Megan awoke to the acrid smell of smoke. it hurt her throat and she couldn't stop coughing. She jumped from her bed and ran to her bedroom door. She felt the door like she'd been taught. IF THE DOOR IS HOT, DO NOT OPEN IT. The door was so hot she could hardly touch it. She looked out her second story window and there were reddish orange flames as far as she could see. She was trapped! There was no way out!!!Then the screaming began. "Someone help me, Mom wake up! Then her screams were interrupted by uncontrollable coughing. Is this how her life would end. She was only ten.
Suddenly her mother was standing beside her.
"Megan it's ok. It's just a dream." Megan's uncontrollable coughing continued. It was the same nightmare. She began to cry softly.
"It's so real," Megan sobbed. My throat even hurts.
Megan and her mother climbed into the bed. Her mother held her close. She rubbed her back and kept saying over and over, "I know, I know." And she did know. The nightmare started the day after her husband and Megan's father died in a burning building. He was a firefighter and had gone into the house to rescue a little girl. He never came out. Megan and her mother had made progress but they were both so sad. It had been almost a year.
They had moved cross country to a cozy little house across the street from the beach. They had new friends, Megan had a new school, and they were trying so hard. But the nightmare's continued and made them both cry.
Megan went into her bathroom to wash her face. She looked in the mirror. She had long blonde hair, just like her mom; and blue eyes just like her dad. Everyone always said, Megan was the perfect combination of her parents. She wondered if the nightmares would ever go away.
As she went back to her room she couldn't help but smile. She LOVED her room. Her mom had let her decorate it the way she wanted. The only rule was she had to keep it clean. Her walls were covered with her watercolor seascapes and sea creatures. She had two large bookshelves one full of books. She loved reading almost as much as the beach. The other bookshelf was called her treasure trove. Each shelf had labeled plastic boxes. The boxes contained treasures she had found on the beach. Each day after school Megan would take a long walk on the beach with her bucket. It was her favorite part of the day. She found natural things like driftwood, sea glass, feathers, and shells. She also found things people had left behind like sunglasses, keys, combs, hair ribbons and even fake fingernails. She cleaned each item and sorted it into one of her plastic boxes.
Megan pulled out the box marked SUNGLASSES, and put in the pair she had found yesterday. There were six pairs in the box already. As she looked at them she imagined a face and a story to go with each pair. Someday she might write a book about them.
There was also a tall clear glass vase about one third full of sea glass. She loved to dump the glass out onto her bed and feel the smooth cool shapes with her fingers. Megan yawned and remembered she had school tomorrow. Maybe she should try and get some sleep. As she pulled up the covers the still unanswered question floated through her brain. Why would her father run into a house to save someone else's little girl, and leave his daughter with no father? "Good Night, Dad," She whispered. She began to breathe deeply and slowly and drifted off to sleep.
She heard mom in the kitchen and looked at the clock. It was late.
"Mom, why didn't you wake me up?" Megan yelled down the stairs.
" I figured you need a few extra minutes of sleep. You have plenty of time, I can drive you to school."
Megan stretched and began her school morning routine. Being in a routine seemed to help ease the pain. If she did the same thing everyday the same way she could do it without thinking. She looked out the window and everything was blanketed in thick fog. She put on her warmest clothes and clambered down the stairs for breakfast.
"Good Morning, Megan, Now don't forget."
"Mom, you can trust me, I promise! I won't go down to the beach until you get home."
"Why don't you invite Sharon for dinner tonight? I'm sure she'd love to see how you fixed up your room. "
"I don't want to . I have my friends at school, but the beach and my room are just for me."
Megan's mother looked sad and Megan knew she had to be careful. Her mom was always on the verge of tears.
"I think I'll take the bus. I have enough time. Megan kissed her mom, and trudged off to the bus stop. Megan loved fifth grade and before she knew it the day was over. The ride home was quiet, Megan wondered what mom had left for snack.
She jumped off at her stop and skipped home. The house seemed quiet without mom, but not scary. Megan changed into her play clothes and headed for the kitchen. Chocolate chip brownies, her favorite. She poured herself some milk and chowed down. Now what? Boring Boring.
Mom's words echoed in her head, "Don't go down on the beach until I get home." She knew her mom was just being safe, but she was nine!
Megan went out to the porch. The fog had lifted a bit, and she could see something white being rolled back and forth by the waves. Just my luck, she thought, a fantastic treasure and I can't go on the beach.
She ran inside and got the binoculars. She focused on the white object. She strained to see it clearly.
"Oh no, she whispered, it's a seagull." He must be dead. The body was being tossed again and again in the waves. Just then she saw one wing flutter. Her heart started to pound. She couldn't let him die. But she remembered her mother's words. She ran inside and called Mrs. Jackson, their nearest neighbor.
"Mrs. Jackson this is Megan. There's a wounded seagull down on the beach and I can't go down to help him because my mother isn't here. She took a deep breath and continued. Can you come up here
so I can go down and help that poor bird please?
"Megan you know how much I love animals, but I'm giving my baby his bath. I can be there in about thirty minutes."
"I'm afraid that will be too late. Do you know the phone number for the animal rescue people?"
"Oh, honey, they just come out for larger animals, not seagulls."
Megan hung up and raced out to the porch, and watched through the binoculars. Megan's jaw jutted out in what mom called her stubborn look.
I know I'll be punished, but this is a life and death situation.That bird has to be rescued. She got a small cardboard box out of the garage and put an old guest towel in it, and headed down to the water.
When she got closer she could see why the bird was struggling. He was all tangled up in fishing line. One foot and one wing were completely useless. and his eyes were filled with terror.
"Hi, sweet baby, looks like you're in a real mess." crooned Megan.
She bent down and tried to pick up the bird.
"Ouch, Don't bite me I'm trying to help you." She knew the gull was
panicked and he didn't understand she was trying to help, but his bites really hurt. She tried over and over, but he kept fighting her.
He was getting weaker.
How could she pick him up without getting hurt? Megan gently pushed the bird farther up on the beach using the box, so he wouldn't get washed out by the tide. She ran back to the house, her mom wasn't home yet. She got her mother's oven mitts and raced back to the gull.
The bird could no longer move his wing and his eyes were closed. Megan put on the mitts and gently picked him up and put him in the box. He continued to peck at her weak as he was.
"You're going to be fine, I'm going to take care of you. "Megan walked back to the house with her precious cargo. She put the box and looked more carefully. The fishing line was wrapped too tightly to untangle it. The fishing line would have to be cut. Megan ran up to her mother's room. She wasn't supposed to get into her mother's
things, but this wasn't a day for following the rules. She got mom's manicure scissors and raced back to the porch. The curved blades were perfect for snipping the fishing line, but the ends were too sharp. She was afraid she'd cut the bird. THINK MEGAN THINK! then she remembered something in her Metal Things box. She ran up the stairs and got some nail clippers. "I think these will work."
Back on the porch she started chipping the line one piece at the time. It was going to take quite a while to get this done. The bird didn't look good. She went into the house and got an eyedropper and some water and bread. Megan filled the eyedropper with water
and gently put a few drops of water in his mouth. He swallowed greedily, then opened his mouth for more. She broke off a piece of bread and he liked that too. Just then the door opened.
"What in the world is going on here?"
"Mom, we don't have time to talk. You can punish me later, but please help me with this bird."
Megan's mom stooped down and began talking quietly to the sea gull, "Poor baby, What happened to you?"
"Its those dang fishermen who leave broken lines on the beach this is what happens.
"Megan it looks to me that you have things under control. Do you want me to hold him so he doesn't wiggle?"
"Yes please, but you need to put on the oven mitts" Megan continued to cut the strings one at a time. And after about twenty minutes he was free. The gull lay on the porch panting, then got feebly to his feet and began to walk around limping on his left foot. He kept shaking his head. Ate a few more pieces of bread then climbed into the box and snuggled down.
Megan and her mother both laughed. Mom put her arm around Megan's shoulder.
"We need to talk," said mom.
"I know, I know, I disobeyed you, but I couldn't let him die."
"I agree. When I saw you with that bird, I realized how much you're like your father. Now that I no longer have your father, I've been smothering you and I'm sorry." Megan's mom reached out and touched her face. You are so grown up and responsible and I have to learn to let you be the person you are to become. You figured out exactly what that bird needed and you did it all by yourself. I'm so proud of you."
Megan started, "I can't explain what it was like. Mrs. Jackson couldn't come, and the bird was dying and I was the only one to help him." Then the sobbing began.
"What is it, sweetie? I'm not mad I'm not going to punish you."
"I just realized why Dad had to rescue someone else's child. He was the only one who could do it. "
Now Mother with tears running down her face and said, "Sometimes we learn lessons in the strangest ways. This seagull taught us both something important today."