Jane fell backwards, landing on the ground with a painful thud. She barely noticed. She watched with dazed eyes as the house burned, it was going up quickly, much faster than she ever would have expected. She didn’t think anyone was coming, even if they were they wouldn’t make it, not in time to save the house. The roar of the fire drowned out all other noise save for the occasional pops and crashes that emerged from the house. Thick black smoke was rolling into the sky. The wind shifted, blowing the smoke into her face, Jane covered her suddenly streaming eyes as she started to cough. The wind shifted again, sending the smoke away from her. When the coughing stopped her throat felt raw and scratchy. She jumped as there was another loud crack, then the roof gave way, sending ash, dirt and dust exploding from the house. Jane winced and covered her head as the cloud blew over her, bits of splintered wood and hot ash peppering her skin and clothes. She raised her head and looked at the burning rubble. It was gone, it was really, really gone. She giggled once, then started to cough again. The fire was starting to die down a little. She wasn’t sure how long it had been raging for. It had been early morning when it started, wasn’t it? She looked up at the sky, a dull grey, was it already sunset? Could she have been sitting here for that long? She looked down at her watch dully, she had been watching for almost three hours. In the distance she could finally hear the sirens approaching. She stood carefully and stumbled, her legs were numb, after a few seconds pins and needles shot up and down both. Slowly she limped from the driveway and off to one side, there she leaned against a tree and waited. It wouldn’t do to be run over by the very people sent to rescue her.
The sirens were louder than she would have thought, particularly after the fire. They hurt her ears a little. The lights were much brighter too. She squinted, her skin felt tight and a little sore. She reached up gently and touched her face. It felt hot. Had she been burned? She realised how thirsty she was, how dry her lips and throat were. Someone was standing in front of her, dressed in yellow, They were speaking but it took her a moment to understand. She nodded as they asked if she was ok, she was, wasn’t she? She didn’t have any injuries, at least she didn’t think she did. Was there anyone else in the house? No, it had just been her as far as she knew. Someone was helping her, guiding her over to somewhere. They sat her down and two people started fussing over her, she tried to tell them she was fine until one of them gave her a bottle of juice, so Jane contented herself with sipping it from the straw. It tasted good, and it was cold.
They asked her questions, but she wasn’t sure how to answer. The day seemed to be a bit of a blur. She wasn’t sure when the fire started, or how, she only knew that she was able to get out of the house. Her hands had burns on them, it must have happened during her escape. Maybe the doorknobs or something. She didn’t recall having to open any doors, but she didn’t recall actually leaving the house either. The last thing she could really remember properly was brushing her hair and running through a list of things that needed to be done, then she was outside, sitting on the ground as everything in front of her burned. They asked if she had someone to call, and while Jane was sure she did have someone to call, she didn’t know who. She had friends, she knew that, she had some very good friends too, but their names seemed to be just out of reach. It took her almost five minutes to remember Anna’s name and another ten to recall her phone number. Jane didn’t feel to bad about that though, who remembered phone numbers these days? They were all in her phone after all. Her phone that had been sitting on the nightstand. Her phone that had burned with the house and the rest of her belongings. The enormity of what had happened hit her and she spent the next few hours in a daze, even deeper than the one she had been in.
Anna was sitting across from her, both of them were picking at their food, not really eating. Some movie was playing on the TV, Jane knew she had been given a choice, but she couldn’t remember what she had chosen. She took a bite of her food, they were eating Chinese. She liked Chinese. Her hands felt clumsy and sore, they were both wrapped in bandages and her face still felt tight, only now there was pain too, like she had a mild sunburn. When they finished eating, Anna cleared away the plates, forcing Jane to stay seated. She returned with snacks, chocolate, ice cream and soft drink. Jane hadn’t eaten much dinner and she picked at the goodies as well. She didn’t really want any, but Anna had gone to so much trouble it almost felt ungrateful not to eat any of it.
Jane didn’t sleep that night, at least it felt like she didn’t. She spent the night tossing and turning, trying to get comfortable, to ignore the dull throb in her hands, the almost gentle by comparison sting of her face. She knew she needed to sleep, that it would be a long, long day tomorrow, but that just made it all worse. Anytime she closed her eyes for longer than a few minutes she could see the flames and the almost impossibly loud roar filled her ears again. What if she hadn’t gotten out? What if she had done something even slightly differently? Jane shuddered and then threw the blanket off herself, she was suddenly far, far too hot.
Morning took forever to come, but when it did it came far too quickly. She dragged herself out of bed and into the bathroom, eyes blurry and puffy, she showered, scrubbing at her skin, trying to remove the faint traces of smoke that still remained in her skin and hair. It felt as though she’d never get that smell to leave her alone. When she was done, Jane stood in front of the bathroom mirror, staring at herself, her skin on her face looked slightly better, it would heal up in another day or two. She looked herself in the eyes, trying to steel herself for the day to come. Finally, she took a deep breath, looked away and opened the door.