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Adventure Fiction Romance

The smoke is rancid, thick fumes billowing out of the house’s windows and curling into heavy tendrils clawing their way out into the air. Autumn makes the air crisp and fresh, leaves crunching below sneakers not-quite warm enough for your toes. Despite the extreme heat emanating off of the house, goosebumps run up my arms, hugging me in it’s cold embrace.

I can’t tear my eyes from the window, still sealed shut and revealing nothing more than smoke and burning white blinds. From the old house freshly painted a baby-blue, now blackened by flames wrapping around it, crumbling it from the inside out. The firemen were supposed to be there, they were supposed to roll up in their blindingly red truck with sirens that made me cringe. And Pete was supposed to be there with me, running his hands through my hair and forcing me to look away as the life we worked so hard to create came tumbling down.

What if he didn’t make it out? The thought ripped through me, taking my breath away in a fraction of a second. I would be alone, alone again in a house that wasn’t this one, making cheap pasta on an old stove. No Pete to paint a picture of a life together in a little blue house when life made me feel defeated. 

His existence would stain my memory and my future, a constant reminder of what was but ended so tragically. The next three years of my grieving, of family members telling me it was time to piece my life back together, it was what Pete would have wanted for me. To have a good life.

But he also wanted to be in it. Why else would he have walked up to me that day in the university, offering me a coffee with a confident grin? Why would he call me every morning just because he could, listening to my problems and making me feel like everything would be okay? How could I deal with the concept of moving on, when he was the one I wanted to go through thick and thin with?

It was less of a decision and more of acceptance of a fact. I had to go in after him. He would do it for me, but he would have not thought twice about it. My legs moved without my thinking, the front door fell open easily. Inviting me into its depths.

The smoke was thick, and I immediately dropped to the ground and pulled my shirt over my face. A nagging part of my brain reminded me that this could be a fatal mistake, I still had time to leave. 

My eyes didn’t even glance toward the door. Instead, I crawled up the wood stairs, conscious of the sweat beading down my back. Of the sting of the smoke in my eyes. But I had to keep going.

“Pete!” I called, coughing when smoke filled my lungs at the effort. It was only when I entered the hallway that I saw the fire. Blue with power, I watched it, momentarily stunned by it’s ferocious beauty. Colours flickered around, my eyes adjusting to the brightness against the hollow night.

The wood cracked under me, sending sparks flying across the room and lighting up the drywall. It was a grave reminder that whatever I was going to do, I had to do it before the house caved in on itself and took me with it. 

A shout from across the hall sent me turning, facing the door to the makeshift library we had set up. Between me and the door was a wood flooring littered with flames snarled around it. The heat made my face burn, and I fought to not recoil away from the fire. It was easy, I tried to tell myself, squinting through the smoke. The fire was the only thing standing between me and the thing I love, the person I swore I would do anything to save.

I made it across in three long strides, barreling into the library with no more than a moment's hesitation. Slamming the door behind me, I rolled on the ground to put out the flames that had latched onto my pajama pants, and took a moment to breathe.

Pete was staring at me with wide-eyes, his mouth slightly agape. “What the hell are you doing?!” He asked, and I sighed as I climbed to my feet. “Did you just-”

“Yes, I did. This house is coming down, and we are not going to be in here when it does.” I spoke quickly, ignoring the flash of fear across his face as he slowly registered my words. Running up to the window, there was nothing to soften our fall below the 15 foot drop. 

We didn’t have any other option. 

“We can’t just jump, Kaylie. We’ll break our legs or ankles or both! Why do you think I’m still in here?!” The typical cautiousness and careful consideration of his words were gone, replaced by adrenaline. 

“We have two options,” I said vehemently, looking between the drop and him. “We stay in here and die, or we jump. Remember when I forced you to go skydiving that one time?”

He nodded in response, looking at me like I was crazy. “If we use the same technique to land, we might be fine.” 

“Might be.” He noted the hesitation in my voice, his eyebrows creased far together making him appear older than he was. 

I brushed a bit of soot off of my pants, pulling my shirt back up to cover my face. “You go first, I’m not leaving until you do.”

“Are you serious? Are we doing this?” In response the house creaked and fell an inch beneath us. It seemed to be enough of an answer for him, combined with another blast of heat from the hallway.

He pulled himself up to the window, dangling his legs for just a moment before pushing himself off. I held in a breath as he fell toward the ground clumsily, but he remembered the technique. Rolling off to the side after the initial contact, his whole body absorbed the blow. He was able to stand and step back from the window, looking up expectantly at me. 

As I propped myself up on the sill, it was if the distance between me and the ground multiplied. I took a deep breath, and allowed myself to drop. The air whooshed past me quickly, the pit of my stomach lurching unpleasantly. I was a sucker for thrill seekers, but the kind when your rational mind tells you everything is okay. This time, there was no nagging voice of reason.

Pain ricocheted up my legs and down my back as I transitioned to balance the impact throughout my body. The air rushed out of my lungs, and for a panicked moment I struggled to gasp for breath. When it came, I breathed a sigh of relief. My whole body was tingling with pain, but there was no stab of a broken rib. My legs were shaky, but stable.

And then it hit me with a wave of euphoria. I looked between Pete and the burning house, a smile plastered across my face. Because he was out here, rushing toward me on the grass, pulling me into his warm embrace as I wiped soot off of his face. He was here, he was mine.

And I wasn’t ever going to let him go. 

October 21, 2020 00:42

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17 comments

Hello Lara! (Such a pretty name...) Great story! :)

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Natalie Dafoe
14:32 Oct 25, 2020

Thank you!

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No problem! You deserved it! :)

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Patricia Green
21:33 Oct 28, 2020

lovely little romantic story. keep it up.

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D.M. Ravshanov
15:53 Oct 26, 2020

Beautifully pieced together! I love the imagery at the beginning. It pulls you in.

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Natalie Dafoe
16:11 Oct 26, 2020

Thank you!!

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Charles Stucker
18:55 Oct 25, 2020

hugging me in it’s cold embrace.- its. It's means it is. You start present tense, then switch to past. You have so little present tense, I would just rewrite the opening in past. Not sure if I like the paragraph about, "His existence would stain my memory and my future..." Yes, it shows insight to her character/situation, but it just seemed off for some reason. Perhaps it's looking at the future using past tense. Maybe it's how cumbersome it is talking about his existence when it is his lack of continued existence which would haunt he...

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Natalie Dafoe
19:22 Oct 25, 2020

Thank you! I'll be sure to double-check my tenses next time. As for the specified paragraph, the essence of it was to show, as you said, how difficult it would be to live without him. His existence would be unforgettable, and would change the way she lived her future because of it. Thanks for your feedback, I appreciate it :)

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Debra Johnson
17:37 Oct 25, 2020

This gripped me to the end. Nicely done.

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T. S. Burkhardh
16:25 Oct 25, 2020

Your opening paragraph is excellent, pulling the reader in. The descriptions of smoke and cold and the phrase "sneakers not-quite warm enough for your toes" were great. I also like your vivid descriptions of what the narrator is going through physically and emotionally. It's easy to forget to put that in but you make the reader feel it. I liked the glimpses into the backstory and what the narrator imagines the future could be like. I was curious to know a little more about their past actually. I was unsure about the level of danger in the ho...

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Natalie Dafoe
17:15 Oct 25, 2020

First of all, thank you for taking the time to give me feedback! The level of danger in the house was quite high, so perhaps my characters lack of injury was slightly unrealistic XD she got some burns but I forgot to put that in. As for grammer, that is something I struggle with, as well as filler words like of. I also really liked that sneakers line, it was one of my favourites :) Thank you for commenting!!

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15:26 Oct 25, 2020

Incredible pacing! You did a good job of keeping the tension high throughout the entire story, and made great use of every word on the page. I also really like how you pulled in vivid descriptions of the fire and related your outside knowledge of skydiving to help the characters survive. Very well done Lara! I’d love your thoughts and feedback on my stories “Honey and Lavender” and “Greenspace”- you seek to be very skilled with writing vivid descriptions of setting, one of my weaker areas. I’d love your thoughts!

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Natalie Dafoe
17:11 Oct 25, 2020

Thank you!! I’ve commented on both of your stories, and I don’t think that’s a weak point for you at all ;) I appreciate your feedback!

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22:15 Oct 28, 2020

Hey Lara! I got you for critique circle this week! You did such a great job with this story! I loved your descriptions, they were so vivid and they made me feel like I was painted into your story, which is something I really love in writing! I also liked your ending! It was so beautiful. You pulled this prompt off amazingly! Keep up the fantastic work! Happy writing! - Felicity

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Philip Clayberg
04:16 Nov 02, 2020

I liked the story But I do have one nagging question: Why didn't Pete catch her after she jumped? Surely he wasn't going to just let her land in the grass and possibly hurt herself. But you said "... rushing toward me on the grass ...". Now if she fell towards him and he caught her, maybe you would've said: "Please let me land in Pete's arms, not on the ground. He caught me and knelt, like a football player catching a kicked football, absorbing most of the impact of my landing. I was jostled a little, but no breaks or sprains. H...

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Natalie Dafoe
21:39 Nov 02, 2020

When I initially wrote this, I was trying to think of the feasibility of the fall (ironic, since one of the comments was about the chances they came out unscathed) and him catching her seemed unrealistic, but would have added that extra layer of romance! I wasn’t painting Pete as the football player type though, more of a gentle giant who wouldn’t dare jump through the window if she hadn’t suggested it. Beautiful idea though, I like the way you portrayed their relationship!

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Philip Clayberg
22:46 Nov 02, 2020

I used the football analogy, because that's why I saw in my mind when I was typing my response. It didn't have to be a football player. Your gentle giant sounds like an even better idea. It doesn't mean they wouldn't be hurt trying to escape from the fire. But if he's a giant (even if he's only about the size of Hagrid in "Harry Potter") he might've had trouble squeezing through that window before jumping down. But let's suppose that he's seven or eight feet tall and has a hip circumference of less than half of that. Lean, then, not wi...

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