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These Life Lessons Are Like Fire

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But there's a side to you
That I never knew, never knew.
All the things you'd say
They were never true, never true,
And the games you play
You would always win, always win.


Mace was fourteen when she first saw how dangerous her brother could be.

Oh, not to her, never to her. The whole time she was growing up, she knew that she was the light of her brother's life and until she got old enough to make decisions that he really didn't like, she could do no wrong in his eyes.

No, the poor soul who triggered her brother's rage when she was just entering her teen years was some guy she had met at one of her friends' parties. It was a birthday or something and the boy had been a guest and had been kind enough to offer to take her home when she was ready to leave. Since her friend that night had been more interested in the alcohol that was flowing -- something that Mace knew better at that age to let her family smell on her -- she had accepted the ride and everything seemed to be going just fine.

However, when they pulled up at her house and saw that all of the lights were out, the young man had thought it was the perfect time to try out some of his best moves on her.

Mace was doing her best to get away with him without doing anything that would wake up her parents and have her father at the car with his favorite cricket bat. She had said "No" quite firmly several times and even though she knew how to fight, fighting in the cramped confines of an automobile was difficult at best.

His arms were clamped around her tightly and he was pulling her back towards himself while she was trying to bite any piece of him that she could get her teeth near as she was kicking at her door, trying to get it open. She swore that as soon as he put his mouth in range of hers to try kissing her again, she was going to bite his tongue and not let go until he removed his arms from around her.

She never got that chance, as satisfying as it would have been.

She would learn later that her over-protective big brother had been watching for her from the shadows of the yard after their parents went to bed -- which is probably why her parents went to bed before she got home in the first place. The first time her foot had hit the door as she tried to get out of the car, he was starting forward.

When Mace heard the driver's side door being wrenched open, she had instantly known there was trouble. She turned her head and saw a look on Stephen's face that she had never seen before. When he started pulling the boy out of the car by his shoulder, she was pulled along with him. When they were out of the car, Stephen shook him which caused him to let go of her and she hit her knee on the ground as she tried to scramble away and get in control of the situation.

She got to her feet and turned to look at the combatants only to see her brother's fist fly into the would-be Romeo's face.

She had seen Stephen fight with people many times, but she had never seen the hate and violence that was shining in his eyes as he hit the other young man again and again. She finally shook herself out of her stupor and flew at Stephen, grabbing his arm to keep him from beating the guy to death where he was.

"Stephen! Stephen, don't! It's all right, I'm okay. He didn't hurt me, I'm fine."

She could feel her brother's muscles tensing beneath her hands as part of him tried to fight against her and attack the other man again. However, he couldn't swing without shaking Mace loose and if he tried she might get hurt. That was something that he would never willing do -- hurting her.

Stephen finally stepped back and shoved the boy toward his car. "Get the hell out of here and if you ever come near my sister again, I will kill you."

As Mace saw how utterly dark her brother's eyes had become, she didn't doubt that he meant what he said. Luckily for him, neither did the boy who had started the whole mess to begin with. He babbled out an apology through his swelling lips and then got into his car to drive away as fast as he could.

When his car was out of sight, Stephen turned to look at her.

"Go to bed, Sarah," he ordered her as calmly as he could. "Tomorrow you're going to start learning how to defend yourself in tight constrictions like that."

"Stephen ..."

She didn't know what to do, but she knew that she wanted to erase that violence that was still lingering in his eyes. Violence that had been woken up because he thought she was in trouble. Beneath the violence she saw something else. Fear. Fear that he wouldn't get to her in time to keep her from getting hurt.

He shook his head, holding up his hand to keep her from coming any closer to him. "Not now, kid. Just get some sleep and be ready to work your ass off early in the morning. Because next time I see someone attacking you like that, I will kill him."

Mace understood the hidden message. She either learned to stop an assault in a place where she couldn't move very well or her brother really would end up killing someone.

It was a lesson that she took to heart. She would learn everything that she could in order to make sure her brother never looked like that again. She never wanted him to be so scared for her that he would kill someone to keep her safe.

It wasn't until years later that she would feel like he had felt that night, but by that time, he was dead and the woman who had destroyed him was long gone.


But I set fire to the rain,
Watched it pour as I touched your face,
Well, it burned while I cried
'Cause I heard it screaming out your name, your name!