March 16, 2009



All she could remember was seeing the wallpaper with pink ribbons on it curling in a sickening black and brown fringed by orange go past, followed by the feeling of flight. As suddenly as she'd seen the wallpaper, she was just as soon sailing out the second floor window into the dark, cool mist of the night.

As she hit the ground with a heavy thud that knocked the wind out of her, she struggled to her elbows, fighting for breath. and noticed a smell that seemed familiar but was much stronger than she had ever remembered it. It was the smell of the fireplace that her father so carefully tended during the first few chilly nights of fall.

Looking up at her window, she could see the figure of her father, peering through the smoke to see if she was alright. He called to her through coughs that he was going back in to help her mother. She could hear the panic in his voice and noticed that her brother and mother were nowhere to be seen around her. He disappeared back into her room while she stared on in horror at the plumes of smoke rising into the night. She knew that he would be ok. He was a policeman. He always came home.

As she went to the front of the house, she could hear the sirens coming as the flames leaped out of the front windows. The neighbors were there but didn't seem to noticed her as they were entranced by the flames. The next thing she remembered was the sickening sound that would haunt her. She watched as the front door began to collapse in on itself. Through the brief break in the flames, she could see all three of them on the stairs that were beginning to sag.

The sirens wails grew louder and the firemen began hosing down the conflagration as fast as possible and she would sometimes see her father holding onto her brother and mother protectively, encouraging them to hold on a little longer. But it was too late. She knew it and she could see the tears in her fathers eyes. He knew it too.

A jerk suddenly snapped her out of her quiet stare as an ambulance worker placed her into the back of an ambulance, brushing her brown hair out of her face and asking her questions. She silently stared back at him, not knowing how, or what to say.

Two years later, she sat in the coffee shop against a painted brick wall in Chicago with the half eaten pastry and a small cup of milk sitting on the table next to her. She had fallen into a quiet sleep. The blue lights around her didn't bother her sleep though. She knew what they were. Her smile was that of one who was at peace. She opened her eyes and knew the arms of her mother were around her while her father leaned against the wall, watching for any kind of out of the ordinary activity, just like he always had.

She could see the light glow of her younger brother fiendishly giggling at a thirty-something business man trying to flirt with a twenty year old cashier. Mary knew that her brother was always up to something. She could see his hands near the tip jar while the blushing cashier shied away from the older mans advances. Just like when he'd try to get into the cookie jar.

Her family had never been lost to her. People tried to tell her as gently as they could that her family had gone on a long trip, but she knew better. But she also knew that they were there standing around her and smiling while those people tried to tell her they weren't there. They were always there.

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