Being in the Fire Was Betterbybillwendel©
We'd had a bad one today. The gong of the alarm went off right at 5am on that October morning and we had hustled to get kitted up in our gear, Matt and Tommy once again racing each other to see who could be geared up and ready at the trucks first. The rookies of course had problems getting up at the gong, it takes awhile to get used to. I was up already, I rarely slept later than 3:30 anymore. Fucking insomnia. We hit the trucks and headed out to the fire.
Me and Ricky were partnered as usual. Ricky was a good guy. I'd met him when I first joined the department and he had helped me get used to the routine of the firehouse. He had been married but on the rocks when I first met him. I later was his best man for his second marriage, and he was mine for my wedding. We headed into the four story burn as search and rescue. This building was known illegal housing for mainly bums and street orphans. Thing is for us, lives are lives. We don't care who you are, rich or poor, we come for you. And we will get you out. We had others with us be we preferred to send them to one floor while we took another. They were made up of mainly rookies and we didn't want to take them into the hotter floors. You have to learn to walk before you learn to run kind of thing.
By the way, my name is Eric if it matters.
"Eric, any idea how many are in here"?
"Nobody said. But judging from the walk up I think most of them probably got out already".
We were on the third floor looking for survivors. The heat was bad but bearable and we had plenty of air in our tanks to breathe. We walked a bit more on three with no signs of people then headed to the fourth floor. The water coming in from outside was finally doing some good against the fire but we still had to be careful. Reports from below were that three had been found still alive and carried out. No fatalities so far. Not bad considering we had four floors burning. But Fate likes to get your hopes up.
Ricky saw them. What looked like a mother and her child collapsed on the floor. As he ran to them I got on the radio, turning toward our exit to make sure it was still clear. Force of habit. Training makes things automatic.
"We got two on the fourth floor. Bringing them down now. Everyone to the fourth for survivors. Fires been cooled". I shouted into the mike. Fucking radios are sketchy at best in buildings. Have to shout to be heard.
There wasn't much noise. Just the sound behind me of "Woomph". And then I turned to see an entire concrete wall had exploded and buried Rick and the woman and her child. I didn't even think. I rushed over and started grabbing and throwing chunks of brick and mortar. I could feel my hands burning but I ignored it. I had to get Ricky out. I was still pulling at the pile when the others got to us. They tried but there was too much and the breathing room we'd gotten from the hoses outside had dwindled. Suddenly the fire was rebuilding itself and the heat was increasing. They grabbed me to haul me back downstairs but I fought them. Kicking, hitting and screaming.
I was grabbed and forced out of the building. The call had come in, the building was now in danger of collapse and everyone out. All I can remember was trying to get back to Ricky. He had to be still alive. He couldn't die. The woman and her child at that point weren't even in my thoughts. But I had to get back to Ricky and get him out.
Then next half hour is blanked in my mind. I remember fighting on the third floor to get back to Ricky and then the next thing is sitting in an ambulance having my hands bandaged. Fortunately I hadn't hurt my hands too bad, second degree burns, but they still needed to be seen too and I was told to get them looked at by my doctor as soon as possible. I didn't pay the EMTs any mind. All I could think about was Ricky. I couldn't believe he was gone. I had loved him like he was my brother and now he was gone. I would have to attend his funeral. Christ, I was going to have to tell his wife. I didn't want anyone else to do it. Better me, someone thought of as family, than some unknown face.
By this time it was maybe 8am. I wasn't keeping track at that point. Too much had happened. I didn't even knock. I just walked into their house, Ricky and Carlee's. Carlee was already up and working in the kitchen. She saw me when I walked in. One look at my face and she collapsed. I was next to her in an instant, crying with her. We held each other for I don't know how long.
"Please tell me this is some sick joke, please."
"I'm sorry Carlee, I'm so sorry."
I held her for a while longer then helped her up and into bed. I stayed with her long enough to make sure she was asleep. When she wakes up later there will be a note from me promising to be there for her anytime she needs. Anything she needs. I love her like a sister just as I loved Ricky as a brother.
I left Ricky's house and went for a drive. I needed time to relax and try to get my head back together before I went home to Maria. I couldn't face her right now. I was too broken up. Pride is a problem of mine. I didn't want Maria to see me too broken up. I needed to get it together at least a little bit. I needed Maria to help keep me together and help me get past this but I had to try to pull it together at least a little. I stopped by a café for some coffee, not my usual thing but I needed something at that point and being an alcoholic I don't drink any more. Caffeine would have to do. Once my nerves were steadied, I went home.
I got home a good two hours earlier than usual. I had to fumble with the key because of the bandages but eventually was able to unlock the door and head in. Maria's car was here so I knew she was home. I was halfway up the stairs when I started to hear it. Moans and groans and pants, Oh my! I paused when I got to the top of the stairs. I was really hoping that I had things wrong. After this morning I didn't need any more bad news. But as I approached the bedroom I was forced into reality. The bedroom door wasn't even closed. All I had to do was peer in.
There was my loving wife being fucked by Carlee's brother, Carl. I just leaned against the doorframe listening to them. I don't really know why. Shock probably. I didn't get excited by it. I was saddened. Here was the end to my marriage and I just wanted closure. I listened for about 5 minutes before Maria saw me standing there.
"Oh my god, get off me. Get off me now!"
"Babe, what's up? We have another hour at least."
I stayed where I was, watching her try to get out from under a man twice her weight in muscle who hadn't yet seen me.
"Carl." I said "Your sister needs you. Her husband died today in a fire. Right now she needs family."
I really wanted to just walk in and throw him thru the fucking window but just couldn't bring myself to do it. The look on his face seeing me just standing there would have been priceless if I didn't understood the price being paid. He hurriedly got off the bed and put his clothes back on then edged past me thru the door. I never made a move on him.
"Ricky's dead?" Maria asked
I nodded "Yes. A wall collapsed on top of him and the victims he was rescuing. I bet his wife wasn't busy fucking someone else while he died." I left her with that while I went to the guest bedroom. I needed sleep. I locked the door and fell into bed.
I slept thru the day and woke up again around 3am. Waking up that early isn't all bad. I lay in bed and think about life. The way it is and the way it could have been. Those hours between 3 and when I have to get up at 7am are spent contemplating my life. The good and bad and how it could be better. They are comfortable hours. This morning tho they were hell. I remembered that Ricky is gone and that my marriage is over. I remembered that Ricky and my marriage were all I had. I have no children. I have a few friends, but Ricky and my wife Maria were my best friends. Now I'm alone. Ricky's widow will need me as a friend for awhile but how long will that last? And how long will I be able to cope with Carl without beating the shit out of him, not something that Carlee needs to put up with right now.
I had to get away to get my head together. I called and found a hotel that rents by the week. Rent is kind of steep but I had to get away and I had put some cash aside. As soon as I was sure Maria was gone, after all, she had been waiting for me since before I woke up. I could hear her outside the door waiting, I headed to the bank. I emptied half our accounts into a personal account I created. Then killed all my credit cards. Maria was responsible for her own. I didn't think she would do anything to hurt me financially but I couldn't take the chance. After all, at one time I didn't think she would ever do anything to hurt me.
I didn't go to an attorney immediately, I just didn't have it in me. I still loved her. I just couldn't find a way to forgive her and I sure as hell couldn't forget what she had done. So I went on in my own personal hell. I was given two weeks leave for personal time after Ricky died. I took it to try to get my head together. And as much as I hate myself for it, I can't deal with any excuse she has for her actions. I haven't even tried to listen to her excuses. Maybe that's my pride stepping in again. I don't know.
What I know is that there were two people I could depend on. One died. The other betrayed me. And I have absolutely no idea what to do. Christ, I wish I had died in the fire instead of Ricky. He had a wife that loves him. Turns out I don't.
Anyone who wishes to improve or imbellish this story is welcome to. I'm not claiming any copywrite. This is the best I could do. If someone can do better then please do. Also feel free to add to the story for a happy or unhappy ending. Don't bother asking my permission. Just do it.