Walking into Firebyknitedreams©
This story is the sequel to Taming Fire. To those of you who wanted me to continue on with Taming Fire: I'm sorry but it was completed in my mind and there was no way I could expound on it. To solve this problem, I interwove a little of Tessa's story in with Jessie's. There still might be a few errors in this story, but at least it wasn't as rushed as Taming Fire. Please enjoy and remember to vote and comment!
They pointed at him and called him monster. Danny Baker was just like any other twelve-year-old boy. He was gangly, unsteady on his feet as if unused to the body he was given, and he had the mysterious attributes of a metal spring, elastic and durable. There was only one physical trait, not of his body's doing, that earned him the name of monster by his fellow eighth grade peers.
He had burn scars on the left side of his face and body. His unruly dark, brown hair covered up the minimal scaring on the back of his skull. Yet the left eyebrow on his face was missing, the beginnings of ravaged, puckered skin replaced it going from his forehead down to his temple, spreading out across his cheek continuing down his neck, and disappearing into the collar of his shirt which hinted at more damage underneath his clothing. It was all courtesy of an unfortunate accident that happened when he was eight, an accident that took the life of his father.
It was a sad fact he was use to the name-calling, the looks of horror and revulsion. Danny continued eating his lunch at the back of the gym; it had been his preferred secluded lunch area since he arrived at the school. He had several such spots, but this one had a great view of the forest beyond the fence that marked the perimeter of the school grounds. Unfortunately, it was now compromised.
The leader his taunters must have seen the general direction of his escape, grabbed his buddies, and followed Danny to the spot just to call him monster repeatedly like a skipping record. He was saddened at the thought of never eating lunch at the picturesque spot in the future.
There was a commotion among the jeers. It grabbed Danny's wandering mind, dragging him firmly back to reality. He saw a girl, short even for her age, pushing her way through the crowd to the leader of the group. A bow was perched on her springy, strawberry blond curls. Her pretty green dress sparkled like emeralds. The shirt, distended by many frilly petty coats, swished as she walked. The buckled black shoes, with the lacey cuffed white socks, clipped violently on the pavement as she walked. She looked like an enraged porcelain doll.
She finally made it to the front of the crowd, to the leader who didn't notice her standing right behind him, hands on her hips, and a daggered glare coming from her beautiful green eyes. The boy continued his taunting, until the girl's hand clamped onto his shoulder and turned him around.
"Robby McDonovan, you're a heartless boy! Stop calling him a monster! I don't ever want to hear you call him a monster again!" Her voice was raised in anger; agitation enforced the steel behind every word she spoke. It had a stunning effect on Danny.
"You can't tell me what to do, Jess. My dad says the man's the boss in a relationship. So you have to do what I say, and I say either join in or back off!" The boy put his fists on his hips, and stood straighter in a bid to try and intimidate the girl.
Jess balled her fists, her glare turned to pure loathing. The boy stayed smug, sure that his dad was right and she had to capitulate to his wishes. She turned away from him, to his friends that stood well away from them.
"Leave!" The yell reverberated off the wall of the building making her voice sound like it belonged to a giant. The children turned tail and ran for their lives. Danny thought it odd that they should be afraid of her.
Jess whipped around, her fist in the air. It connected with the boy's nose and he went flying. He landed on his butt, his hands cradling his offended nose. Blood streamed down his face to stain his t-shirt.
With haughty disdain, she straitened the lose strand of hair that fell in her face and fussed with her dress. "I don't want to see you anymore. I don't like bullies and boys who think they're better than girls." She stepped over the shocked boy heading straight toward Danny.
Danny couldn't stop staring at the oddity, the porcelain doll that could punch like a boy. With both hands, she flattened her dress in the back and sat down next to him. She sat so close to him that her dress spilled over into his lap like froth spilling over the confines of the lip of a cup. He went to scoot over, to give her and her dress the space they seemed to need, but she latched onto his arm with a gentle yet firm grip.
She gave him a welcoming smile. "I'm Jess. What's your name?"
He took the time to scrutinize her to see if she was defending him and introducing herself out of pity. Only honesty and a hunger to meet the new kid sparkled within her eyes. Warmth from her touch spread from his arm and headed immediately to his heart. It was different from the type of warmth he felt from his mom whenever she hugged him. This was just as special as that, maybe more.
"I'm Danny. You didn't need to defend me like that. My mom always told me that if you ignored them, they would get bored and go away." His voice was scratchy from a day of disuse, causing him to clear his throat.
She looked at him as if he just popped out of nowhere. "Your mom's probably right, but I got rid of them faster and I made sure they're not going to bother you again." Without warning, she leaned in and started to trace the burn scar on his cheek with a finger.
Danny stiffened. No one, other than his mother, had ever touched his scars. The fact that he could FEEL her touch astonished him most. Ever since he was burned he hadn't feel much of anything on the left side of his body, but now he could acutely feel the lightness of her touch. He didn't know what to make of it.
"There you are!"
He tried to jerk away at the sound of the voice, their solitude intruded upon, but she only followed him. Jess didn't turn to look at the girl in the softball uniform, black hair in a ponytail, and blue eyes shinning with curiosity strolling toward them. She seemed to be fascinated by the different patterns his scars made.
"What do you need, Tess?" Her murmur puffed feather light onto his scars and he felt it. Everything that came from her, he felt. What did it mean?
The intruder sat on the other side of Danny, setting the burden of her baseball bag down at her feet. "I ran into your ex-boyfriend. He is your ex, right? You hit him and all."
Jess stopped touching him and turned her attention onto her friend. He missed the contact, yet was distracted by the fact that the stranger was sitting just as close to him as Jess was.
"Yeah, you were right. He's a jerk. I'll tell you what he said to me later," she made a face in remembrance. "This is Danny." She nodded her head in his direction.
Tess's eyebrows rose as she took in Danny. "You're cute. I can see why Jess dumped the retard. What did he do for the bloody nose?"
Jess shrugged her shoulders. "Called Danny a monster."
"Aaaaaahhhhh..." Tess replied as if the secrets of the universe were just told to her. "Jealousy to the point of name-calling. How childish can you get?"
Danny couldn't help feeling confused. Was Tess making fun of him or could she honestly not see the scars that marred his face? "He was calling me monster because of my scars."
Tess eyed him critically, Jess just flashed him a "you're dense" look. Then Tess nodded as if she agreed with Jess's unspoken comment.
"No. He called you monster 'cause you're cute. Oh! Before I forget, Mrs. Kinkade said to report to the principal's office. The jealous jerk went running to her after you flattened his nose. That's another detention and you know what your mom said about getting another one of THOSE." Tess started chewing on her nails as Jess sighed in resignation.
"I'll take the heat. At least it won't be detention for something pointless like missing a homework assignment." She got up and turned to leave.
Danny stood up in a hurry. "I'll go with you. I'll explain that you were defending me. Maybe he won't give you a detention."
"Cool." Said Tess. "If you get off the hook, how about going out to the diamond? We're going up against the Warriors today. You guys can cheer me on."
"Hey, Ted! Your wife's looking for you. Something about getting your butt home or you can scrounge for food for the next month." Tessa walked into the firehouse, hands in her pants pockets and her limp noticeable yet not detracting from her formidable height. Her jet-black hair was up in an interesting knot on the top of her head. She was dressed in her favorite t-shirt and jeans. Her blue eyes were only for her boyfriend.
Four men were sitting around a card table playing poker. Three of them were wearing the dark blue uniform of the firehouse while the other was wearing regular clothes. She walked up to her boyfriend of three years, Duncan, put her arm around him, and curiously looked at his cards.
While concentrating on his cards, she idly ran her hands through his slightly shaggy burgundy hair, wishing his intense amber gaze was resting upon her person and not perusing the cards in his hands. His tall, built frame was precariously perched on the folding chair.
Ted, in his regular clothes, puffed on his cigar as he decided what cards he wanted to discard. "As far as she's concerned I'm working on the fire truck engine."
"You could have pulled the wool over her eyes using that lie, but Debbie, your daughter, took my cell phone to tattle on you."
"Shit!" Ted used a colorful array of curse words as he smacked down his cards and stood up. "I hope it's not too late to bribe her into keeping her mouth shut."
"You might want to bribe your other daughter too. Jessie's dropping her off soon."
More curse words issued forth from the irate father. Tessa sighed her pleasure knowing that she was the cause of his displeasure. It was her idea that Debbie called her mother to tattle on her father. She never did like Ted and strove to make his life as painful as possible.
"That wasn't nice." Duncan had put down his cards and looked up at her.
She just smiled her pleasure at the thought of Ted trying to cook his own food for a month. If her Aunt wasn't in control of the bank account, he could have lived off of fast food. Life was good.
Excited talking intruded upon her thoughts. That would be Jessie and Frankie, Debbie's sister.
As soon as Jessie came into view of the card table, she threw her hands wide, throwing a winning smile for her unknowing audience. "Applause, applause... How can anyone not show their appreciation for such beauty?"
She posed, twisting in every direction to show off her clothes, her body. Her sleek black slacks hugged her curves, the tank top she wore under the black cropped blazer showed off the gold belly chain with the fire truck charm hanging near her belly button. The bouncy strawberry blond curls lovingly caressed her face and proceeded to cascade down to the middle of her back. Her baby blue eyes sparkled with the knowledge that she was beautiful despite her short stature and slightly plump build.
Standing to her right, posing the same way was Frankie. She looked like a Jessie miniature. Tessa's eyes nearly bugged out of their sockets, Frankie's hair was dyed to match Jessie's.
"You dyed her hair?! Are you trying to get me in trouble with my Aunt?"
Jessie waved away her friend's disgruntled aura. "I talked to her. She approved of it. When have I ever gotten you into trouble?" In a limp-wristed move, she placed the tips of the fingers of her right hand over her heart.
Tessa glared at her flamboyant friend and growled her annoyance. Just as she took a deep breath to list off the many times Jessie had gotten her in trouble, that well manicured right hand lifted in a halting gesture.
"Don't answer that. It was rhetorical. I must away to the lady's room!" She swept to the back of the firehouse the same way she entered into it, with a lot of style and flash.
Everyone watched her go except Tessa. She was so use to her friend's ways that they didn't catch her attention. Instead, she amused herself by watching the expressions on the faces of other people regarding the antics of her friend.
She speculatively viewed each person until her eyes lit upon Matthew Danvers. Everyone in the station called him "Mattie" because of his "pretty face." He wasn't young, he was actually thirty years of age, but his inability to grow a proper beard made him appear vastly younger.
From the eager, lustful look on his face he must have been the man that held Jessie's sexual interests for the week. Tessa pitied the man. Jessie normally had two types of men that chased after her: men who treated sex with the same abandon as she did, and men who had relationship on the mind. One had to give Jessie props. She did warn the men of her intentions right off. They were temporary back scratches. As soon as her particular itch as well scratched, she dumped the poor idiot and sought out another man to captivate her attention for a week.
If a man didn't except Jessie's terms, she walked away from them. So why would a man seeking a relationship from her agree to such terms? Because they had it in their heads that they would be the one to make her change her mind. They always walked away with a broken heart. Mattie would soon join their woeful ranks.
A call from the front of the station brought Tessa out of her reverie. Duncan grunted an inattentive "back here" before he set down two cards. Tessa turned to the newcomer, a smile of welcome gracing her face, and then it froze there. Her whole body tensed at the sight of the man working his way back to the card table.
Duncan, feeling her tension, set his cards face down on the table again and looked up at her. He noticed her unnatural paleness, looking as transparent as a ghost. In concern, he got up from his chair and put a hand on her shoulder as he looked across the way to the newcomer who also looked frozen in place.
He didn't look like Tessa's type, and Duncan would know being her boyfriend for all of three years and her close friend for the two before that. The man was taller than the average man, maybe a few inches shorter than Duncan. He was stockier, no doubt obsessively lifted weights to make up for the inches he lacked. His hair was cut close to his head; even from a distance Duncan could make out the faint outline of scaring underneath. The man's brown eyes never blinked, they were permanently fixed on Tessa. He wasn't all that different from ordinary, if it hadn't been for the missing eyebrow and burn scars along his face and throat, no one would have noticed him if they passed him on the street.
It was the newcomer who managed to regain his composure first. "Hi, Tess. How have you been?" The pleasantry was mumbled, given the impression that he knew he would run into her, but had planned to put it off as long as he was able. Her appearance at the firehouse was entirely unexpected.
When she remained quiet and unmovable, Duncan squeezed her shoulder in comfort. "Do you know him?"
Tessa took a deep breath. "Yeah, I do." Then to the newcomer, "Hi, Danny. I've been well, I'm sorry that I won't be able to say the same for you."
An audible gasp could be heard near the rear of the station. Jessie always did have good timing. Everyone saw that Danny seemed to be having trouble breathing; his eyes were glued to one person and were reluctant to leave the sight. All eyes turned to Jessie, she seemed to be carved of marble.
Tessa clutched Duncan's hand on her shoulder. She felt like she should do something, but had no idea what. Unfortunately, a witty joke wouldn't be appropriate. All that was left was to watch and see what happened. She just hoped that the thick tension wouldn't kill her.
Jessie started forward, hesitant at first, but then with determination. The glow that normally suffused her being had dimmed like clouds covering the sun. Her eyes were out of focus, as if she were drawn unwillingly into the past. She stopped a few feet away from Danny. Her right hand lifting up, one finger distended to touch the scars on his cheek yet not quite reaching.
Then something changed. A stone was thrown into the calm pool that was her senses, ripples breaking out over her body. Her hand drew back, and then returned with a vengeance in the form of a fist that connected with his eye.
Caught off guard, Danny stumbled back and lost his balance, landing with a dull thud on the concrete floor. He looked up at Jessie stunned as she straightened her hair and cloths. Her megawatt smile restored to her, she turned to Mattie and fluttered her fingers at him. Then left the firehouse, stepping over Danny in the process.
"Welcome back, Danny. Here are some frozen peas for your eyes." Tessa placed the generic brand plastic bag on his eye until he took over holding it.
He sighed heavily. "I expected worse."
She sat next to him on the couch, a soda in her hand. After Jessie punched him, the fire alarm sounded. Everyone rushed around Danny's prone figure to gear up and leave. Duncan suggested that she tend to their new fireman. It turned out that Danny had transferred from another state and wasn't to start work for a few days.
She managed to pick the man up off the floor just as Ted angrily strolled into the evacuating building with Deb slung over his shoulder. He shoved her cell phone at her, and then packed Frankie under his arm like a sack of potatoes. She could hear Frankie's shrill protests that he was wrinkling her clothes over the ruckus of the station.
They waited until all the fire trucks had cleared before she drove Danny back to her apartment. It was a quiet ride. Tessa honestly didn't know what to say to him. Now that she had time to gather her thoughts, questions floated to the surface of her racing mind.
"I think the reason you're not in the hospital is because you surprised her. Like you surprised me. Why did you come back?" She opened the can of soda and started sipping from it wishing she had some Jack Daniels to go with it.
"I came back for her." He said quietly under his breath, but she still heard him.
She put her soda down on the coffee table. Where did Duncan keep his secret stash of alcohol in her apartment? "It would be smart for you to shove yourself into the hole you crawled out of. She doesn't want to have anything to do with you." She pointedly looked at his blackened eyes covered in frozen peas, "Obviously."
"That's too damn bad." Danny gritted out between his teeth. He threw the frozen peas down onto the coffee table narrowly missing the soda. "I made a mistake ten years ago and I intend to fix it."
"You mean the mistake of dumping her on her ass just to make it with a cheerleader? That clichéd mistake?" Sarcasm dripped from every word she spoke. It was obvious that she still considered him scum.
He got up and started to pace in front of her. "I was young and I let the attention go straight to my head. For obvious reasons, I wasn't use to people wanting to befriend me."
Tessa barely kept herself from kicking the coffee table. The thought of what happened ten years ago still pissed her off. "Half of them only liked you because Jessie would have beat the crap out of them if they didn't show you some respect. The other half just wanted you to do their homework. Our cheerleaders weren't exactly known for their scholarly minds."
Danny looked at her askance. "She goes by Jessie these days?"
She stomped her foot in impatience, immediately regretting the action because it caused her bum knee pain and it was childish. "Yeah, she is. I know go by Tessa, and you probably go by another version of your name too. It's called growing up. Focus!"