Fateful Day

It was a cool autumn day. The deciduous trees were turning yellows and oranges. Rain started pouring down as the wind picked up, causing the firs and pines to dance, waving their branches back and forth as if they were arms. The spinners in the yard were doing their own dances. Temperatures began to drop.

Rachel, sitting inside her home, watched the changes through her picture window. Suddenly Rachel remembered another picture window long ago that she had looked out of from the back of a couch. It was the most horrible day in Rachel’s life. The day had started well enough.

It was the summer before Rachel’s fifth birthday and she and her sister Bonnie, who was not quite two years old, were playing in the living room of their mother’s old sorority house. The house was a large one with lots of bedrooms, and Rachel and her family had come from their home in Louisiana for a summer vacation so her mother could attend a sorority reunion. Since classes had not yet started at UCLA, the sorority house was empty, allowing the returning sorority sisters and their families to stay there for the week of the reunion.

The evening before the fateful day there had been a big party. Rachel and Bonnie had been put to bed early and slept through the party. The next morning they were playing downstairs as usual, making houses out of blankets, giggling and having a good time. Pretty soon however, their father came in to say that their mom was sick and they were making too much noise so she couldn’t sleep. He said maybe they should go out for the day. Rachel thought that was a great idea and begged for the beach so they could build sand castles.

Rachel, Bonnie and their dad had a wonderful day at the beach staying until late in the afternoon. They returned to the sorority house, but as they approached they saw a lot of fire trucks and people standing around staring. The sorority house was on fire. Rachel’s father slammed on the breaks, grabbed Bonnie and hollered to Rachel to hurry, and put them in the house across the street from the sorority house before charging toward the burning house.

Rachel raced to the living room where there was a couch in front of a large picture window. Climbing onto the couch and looking out the window, she could see her father running around checking with the onlookers searching for her mother, but she wasn’t there. Rachel just knew instinctively that her mother was still inside, and her father must have realized that also because he was fighting his way through the crowds and into the sorority house where Rachel realized her mother was sleeping. She watched the fire fighters trying to stop her father, but he was determined. Pushing and shoving he made his way through the front door. Rachel was very scared. The house was burning fast with flames everywhere.

Soon her father came staggering out of the burning house alone. His hands were badly burned and the medics treated him. Rachel doesn’t remember anything after that, but in her mind she still can see the flames dancing against the sky on that hot August day. Picture windows, especially when things are waving outside, easily bring back that fateful day so long ago.

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