Rosa stares into the bay window wondering exactly how long it’ll take for the little fern her mother-in-law gave her to catch fire.
She knows she hasn’t exactly been the best plant owner. She didn’t give it enough water. Or maybe she gave it too much water. Was she supposed to replant it? Or maybe it was the fact that she referred to the fern as an “it” and didn’t name it. She should’ve listened to Angie next door, who named her every plant after the characters from the TV show, LOST.
But as Rosa stands on the lawn, looking blanched from a heavy coating of fresh ash, she wants to run in to protect the plant.
Letting out a dry cough, she tightens the belt on her fuzzy bathrobe as she names the little plant “Ita”: diminutive, the only thing left that she can see that’s hers, unburned. Maybe “Ita” will survive the flames. She makes a promise to it that if it holds on, she’ll look up the proper watering schedule. And she’ll play classical music for it to grow. And she won’t ignore it anymore.
“Ma’am, we’ve just finished clearing the building.”
She turns slightly, just enough to see the fire captain out of her periphery and keep her little fern in sight.
“Have you been checked out by the paramedics?”
She barely glances at him, too preoccupied to try to lie.
“They need to check you,” says the captain.
“I will I promise.”
“Do you want to sit down?” the captain asks, gesturing to a lawn chair Rosa hadn’t cleaned in years. She agrees because she can still watch over her plant.
Rosa stares at the plant obscured by the smoke in the bay window. She barely hears the captain talking about the loss of the second story. She sees the first leaf glow orange as he says they don’t believe her mother-in-law was awake when the flames hit her room. Something with a candle and curtains and she wasn’t in pain. She sees the first frond catch as she remembers the dry kiss her mother-in-law left on her cheek, singing goodnight, Rosita.
Rosa realizes she’ll have to call Jeremy; tell him she fell asleep, she was too late. Tell him that she barely made it out. Tell him that she saved the plant at least. Tell him–
The bay window shatters, shards of half-melted glass mixing with the debris on the lawn. It never snowed in this area of Texas, but tonight, it almost looked like it had.
As leaf by leaf on “Ita” gets swallowed up by everything out of her control, Rosa hears a sharp sound, something uncomfortable in between a scream and a laugh. It must be coming from her if the way the paramedics start running her way is anything to go by.
Maybe she was just too small.
Too uncared for.
But she’d never really know.
Rosa keeps making sharpness as the last bit of her mother-in-law turns to ash.
Lauren T. Davila is a Latina writer currently pursuing her MA in English at Claremont Graduate University. She holds an MFA in Fiction Writing and dual BAs in English and Creative Writing. Her writing has appeared in Granada Magazine, The Paragon Journal, and In Parentheses.