98 Moth to the Flame

On Sunday night, after an intolerable day attending church services, prayer meetings, Sunday school and adult education sessions, Kitty was more than ready to be alone. She expected that only she and Moth would be at the house; that was the usual evening pattern, so far. She’d picked up some supper on the way home and briefly stopped in the kitchen to finish it. It was small wonder that Moth was so scrawny, if his food choices were limited to what was on hand in this place. She didn’t feel sorry for him. She didn’t do sorry; she just noticed. He was respectful and nice to her, and kept to himself.

She stepped up the worn shag carpet on the stairs and noticed that her door, that she always pulled tight behind her as she left, was ajar though the room appeared to be dark. She pushed it open and to the sound of a startled whimper, switched on the overhead light. She doubted it could be either Herbie or Myrtle or Woody as she had just left them all busily closing up at the church for the night. It was Moth, huddled beside one of her candles, trying to douse the flame between his fingers; he didn’t have the knack.

Chapter 98 Moth to the Flame

“Oh, Miss Doyle, I’m so sorry.” This awkward apology came out somewhere between a burst and a blubber. Kitty tried to asses his presence here but nothing made sense.

“Moth, what are you doing in my room?” She kept calm but scanned the room for signs of intrusion. There were none.

“Just sitting here. I thought you’d still be at church.”

“Didn’t you hear me come in the house?”

“Guess not. I was, was… praying.”

“Praying?” Kitty had seen enough of that to last her awhile. She bristled at the mention of her room, her sole sanctuary from prayer, becoming a chapel.

“I’ll go.”

“Not until you give me a better explanation.” Kitty was curious, demanding. “I don’t believe you were praying. Were you here to steal something?”

“No. I mean, I wouldn’t.” Moth looked embarrassed but truthful. “Not from you. I like you.” This was a complete shock to Kitty. Nobody ever said that to her.

“Tell you what, then. Let’s light some candles and you can stay and talk to me about whatever is happening.”

“You’re not mad at me?”

“Maybe. Maybe not. Let’s talk. Go ahead,” she handed him a box of matches, “light all you want.” As he began, she switched off the overhead and sat on the bed, watching him. He was very careful, and very slow, using a new match for each new candle. He really had no clue but she bit her tongue. She was unused to dealing with shy people.

“Your candles always smell so good to me. I noticed the scent right from the first night you stayed here. I was worried there was a fire but when I followed the smoke and figured out it was coming from inside your room and was so delicious, well I…”

“I like it, too, the fragrances. But why sneak in here? You could have just told me you liked it.”

“I…” Moth would have stammered, if he could have found the words.

“You’re saying you couldn’t tell me.”

“Right.” This one word response seemed the key to unlocking the rest. “You’re so pretty and you put up with my family. You have beautiful things and aren’t afraid to use them. But I couldn’t ask you to share any of that with me. I’m just the drudge here, remember?”

“Moth,” Kitty figured she’d have to tread quite carefully with him if she wanted to find out more before he fled from embarrassment, “I don’t mind sharing with someone who likes what I like. I just never knew that you did, that’s all. So, you’re saying that you wanted to sneak in my room when I was out, more than you wanted to tell me?”

“I’m not very used to talking with girls, women, I mean. They never seem to listen.”

“I’m listening.” It was now soft in the room, so she risked the question. “Ever been with a girl before?”

Every condo corridor is equipped with at least one smoke sensor and sprinkler head, unlike the training center.

Every condo corridor is equipped with at least one smoke sensor and sprinkler head, depending on the building layout, unlike the training center house.

“I had a friend who was a girl – in high school – but she moved away.”

“No Moth, I mean have you ever kissed a girl you liked?”

“No.” Moth was downcast, miserable.

“It’s OK. You’re still really young.” Even too young for me, she calculated, though would never admit.

“I’m not sure a girl will ever like me that way.”

“Never know ’til you try!” Kitty offered as consolation. He didn’t answer. “So what were you going to do in here with your candle, without me? Not pray, not really.”

“Well, kinda. I guess I just wanted to think about you, try to do something you do. You do so many things I never even try to do. You seem so strong and self-confident. You’re so different than anyone I know. You don’t belong here with us.” This confirmed Kitty’s opinion of herself, so she was inclined to hear more of the same.

“I won’t be here forever doing this job I’m doing now. You’ll have a chance to try new things, too. You’re a hard worker. I can see that already, even in the short time I’ve been here.”

“I wish I could believe that. I feel so doomed.” Kitty never felt doomed.

“Maybe I can help you with a resume. List all your skills. Get you thinking about some different possibilities.” Kitty never quit thinking about those.

“That’s kind of you, Miss Doyle. Thanks. I guess I never thought of myself as having any. I just do what I’m told.” Kitty hadn’t done much of that ever, at least not until this week. She didn’t like it much and saw no future in that, none at all. She might try helping the kid; it would be different for her. Maybe she could work it into a new line of work – resume writing for incompetents – one never knew.

“Why do you?”

“I had obedience beaten into me. You know, this used to be my room, when I was a little boy.” Kitty hadn’t thought of that. She now remembered Woody saying that this had been their first house.”I was very unhappy here. I thought if I came in here, with your things instead, it’d be better somehow.”

“And is it?”

“Not yet.” As he looked like he was going to start to cry again, she tried to keep him talking.

“Did something terrible happen to you in here?”

“All over the house. One time my Mom caught a bunch of us neighbor kids up here playing doctors and nurses. We were just being curious but my Mom freaked. She told me I was going to get it now and to go down to the basement. After she chased them all out of the house, they went around to the side, instead. They knew they could see in through the lower windows to see what happened to me. They stared at us while my Mom made me take off all my clothes and then thrashed me with a belt while she screamed about beating sin out of me. She hit me even more when she saw them watching.” Kitty wished she had a photo of Myrtle doing this.

“That must be a hard story to tell.” Kitty didn’t know what else to say. People never confided in her. “Let’s start on your resume, next week. It’s a day off tomorrow and I need that beauty sleep.”