Smoke and Ashes by Jazelyn
“‘Bunches’? What is that, nine reviews?” I teased.
“Well, if we’re going to be exact here, there were exactly twenty-five reviews,” Dad joked. “It’s the best thing around, without a doubt.”
I huffed playfully and Elizabeth, my cute seven-year-old sister, did the same. I was pouting to myself in the car window, but I was actually delighted. Elsie looked up to me, and I would do anything to keep her safe.
My thoughts were interrupted as soon as we entered our little hotel room. “It sort
of. . . smells, no?” Mom commented.
Dad dropped our bags on the floor and reasoned, “There’ll be no smell after we get used to it, right?”
“Well, that doesn't change the fact that the bed comforters and curtains are off-putting,” I noted.
“Yeah, Dad!” Elsie shrieked. “These blankets are. . .”
“Ugly,” I explained.
Dad walked over to the curtains. “What these? Ugly? No, they’re just a bit dark, and they have a unique pattern.”
I put my hands on my hips. “Ugly, Dad. They’re ugly.” I heard Mom giggle behind me.
He waved his hand, dismissing the thought. “You guys are too sensitive about everything, especially you, Kathryn. But just look, they all said the view was amazing.”
Dad whooshed away the curtains, revealing the ocean waves against the cloudless, blue sky. Elsie and I pressed our noses against the glass window. “I don’t know who ‘they’ are,” I whispered in awe, “but they’re completely right.”
After hours of playing in the water with Elsie, I decided to sit in the sand with Mom and Dad for a while. I scampered under our beach umbrella. “How’s the vacation going, guys?” I asked, sucking up a Capri Sun.
“Basically, it’s my vacation since your mom’s stays at home, which you can all thank me for taking you with me--”
Mom whacked him. “Moms have the hardest jobs,” she said matter-of-factly.
“Of course, whatever you think,” Dad agreed with a grin. “And my vacation’s going great, sweetie. Don’t you think we should be heading back to the room, though?”
“Nope! Just let me bury Elsie in the sand, okay?” I stood up and ran to my giggling sister.
“Girls, do you smell that?”
“Smell what?” I asked, holding Elsie’s hand as we walked back to our hotel room.
Mom fiddled with her necklace. “I’m sure someone’s just doing some outdoor cooking or something.”
“No, I don’t smell food,” Dad muttered with his brows knitted together.
We paused for a second until Mom broke the silence. “Let’s just go to our room. I doubt anything’s wrong,” she said nervously.
Dad lead the group, walking faster and faster. Soon I saw dreadful smoke, rising up and poisoning the family’s good mood. I got a closer look at one of the dark green doors and noticed flames spewing out of it.
“Someone, get help!” a woman cried. “My son’s in there!”
That must’ve triggered something in Dad, because he ran straight into the fire. “Dad, wait, you don’t have your gear!” I shouted.
“Kat, is Dad going to be okay?” Elsie asked, looking up at me.
I squeezed her hand and searched Mom’s face for help. “I’m sure he will,” she shakily whispered. “I promise.” I spotted her trembling fingers rubbing the ring on her finger. She turned to the woman who called for help earlier. “What happened?”
The woman was crying. “My son was in the bathroom, and I was in the
bedroom. . . And a man in a mask came in, threatened me, had a lighter. . . Then m-my son came out and charged at him--” The lady buried her face in her hands. “Oh, Matthew, why’d you have to do that? You’re only thirteen!”
Mom put a hand on her shoulder and consoled her, “Everything will be okay.”
The lady tried to dry her tears and asked, “That guy. . . he was your husband? He’s really brave, you know, for going in there. He didn’t have to.”
Mom nodded and sighed, “If only Greg wasn’t a firefighter.”
Everything went so fast. Eventually the sound of sirens wailed in our ears, and the lady’s son ran out with only a few burns. He was rushed into an ambulance before even talking his mother. Dad, on the other hand, was nowhere to be found. As firemen dashed into the fiery room, us three girls waited for Dad to come out any second with a triumphant smile on his face.
The day we found out the criminal went behind bars, Mom, Elsie, and I cried. And we imagined Dad to walk into our cold house with that smile and say, “I saved that kid on the news.” But we could only imagine and wish and pray.
Because he never returned.
Author's Note: I hope you enjoyed the story! I had a lot of ideas for this topic. At first, I was thinking of having a mom and her small child at a bank during a robbery, and the child saves the day, but I wasn't very sure how a little kid could stop a bank robbery. So then I thought about having an older girl and her mom go to the grocery store and have a robbery there, and I knew how they would stop it, I just wasn't feeling it while writing it. Then I realized the stories don't have to end well, so then I thought of an older girl taking her little sister, Elsie, to the park and Elsie getting kidnapped. First off, I wasn't exactly sure how it would work out, and second, I was getting way too involved in the backstory. So I made a new story out of that backstory starring the same characters, and this is it! It was a long process, so I hope I didn't get you guys waiting for something. :)