This story is by Gloria and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
His deep blue eyes and sexy dimple on his chin was the last thing I remembered before the loud b-e-e-p, b-e-e-p of the alarm clock screamed at me w-a-k-e-u-p-n-o-w. Startled, I sat up.
“Come on, I was in the middle of Superman rescuing me from falling off the hotel ledge.” I moaned. Guess I will have to live that one another day. I sighed wistfully.
I looked around my familiar surroundings, nope no man of steel anywhere. A ray of light peeked through the curtains unmercifully hitting my face, motivating me to rise and shine as a new day was now beginning. The crisp morning drove a chill through the room as I now realized I had forgot to turn up the heat last night. Switching to my left side I curled up thinking I should just call in sick, rationalizing to myself that I hadn’t taken a sick day in six months. Reaching for my robe instead I thought, tomorrow I shall, maybe. In the sales world, time was money and I definitely needed to close some deals today. My Hawaiian vacation was just around the corner and that required cashflow. Struggling to wake up, I yawned loudly causing Fluffy to jump out of bed sending him running out of the room. Scaredy cat.
“Ahhh, Fluffy come back, mama didn’t mean to startle you.” I apologized after him.
Standing up I called out to Fluffy again, no dice. “Ok fine, I will come to you.“ I said under my breath. Unconsciously thinking, here we go. The monotonous routine begins, alarm goes off, crawl out of bed, start the coffee pot, jump in the shower, drink the java, get dressed and go to work, blah, boring. My twenty sixth birthday was next month and I was overdue for an adventure. Where does the time go? That thought made me think of when my mom used to say, “Time is like a precious diamond, so spend it wisely. Walking in the direction of the kitchen, I began my robot-like day, mindful of the clock.
Great, 7:00am already, I haven’t even had breakfast yet. Guess I would grab it to go once I hit town. Gazing in the mirror, I gave myself the once over before heading out the door. My red hair bound perfectly on top of my head complimented my fair complexion and bright emerald green eyes. My mom always said my eyes were my best feature but I thought I lucked out in the smile department. Smiling back at my reflection, I was satisfied with my professional and crisp look. The navy pinstriped pantsuit was the perfect choice for a day like this and not to mention kept my petite frame warm.
Glancing at my watch I headed into the kitchen to make sure Fluffy had enough food until my mom arrived later this morning. I looked down to see him rubbing up against my leg in affection waiting for his morning kiss. I leaned down to plant a big one on his head, said my goodbyes, grabbed my coat and headed out into the unwelcoming cold.
Brrr, it was definitely a chilly one. Locking the front door, I could see my breath form into a cloud of cold bitterness, reminding me it was now frostbite weather. I looked at my watch again and saw time slipping away quickly. “Another day another dollar.” I said aloud to myself as I jumped into my freezing car. Geez, it had to be -30 degrees out here. I don’t think I will ever get used to these harsh winters. Wistfully thinking of the sand and palm trees, I wiped the remaining condensation on the windows with my glove.
Noticing that today seemed exceptionally gloomy and the sky lacked any emotion, I dreamt of my warm bed and cuddling up with Fluffy. I sure couldn’t wait for the snow to melt. I was starting to get cabin fever now missing that warmth of the glorious sunshine. Good, frost gone, time to go. I reversed down the half mile to the highway and was thankful I could see clearly now. I was only 10 miles to town which seemed like forever on this icy road. As I came to the highway, I noticed a cluster of black smoke climbing over the trees in the distance.
“What in the world?”
Wondering exactly where it was coming from, I started onto the road to get a closer look. It couldn’t be more than a few miles ahead. Curiously, I thought it might be the old paper mill, but why would they be burning something now. As I rounded the winding corner I could see the blazing orange coming closer now. Oh no! It wasn’t the mill, it was a house and it was on fire! I knew who lived there, Mrs. Willis. A frail old lady in her 70’s, my mom went to visit her often to bring her groceries. Stunned, I reached in my purse digging for my phone with one hand and the other on the wheel. Trying to stay calm, I dialed 911.
“Sheriff, come quickly! Mrs. Willis’s house is on fire. Hurry!” I cried. My phone slipped out of my hand as I turned onto Mrs. Willis’s road ignoring the sheriffs warning to stay away until he arrived with the fire department.
My thoughts raced as I watched the house burn fiercely. The blaze now covered the top floor and I knew I could not just sit there waiting. Mrs. Willis might be all alone in there! I had to do something. Without thinking it through, I jumped out of my car, covering my nose and mouth with my scarf as I scrambled to the front porch.
I stood on the bottom step and yelled out to Mrs. Willis to see if I would get any type of response. Listening intently, she didn’t answer.
I didn’t want to get too close as I wasn’t sure Mrs. Willis was even home. Anxiously I turned to look towards the road wondering where in the world were the firemen and police.
Then I heard it, a muffled “Help me,” coming from inside the house.
“Mrs. Willis, is that you?”
Panicking, I ran up the steps and burst through the front door screaming for Mrs. Willis. The smoke seemed to erupt all around me now and was so thick it burned my eyes.
“Mrs. Willis, Mrs. Willis, where are you?” Fear was creeping in now as I could feel the heat sucking the air out of my lungs.
I heard a stifled “Here. Here.”
It sounded like it came from down the hall. It had to be Mrs. Willis. It was hard to tell because of the crackling of wood and my heart beating so loudly in my ear. I was now terrified as my breath lagged and became shorter. The smoke was so thick now I could hardly see anything. I tried to stay low to the floor with my one hand feeling along the wall. Slowly I moved forward. I continued to call out to Mrs. Willis until I saw someone laying at the bottom of the stairs. As I got closer I could see it was her and she was bleeding from her head laying there motionless.
“Hang in there Mrs. Willis, you are going to be fine. I am going to get us out of here.” She didn’t reply this time.
My gut told me there wasn’t much time and I had to act fast. With my back to the door, I began to drag Mrs. Willis backwards. I started slow, staying in a straight line hoping not to trip on anything at the same time. Thinking we were almost at the door, a piece of wood suddenly fell from above causing me to fall backwards. I lay there with Mrs. Willis on top of my legs, unconscious she was a dead weight.
I contemplated giving into the darkness and somewhere distant I could hear my mother’s voice whispering, “Laila, you are a strong young woman, you can do anything you choose.”
I imagined we were laying in safety out in the snow away from the burning flames of the house. With that thought, I fought hard to pull myself out from under Mrs. Willis. My last ounce of strength almost depleted, I continued backwards grunting and relieved as I hit the screen door. I threw myself backwards and let go of Mrs. Willis long enough to leverage our weight down the porch stairs. A loud popping noise made me jump and I could see the roof was caving in. I desperately dragged Mrs. Willis to the driveway a few feet away. I could now hear the sirens coming down the driveway.
Thank God, we made it!
Sitting beside Mrs. Willis, the adrenaline rush now over left me dry hacking uncontrollably. I couldn’t catch my breath. Exhausted, I fought drifting into the dark. No longer able to keep my eyes open, I closed them into the blackness.
The next time I opened my eyes I could see my mom anxiously peering down at me. Confused, I could see I was surrounded by a blanket of white. “Where am I? Is this the afterlife?” I didn’t know.
She replied with a nervous laugh. “No honey you are in the hospital, you fainted. The doctors said you are going to be fine. How do you feel?”
“My head hurts a little, but I am okay. Where is Mrs. Willis? I asked.
“Mrs. Willis is alive and she is very lucky. The sheriff said you both got out minutes before the house collapsed. Honey, what were you thinking?” Her concern and hurt obvious in her voice.
“Mom, mom.” I said apologetically. I am so sorry to have worried you. Did the sheriff say how the fire started?”
“They believe a single candle is the culprit. Subsequently, Mrs. Willis has a habit of falling asleep with lit candles on the table beside her recliner. She must have drifted off and knocked it over somehow.”
“Really? A candle almost cost Mrs. Willis her life?”
Breathing a sigh of relief, I became excited thinking about the future. I am alive and I will live to dream another day after all. Superman here I come! When I get out of here, I am going to value my time and live for all its worth. No more time to waste.