Playing The Field
She sat in the mess, wondering why they bothered with the whole firefighting thing. True they saved more lives than they lost, but that was the hardest part. Loosing life, especially when it was one of their own. Someone they had all known for a while, one of the family, one of them…
"I want that one."
"But I like Strawberry flavour!"
"You can have the Orange one!"
"I don't want the Orange one do I! Ah go on, please… I'll be your bestest mate!"
"Um… well, only if we can swap players!"
"But I'm winning!"
"Will you two give it a rest!" she was beginning to get annoyed with them.
Hyper turned to look at her. "We're just messin, Sal…"
"Yeah, and one of our friends is lying critically ill in hospital, or had you forgotten!" she snapped.
"No, of course we haven't, but…"
She stood up from the table. "I can't believe you two are sat here arguing about sweets and a stupid game!" she stormed out.
"Sal…" Hyper tried calling after her.
"Do you think it was something we said?"
"Don't be thick, Hi-Ho," Hyper put down his game controller, having suddenly lost the enthusiasm for the game, and followed the direction Sally had taken.
Hi-Ho sighed and turned off the games machine as Maggie entered the mess.
"Mags," Hi-Ho was surprised to see her.
She looked as white as a sheet. He guessed she must have heard about the events of the previous evening.
"It was on the radio…" she started.
"Yeah," he went over to comfort her. "He'll be fine."
"I hope so. Do you think there's anything I can do?" she felt she had to do something.
"How about make us a cup of tea?" Hi-Ho suggested.
Maggie agreed. The kitchen was one area she felt useful.
"Sal?" Hyper had managed to catch up with her. "We were just trying to take our minds off things… I'm sorry…"
"No, I'm sorry," she started. "I know. I was just… it's so unfair. Why him? Why now?"
"Oh I don't know, Sal."
"How do you mean?"
"If you hadn't have been dealing with that hoax call, you would have been there wouldn't you?"
"You can't think like that Sal…"
"But it's the truth."
"Sal," he put his hands on her shoulders. "You can't blame yourself for what happened."
"But I was in charge…"
"There was only two of you to deal with a massive blaze," he reminded her. "It was an impossible situation, I'm sure you did your best."
"I could have done more, I let him down."
"Do you really believe that?"
"Oh I don't know, Rob, I don't know anything anymore…"
"Come here," he took her towards the empty dorm. "I know you've already discussed it with Coleman and Griggs, but do you want to tell me about it?"
"He blames me."
"He blames everyone except himself for everything that goes wrong in the world, you know that Sal," he reminded her. "Tell me what happened out there."
"You're not married are you?" Adam had found a pretty blonde woman to chat up.
"Just checking," he grinned. "Otherwise attached?"
"I have two kids and I live with my mother."
"No, I'm kidding."
"Oh yeah, right, yeah very funny. Do you fancy going out sometime?" he ventured.
"Um… well yeah."
"And where would we go?"
"I dunno, back to mine?"
"Well, yeah that sounds like a good idea, but I have one question."
"And what would that be?"
"Will two people fit under a rock!"
"Uh… Is that a no?"
"That's a no."
"Oh… but I thought you said you weren't married," he tried to argue.
"I'm not," she replied. "I'm very single and I'm flattered that you offered, but I just don't wanna go out with you. Sorry."
"Oh well," he shrugged it off. "Plenty more fish in the ocean."
He decided to leave the woman, as Sally was becoming impatient as she waited beside the ALP for him to finish arranging his social life.
"Do you ever stop?" she asked.
"What?" he pretended not to know what she was talking about.
"You, chatting up women. I thought you had a girlfriend."
"Yeah, for now. Who knows what might happen in the future…"
She shook her head.
"I thought you said you really liked Katy."
"Well yeah, but I say that about a lot of girls," he reminded her as they climbed back into the appliance.
"Yeah you do."
"What's this sudden fascination with my love life all of a sudden?" he demanded to know.
"I just think you should start treating women with a bit more respect. You can't go round chatting up other birds when you've already got a girlfriend!"
"I wasn't chatting up other birds," he tried to argue. "I was uh… playing the field."
She wasn't impressed.
"Ok… so maybe I was. But it's not really any of your business is it?"
"She just happens to be a friend of mine and I don't want to see her get hurt."
"Oh, so you're not jealous then?"
"Don't flatter yourself Adam."
He shrugged. "You've been on my case all day. What's going on?"
They were interrupted as a call came through over the radio. Sally took it. They were ordered to respond to a fire at a factory. Blackwall's pump ladder crew were on the other side of the ground, dealing with a fire that turned out to be a hoax call. The nearest crew were Shadbrook, who were also miles away.
Blackwall's ALP was the first appliance to arrive on the scene. A massive gas explosion had devoured most of the factory, which now lay in ruins in front of them. Dazed workers ran around like headless chickens, frantically searching for their friends. Adam and Sally glanced at each other.
They both knew neither of them had enough experience to deal with an incident on this scale by themselves. They also knew that they were the best hope these people had of survival. They vowed to do their best until relief arrived.
"The crèche… the crèche…" a woman was screaming, pointing to a partially demolished area of the building.
"My mate's under here!" another bloke was yelling.
"Adam, we don't know what's over there…" Sally tried to call him, but he had taken off in the direction of the crèche. "Adam, wait…" she managed to catch up with him.
"There's kids in there, Sal."
"Yeah, I heard… but…"
"I'm going in…" with that he was gone.
A further collapse of the unstable building meant she didn't see him again.
"The last thing I remember was when you pulled me out," she was telling Hyper the story.
"They got the kids out in time," Hyper reassured her.
"Good, all of them?"
"Yeah, there was no one in the crèche, they had finished for the day."
"Lucky for some."
"I would have done exactly the same in that situation," he told her.
"I let him go in, he shouldn't have…"
"Like he would have listened to you anyway! We'll go and see him later," Hyper promised. "You watch, he'll be up and about and moaning about hospital food!"
"Yeah," she wanted to believe his words.
"Yeah, you'll see," Hyper wanted to believe his own words.
He gave her a hug, wishing he could be sure that everything would be all right again.