PROLOGUE

Six-oh-seven Summit Avenue went up like someone had doused the place in gas.  Which made sense since I had doused the place in gas.  

 

I could see it in my mind’s eye.  Well, my mind’s squint...I was too far away to actually, y’know, see real details.  The peach parlor, with its ancient overstuffed peach loveseat and ancient-er peach carpet, and the (white) ceramic fireplace stacked with dry wood, and the heavy peach furniture, and the two gallons of kerosene in the middle of the carpet, and the peach wallpaper...super flammable.  And also inflammable.  Because some asshole thought it’d be cute to have flammable and inflammable mean the same thing.  What could possibly go wrong? 

 

The entryway next, with the shiny flooring you could not only see your face in, but whether your highlights needed touching up.  Another loveseat, except you were supposed to call it an early antique Italian walnut 17th century settee, and who has that kind of time?  Also in the entryway:  a small, beat-up brown stool just inside the doorway upon which I used to toss my keys.  Then I found out it was an 18th century Queen Anne walnut stool with cabriole legs, gilt shell motifs, and a needlepoint cushion that went for about $2,500.  After my nervous breakdown (“Why didn’t anyone say?  I’ve put so many scuff marks on it!  And spilled a smoothie on it!”) I went back to stashing my keys in the kitchen.  

 

There was also a discreet knee-high cannister for umbrellas, which was just silly because we left umbrellas everywhere in the house except the umbrella canister.  And all of it shielded by our enormous front door, which looked like something a persecuted pilgrim carved for ten years and then lugged to America via The Mayflower.

 

The fire would devour all of it, roaring down the hall toward the kitchen, gobbling up the stupid swinging door that occasionally coshed me in the nose if I wasn’t paying attention (reason #623 I resisted getting a smartphone for so long) and then bursting (or crackling...however fire moves) into the kitchen.  Lots of wood in there, starting with the island known as Smoothie Central.  Lots of flammably inflammable things to burn, baby, burn.  The cupboards were dark and old; the fridge white and young, but they were both toast.  So was the toaster.  And our 268 wooden spoons.  Maybe not the stove.  That was probably fireproof.  

 

On to the mudroom, normally the domain of my husband’s hellhounds, Fur and Burr.  The homemade dog food, the home-baked treats (don’t get me started on the king of the vampires or his baking or his dogs), the dryer sheets...especially the dryer sheets, those things go up like nitrate film!  The carpet my husband still hasn’t replaced despite the presence of the aforementioned hellhounds...poof.  Up in flames in no time.  Also the washer and dryer.  At the least, they’d be water-damaged when the SPFD sprayed them with a few million gallons.  Assuming they showed up.  This, um, wasn’t our first house fire.  Or our second. 

 

Up the back stairs to the second floor bedrooms.  First door on the left.  Jessica’s room, though she moved out years ago, after Nick-Dick made a (semi) honest woman of her.  Tan walls, burnt (heh) caramel-colored carpet.  The furniture was light in terms of weight, mass, color.  No pics, no posters, no art on the walls.  The most modern, minimalist room in the mansion, with the exception of the master bath, because Jacuzzis were not a thing when this house was built.  To help her weird twins grasp the age of the place, Jess told them that when this house went up, Abraham Lincoln was still walking around being awesome. 

 

Speaking of her twins, Elizabeth and Eric, named after the king and queen of the vampires and I’m not crying, you’recrying...anyway, next up, the nursery.  This room got used more than Jessica’s; depending on how old the twins were, they’d sometimes crash here.  Which is why the room was tastefully decorated with crib mobiles and charging discs, a white changing table from Ikea and a grass-green vanity from Wayfair.  Two identical dressers with tall, wide drawers (think the Farbman drawers from Seinfeld’s The Checks), stuffed with toddler-sized shirts and pre-teen bras, BabyGap cords and Olivia Rodrigo concert t-shirts.  

 

Twin beds—not bunk beds, but set up like a what-d’you-call-it—a loft system.  Wooden frames painted navy blue, drawers on either side of the ladder, a desk set-up beneath the foot of the upper twin, also navy blue.  Their neatly-made toddler beds were pushed over in the corner, red footboard to green footboard.  

 

Then down the hall to the bathroom, which was just a bathroom; hardly anyone was on this floor these days so it went unused just about all the time.  I mention it only because the toilet paper will catch fire in next to no time.         

 

The back stairs to the third floor bedrooms.  First up, Tina’s, my husband’s oldest friend and fiercest protector (until I took that part of her job description).  You’d think a former antebellum-era Southern belle would have gone for all the fluff and fuss:  pink walls, lace everywhere, a hutch for her parasol collection, skirted tables, a closet just for hoop skirts, a fainting couch, a tacky black-kid-as-jockey statue, too many mirrors, too many flowers, way too many throw pillows, all the bullshit. 

 

But all I got right were the walls, painted a dreamy soft pink so that hanging out in there was like kicking it in a big wad of cotton candy.  She had one of those enormo square mahogany beds, the kind that had a ceiling and curtains, with crimson sheets (which were accented by the curtains over the one (shuttered) window.  She had a perfectly acceptable number of overstuffed throw pillows (one), there wasn’t so much as a scrap of lace to be seen, the small-ish chairs and table arranged around the fireplace were the opposite of too much. 

 

While there was a small couch by the window, it wasn’t for fainting.  It was for sipping iced vodka and gazing dreamily out the (shuttered) window, or whatever the hell she did in here with bacon/anise/mango vodka.

 

Master bedroom.  Mine and Sinclair’s, and it was a shame to see it go up since we’d finished redecorating after the third-to-last housefire.  At some point, I could only assume the fire department would just refuse to come.  (“It’s the only way those firebug vamps will learn.”)  Harsh, but fair.  

 

The entire south wall was essentially one humungous window, since my husband regularly got drunk on sunshine.  He loved being able to bask like a cat and not go up in flames.  Who wouldn’t?  So:  big windows with curtains that matched the wallpaper that were almost always open.  

 

I didn’t know how much our fifth (sixth?  eleventh?) cherry wood upholstered sleigh bed cost and didn’t want to know. I once suggested we start getting cheaper king beds from Mattress Factory and got a look from my husband like I’d suggested pouring turpentine on his designer suits.  

 

I put my Edgardo Osorio-clad foot down over the bed curtains, though.  They served no practical purpose and were just one more thing to dust and wash.  Not that I did much of either, but still.  Anyway, the bed, the non-existent curtains, they’d go up like a rocket.  

 

Between our dressers, mine from Ikea and his from someone named John Henry Belter, was a marble-top table (also by someone named John Henry Belter, ditto the scrollwork chairs by the fireplace, because my husband had a hard-on for John Henry Belter, apparently?) which I sometimes used for ice cream mix-ins, like they do at Coldstone Creamery. 

 

The lush carpet (Jessica swore in was ankle-deep, but she’s short and has teeny feet) was a black-with-red diamond pattern, which hid blood pretty well given that it was, y’know, blood.  It was also Scotchgarded.  

 

The wallpaper was dark green with gold gilt which I’m betting was flammable.  No pictures on the walls, no paintings or prints or photos, which was typical of older vamps.  What 200 year-old vampire wants to hang proof of their nature on their walls?  “Wow, look at that old-fashioned sepia photo of you and a random girl, both of you posed stiffly and unsmiling like you’re waiting on one of those old-fashioned cameras that took ten minutes to flash.  Did you get that at Disneyworld?” 

 

Poof.  All of it. 

 

The attic, once Marc’s room, lately ground zero for all my failures.  Even before everything went to shit, I never went up there if I could help it.  Unfinished walls, paint cans, old furniture, some new furniture, broken chairs (we’d been pretty tough on the bar stools in the Smoothie Wars), BabyJon’s portable crib, those big fat rolls of insulation that look but do not taste like cotton candy...all inflammably inflammable.  And good goddamned riddance. 

 

I was skipping some rooms, because time wasn’t on my side, and hadn’t been for years.  

 

Sirens now, because I’m not a monster and neither are fire fighters, I called and they’re coming.  Can’t risk the fire spreading to the neighbors on either side of our lot, though I wouldn’t shed a tear if the garden shed went up. 

 

See ya, Summit Hill Mansion.  Thanks for the memories and also the semi-annual mouse infestations. 

 

It’s fine.  There’s a plan and everything. 

© 2021 MaryJanice Davidson