Chapter 1The 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.