by: Rebecca Taylor
The sound of splintering wood was unbearable. April Gleason wanted to switch off the television but she couldn’t, she had to know what was happening. She turned down the volume but that didn’t change the horror she felt inside. She wished her husband were home. But he wasn’t, he was at the scene of the horrible blaze. He was there and as she sat in front of her television screen, she could feel herself getting hotter and hotter as if the heat was coming at her. It was around midnight; there weren’t any lights on inside the house but the scene of the blaze in front of her lit up the house like they were all on. The flames shot up like cannons into the dark moonless sky and April watched as the inhabitants of the house were led away from the scene of the fire towards a waiting ambulance.
The reporter was standing across the street telling how the Meunier family had been lucky they had all escaped with their lives. Mr. Meunier had sustained some burns and there had been some smoke inhalation for other members of the family but nothing life threatening. This good news did nothing to calm April’s fears. She wasn’t an unfeeling woman, just worried about her husband and the father to her two children who were sleeping through the horror she was watching. She didn’t know why she did it to herself, always sitting up and watching the news when her husband was called away in the middle of the night. He worked shifts but this didn’t usually bother her, the worst was when he was on call and rushed out of bed, dressed quickly and drove to the fire hall two blocks away. Tom was her soul mate and when he was in danger, she knew it; she got a feeling inside like her heart was going to explode just like the burning building and sometimes she had to force herself to relax and breath. She knew that Tom had the best fire training that there was available and that he worked with an experienced bunch of firefighters but she couldn’t help being afraid. She knew that life held uncertainties for everyone but with his job placing him in harm’s way all the time she didn’t know how she managed to get through it but somehow he always came home.
She watched the black smoke on the television spiral upward as her husband’s crew continued to battle the blaze. Then the screen switched off pitching the room into darkness. She tried a light, nothing. They must have had to shut off the power because of the blaze, she thought. She made her way feeling to a drawer where there was a flashlight and extra batteries. She turned on the flashlight, made her way back to the sofa, and set the light down on the coffee table. She could have lit some candles but she could never bring herself to do. She was afraid the cats would knock them over and they would get out of control and start a fire in her home. She huddled under a blanket on the sofa and tried to think happy thoughts but fear shook her to the core, at least when she watched the horror on the television screen the media would tell her if something happened to her husband. She had been married five years and although she took life in strides and tried not to dwell on the dangers of her husband’s job the harsh realities behind it were always there. After a while, she got up and started pacing the room, she felt like a caged animal. She knew her husband loved his job but sometimes she wished he had a nice safe job selling nails in a hardware store or something where he worked nine to five and was always home at a certain time.
“He wouldn’t be happy,” she told the shadows in the corner of the room. “He’s good at what he does and as much as I don’t like it, I wouldn’t ask him to change. It’s this living with fear of losing him that I hate. The sleeplessness on nights like this, waking up when he works night shift because I know that he’s at a fire or the feeling I get in the day and evenings. Not every fire touches me; it’s the ones like tonight with the billowing clouds of smoke, the noise, and the ugly red flames. The loss of a house for that family has to be devastating but this town will rally around them like they always do. Sometimes he has to go to other counties and help them out too because there aren’t enough firefighters. The volunteers and first responders are great but it’s the equipment and the expert training that men and women like my husband have that make the big difference. “Come home safely,” she prayed putting her head in her hands.
It was just starting to get light out when the power came back on. April flicked back on the television but the news wasn’t on, it was too early. She hadn’t had any word from the fire station and hoped that meant Tom was safe. She started the coffee, took a shower, and got dressed. Just as she’d finished her first cup, the door opened and Tom walked in. She jumped up from the table and went over to meet him. He met her in an embrace and kissed her peach scented hair.
“I’m safe,” he whispered, “everyone made out okay. You didn’t get any sleep after I left did you?”
“No, but there’s a few hours before the kids get up, come on.”
April sighed, relieved to have her husband home. Together they walked up the stairs, arms linked to get a few hours of precious sleep before the chaos of family life began for the day.