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One Match

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One wrong turn on East Ohio Street and they drove past the house Bonnie grew up in. She felt it, and when she looked up it still stretched almost to the sky.

Frank thought something he said made her speechless, but when he touched her arm the dam broke and it all flooded out.

Bonnie had never told that whole story to a man, not even Sam, but if she'd held it in, she would have burst from the pressure. (She wanted to believe trusting Frank over imploding yet again was a sign of progress.)

Once he understood what was happening, he went quiet and a little pale, but it was a different sort of shock than Bonnie was used to seeing. Frank was fierce, invincible, but for a second it looked like empathy.

He listened. Offered his hand, didn't mind when she wouldn't take it. Waited until after the tidal wave of darkness sloshed over both of them before he spoke.

“It's empty,” he noted, as if she'd understand what that meant.

“Has been for years.”

“Nobody lives there.” When she still didn't get it, Frank shrugged. “Five bucks worth of gasoline and one match. You’d be free.”

He was right but Bonnie couldn't do it. She was a rule follower. A good person. Frank understood.

A week later, he casually handed her the paper, open to page 13. A house on East Ohio Street burned to the ground.

The day after the insurance check came in the mail, a box appeared on Frank’s desk. Every time Bonnie saw the watch on his wrist, she’d smile at the thought of the inscription pressed against his skin.

“One match and for the first time I was warm” (she hoped he knew it meant “Thank you” and "I love you.")