Claire turned off the shower and reached for her towel. She could hear the sirens outside in the street. “What now? For God’s sake, can’t we have one normal day?” She picked up a second towel and rubbed her hair with it. She used the same towel to wipe the steam from her mirror. Her reflection disturbed her. The stress of the past few days had taken its toll, her eyes didn’t have their normal vibrant shine.
She reached for her makeup and began hiding the damage. Her phone rang from the other room. It must be Rachel, probably wants to know what I want with my coffee. She mused at her new friend’s personality. Her phone continued to sing Moon Shadow. She let it go to a message, and continued to prepare herself for the day.
It was an important one, the bill had no chance of passing, but it was a strong symbolic message to send to the country. She’d get through the vote, then go watch Rachel do her show. A warm feeling came over her. “Then we get to go see Eve.” Her smile faded when Moon Shadow sounded off again.
“Damn, I’m almost done.” She finished the face paint, then combed through her hair while thinking of the perfect suit to wear for the vote.
She left the bathroom and heard more noises from the street. Looking out the window, she saw the fire trucks, police cars, and then her eyes zeroed in on her friend, Kurt. Fear struck through her, and then she smelled the smoke. Finally, she smelled the burning fire!
Kurt was waving at her, holding up his phone, pointing at it. Moon Shadow began playing again. This time she raced for her phone, where was it? She followed the sound, and saw it lying on the kitchen counter.
“Kurt, what the hell is going on? Is the fire in my building? Tell me what’s going on!”
“Listen to me, Claire. Do not open any windows, do not open your door. Use towels to block any air seepage. You’re going to be fine until we can get someone up there to take you out. Do not panic, dear lady! You’re invincible, you got that? I’m not about to lose you today, understood? Stay on the phone, Claire. I’ll keep you informed.”
She heard him yell an order at someone. She could hear it all with the connection open. She put the phone on speaker and ran for towels.
When she returned, she heard Kurt screaming from her phone. She threw a towel down in front of the door, kicking it to cover the crack of light behind it. She grabbed her phone and yelled into the phone. “Kurt, what?”
“Damn it, Claire. Keep the phone with you.”
“I was doing what you told me to do, Kurt. What now?”
“I want you to stand under the shower. Wet yourself down. Then wet down a blanket. They’re on their way up. Stay away from the door, do you hear me Claire?”
“Yes.” Her mind was racing, she had to work fast. His tone was saying more than his words. She ran to her room, threw on her clothes, and went to the shower. All her hard work to look good washed down the shower drain.
She stepped out from the water and went for a blanket. After she soaked it, she looked around her home. What does one grab when everything is about to go up in flames?
Rummaging through her bottom drawer, she found the photo of her and Trista. They were so young, somewhere around eight and ten. Next she grabbed her purse, and computer. She found a food bag in the kitchen and ran back to the bedroom to load it with her possessions.
Someone was hitting her door, they were here to save her! “Kurt, they’re here, I can hear them striking something at my door!”
“That’s the sound of an axe, Claire. It’s time to wrap yourself in that blanket. Make their job as easy as you can, Sweetheart. When that door comes open, you’re going to see lots of flames. Just do everything they say, Claire. This is no time to be obstinate, do you hear me?”
Claire didn’t have time to answer. Her door suddenly had a gaping hole in it with a Martian-like creature in a mask standing outside in the hall. “I’m over here!” She screamed at the man. He ran to her and quickly put a mask over her head. He put his arms around her and lifted her as if she were a child being carried to bed. Swiftly, he took her into the inferno. Claire could hear herself breathing, the sound exaggerated by the constraint of the inhalation apparatus.
She saw massive flames ahead of them and wondered what he would do. How’s he going to get around them?
He kept running, her weight seeming to not matter to him. He took her directly into the flames! She pulled the wet blanket over the exposed parts of her body and prayed. Yes, Claire prayed. An absolute Agnostic and here she was doing this thing. Who am I talking to, God? In spite of her impending death, she laughed at herself. So this is what it’s like to die, or hopefully, in my case, have a near death experience.
Claire closed her eyes and saw Trista, Trista with the gun pointed to her head. Did she not hesitate? What went through her mind?
Then she heard cheering. Firemen, police were everywhere. She felt her savior gently put her down and take off her breathing mask. He smiled at her and put his gloved hand on her cheek. He had a tear in one eye.
“Claire!” She saw Kurt running up to her.
“Kurt,” he smothered her with a hug. Then he released her and stared into her eyes, “What the hell is happening, Claire? You are a one-woman tornado lately.”
He interrupted her. “Come on, let’s get you to the hospital.” He put his hand on her back and began to coax her to the ambulance.
Claire curled her toes so he couldn’t move her, she felt as though she had dug them into the pavement. “Not on your life, Mister. Take me to the Senate Rotunda. I have a vote to make.”
“What?” Kurt put his head back and laughed. He knew he would lose the battle so instead, he pointed to where his car was parked. “Come on, Senator. Let’s get going.”
Kurt slowly drove the car through the street, and signaled for his men to let him through the yellow tape and cones that barricaded them from freedom.
“Kurt, stop.” Claire pointed to the side of the road. She rolled down the window and yelled, “Rachel, Mac. Over here.”
They crawled into the back seat, and Rachel began passing out coffee. “I hope you like it luke warm.” She stared at Claire for a moment, and then said, “Jesus, aren’t you a sight. Is that a new makeup job, Lady?”
Kurt chuckled, “You don’t know the best of it, we’re headed to the Senator’s Chamber so she can prance in, soot and all, to place her vote.”
Claire worked to hide her feelings from the others. The lump in her throat was threatening to cause an eruption of tears. She knew if it started, there would be no end in sight. Her body would go into convulsions if she didn’t stop the almost inevitable. She took a deep breath, hiding her fear and weakness had to be suppressed. The air filled her lungs, and while she exhaled, she raised her head, and smiled to the others. She looked at Rachel and forced a smile.
“Hey, Rachel. Think I can spend the night at your hotel suite tonight, and maybe a few beyond, maybe weeks?”
“Sure, and tell you what. I’ll upgrade to a two bedroom.” She looked at Mac. “What do you say, ol’ pal? Does a change sound good to you?”
Kurt found a place to park, and stepped out of the car with the rest of the entourage.
Claire looked at them, and shook her head. “I can do this one by myself, folks. Kurt, please take Rachel home. I’ll meet you there later, Rachel.” She handed over her treasures that had escaped with her. “Please take these things with you.”
Claire began her walk, no shoes, her clothes torn and covered with soot. Her hair was wet, her face decorated like a chimney sweep. The others followed closely behind. Claire stopped abruptly, causing the trio to run into her.
“Oh, come on! This is about as silly as it gets.”
“Yes it is, Claire.” Kurt put his arm around her and smiled. “Come on, Senator.”
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