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When I'm Gone; Chapter 3
Chapter 3-July 27, 2001 (Claire)
“I’m going to get my hair cut,” Alex called out. I glanced at my watch. It was only 8:29 in the morning. I giggled quietly and looked in the direction of Alex’s room.
“And do what?” I yelled back. I could hear Alex’s laughter from where I sat on the couch. I marked my place in my book I was reading and stood up. Alex came out, dressed in khaki’s and a tucked in polo. His hair was recently washed and it looked as if he had combed it.
“Going to breakfast,” he admitted. I smiled at him knowingly.
“This girl I met a yesterday while we were moving in. She lives in the floor below us,” Alex explained.
“Everybody lives below us. We live on the top floor of a three story building,” I reminded him. He chuckled and nodded.
“Well, she invited me to breakfast this morning and I agreed. Do I look okay?” His voice was strained, wanting my opinion.
“Yeah, but untuck that shirt. You aren’t going to a freaking country club,” I scolded. He did as I said and instantly looked cuter. “Okay, now you look better.”
“Thanks Claire.” he smiled at me.
“So, who is this girl?” I wrapped an arm around his shoulders and he chuckled.
“Her name is Emily and she is so pretty.”
“Yeah,” he had a dreamy look on his face and continued. “She has gorgeous blonde hair that is super long and straight. Her eyes are a shining green, like mine, and she has the cutest little smile. You would like her, Claire. In a way, she is a lot like you in her personality.”
“Really?” I asked, impressed. Alex nodded his head vigorously.
“She has a rebel-like feel to her. She wears skinny jeans and vintage tees. Yesterday, she was wearing the coolest fedora. It was black with a purple belt.” He looked lost in his memory of her.
“I wonder if I could borrow that from her,” I wondered aloud. Alex came back from his daydream abruptly and stared at me.
“No,” he stated. I pouted and gave him my puppy-dog eyes.
“Because it would be weird if you shared clothes with my ‘possible’ girlfriend,” he complained. I laughed and ruffled his hair.
“I’m just kidding Alex,” I said. He shot me a sarcastic look.
“I’m sure.” He looked at his watch and his eyes widened. “I have to go. She is meeting me in fifteen minutes.”
“Have fun. She would be a fool not to like you,” I called to him as he grabbed his cell phone. “I mean, you have a dragon tattoo and everything.”
“Haha. You are too funny.” He smiled at me. I gestured for him to go.
“Go. Now,” I commanded and pushed him towards the door.
“Love you sis,” he tossed over his shoulder as he left the apartment.
“They grow up so fast,” I laughed to myself. I sat back down and my phone began to ring. I flipped it open and saw a text from Alex.
“Looks like miss valostro burnt another pie.”
I laughed and went to open the door. I could faintly smell something burning and shrugged to myself. The old owners said that Miss Valostro burnt pies all the time. They said that the smell was awful but went away quickly. I sat back down and stuck my nose in my book again.
Thirty minutes later, the burnt smell was a lot stronger and I closed my book and set it on my table. Standing up, I put my shirt over my nose and looked at my front door. Black smoke was pouring through the top and entering the living room. My eyes widened with alarm and I coughed.
“Oh no,” I said aloud. “A fire in the building.”
I sank to me knees and crawled to the front door. I pressed the back of my palm to it, not feeling any heat. Taking my chances, I opened the door and looked out into the hallway. Smoke was coming from the floor below me and it entered through the stairway. Black smoke, thick as night, rolled towards me. Scared, I crawled back into my apartment and shut the door.
Sirens could be heard faintly and soon they got louder. In a few minutes, they were loud enough to be outside the building. I crawled back to the door and pressed the back of my hand to it. The wood was quickly heating up, and I was scared to open the door and see.
The smoke was entering my nose and it was getting harder to breath.
“The window,” I said to myself. With the little strength I had, I crawled to the window where I unlocked it and threw it open. The sirens were louder and people were shouting.
“Help me!” I cried out, my voice hoarse. I felt my strength leaving me. All I wanted to do right then was sleep. I wanted a good, long, and deep sleep that would take me forever to wake up from. “Help me! Help! I’m trapped.”
I had not noticed a fire escape anywhere on the building. I sank lower on the floor and had trouble breathing. I could hear people screaming for me, telling the fire fighters that there was a girl on the third floor and she needed help.
Then, there was a whirring noise close to my ears and I tried to keep my eyes open. Footsteps were climbing on something metal and them a loud thump made me snap my eyes open as wide as I could.
A large thing loomed over me and I tried to utter a cry of help. Nothing came out of my dry lips and I closed my eyes again. When I opened them again, the thing was right next to my face, talking to me. I could see a man’s handsome face, smeared with soot and smiling all the same. Why was he smiling? There was a mouthpiece that he took from his lips and placed over my own. Instantly, I breathed in a gust of oxygen.
“Don’t give up,” he screamed. “Stay awake for me.”
Why you? I wanted to ask. But, my brain wouldn’t function correctly. The man picked me up and cradled me in his strong arms. I squinted and saw a white 38 written on his yellow helmet. I tried to remember where I had seen that number before.
Everything was going into a black abyss, and that’s where I wanted to be and stay.