To my left, I heard my father yelling, to the right, my mother was sobbing. All around I could hear exposions, but I couldn't see anything. The smoke was too thick. In a moment, I knew I would feel the flames licking at my flesh, I knew that I would fall to the same fate that had already half-taken my parents. Their screams told me that the flames had reached them.

I finally did start to feel the burning, but I didn't scream. I just ran, ran through the burning house, looking for any source of light, any way out. The house was shaking, now, I could feel it. It was going to collapse on me, it was going to kill me.

I fell to my knees, the floor's splintered wood digging into my skin. Parts of the ceiling were caving in. I really thought I was going to die, for a minute. And then I saw the tiniest pinhole of light. The new hope gave me the strength to stumble over to it, and I realized it was a window, black with soot. Almost screaming in relief, I forced my hand through, ignoring the shards of glass.

In school, we learned that humans will do absolutely anything to survive. It's instinct. We can't kill ourselves by holding our breath, because when we actually faint, our brain automatically commands our body to start breathing.

It was that same survival instinct that got me out of that house.I broke the window frames, and shattered the glass. I somehow pulled my body through the tiny window, and dropped to the grass below. Another bomb fell somewhere, giving the house the final push. It collapsed, extinuishing my mother's screams. I felt myself fainting, but right before I slipped into the darkness, I saw a pair of grey eyes, acompanied with a handsome face.

Gale Hawthorne.


Warmth, light, soothing cold. Soft murmuring voices, good smells, comfort.

I cracked my eyes open, not knowing where I was, but wanting to see all of those wonderful things.

"She's awake." I heard someone say softly. "Quick, get a nice cool cloth."

I opened my eyes wide, now, wanting to see who it was.

"Mother?" I asked, my voice rasping. "Is that you?"

And then it all came back, my mother burning to death right in front of me, her anguished cries ringing out even above the roar of the flames. I don't know why, or how, but my jaw clamped up. I tried to stop the tears from forming, but to no avail.

I was lying on a threadbare couch in a little living room. The light was coming from three large windows, as well as a small lamp on the table next to me. A blanket rested on my legs, but I still shivered slightly.
I didn't want to look at my legs, or my arms, or my face. I knew the flames had done damage, and I knew it wasn't pretty. But I did it anyways, and peeked under the robe that I had somehow been changed into.

Everything was bandaged, I couldn't even see the burns. But they hurt enough to make me wince even just looking at them.

"Madge?" My head snapped up. I hadn't realized Greasy had been carefully watching me the wholetime. But I didn't say anything, I just stared, nodding slightly. Greasy's brow furrowed slightly, noticing my silence. "How're you feelin', Dear?" I shrugged. She opened her mouth, about to ask another question, but was interrupted as someone entered the room from behind me.

"I have the cloth." A voice said, a male voice. I recognized it, its solemnity, but I just stared straight ahead, still crying silently.

Greasy disappeared from view momentarily as she went and got the cloth, and then I felt it pressed to my forehead gently. I hadn't realized I was so warm.

The owner of the voice finally appeared. Gale. He looked uncomfortable and out of place in the tiny room, his muscular frame filling the space. It was almost laughable. Almost. He looked at me, his eye brows lifted in worry. I knew I looked terrible. My blonde hair was probably black with soot, my blue eyes bordered with dark, tired rings. But I didn't care. I was an orphan, wasn't I?

"Uh, hi." He greeted me nervously. I looked at him for a moment, meeting his eyes, before abruptly looking away.

"Gale pulled you out." It took me a minute to realize Greasy was talking. "From th'fire. You were hangin' half out the window, I heard. He saved yer life." I thought for a moment. I was almost positive I had pulled myself out. "Why aren't you talking, child?" She asked gently. "You were a talking about yer mother when you 'woke." Great. More tears.

Gale stood behind her, looking worried. I never knew him very well, only smiled at him shyly if I passed him at school or in the streets. So why was he here?

"I wonder if it's... What do you call it." He muttered, trailing off. "Post-traumatic stress?"

Greasy went blank.


But I knew what he was talking about. The whole experience had completely shattered me emotionally. I wasn't going to talk, for a reason even I couldn't figure out.

This was not good.