Streaks of orange and pink paint the sky, a sunset worth remembering. A gentle breeze swaying the palm leaves and kissing my cheeks. I swing in the hammock, content never to leave paradise.
How did I ever survive life without knowing the peace of island time?
"Mojito miss?" The teasing whisper tingles my senses, warm breath tickling my ear. I reach out to grab the drink from Elijah's hand but he holds it out of reach.
"Payment miss?" The chuckle is low and deep, coming from his heart in genuine amusement. I tip my head and plant a kiss on his stubbed cheek.
"The drink is nice but all I need is your heart." My voice is steady as I gaze at the love of my life. Two years married and things couldn't be more perfect.
Elijah brushes my dark curls away from my forehead where they lay in abandon. "You've always had it and always will."
Leaning closer, I reach to wrap my arms around my husband when..."
Bang! I wake up, startled by my head banging against the headboard. Flipping onto my right side, I blink sleepy eyes until the time on the digital clock is no longer blurry.
A feeling of deja view sweeps over me, as if this time should mean something. My weary mind searches for answers but draws a blank, punctuated by a large yawn. Pulling the covers tighter around my body, I twist to the left, reaching out a free arm to touch Elijah's back.
My hand lands aimlessly on the cold bed. I open my eyes only to view darkness and covers only slightly rumpled.
'I wonder if he got called out on an emergency? Such is the life of a reserve EMT.'
Deciding to find out what may be keeping Elijah, I sit up, searching my nightstand for my cell phone. I come up empty, taking a full 10 seconds to remember I left it downstairs.
Rolling out of bed with a half grunt, half sigh of exasperation, I pad across the carpeted floor and down the hallway to the living room. I search for my phone but it isn't lying on the coffee table. I wander into the kitchen and find it sitting next to the sink.
I check for my messages but I have no missed calls or texts. I decided to shoot off a quick text asking if he is ok and when he thinks he'll get home.
Yawning again, I decided against waiting up. I have to work tomorrow and my boss has the nose of a bloodhound for anyone not working up to her speed.
I start back toward the bedroom when I smell a faint smoky smell coming from the home office. It smells almost as if someone lit a bonfire right inside our home. The closer I get to the door, the stronger the scent becomes until it permeates my whole body.
The light in the office is on, an eerie yellow glow seeping from under the door.
'Elijah must be home' I think, startled, 'I know I turned the light off before we went to bed.'
"Elijah" I call out, hurrying over to the door and reaching for the knob. "Elijah, hun, are you in there?"
The silence is deafening in response to my call. My fingers barely graze the doorknob before I jump back scalded. The knob is burning to the touch.
I bang against the wood of the door with my uninjured hand, calling Elijah's name. A faint rumbling sound comes from inside, my name sounding almost tortured in its wake.
The heat from underneath the door is causing sweat to spread across my brow and down my neck. The smoky smell intensifies and the air starts to become foggy. My breathing becomes labored as I fumble with my phone, desperate to call 911 all the while searching for a way to break down the door.
I rush toward the garage where he keeps all his tools, remembering the ax Elijah uses to chop wood for the fireplace.
The operator answers, her voice calm and soothing. I recognize it as Janice, on of Elijah's friends from the volunteer fire brigade.
"911, what's your emergency?"
"Janice, it's me, Miranda." I pant, my chest tightened as if someone was sitting on my chest, weighing it down. "There's a fire at my house and Elijah is trapped in our office. Please, send help quickly."
Frantic with my search in the garage, I almost miss the heavy pause on the other end of the line.
"Miranda honey, are you ok?" Janice's voice is hesitant, as if she is afraid I'll jump at the shadows reflecting off the dark walls.
"I'm not hurt but Elijah's trapped. Tell them to hurry!"
I drop the phone, not waiting anymore as I finally find the chip ax collecting dust in a corner.
Having it over one shoulder, I run faster than I ever have in my life. My middle school gym teacher would have been proud.
Although heavy and unwieldy, I manage to lift and swing. The blade is dull and barely makes a dent in the oak wood. Not about to be defeated, I swing again and again until my arms ache and my back is stiffer than the two-by-fours waiting to be laid out for the new deck.
I finally breach the door as I hear my name being called again, a faint whisper as if I'm in a tunnel and the sound is echoing off the walls.
Pulling my nightshirt up over my mouth and nose, I push through the heated pieces of wood, splintered and destroyed. Franticly I gaze about the room, the dense smoke barely allowing any vision. Luckily, my eyes land on the dark lump lying near the desk. Flames of red and orange circle the room, shooting up from the desk but not consuming it.
I step forward, darting toward the lump, crying out "Elijah."
Before I can reach him, hands circle my waist and I am swept up in strong arms. The face is a blank slate, but I can feel a heart beating strong and sure.
"NO" I cry, wriggling furiously to try and free myself. "I have to save him."
The muscular arms tighten around me, not letting go as we sink as two bodies onto the love seat in the living room. Voices float around me, discussing blankets and hot tea, who to call and what to do.
My head pounds a fast staccato beat before the floodgates release and I'm crying a river.
"Shh, I've got you, you're ok now" a gentle voice whispers. He whispers over and over until my eyes can shed no more. I push my head off his chest and recognize the dark blue eyes of Colton, Elijah's best friend.
My voice breaks as I try to push out the words past my itchy throat. "A fire. Elijah. Save him."
Colton runs his strong hands up and down my back, never letting go and eyes never wavering from my face.
Even in my smoky, sooty clothes, he doesn't care. Just holds me as if he has nothing better to do at 4 am.
My thoughts begin to blur as I look around at the people gathered in my home. My mother Pam, my dad Thayer, Colton, and Dr. Erickson, the chief psychiatrist in our little town of Smithburg.
'Where are the firefighters? Why isn't anyone scared of the fire.?
My hands tighten into fists and I force myself to remember the calming breaths Dr. Erickson taught me after Elijah's death.
He taught me....
'Elijah's death! He's gone!'
I scramble backwards now that Colton has loosened his hold on me. I jump up and back away from the concerned and pitying gazes of the people standing around me.
"The fire, my door...he's gone." The last is the cry of a wounded soul, begging for things to be different.
Moment by moment, the memories return. The phone call one year ago at 3:26 am. The sound of plastic shattering as my phone hit the hard floor. The bimonthly sessions with Dr. Erickson until two months ago when I refused to return, believing I was cured of my post traumatic stress disorder.
My knees buckle under me as I sink down in embarrassment and shame. Colton catches me before I hit the floor and holds me upright.
"I'm so sorry" I repeat, over and over, "I'm not better."
My family rush to reassure me that they are by my side and Dr. Erikson preserves a new medication he thinks will help with the traumatic flashbacks.
Colton, loyal friend and strong protector doesn't let me go. He is the lifeline bridging my past with my future, my last link to Elijah who was an only child, parents dead before he had even turned 20.
By 6 am everyone has gone home and I stand in the middle of my home office, amidst the broken pieces of wood and glass. I stand still, staring at the picture of Elijah which hangs on the wall behind my desk. His light brown eyes appear like flames of fire, beckoning my closer.
I step forward until my knees knock into the desk.
Then on a gentle breeze, I hear the faint sound of deep-belly laughter. "Let your light burn bright my sweet firefly, let your passions bring fire to the world."