Dare(3)

By: Allie Juliette Mousseau



“I KNOW YOU’RE SCARED, BUT I’M GOING TO GET YOU OUT OF HERE, OKAY?”

“Okay.”

I move toward the small voice. “WHAT’S YOUR NAME?”

“Bailey.” He doesn’t sound much older than six or seven.

Now, I’m in his room. I can still see the blue of the wall paint behind the fire and a toy box with strewn toys in the corner, but I can’t see much else. The room is filling with smoke fast.

“I need to find you, Bailey,” I say urgently while trying to make my voice confident. But time is of the essence.

He doesn’t answer. I quickly check under the bed. Nope.

“I have a puppy outside—a black and white spotted Dalmatian, just like in 101 Dalmatians.” The closet door is on fire. I open it wide as it literally deteriorates in my hand. I don’t see him. I push through the smoke and the clothes. “Do you want to go see him?”

“Yes.” The voice comes from behind me.

“Buddy, you’ve got to tell me where you are.”

The heat is unbearable. I’m using my helmet’s light, but the smoke is so thick now I can only faintly make out where the window is because of the fire trucks’ lights bouncing off the walls.

“I … I’m s-s-scared,” his voice stutters.

I rush in the direction of the sound, and there he is, lying in the bottom of the empty toy box, clutching a teddy bear.

“Hey, Bailey.” I smile. “Don’t be scared, I know the way out.”

Lifting him out of the toy box, I hug him close to me before I put my boot through window and begin kicking as much glass out of the frame as I can. A moment later a fireman’s hands reach through to us. I hear the floor beneath me groan in protest, as if it’s demanding a sacrifice. I shove the boy into the safety of waiting arms, but before I can see the other firefighter’s face clearly, I feel my body break through the floor as it plummets into the hungry fire below.



******



I hate hospitals more than most people do, but I try hard not to think of the reason for that; it won’t help my situation.

My chief is pissed. My trainers are pissed. My brothers are pissed. The only reason my parents aren’t pissed is because they’re in Europe, and I swore my brothers, Caleb and Jake, along with my brother-in-law Nate to secrecy. That included not sharing the news with their significant others. I don’t need more people in here telling me what I did was stupid or heroic or asking me what the fuck I was thinking.

My actions had been neither stupid nor heroic; I had simply been doing my job. I found out later that the “asshole” had been staying with the little boy while his mother was at work—they’d been dating for a couple weeks. Douchebag had been wasted on God knows what when he fell asleep with a lit cigarette. Apparently, he didn’t want to admit that he’d gotten himself out and left the kid, so he thought it’d be better just not to mention him—the kind of logic that only makes sense to someone who’s wasted.

I’ve been positioned onto my stomach for the past few days as my back heals. I get to watch what’s going on around me through a mirror placed under my face. I can still see my chief perfectly as he’s standing next to me, reaming me a new one, though.

When he’s finished I say, “Just make sure the kid gets to see the puppies at the firehouse.” I wheeze in a breath. “Better yet, give him one.”

“Josh, you make me a fucking lunatic!” The chief leans down toward my ear. “You came too close to dying. Maybe you can exhibit a little more self-control next time.”

“Did the kid live?” I rasp out.

“Yeah, the kid lived, smartass,” the chief concedes. “Get better, son.”

The fall had given me a couple hairline fractures in my spine, and I had pulled muscles in my right leg and arm.

After the chief leaves, I have to deal with the real heavy hitters, my training team. I hear them walk into the room and wait for a new round of lectures. In three months, I have a main card fight to defend my title against Patrick Dalloway.

“Good thing you’re in such great shape, North. The doctor said it’ll only take a few weeks to recover from the muscle strains. Same with your back, but you’re going to have to take it easy and won’t be able to start heavy training again until next month,” Coach grits through his teeth in frustration.

I groan. No training for a month sounds ridiculous. I’m sure I can push up that date.

“Don’t even think about pushing up that date or trying to help speed things along,” he barks, reading my mind. “You’re still a man made of flesh and bone like the rest of us.”

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