jewelry, clothes, anything she wanted. When she reached fifteen, he began to make candlelight dinners in front of their fireplace and teach her how to drink twelve year old scotch.
Diamond accepted his gifts. She bided her time, and planned for the day when she would be free of him.
It was during one of those dinners that the moment came. Her father was thoroughly drunk. He lay on the floor in front of the fireplace with a glass in one hand and a half-empty fifth of Chivas Regal in the other. He must have meant for them to be together, because there were a hundred lit votive candles throughout the room, and dinner was on a table by the sofa.
“Come here, my darling. Let daddy have a look at you.” He slurred the words, and he stumbled as he tried to get up.
Just then, the flames in the fireplace burst forth wildly. Diamond heard a voice yell “Run!” Another voice chuckled and said “Now he’s going to get it!”
Diamond’s father fell, and the scotch spilled down his pant leg and out onto the floor. He attempted to pull himself up, and as he did, he knocked over several of the candles, which in turn set his pant legs on fire. Diamond watched in fascination as the mysterious fire spread throughout the room, but then she again heard the voice that said “Run!”
Diamond ran. As she stood outside, she could see the flames consume the house. As she watched, she heard a voice say, “He got what was coming.” She realized for the first time that she was free. She loved the fire. It was both warm and comforting.
Diamond inherited her parents’ estate. Her father made his law firm her executors and paid them a retainer to guide her care until she was old enough to inherit control of his money. She had no living relatives, so they hired live-in couples to care for her. She didn’t like any of them, and when she tired of their presence she would steal their things, make dolls of them, and burn it all in the fireplace. Diamond felt more and more powerful as she watched those fires scare the intruders away.
They never came back. Diamond’s incorrigible nature would not allow any of them to become close to her, and her loneliness became acute. With her loneliness came the same kind of ugly rage she used to see in her father.
The little fires that she set made her feel calmer. They empowered her. She sought to feel that power on a larger scale. There was an old, unused tool shack behind her neighbor’s house.That was her first. She created a ritual to burn the buildings she chose. She would stake out houses until she knew no one was home. Then she would light a cocktail made of scotch and gasoline and throw it through the window. She hid in the shadows while she watched the fires. She felt joy at first, and then anger, but the emptiness never subsided. Each time she chose bigger targets. She set twenty three such fires before the tragedy at the Smith house.
Diamond knew about the sacrament of confession. She didn’t necessarily believe that it would save her, but she was willing to try it. She came to St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church to seek absolution. When she got there, she found out that it was the wrong day and time. The confessional was dark. The priest was nowhere to be found. Diamond had no other ideas about how she would get out of paying for this particular sin.
Through her tears, Diamond now asked the mother of God how to save herself from her fate.
The grotto that held the shrine known as “Our Lady of Peace” was an impressive structure. It was placed in an arch to the right and front of the church. It was 10 feet wide and 12 feet tall, made of black marble and carved with frescoes of cherubs across the ceiling. To the left there was an altar used for Masses celebrated on the Blessed mother's feast days. The great statue of the Madonna stood to the right. The stand on which the statue rested was framed with a deep blue silk curtain. There was a kneeler in front of the Madonna. An ornate votive stand stood on either side of the kneeler which was used by the parishioners as a symbol of constant prayer.
“Save me,” Diamond prayed. She didn't know what else to do. As she looked up at the statue she noticed how the candle flames danced around the robe that Mary was wearing. It reminded her of the robe that Mrs. Smith was wearing as she tried to escape the burning house with her baby in her arms. Diamond was hiding in the shadows. Through large windows, she watched the woman, who was already on fire, fight to open her locked front door. Diamond found it fascinating. The flames ate away at her flesh. She and little Albert screamed hysterically until they could stand the pain no longer. Diamond wondered if this was what it was like for her father when he died. The difference was that the Smiths were innocent.
“What goes around comes around,” the voice had said at her father’s death. Now it would come around to her.
The firemen arrived within seconds. They worked feverishly to put the fire out, but it was already too late. As they completed the solemn task of removing the charred remains from the rubble, Diamond still sat in her hiding place.
As the bodies were being loaded into the ambulance that would take them to the morgue, Diamond could swear she heard a voice. “A life for a life,” is said. It was in that moment that she realized the gravity of her situation.
The candle flames were soothing. Diamond felt her tall thin frame relax.
“Never mind,” she said. “I'm being ridiculous. After all, you’re made of stone. What can you do to help me? Besides, no one knows that it was me who set the fire."
“We know!” Diamond thought she heard the familiar voices of her mother and Mrs. Madsen, but no one was there.
She watched the pattern the flames made against the wall.
“I must be losing it!” She whispered, and she got up to go. As she did, she thought she heard another voice.
“You killed that baby," she heard someone say.
She jumped up and spun around. No one was there.
“Ridiculous,” she said aloud. She convinced herself that she was safe. She was alone in a large Gothic church. It was so quiet she could hear her heart beating. That would be enough to give anyone the shakes.
She turned to give one last look at the shrine. Something looked a little different to her, but she couldn’t quite grasp it. Were the Cherubim frowning? No, that couldn’t be it.
She heard this just as the match ignited the wick.
Startled, she turned her gaze back at the statue. The eyes of the Mary no longer looked at Jesus. Now they appeared to be looking at her.
“No!” Diamond shouted. She squeezed her eyes shut like she used to when she didn’t want to see what her father was doing to her. “It’s impossible! It’s all in my head. It has to be!”
Diamond opened her eyes to see the Mary statue pointing an accusing finger at her. “You killed my son! Repent!”
Terrified, she leapt to her feet. Diamond turned to run, but one of the six-inch spiked heels she was wearing broke. She fell into the votive stand. As the candles toppled over, hot wax splashed on her. She cried out in terror as her shirt caught fire. She tried to roll around on the floor to put the fire out, but the votive holder, which was a large sculpture made of wrought iron, was too heavy to lift, and it became even more tangled in her burning clothing.
As Diamond burned to death, she felt her skin melt and heard her hair sizzle. The pain she felt was indescribable.
She saw her mother and her old nanny standing beside the statue.
“We’re here for you,” they said in unison. “You have to repent. You get what’s coming to you. Peace is for the penitent.”
Diamond understood. With her last breath, she cried out, “I’m sorry!”
Then she screamed in agony. The last thing she saw before she lost consciousness was the peaceful, loving face of the statue of the Blessed Mother.
“Thank you,” she thought. Diamond’s spirit left her body and joined the two women waiting for her. For the first time in her life, she felt at peace.
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