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SMOKE FROM THE RAGING FLAMES darkened the skies, a cloud reaching as far as it could before it dissipated into the atmosphere, further shutting out the stars. The flames licked at her skin, heating up Esther's body with a warmth she hadn't felt in a while.

In her hand, she held a small diamond ring that was gifted to her by a suitor long ago. Closing her hand, she blew a small kiss before tossing it into the hungry flames, engulfing it in its brutal heat among all other mementos she had obtained in that part of her life.

She lifted a cigarette between her lips, her hand shaking as she lit it. Stepping back, she gave the flames one final look, inhaling the air deeply, despite the stench and the burn it caused her lungs.

She walked along the shadows of the alleyways, her hands wrapped around herself tightly, wandering mindlessly, hidden away from the rest of the hateful world. This is what she usually did when she didn't feel like going home, although the burning of her memorabilia was a rare occurrence, only happening that night. Sometimes her imagination allowed her to transform the Birmingham streets into those of Chicago. She sighed, a puff of smoke leaving her lips while she reminisced.

Chicago was one of a kind.

The parties and the late nights she spent with him were always going to be special to her. She appreciated her youthful spirit, it brought many joys and lessons but after she broke off the engagement, she was set on a different path.

She tossed the cigarette to the ground. Victor Astaire. She swore she'd marry him and keep him close to her forever. He was a beautiful man who made her feel everything. Nothing would ever be wrong when she was in his presence, so she thought.

Looking back on it now, everything was wrong. He loved his alcohol, loved her but more than anything he loved to share her, make her feel filthy because she belonged to him.

She flinched, her eyes squeezed shut.

"Come on darling..."

His voice rang in her ears, holding her in one position, his hold over her was strong. Her back pressed against the wall, a small prayer pouring out her mouth. She would never see him again. Or so she hoped. She hoped that he and the two other men whom she'd never seen would never cross paths with her again.

She was afraid all of the time, wishing she could tell anyone about what was going on with her. She pushed it all away then, drinking herself away to numb herself of the heartbreak she suffered from. Then, her brother found her, scrubbing her skin raw, hoping she would brush away the feeling of disgust she had for herself. He removed Victor from her life and set out to destroy the men who helped degrade his sister.

She was free but it did not feel like she was. She could still feel that disgusting feeling on her skin. It made her sick to her stomach.

"Are you alright, love?" A voice she recognized pulled her from her frozen position. Her eyes opened, the scruffy face of Arthur Shelby was about a foot away from her.

"Yes, of course. " She spoke quickly. She didn't want anyone looking at her differently, especially not Angelina. Her usual demeanor was set back into place, shifting all of the negativity to behind the facade she held onto.

"What are you doing out this late?"

She glanced at the watch in her pocket. She lost track of time. Her eyes shifted back at him. She shrugged, she didn't have to explain herself to him. She pushed herself off her the wall, "I feel like it."

His eyes followed her movement. She stepped out of the shadows into the light, illuminating her features, fierce and beautiful. Her hair fell over her face, strands hiding her dark brown eyes that studied him.

𝐀𝐍𝐆𝐄𝐋,   𝐬𝐡𝐞𝐥𝐛𝐲.Where stories live. Discover now