Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Book: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng Read Free Book Online
Authors: Celeste Ng
freshmen vice principal, broken the teacher’s bow over her knee and thrown the pieces in the teacher’s face. Despite repeated questionings and stern talking-tos both at school and at home, she had refused to say anything about what had caused this outburst. It was, as Lexie put it, vintage Izzy: freak out for no reason, do something crazy, learn nothing from it. Consequently, after a hasty meeting with her mother, the principal, and the aggrieved orchestra teacher, she had been suspended from school for three days. Mia was cleaning the stove when Izzy stompedin—somehow clomping in bare feet as loudly as she did in her Doc Martens—and stopped.
    â€œOh,” she said. “It’s you. The indentured servant. I mean, the tenant-slash-cleaning lady.”
    Mia had heard a thirdhand version of events from Pearl the day before. “I’m Mia,” she said. “I’m guessing you’re Izzy.”
    Izzy settled herself onto a bar stool. “The crazy one.”
    Mia wiped the counter carefully. “No one’s said anything like that to me.” She rinsed the sponge and set it in its holder to dry.
    Izzy lapsed into silence and Mia began to scour the sink. When she had finished, she turned on the broiler. Then she took a piece of bread from the loaf in the bread box, spread it with butter and sprinkled it thickly with sugar, and set it in the oven until the sugar had melted to a bubbling, golden caramel. She set another piece of bread on top, cut the sandwich in two, and set it in front of Izzy—a suggestion, not a command. It was something she did sometimes for Pearl, when she was having what Mia called “a low day.” Izzy, who had been watching silently but with interest, said nothing but pulled the plate toward her. In her experience, when someone tried to do something for her, it came from either pity or distrust, but this simple gesture felt like what it was: a small kindness, with no strings attached. When she had finished the last bite of sandwich, she licked butter from her fingers and looked up.
    â€œSo you want to hear what happened?” she asked, and the whole story emerged.

    The orchestra teacher, Mrs. Peters, was widely disliked by everyone. She was a tall, painfully thin woman with hair dyed an unnatural flaxen andcropped in a manner reminiscent of Dorothy Hamill. According to Izzy, she was
useless as a conductor
and everyone knew to just watch Kerri Schulman, the first-chair violin, for the tempo. A persistent rumor—after some years, calcified as fact—insisted that Mrs. Peters had a drinking problem. Izzy hadn’t entirely believed it, until Mrs. Peters had borrowed her violin one morning to demonstrate a bowing; when she’d handed it back, the chin rest damp with sweat, it had smelled unmistakably of whiskey. When she brought her big camping thermos of coffee, people said, you knew Mrs. Peters had been on a bender the night before. Moreover, she was often bitingly sarcastic, especially to the second violins,
especially
the ones who—as one of the cellos put it drily—were “pigmentally blessed.” Stories about her had filtered down to Izzy even in middle school.
    Izzy, who had been playing violin since she was four, and had been assigned second chair even though she was a freshman, should have had nothing to fear. “You’ll be fine,” the cello had told her, eyeing Izzy’s frizzy golden hair—the dandelion fro, Lexie liked to call it. Had Izzy kept her head down, Mrs. Peters would likely have ignored her. But Izzy was not the type to keep her head down.
    The morning of her suspension, Izzy had been in her seat, practicing a tricky fingering on the E string for the Saint-Saëns piece she’d been working on in her private lessons. Around her the hum of violas and cellos tuning up grew quiet as Mrs. Peters stormed in, thermos in hand. It was clear from the start that she was in an extraordinarily

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