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Short Story: Diamond, Rough

Vanessa is a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University. She recently obtained her MA in English/Creative Writing/Fiction.

Author: Vanessa Kristovich

short-story-diamond-rough

My First Story Hub

This is the first short story hub.

Short stories 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. Join me now on a little journey through the life of Diamond, a young serial arsonist....

Diamond, Rough


“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 unintentional. 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.

"I didn't mean it," she sobbed. "Please, don't let this come back on me." She leaned forward still further, staring at the statue as if looking for confirmation. Then she grinned, crossed herself, and got up.

Diamond let her mind wander back to what brought her here. She 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 "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 and kick her. Diamond also watched her mother stand between her and her father to protect her from his wrath.

One night, Diamond wandered out of her room. She had a bad dream and wanted her mother. She saw her father stumble up the staircase. In the dull hallway light, he was particularly frightening. Diamond saw his face contorted in his drunken rage, his six-foot frame struggling to keep its balance. Terrified, she ducked inside her open door. She stood back far enough so he couldn't see her, but she couldn't look away.

As he turned the corner, Diamond's father stumbled. He grabbed the banister. As he did, the bottle of Chivas Regal he carried slipped from his hand and broke on the stairs.

"Re-gi-naaaa!" he roared. He growled like a dog, took a step forward, and tripped over his size 13 shoe.

Diamond's mother appeared on the stairs. Trembling, but with jaw clenched in determination, Regina stood in front of him as he tried to rise. She briefly glanced back towards her daughter's room, then bent down to help him up.

As Diamond's father stumbled to his feet, his large, knobby fist swung around and knocked her mother into a wall. He grabbed her by her long blonde hair and shoved his powerful body against her.

"Darling," she said, "let me help you into bed." Regina spoke softly, but Diamond recognized the fear in her voice. Diamond watched as her mother raised her hands and gently cupped her husband's face. "You'll feel better in the morning."

"I'll feel better after I get a taste of that little cherry!" He let loose a sinister chuckle.

"No!" Diamond's mother screamed. She put both hands on her husband's chest and tried to push him off her, but even in his drunken state he was too strong. He grabbed her with both hands around her throat. Her small frame lifted off the floor as he squeezed. She gasped for air and her eyes almost popped out of her head.

Regina had to protect her daughter. She fought as hard as she could, but it did no good. She wanted to warn Diamond, but she couldn't loosen his grip to get the air she needed. As she felt her life leaving her body, her husband picked her up by the throat and threw her headfirst down the long flight of stairs. Then, hanging onto the banister to steady himself, he walked down, grabbed her ankle, and dragged her back up again, allowing the back of her skull to bang against each step. Then he threw her down again, just to make sure she was dead.

Scroll to Continue

Diamond watched it all. When her father finished with her mother, he turned toward her room. He took two steps in her direction. Diamond heard a voice inside her head shout, "Run! Hide!" Diamond slammed her bedroom door and turned the key. She slid under the bed.

Her father tried to take another step, but again he stumbled and fell. This time he passed into unconsciousness, but Diamond didn't know that she was safe for the moment. She stayed in her hiding place until the next morning when she was found by the police.

Diamond never knew why her father wasn't prosecuted. She assumed he paid somebody off. Her mother's death was ruled accidental.


Tools of the Trade

short-story-diamond-rough

Continued 2

She leaned closer to the candle stand, enthralled by the warmth of the tiny fires. They were like little stars, each one burning for some lost soul. Diamond struck one of the wooden matches that were placed there for visitors. She watched the spark come alive, then she lit all of the candles, one by one. With each new flame, both her excitement and her anxiety grew.

"What do I do now?" she shouted. "What?" Diamond began to wring her hands, then she threw herself back on the kneeler in front of the Madonna. She tugged nervously at her own hair. Diamond was not sorry. She enjoyed the fires; fire was her liberator. But she believed in the old adage that what goes around, comes around, and now she was caught. The death of the Smith's meant that she couldn't deny what she was anymore.

Diamond thought back to her mother's funeral. She remembered her mother lying peacefully in her coffin, eyes closed, face painted so that there was no sign of her injuries. Her golden hair framed her face. She looked like she was asleep, but Diamond knew better. She also knew that she could never talk about the last few days.

There was an older woman standing next to her with thoughtful eyes and a stern face. Diamond recognized her as a nanny she had when she was about four years old. It was Mrs. Madsen, who always smiled at her when they spent the day together. Mrs. Madsen always wore the same pink sweater and the same set of pearl earrings.

Mrs. Madsen cared for Diamond until she was seven. the year before her mother died. Then she mysteriously disappeared. Noone knew what happened to her. Diamond believed she saw her father carry her unmoving body to the back yard, wrapped in a rug with her hand hanging out and blood staining her gray hair. She didn’t understand the significance of this. Now the old woman 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," She felt the sting of tears behind her eyelids, and she squeezed them shut. She would not allow him to see her cry. She was afraid of how he might react.

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!” That night 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.

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 curled 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.


Madonna

By Håkan Svensson Xauxa (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Håkan Svensson Xauxa (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Continued 3

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 was forced to endure his assaults. She was only eight years old when it started. He was usually drunk by the end of the day, and his foul-smelling breath and skunk-like armpit odor intensified the pain she felt when he pushed his crushing weight on her. Night after night, she pressed her lips tightly together to keep from screaming. In her mind, she begged for help, but no one came.

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 had a reputation to protect, a business that needed nurturing, a high standing in the community that would be destroyed if his secrets were to get out. These things provided for his pleasure, so he had to uphold them.

Diamond knew this. To keep her silent, 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. Sometimes in a drunken stupor, he would hit her like he did her mother, or do other foul things to her. Then 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 demanded them. Before long, her fear turned to anger, then rage. She bided her time and planned for the day when she would be free of him.

On her eighteenth birthday, that the moment came. 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. 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 Scotch in the other. She decided that she was not going to spend another day in this house. It was time.

"Please help me." she whispered. She got up from the table slowly, trying not to wake him. It didn't work. He was awake before she got to the door.

“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 bottle of scotch flew past Diamond's head and smashed into a thousand pieces as it landed against her father's chest. She 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 shirt and onto pants. Her father 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 her house of horrors. 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.

Burning Church

Sylwester Braun [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sylwester Braun [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Concepts of Writing Horror

Continued 4

Diamond inherited her parents’ estate. They left her a lot of money. The house was gone; she didn't want any part of it anyway.

Diamond abandoned the estate and moved to a tiny house a hundred miles away. She didn't sell the [property; she was too afraid that the new owners would uncover the family secrets that were hidden in those walls.

Diamond’s incorrigible nature would not allow anyone 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 tiny house had a fireplace, and Diamond spent her early days Throwing things in the fire and laughing as she watched them burn, but she never put anything alive in it. Nightly, she would have dreams of Regina or Mrs. Madsen reminding her to be careful.

"Remember, it comes around," Mrs. Madsen would say,

"Of you live like your father, you'll die like him," her mother would tell her.

The little fires that she set made her feel calmer. They empowered her.

Diamond remembered the day she started to burn houses. She was outside planting petunias in her yard when her neighbor, an ugly, short, sunburned man with a large nose and an 80's mustache drove into the driveway of the house next door. As she got up from the flowerbed, she caught him leering at her.

"Can I help you, Frank?" she asked him.

He suggestively raised an eyebrow. "Honey, you already did."

"Pig!" Diamond flashed on days with her father. Rage boiled up from her feet to her face, but Frank couldn't see it. He laughed at her and went inside. It was in that moment that Diamond knew what she would do. She was going to burn down his house.

Diamond knew that Frank and his buddies held a poker game at his friend's bar across town every Friday night. She watched to make sure he left. Then she snuck into his living room. Frank was a beer guzzler. She stuffed a ball of tissue paper into a trash can and placed it next to his recliner. She poured a bottle of beer over it. Then she placed several open beer cans on a nearby table. Diamond then found a lighter next to an ashtray and set the can on fire. She dumped the contents of the tray on top of the flames and stood back. She watched as the flames grew, then left discreetly through the back door.

Diamond sat in her living room and listened for the fire engines. The firemen came to her door as the neighbor's house was engulfed in flames. They made her stand a safe distance away, Diamond laughed inwardly, but she was skilled at hiding her emotions. She expressed her sympathies when it was over. Back inside her own house, she did a dance and laughed out loud.

That was her first. As time passed, 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 fires before the tragedy at the Smith house. Until now, she was very careful not to get caught and never to take a life. She believed that getting caught would bring the wrath upon her.

At the Smith's, Diamond heard the screams of the mother and realized immediately that she made a mistake. The words of the spirits that haunted her rang out in her head, and she knew that she had to show some repentance or suffer the consequences of her actions.

There was a small, very old Roman Catholic Church around the corner from her house. Diamond heard that they had a sacrament called confession. She didn’t necessarily believe that it would save her, but she was willing to try it. She ran around the corner to Our Lady of Peace 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 statue. 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. The prayer seemed bogus to her, since she was not a believer, but 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. She spun around, 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. Again, no one.

“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.

“Repent!”

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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