How does it feel to be second to the person whom you're closest to, in everything you ever do?
For Edel, she hated it.
She didn't at first. Not when her only and closest friend, Cecily, was there for her. It was harder to find a pair of friends closer than those two - they were always seen together, or thought of together. They lived a little ways away from one another, but as often as they could they tried to stay together. Even though Cecily would often be praised more, or showered with more love, it didn't matter to Edel because she would be proud of her. She deserves it, she believed. She deserves the world. I have an angel as my friend....
Cecily always put Edel first - if a partnership had a choice, it was always Ceci and Edel. To Edel, Ceci was like her older sister, someone who took care of her, someone who was always with her. Someone who was always there for her. Edel tried to improve herself, felt herself a burden - but Ceci always told her, "That's what I'm here for! I'm here for you."
The two of them hosted tea parties together (for just the two of them - it was enough of a party) as often as they could, as they both loved the feel of quaint, antique meetups. Ceci and Edel would discuss the cute new tea set one saw at the second-hand store down the road, or something new that happened, whether or not it related to the other, because what one did the other would know. They were just like that - like two pieces of the same person.
Ceci once told Edel, "We're going to be together forever, okay? When we grow up, we can move into a quiet little cottage somewhere, sip our teas and watch the sky, and browse the collections of strange items at the second-hand store!"
"Ceci! I miss you. I heard about your new job! You're going to meet so many people and do so many fun things! Do you think we can meet up tomorrow? I'd love to chat with you before you go."
"It's okay, you had to; it's not often that such a big agency contacts you for such an opportunity. We can always try another day!"
"Another one? Okay. You're free on Saturday? Yay! I found a new recipe we can try! I can prepare it while you're coming over."
"Hey, Ceci? I really miss you. I couldn't get the recipe right last time. I think if we try it together, we can do it. I know you have a lot of people seeing you now since the big feature, like last Saturday you were just overloaded, but it'd be really fun if we could try this together... like we used to."
"Ceci? Whoa, I never knew you had a voicemail set up. Um... I really need to talk to you right now, I don't have anyone else to talk to about this...."
"Cecily, if there's one thing I can ask of you, can we have a tea party? We haven't had one in a long time. Just once... then I won't call you anymore. I won't bother you at your door anymore either, when I know you're not opening the door when I'm there. I want to talk to you."
Edel dressed in her favourite ensemble, sliding dark rose clips into her hair, letting it hold the hair in the back in place. She loved the contrast between her brassy hair and the clips, which were a gift from Ceci years ago - she had bought two pairs, so they could twin. It matched her dress, which also contrasted. It would only make sense to look her best whenever she saw Ceci, because otherwise she felt so... plain. Not that she expected her to show up, anyway. It was nice to believe she would though, to look in the mirror and remember, imagine, who used to stand beside her in the frame while she tried on different ensembles, giggling at how each one complimented or clashed with her silly styles.
The doorbell rang.
Shock - surprise - fear - confusion - it all flooded through Edel, at once. Ceci? They hadn't seen each other in a long time, too long of a time. But when she opened the door, it wasn't an illusion. Ceci was there, looking just like she did before. Smiling. Cheerful, guiltless. Somehow.
"Edel! Oh, I miss you so much! I've met so many people lately, I just haven't had time!" Ceci was carrying bags of somethings, which clumsily bounced around as she threw her arms around her old friend. The somethings clattered around inside. "Oh, I'm sorry! I was out earlier to get rid of some things. Don't mind these bags!" Edel noticed one of the tags on the somethings inside said, "To my bestie CC!"
Edel set the teapot on the table. It was hot.
"Edel? Edel? How have you been? Wow, that dress looks great on you. Super slimming. The clips match so well, you look darling. Where did you get it? Dear, why are you looking at me like that? Maybe we can get a matching one from where you got it! ...Edel? Is there something wrong?"
The teapot was still too hot. Edel left to find biscuits. When she returned, she noticed Ceci was sitting on the inner side of the room that felt too small, far away from the windows and doors. She was checking her phone and typing away at something on it.
"I want to know why you are avoiding me."
Ceci looked up, suppressing a late giggle from something silly on her phone. "W-what? Don't be silly! I've just been busy. What's up?" She still looked at her phone. Distracted. Didn't notice what Edel was doing.
"I want to know why you've been hanging out with other people, lying to me that you don't have time. I've seen the messages people leave to you. You're not as busy as you say you are. I wish you'd tell me that you didn't want to see me instead of lying to me. Every time."
A match fell. Hit the floor. The flame put out, but Ceci skittered off her seat, her phone abandoned now. "What are you doing?! W-what are all those... why do you have so many...."
"I'm tired of you being with other people more than me. You're everything better than me, and I let you know it. When I stared to improve myself, you left me, for those who would always praise you, even though you told me you'd always be there for me."
Another fell. A pile of them. A wall of them. Edel couldn't tell where she was even getting the matches from or how she was lighting them so quickly; she couldn't think, didn't know what she was doing. All she felt was... hot. Anger. The fire was small until it hit the lace tablecloth, when it greedily sped up, curling over dried flower petals.
"S-stop... why would you... Edel! I never did anything to you!" Ceci slapped at the fire with the nearest thing she grabbed - a frivolously lacey chair-cover, a favourite chosen together at one flea market day. It caught fire.
"Cecily, how does it feel to hate the person whom you're closest to, when somehow you always thought you loved them?"
It was hot all around now, in a room too small for both of them. The fire lead up one decoration to the other, jumping, catching, burning through years of friendship and one summer of neglect. Edel didn't even notice it spreading around them. She could only smolder, watching Ceci, who backed away from the ashes of what she had picked up before. Ceci backed into the corner, where a pile of linens lay. Linens that were aflame.
And then she was aflame, too. A sudden pillar of fire - speed aided by the silly decorative outfit of hers, as usual with too many ruffles and frills - a screaming pillar of fire, though by now Edel couldn't hear her anymore over the pounding of her heart. She didn't feel anything at first, though a little surprise flickered through her. Then she felt... satisfaction. It felt good, and she couldn't explain why. But something was missing.
Edel watched for a while, watched the thing that used to be her friend run around in vain attempts to extinguish the flames, but it wasn't any use. There wasn't an exit left if she could even see; the flames had blocked every one. When it turned towards her and started to weaken, she stepped up to it, and caught it. It writhed. It burned her.
"Ceci... we're always going to be together, okay? Even when we die, I don't want you to leave me. Because I know, without you, I'm missing something...."
The flames went up.
When Edel woke up, she was cold.