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The pipe organ music started playing and everyone stood. They turned to face the aisle covered in pink rose petals. The bride stepped out from behind the giant wooden doors with a slight smile on her face. She stepped through slowly, trying not to crumple her white lace taffeta gown. The strapless top surrounded her body tightly and had a hint of sparkles to make her eyes shine. As she walked down the aisle to the sound of the music; she smiled and blushed from everyone’s big gazing eyes. Under her veil, her bright ruby red lipstick made her face glow. As she stepped up to the altar, the groom took her hand and led her next to him. The smile had disappeared from the woman’s dazzling face as she turned to the man. She wore a look of disgust as she touched the flowers of her bouquet. She dragged out a silver pistol and aimed for the man. The shot went through his heart. As he fell to the ground, the people screamed and ran.
The woman tore off her taffeta lace skirt, throwing it to the ground. She slid the top down revealing a black tube top. She walked out of the church in torn jeans, a black tube top, and black hiking boots. She hid the gun in her boot and ripped off the white blood spattered veil. She slid the sharp bobby pins out of her champagne blond hair and let it flow around her waist. Her piercing emerald eyes searched for the car. A black van drove by and parked. She stepped into the back of the van and closed the doors.
“Velcome back,” Vince greeted her in his Russian accent. She glared at him as she wiped the ruby red lipstick off. She stood in front of a mirror and wiped all the makeup away.
“I hate sparkles,” she spat back in her Russian accent. She shook sparkles out of her hair and wiped them off her face. She slid off the tube top and grabbed her undergarments. “This mission took vay too much of my time! First I must meet this man, have him fall in love vith me, then I have to go through vith an entire vedding and kill the man! I vasted a year of my life!”
“But it vas necessary for this mission,” he sat watching her as she changed. “You did get the disk, did you not?” he inquired.
The woman rolled her eyes. “Yes I got the disk,” she reached into her back pocket taking out a tiny blood covered disk.
The man smiled. “Good girl. Now, I have another target for you.”
The phone rang as Emmit walked into the kitchen. It was nine o’clock and he had just gotten home from his government desk job. Ever since the accident, he’s been working for the government. He set down the package her received that morning and answered the phone. “Hello,” he said in a questioning tone.
“Hey, can I see you tonight?” a woman’s voice replied.
“Yea,” his face brightened, “Where?”
“There’s a new restaurant by the firehouse, and I know you don’t like going anywhere near there, but please? For me?”
He was quiet for a minute or two, absentmindedly rubbing the scar that ran across his chest. He sighed as he listened to the crackling silence over the phone. “Sure, I’ll meet you there,” and he hung up. He walked to his room and took off his shirt. He traced the jagged pink scar that ran from his right shoulder, to his heart. Since the accident, he hadn’t passed the firehouse. One too many terrifying memories. Besides, it wasn’t really an accident.
He walked into the trophy room to hang up the picture of Fire Chief Lou Cheng. He walked in on Ted, one of the trainee firefighters, huddling over a metal object. “Ted?” he asked looking over the man’s shoulder, “What are you doing?”
The man looked up with bloodshot red eyes. As he looked at Emmit, his eyes widened with fear. Quickly, he pressed a few buttons and muttered, “Goodbye Emmit.”
Emmit started stepping back, but when he heard the beeps, he tried to run. “No!” he cried as the bomb exploded into a million pieces. He was thrown against the concrete wall as Ted was disintegrated. The wooden ceiling posts sprung like they were alive and shattered into a million tiny splinters. One post hung above Emmit’s semiconscious body. As the fire licked the wood, half of it split apart and swung toward his body. The smoldering razor sharp edges cut through Emmit’s chest. It slid across his chest cutting him like a knife. The deep jagged scrape stopped as it reached his heart. When it stopped, the wood jolted…
He almost died that day. He grabbed a new shirt and walked to his car. As he drove up to the street where the firehouse stood, he stopped. He thought about turning around and going home, but he already told Dana he would come. He took a deep breath and pressed the pedal. He passed the firehouse slowly trying not to hyperventilate. He was holding his breath by the time he got to the restaurant. Dana was waiting at the door for him. He stumbled out of the door and fell to the ground. On his hands and knees, he started dry heaving in the middle of the parking lot. Dana walked over to him and put her hand on his back.
“You did it Emmit,” she cooed. She took his hands and led him inside. “Table for two; we have reservations,” she told the waiter. He nodded and led them to a small table in the far corner.
“Can I get you anything?” the waiter asked.
“Water,” Emmit croaked.
As the waiter left, Dana put her hand on Emmit’s cheek. “You’re so pale,” she whispered as she stroked his dirty blond hair behind his ear.
“Don’t guys usually do that to girls?” Emmit laughed weakly.
Dana smiled sadly. “I guess,” she sighed, “Emmit, I really asked you here because, I want to break up.” She watched Emmit’s expression. He was sad, but she also saw anger in his eyes.
“Did you ask me to come here, when I have to pass that place, just so you could say you want to break up with me?” his voice shook with anger.
“I know, I’m sorry, but this fear of yours is just ridiculous. I knew you’d only come here if I asked, but I just—”
“Stop.” He shoved his chair away from the table and walked out the door. He got in his car and cursed. “How am I supposed to get home?” he screamed at the steering wheel. He sat there for a moment just breathing. He pulled his car out of the parking spot and onto the street. As all four wheels sat facing forward, Emmit stomped on the gas. He held his breath as the wheels screamed. After he safely passed the firehouse, he let his car slow down, and stopped. When he was completely stopped, and laid his head down onto his hands. They were white with adrenalin and gripped tightly to the wheel. When he was ready, he drove back to his house. He called in sick for work and sat on the cold tile floor of the bathroom. He had nightmares of that horrible night. He remembered Dana was his nurse as he recovered from heart surgery, and she was so beautiful, but this stupid phobia kept getting on the way of their time. He knew the breakup was inevitable, but he wished it didn’t happen.
The next morning on his “sick day,” Emmit ran like he usually did on his days off. He loved running in the beautiful city of New York. The nasty pigeons eating moldy bread off the side of the road, dogs peeing on fire hydrants, and the smell of a fresh tank of gas, was all he looked forward to when he ran. He started thinking about how those city busses work all day, yet no one ever sees them go to a gas station, when he ran into somebody. “Oh, I’m sorry miss!” he said as he helped the other runner up.
“It’s not a problem,” she smiled. “I’m Bernice by the vay.”
“I’m Emmit. Do I detect a Russian accent?” Emmit raised an eyebrow.
“Yes, I am Russian. My ex-husband’s family vas from Russia, so he vanted a vife from Russia. On a trip to my country, ve met and later he proposed. I got a visa and I practiced to become an American citizen, and here I am,” she laughed.
Emmit chuckled. “Well, it was nice meeting you. I guess I’ll see you around?”
“Sure, I’d like that,” they shook hands and went on their way.
Emmit turned around and called to the woman, “By the way, I like your hair.”
“Thank you,” she said as she flipped her waist length, champagne blond hair.
The day Emmit met Bernice, he dreamt about her. He felt bad about just getting out of a relationship, but he liked this woman. She was naturally beautiful without the use of makeup, and her hair looked silky soft. He just couldn’t get her out of his head. The next morning he walked to his tiny cubical and looked up information on Russia. His phone rang and he picked it up while looking at the computer screen. “Emmit Anderson, how can I help you?” he asked.
“Emmit, this is Greg Donnavan,” a man on the other end stated.
“Oh! Sir! I apologize; I didn’t realize it was you!” he fumbled with the phone and exited out of Google. “What can I do for you?” he listened to the man then hung up. He was confused as to why he had to go to his boss’s office, but he did as he was told.
When he got to the office, his boss waved him over. “Where is the package?” he asked.
“Is it safely hidden?”
“I didn’t know it was…”
“You must keep it with you at all times! We’ve already lost one! Go home and get it before that’s stolen too.”
“Yes sir,” he rushed out of the office and to his car. Whatever was in that package, was obviously very important. When he got to his house, he strolled inside. He chuckled at his boss for freaking out over a package. Nobody had come to steal the package, and nobody would. Besides, it couldn’t be that important if it was given to a desk job man! He slid the package off the coffee table and out it in his coat pocket. He started walking to his car when he heard his name being called.
“Emmit? So this is vere you live!” It was Bernice. “I love this house! It’s so… oh, vhat’s the vord… Quaint!”
“Thank you. Do you go running every day?” he asked.
“Vell, yes. It’s only ten in the morning, is that so late? I run at different times every day; it depends on how late I stay up the night before,” her big emerald eyes sparkled with the sun.
“Well, I have to get back to work. Do you want to go to dinner with me tonight?” he let that last part slip. He didn’t mean to say that, but it was too late now.
“Sure,” she smiled, “Ve should go to Carmine’s. I heard it is very good. Say, ten o’clock?”
“Sure, I’ll make reservations at work. See you later,” he waved back at her as he got into his car.
She waved to him as he drove away. She walked up to his house and took a pin out of her hair. She heard a quick click, and turned the knob. She walked over to the coffee table and placed her hand on where the package should have been. Her nostrils flared as she realized what had just happened. This was going to be exactly like her last target. She pulled out her cell phone and dialed Vince. “It’s gone, he just took it!”
“Whose fault is that?” Vince spat back through the phone. He hung up. Bernice was holding back tears. She didn’t want to go through the whole nice-girl phase of getting this done. She just wanted to get it over with.
“Sir, I got the package,” Emmit said walking into his boss’s office.
“Good. Now you just need to keep it with you at all times, and in a safe at night.”
“Sir, if I may ask—“
“You may not. Get back to work.”
Emmit turned and left. When he got back to his desk, he called Carmine’s and made a reservation for two. He felt strange about going on a date with a new woman after only being broken up with his girlfriend for two days. Besides, he only met the woman the day before. Things were going way too fast, and he couldn’t see everything clearly.
For the rest of the day, he sat at his desk working, but he was giddy with excitement. He liked Bernice, and maybe he’d get to know a little bit about her that night. He couldn’t wait to see her not in her workout clothes. Maybe he would see her hair down, and not kept up in a ponytail. The day dragged on, and the evening didn’t seem to come fast enough.
Finally the day was over. He drove to Carmine’s, already in his usual day suit, and waited for Bernice. When she walked in, she was wearing a green strap dress that just covered her knees. Her hair framed her face, and her dress matched her eyes. They were both a little dressed up for the dimly lit restaurant, but they didn’t care.
“I’m Kaya, and I will be your server today. What can I get you to drink?” the small waitress asked.
“Water please,” they both said.
“So, Bernice, tell me about yourself,” Emmit said looking into her eyes. She was wearing no makeup, but her beauty was so captivating. If she hadn’t spoken, he would have gotten lost in her eyes.
“Vhat is there to know? I come from Russia, I vas previously married, and I have no children,” she shrugged.
“I mean like, your last name, and things you like to do,” he chuckled.
“Oh,” she blushed, “My last name is Petrov, and I love to read. How about you now?”
“My last name is Anderson and I like to do anything that doesn’t have to do with fire,” he mumbled.
“Vhy?” her eyebrows had connected in the center with concern.
“It’s just something that happened in the past. It’s nothing,” he said waving off the subject.
The waitress came back with the waters and asked if they were ready to order. They ordered the lemon chicken which they would share because the portion size was huge. They spent about an hour and a half in the restaurant before they went back to their homes.
Emmit laid on his bed and thought of Bernice. He had fun that night. But he wasn’t sure how long it was going to be before the first fight. That was the thing he dreaded the most in any relationship. That was the thing that would make or break the relationship.
It was Saturday now, and Emmit was getting ready for his run. The cold winter wind blew so he grabbed a jacket. He started to head out when he remembered the package. He grabbed the envelope and tucked it into the inside of his jacket. Running with the package was annoying. It weighed down one side of him as he ran. As he ran by the docks, he ran into Bernice again. It was the first place they met. “Hey,” he said casually.
“Hey,” she blushed, “Fancy running into you here.”
“Well, it’s Saturday. You want to go get some coffee?”
They strolled down the street forgetting about running. They held hands as he dragged her to his favorite coffee shop. As they walked in, the warm air soothed their windblown faces. They got on line and Emmit ordered two chocolate cappuccinos with whipped cream. “It’s awesome, you’ll love it!” he chuckled as Bernice started in awe at the amount of whipped cream the server put on the drinks. They sat in a small booth and stirred their coffee. Bernice took a sip of the scalding hot drink.
“Oh my!” she exclaimed placing her hands over her mouth. “It’s very hot!”
Emmit laughed. “Of course it’s hot! I didn’t order two iced chocolate cappuccinos! Those are nasty!” Bernice giggled alongside him. Before he realized what he was doing, he said, “Let me cool it off,” and he kissed her. They were both surprised at the action, and Emmit pulled himself away. “I’m sorry!”
“No, I liked it,” she said biting her lip. She leaned over and kissed him.
“Do you want to go back to my place?” he smiled.
“Sure, vhy not?” she giggled. They left their table leaving the cappuccinos.
When they got back to Emmit’s house, he took her coat and hung it in the closet. Then he took off his own coat and put it in next to hers. They sat on the couch kissing passionately. For ten in the morning, there was a lot going on. Later, they both lay on the bed cuddling. They talked for a while until they both fell asleep. Or so it seemed. When Bernice thought Emmit was out cold, she slipped out of the bed. She tip toed trying to get dressed as quietly as possible. She slipped out of his room with little sound. Barefoot, she quickly ran to the closet, but stubbed her toe on the leg of the couch.
She covered her mouth, but not before a little squeak escaped her lips. “Bernice?” she heard Emmit call from the bedroom. “Bernice?” he came out zippering up his pants. “Where are you going?”
“I just remembered I vas supposed to turn in a report to my boss, I must leave before I get in trouble again,” it was the first thing she could think of. Emmit walked around her and opened the closet door.
“Then you should get going,” he grabbed her coat from the closet and handed it to her. “It’s chilly. Don’t forget your socks,” he noted her bare feet on the cold wood floor.
“Yes, I vas just looking for them. I can’t seem to find them. Vill you help me look?”
He smiled holding up a pair of white tennis shoes with pink socks inside. “I found them.”
“You are a life saver!” she quickly put her shoes and socks on. “Vhen vill I see you again?”
“Whenever we go running. We seem to always bump into each other then, so until next time my lady,” he held the door open and bowed to her like royalty. She gave him a quick kiss and ran out. She started jogging in case Emmit was still watching her, and when she knew she was out of sight, she kicked a tree with anger. This was the second failure, and she didn’t want to go through the whole marriage thing again. She sat on e bench with her head in her hands.
“Vhy is it so hard this time?” she mumbled to herself.
Emmit sat on his couch thinking about what had just happened. Only three days had passed since his breakup, and two since he met Bernice. He didn’t know what it was about this woman that he liked so much. Maybe it was the fact that she was always natural. No makeup to cover the real person. She was gorgeous in her own way; not even Dana amounted to Bernice. Dana was perfect, but somehow, Bernice surpassed her by a lot. Still, the first fight lingered over his head like a rock that that he knew would one day crush him, but he never moved.
The next day came so fast. This time, Bernice showed up at Emmit’s door to go running. They ran in silence, obviously ashamed of what had happened the day before. After their run, they went to the same coffee shop they had the day before. They sat for a while, but started talking. Little conversations came up and went. Soon they were in a steady conversation. After drinking their cooled off coffee, they walked back to Emmit’s home. They kissed on the couch passionately. Bernice slowly unbuttoned his shirt revealing the huge scar.
She gasped, “Vhat happened? Vhat caused this?”
Emmit, ashamed of his ripped body put his shirt back on. “It’s nothing,” he grumbled.
She stopped his hands from re-buttoning the shirt. “I vant to know vhat happened. I don’t care that you have a scar, I am just concerned.”
Her eyes widened with concern. He told her all about what happened with Ted in the firehouse. Later they laid in bed again as she traced the jagged scar to his heart where she planted a kiss. She felt horrible. This man had already been through so much, how could she take it away from him? The pink scar haunted her as they slept. And this time, she actually stayed.
They both woke up late the next morning. “Shoot!” Emmit burst out as he looked at the time. He quickly woke up Bernice and they rushed to get dressed for work. Bernice really didn’t have anywhere to be, but she played along. Emmit grabbed both their coats as they rushed outside. He locked the door handing Bernice her coat. “Where do you live? I’ll drop you off,” he offered.
“No, it’s fine. I vill just run.”
“Come on, it’s really cold today, and you can’t go to work in your running clothes.”
“Fine,” she knew he would just keep offering until she said yes, so she just gave in. As she got into the car, he asked where she lived. She hesitated for only a moment before giving him an address. As she walked into the apartment building where he dropped her off, she waved. She knew she’d have to get in before he left, because she knew he’d watch to make sure she was safe. That’s one thing she liked about him. He was kind, yet uneducated on what she planned to do. She never liked any of the targets she killed, but this one, this one was different. She walked in and to the desk, and took a quick glance to see the car driving away. She walked out of the building and on to the street. Already in her running outfit, she ran to her real house; the black van. She chose that specific place because it was only a quarter of a mile away from where the black van was parked.
She opened the back door and slid in. “Did you get the disk and kill the man?” Vince asked as she sat down.
“No I didn’t. I vill get it next time. This might be like the last time vith Charley,” she groaned. What she didn’t say, was that she was sort of hoping for the wedding. She liked Emmit and wanted to postpone this problem she faced for as long as possible. But the wedding this time, would be real.
“You seem tense. I know vhat vill make you feel better,” he said as he kissed the back of her neck down to her shoulder.
She froze. She didn’t want that. She slid out of his grasp shaking her head. “No, that vill not make me feel better. Not this time. I think I’m just tired. I vant to go to sleep,” she took her pillow from the front seat and laid it down on the rubber floor. She placed her head on it and got into the position she always slept in. She acted out the way she slept perfectly. Vince got out of the van and left her there. Her heart pounded in her chest, threatening to burst out.
Vince used to be her lover, but now she wasn’t sure. He didn’t treat her with the kind of respect Emmit did, and she never had her privacy. As these thoughts boiled in her mind, she felt excruciating sadness and guilt. She felt like she had fallen in love, but she knew she would have to kill him. She thought about the pink scar that showed clear as day, that he was mortal. She never had a target that showed her how savage life was, and how quickly that can be taken away.
Tears rolled down her cheeks and landed on the dirty pillow. She realized she loved Emmit, and wanted to get as far away from Vince as possible. She didn’t want to kill anymore, and she definitely didn’t want to be with Vince anymore. She didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t betray her country, but she couldn’t kill Emmit. She stifled her whimpers as Vince returned. She knew her face was red, but she was going to play it cool. She pretended to wake up startled. “Oh, it’s only you.”
“Don’t lie to me Bernice! You love this man! I heard you crying, and I’m not stupid! I knew I should have taken you out of this as soon as I put you in,” he lifted a pistol to her head. Her eyes widened with fear. So this was how it felt. The guilt in her heart wanted him to pull the trigger, but her love spoke first.
“Don’t! I vill kill him! I promise, I von’t let you down,” her heart ached and her mouth burned. It would have hurt less just to stick a bunch of red hot coals into her mouth.
Emmit sat at his desk, fiddling with his pencil. His work was the most boring job in the entire world. Sitting at a desk answering calls, and half the time he didn’t even know what he was doing. All he knew was he was to answer phones, forward messages, and keep this package safe. The package was weighing him down and he wondered how long it would be before he didn’t need to protect it. He also wondered about the first fight between him and Bernice. Things were obviously moving faster than any of his other relationships, but they didn’t seem to be anywhere close to their first fight. He decided to push it off. It was going to happen eventually, why speed it up?
As the long boring day dragged on, like any other day, the phone rang, Emmit answered, and the day goes on. Not many interesting things happened in his office. Once there was a fire though. The copy machine had just randomly burst into flames. Emmit got out of there sprinting down the stairwell and out to his car where he drove to his house and sat on the tile floor of the bathroom. He frowned thinking about his irrational fear of fire. He was a firefighter, now he was just a chicken. He wished he could get over his fear, but it was just too big to tackle.
Again, the day finally came to an end, and again, he found Bernice sitting on the steps. She looked sad as he walked up to her. “Hey, what’s wrong?” he asked.
“I vas fired from my job today,” she sighed, “And my rent is due soon, but I don’t have the money. I need a place to stay.”
“You are very welcome into my house,” he said lifting her off the steps. He opened the door and held it open for her. She stood, nervous as if she’d never been in there before. She knew what she had to do, even if she didn’t want to do it.
Her shoulders slumped and she thanked him as walked inside. Her heart ached. Emmit sat next to her on the couch. They sat quietly for a long while, until Bernice broke down and sobbed into Emmit’s chest. He didn’t really know what she was crying about, but he thought he did. When Bernice finally calmed down, Emmit got up to make her some coffee. When he came back, she was asleep with her head propped up on the wooden arm rest. He picked her up and carried her to the bedroom. He planned to do some food shopping so while she slept, he went. It was warmer outside now, so he threw his jacket on the couch and left.
Bernice woke up to a quiet, unfamiliar house. When she realized where she was, she got up out of the bed. Her face was red and tear stained. She walked around the house lifting the pew pictures that hung on the walls. She looked through every picture, book, and door, but there was no safe of any kind in the house. She was getting frustrated for not even finding a secret hiding spot, when she saw the brown leather coat out of the corner of her eye. She looked out the window to make sure Emmit wasn’t coming home, and she walked over to the coat. As her fingers touched the soft worn leather, the door squeaked open.
Emmit walked in with a few plastic bags. “Hey, how was your nap?” he asked as he walked into the kitchen and set the bags down on the counter.
“It vas fine,” she sighed removing her hand from the soft leather before Emmit walked back in.
“So I was thinking,” he said as he walked over to her, “Why don’t we go out to eat tonight? We can go to your favorite restaurant.”
“Okay; there’s a great Russian restaurant a few blocks away. Do you vant, or even like, Russian food?”
He nodded. “I’ve never had it, but I’m sure it’s good,” he grabbed his coat. “It’s going to be chilly tonight.” He got Bernice's coat from the closet and handed it to her. Bernice drove because Emmit didn’t know where the restaurant was. While they sat waiting to be served their food, Emmit asked about Bernice’s work. She stumbled not knowing what to say. “So it’s that bad, is it?” he laughed, “I always thought my job was horrible.”
“Speaking of vork, I noticed you never use your gas stove. Vhy?” her eyebrows pulled together with a sad curiosity. Emmit didn’t reply, but rubbed his chest. She immediately remembered what had happened. “I vant to help you,” she said taking his hands. Emmit was taken by surprise. He’d been to so many psychiatrists who tried to help him, but nobody ever really seemed to care. Dana had always thought he should just get over the irrational fear. The rest of the dinner was quiet.
As Bernice drove him home, she skipped the turn that was supposed to be made. She drove straight toward the firehouse. As they got closer, Emmit realized where Bernice was going. “No, Bernice, I’m not ready,” he whispered as they got closer. He held his breath and clung to his chair. Bernice pulled the car up into the firehouse parking lot. As she set the car to park, she looked over at Emmit who was turning purple.
“We are not getting out,” she soothed. “We are just going to sit here for a while. I’m not asking you to get out; just breath.”
The time that passed felt like an hour before Emmit’s burning lungs couldn’t hold the bad air any longer. He let go of the held in air and took a deep breath. He was sweating and his eyes were on the brink of tears. He started to hyperventilate. Bernice grabbed the sides of his face and held his face so he looked at her. “You are still here, you are fine,” she whispered urgently to him over and over again. After a few long minutes, he calmed down. He felt so vulnerable and embarrassed. He didn’t want to be seen or be with Bernice. He was angry and scared.
“Take me home!” he yelled at her when he could speak. His anger took Bernice by surprise. “Take me home, or get out of my car!” In silence, Bernice turned the car back on and drove out of the lot. As they got to Emmit’s house, he got out and immediately went to the bathroom. When Bernice found him, he was sitting on the tile floor next to the wall.
“I vas only trying to help—” she started to say.
“When I say I’m not ready, I’m not ready! Get out,” the tone of his voice was indescribable.
“If you vould only try,” she begged.
“I said, get out.”
She stepped out of the bathroom and closed the door. He sat on the floor and held his head in his hands. He probably ruined their relationship, but this was the first fight he’d ever had with her. He wondered about how angry or sad Bernice was feeling. In reality, she wasn’t angry or sad. She stood in the kitchen making coffee. She knew she’d pushed him too far.
Emmit stood up and walked to the sink. He stood there looking into the mirror. “You’re a fool,” he mumbled to his reflection. He turned the cold water faucet all the way on and splashed his face a few times. The ice cold water burned his skin. After spending more than ten minutes on the bathroom floor, Emmit was finally ready to come out.
“Here,” Bernice handed him a cup of coffee. She didn’t look upset at all.
“I’m sorry for yelling at you,” he said taking the coffee.
“I know I pushed you. It vas too much.”
“You’re not mad?”
“Nope. I vas my fault for making you mad, and I deserved to be yelled at.”
He looked at her confused. This girl was unreal. No woman didn’t care if they were yelled at, even if it was their fault! The back of his mind buzzed with the thought of her being made for him. Nobody was perfect, yet this woman seemed to prove this theory wrong. She was too perfect, and with other thoughts, there was something not right about her. He disregarded his uncertainties and sipped the coffee. When they went to bed, Emmit stayed awake. He listened to the soft breathing of the perfect woman he lay beside. He quietly got out of bed and walked to his computer. Quickly typing in Google, he looked up the name “Bernice” and came up with name origins. He clicked and waited for the page to load when she walked in.
“Vhat are you doing?” she yawned.
“Checking my email, I feel like there’s something I forgot to do. Go back to bed. I’ll be in, in a minute.” He watched as she left and the screen popped up.
Bernice – Greek origin
Means – Victory bringer
He looked at the page with those few words that stuck out like red rose in a white rose bush. Greek origin. Greek origin. Greek origin? Wasn’t Bernice from Russia?
The next morning Emmit woke up early, but not before Bernice. She was making pancakes on the gas stove. She turned around and quickly turned off the stove. “I’m sorry! I thought I’d be finished before you voke up! I didn’t mean—”
He held up his hand to stop her ranting. “It’s fine. I thought about what you said, and you’re right. I need to just try. I have a question though. Why is your name Bernice?”
She looked at him perplexed.”I don’t understand…”
“You’re name is of Greek origin. You’re Russian.”
“Are you saying Russian’s don’t have baby naming books, or computers that ve could look up baby names on?” she inquired. Emmit turned a bright red. Ashamed of his accusation, he turned and walked back into his room. Bernice followed smiling. “Do you not trust my ethnicity?”
“No. Well, not anymore. Something just doesn’t seem right about you,” he looked at her then quickly added, “but I don’t know what it is, and I really couldn’t care less,” he said pulling her in for a kiss. She embraced the kiss acting as if his probing didn’t make her uncomfortable. “What if I said, I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you?”
“I’d say it’s too soon,” she answered quickly.
“You seem on edge,” he noted, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” she murmured.
Emmit let her go. He eyed her questioningly. “What is wrong? Maybe I could help you with whatever it is.”
“I’m fine,” she said. He let it go knowing somehow that Bernice wouldn’t spill. Changing the subject, he asked, “Why would you say it’s too soon? It’s been a week and a half.”
“I don’t know. Doesn’t this relationship seem to be moving a little fast?”
“Well, I’ll admit I started the fire, but you stoked it,” he chuckled. “I kissed you that first time, and you didn’t tell me to stop. Actually, you told me you liked it!”
“Yeah,” she agreed giggling. “I guess you just caught me off guard. Now that you’ve brought it up, I’m villing to say I like you a lot. But,” she said getting closer to him, “if you don’t let me help you vith your fear, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say I vant to spend the rest of my life with you.”
The smile left his face. This is how it’d been with Dana, except she didn’t use those words. They were more to the effect of, “This is ridiculous Emmit! How can I spend the rest of my life with someone who has an irrational fear of fire? Scratch that; how can I spend the rest of my life with a firefighter who has an irrational fear of fire?” Which in return, he replied, “Ex-firefighter.”
“Can we take it slow?” he gulped.
“As slow as you vant, but fast enough that ve can get somevhere. Ve vill start vith your stove. I vant you to turn it on,” she stepped away and pointed out the door to the kitchen.
He looked at her stern face. He knew she wouldn’t budge until he did something. He walked over to the stove and placed his hand on the dial. He took a step back and reached over the distance. He twisted his hand ever so slightly until he heard a click and saw the blue flames. He drew his hand back and staggered to the other side of the kitchen. Bernice stood there with a smile on her face. She walked over to him and kissed him. She whispered in his ear how well he did. After he was done gasping for air, she told him to turn it off, but this time, he had to stand at a normal human distance.
He looked at her worriedly. “Nothing vill happen to you, I promise,” she urged him on. He took the few steps to the stove until he was a normal human distance away. He slowly placed his hand on the dial and twisted the other direction. He heard the click and watched as the flames were sucked back into the gas chamber. Bernice walked over to him and planted on him, a huge kiss. Not only did she act proud, she really was proud.
Emmit stood there with his mouth hanging open. If that was how he was going to be rewarded, he’d work extra hard. He looked over to the clock. “I’m late!” he exclaimed. He ran out of the kitchen and grabbed a sweatshirt. He took something out of his jacket and slipped it into his pocket. He kissed Bernice on the cheek and ran out the door. Having not seen Emmit go into his jacket, she walked over and started searching the pockets.
She was getting really frustrated at how hard this was becoming, even though she lived with him. She cleaned up the uneaten pancakes and sat on the couch. She heard the doorknob turning and she spun around. “Emmit, what are you doing? I thought you were—” she stopped when she saw who walked in the door, “late,” she huffed. It was Vince.
“Don’t think I don’t know vhere he lives! Vhat is holding you back from killing this man? Things vould go so much easier if you didn’t hold off!” he growled at her.
“I am doing my best, but as you can see, you kicked me out vithout a gun!” she growled back.
“You have knives there, don’t you?” came his snide remark.
“No, Emmit doesn’t have knives,” she bit her lip as she said that. They were not supposed to call their targets by their names.
“Vell, I vas coming here to drop off this gun, but now I see vhat I really must do vith it,” he loaded the gun and pointed it at her chest.
She showed no fear. She stood there with her hands on her hips. “You vill not do this again. And vhat vill happen vhen the target gets home and sees me dead?”
He grumbled and turned the gun with the butt to her. She took it and put it on the couch. “Don’t mess this up,” he spat.
The months that followed were tough. The lust that had once been controlling the relationship, was put on pause. Bernice helped Emmit make it to the firehouse parking lot, but she ached inside whenever Vince came to the house to question her abilities in killing this target. Emmit worked harder trying to please Bernice with his improvements, and he felt like he was improving. Finally, after being with each other for a year, Bernice admitted that he was the one she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. With that, the lust had started up again. When Emmit made it inside the firehouse, his old crewmembers cheered along with Bernice.
His confidence was boosted each time he overcame part of the firehouse that had once given him nightmares. As the hardest day to conquer grew near, the lust had been out in overdrive. Bernice held her womanhood over Emmit. He wouldn’t get any reward, or anything unless he did something to earn it.
She held his arm as she coaxed him to the door. “There is nothing behind the door. There are no bad memories, and no vooden ceiling posts.” She nudged his hand trying to get him to put it on the knob.
“I can’t do this,” he gulped.
“You are the only person I’d ever vant to spend the rest of my life vith, Emmit. This door could make or break it,” she warned.
He lifted his hand weakly. It shook as he placed it on the knob. As he turned the handle, he looked to Bernice for support. She nodded encouraging him on. He opened the door and took a quick step back. As he looked inside, he saw not a single piece of wood, but a beautiful frame holding a collage of firefighters’ pictures. The bigger center picture was of him. The people that surrounded him were every person he’d saved in a fire, or helped afterwards, including other firefighters. He took a cautious step forward onto the concrete floor. The picture hung in the center of the room next to the Glorious Fallen. His frame had a little metal plaque that read: The Glorious Fallen Who Lived.
Emmit breathed heavily as he took more steps into the room. He had a flashback of that night. He remembered exactly where Ted stood, huddled over the bomb. He remembered the pain her endured while in his semiconscious state. Bernice stood beside him holding his arm. She stood on her toes and kissed his cheek as he looked up at the wood-less cement ceiling. He realized he missed his job; the adrenaline as he ran into a burning house, the clinging family as he carried them out, and the water that doused the evil flames. He missed feeling important, and he hated being a government middleman. He still didn’t know what he did exactly, but whatever it was, he hated it. He missed the sweat dripping down his face as he raced to save the burning building. He missed feeling important.
“I miss this,” he whispered. He felt more confident and more embarrassed. It took him a year with Bernice to get over his fear, and it took three years with Dana to do nothing.
“You’re always velcome to comeback,” Bernice whispered back. “You vere a great firefighter, and you always vill be. Nothing can take that avay from you,” she squeezed his arm. ‘Except for me,’ she thought.
Emmit drove home that afternoon. He cooked lunch on the stove, and served it as Bernice cheered for him. They ate a nice lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches whish they ended up shoving in each other’s mouths. A heavy weight seemed to be lifted off the entire house, and they felt truly happy. He chased her around the room playfully, and he kissed her when he caught her. They ended up in bed for the first time in months. They held each other close and Bernice traced the jagged scar. When she got to his heart, she kissed a circle around his heart, then on his heart. They fell asleep in each other’s arms as a tear rolled down Bernice’s cheek.
The night was short, and the day came too fast. Emmit had woken up to make breakfast for Bernice then go to work. Soon after he left, Vince walked in. he slammed his fist on the table. “Vhat are you vaiting for? You asked for a gun and now you’ve had it for about a year! I’m sick of vaiting for you to do vhat you vere trained to do! Do vhat you are supposed to, and kill him.” His lips twitched with anger and his eyes begged for blood. “Kill him or I vill!”
As he stormed out of the house, Bernice took the gun out of her suitcase. She held the heavy silver pistol that contained the six deadly bullets in her palm. She should have quit while she was ahead. This was way over her head, and there was nothing she could do, but get rid of the problem: the man she loved.
When Emmit came home that night, he was excited. He ran in the door and pulled Bernice to the bedroom. He sat her down on the bed and cleared his throat.
“When I first laid eyes on you, it took everything to take them off. You’ve done more for me that I can ever make up for. I love you, and you are the only person I want to spend the rest of my life with. So,” he got down on one knee and opened up a black velvet box, “Bernice Petrov, will you marry me?”
Tears were on the brink of tears. She wanted to say no, but she loved him, and couldn’t bring herself to say anything yes. “Yes,” she smiled. Tears rolled down her cheeks as Emmit picked her up and spun her around. They laughed and talked for the rest of the night.
Things got busy really fast. The invitations were sent, and the wedding date was set. Bernice picked out an off-white sparkle-less dress with straps that hung off her shoulders. Emmit accompanied her to the cake testing and they picked out a red velvet cake with white frosting and ruby red frosting roses. They were both anxious for the big day. Emmit went with his old firefighting team for a bachelor party, while Bernice stayed at the house. She was exhausted and relieved Vince hadn’t come by in a few months. She lay on the couch with a smile on her face until she heard a click and a creek of a squeaky hinges.
“I hope you know vhat you’re doing,” a deep Russian voice warned.
“Vince!” she cried spinning around on the couch. “Vhat are you doing here?”
“The mission still stands, and you still obey. You have had countless times vhere you could have gotten rid of this target, and now I believe I must take matters into my own hands,” his deep voice rumbled.
“You may think I had the chance, but really, it vas too risky. Too many vitnesses, too public, you know,” she shrugged.
“Our last target you killed in front of his family and friends. I don’t think vitnesses vorry you,” he looked her in the eyes. Her emerald eyes widened with fear as his grey eyes scanned her body. “Body posture, eyes, lips,” he mumbled. “You don’t kill this man on your vedding to prove you are still loyal to your country, I vill do it for you.” He stormed out of the house and drove quickly away in the black van.
Bernice was in tears. With the wedding a week away, she didn’t have much time left. She wished she had the strength to kill herself like she killed so many others, but she couldn’t bring herself to it.
Emmit sat at the bar watching the lights dance across the ocean of people. It’d been so long since he just hung out at a bar with his team. In fact, it’d been a long time since he’d hung out with any of his old friends. One woman walked up to him smiling. She wore a white t-shirt that was cut up to the top of her belly. She had a aqua blue belly ring and a fish charm attached to it.
“Hey you,” she giggled. She put her arms around his neck and started dragging him to the dance floor. He pulled back smiling awkwardly.
“I’m engaged,” he said trying to be louder than the music.
“What?” she giggled. She apparently hadn’t heard over the music.
“I am engaged!” he yelled over the music again. She dropped her hands to her side. She looked at him in disbelief and disgust.
“Ew, you’re such a perv!” she stomped off.
Emmit stood there laughing. He walked back to the bar and sat down. Sam, one of the firefighters, walked over to him and sat down. “What was that about?”
“I don’t know,” he chuckled, “Do you think I’m a perv?”
“Well, anyway, we want to make a toast.” He held up his beer bottle and six other people followed. “To Emmit, who is finally getting his life together!”
“To Emmit!” everyone chorused. They partied the rest of the night away.
Emmit got home around twelve thirty the next morning. He quietly walked into the bedroom and tried to get in bed. “You are not good at sneaking quietly are you?” he heard Bernice grumble.
“I’m guessing my excuse is futile now,” he sighed.
“You’re guessing correctly,” she smiled.
He crept into the bed beside Bernice. “What would you say, if I wanted to work at the firehouse again?” he asked tiredly.
“I’d say, do it vhile you can,” she replied masking her quivering voice with a fake yawn. She turned over so her back was to Emmit, and as she lay there, she let her tears drip onto the pillow.
The next morning, before Emmit went to work, he decided that after the wedding he would return to being a firefighter. “I think,” Bernice said, “You should return before the vedding, so I can say I married a firefighter.”
“You don’t like my boring government job?” he chuckled, “Well, there’s nothing I can do. I don’t want to get hurt again before, the wedding.”
“Do it vhile you can,” she replied under her breath.
“Nothing. I vas just thinking to myself.”
He nodded and kissed her forehead. “I’ll be home at nine, as usual,” he called from the doorway.
‘I should tell him to run,’ she thought, ‘I should tell him who I am and what I plan to do. I should tell him everything. I should make him hate me.’
Like every day, work was boring. Emmit daydreamed about going back to being a firefighter. He thought about the future. He wanted three kids, as long as one of them was a son he could teach to become a firefighter. His fear of fire was doused pretty well, but he still wasn’t sure of how he would do in a burning house.
He spent the day half dazed and half in reality. He answered the phone and directed the calls semi-aware. He would have three more days of the torture, then he’d be married and become a firefighter again. Life couldn’t be any better. He had a fiancé who loved him, a job he would soon quit, and job he would soon return to.
The day just seemed to drag on. Boring days just never seem to end, and you never seem to get anything done. The first chance he got, Emmit left to go home. He drove back to his house and walked inside. The fried chicken smell greeted him at the door. “Hey babe!” he called.
“Hey, you’re home early,” she said looking at the clock.
“Yeah. I don’t know why my hours are so crazy; they obviously don’t need me,” he walked into the kitchen. On the counter sat a bottle of wine, and a plate full or raw egg and bread crumbed pieces of chicken.
“Well I started this thinking you’d be home at nine, not eight, so dinner is going to be a while.”
“I’ll help,” he washed his hands and grabbed a big piece of chicken. “So I was thinking, do you want kids?”
“Yea,” she sighed, “I want a little boy. I’ve always wanted a boy. I would name him Dmitri. Wouldn’t that be cute? Dmitri Anderson?”
Emmit couldn’t believe it. He’d been with Bernice for a little more than a year, and it was still like she was made for him. She couldn’t be anymore perfect.
The organ music played as the bride slipped through the crack in the giant wooden doors. She was careful not to get stuck on anything with her off-white puffed out silk skirt. She walked down the aisle, taking a step for each second note that played on the organ. She looked at all the people staring at her. She looked at all the happy, unsuspecting people. Clueless.
Her eyes sparkled, but not because of sparkles. The tears that filled her eyes to the brink, shone in the bright sunny morning. She wore ruby red lipstick that matched the flowers on the wedding cake. Her lips trembled with sorrow and her eyes blinked the tears away. The salty tears left streaks of black mascara down her face. As she walked up the steps to the altar, she noticed a red dot resting on the red flower in Emmit’s pocket, right above his heart.
She took his hand as he led her up; a look of concern came across his face. “Are you sure you want to do this?” he whispered noting the black streaks and red nose.
She looked at him and shook her head. “I don’t vant to do this, and I’m sorry. I love you, even if you von’t love me after this.” She reached her hand into her bouquet and pulled out the heavy silver pistol. “I love you,” she whispered.
Emmit backed up as his former firefighting team leaped toward Bernice. They were too slow. She aimed and shot three bullets into Emmit’s chest. She watched him fall in a puddle of blood. She sunk to the ground in tears. She threw the gun across the floor at the men charging at her. They stopped, and stared. One man stepped forward and grabbed Bernice by the arm. He dragged her to her feet and held her hands behind her back while he called the police. The other firefighters rushed to help Emmit.
The police and ambulance showed up within three minutes and took Emmit away. The police took Bernice and shoved her, handcuffed, into the back of the police car. Her dress crumpled and was covered in blood. As the police slammed the door shut, her dress got caught. She didn’t care. She lifted some of her skirt to her face and tried to wipe away the tears, only succeeding in smudging her mascara all over her face.
“I will admit to everything,” she whispered.