"I'm going back. I have to make sure Mom's okay. I'll be
right back, Amelia, don't worry about me okay?" Said my sister,
Riley, as she headed back up the front porch before disappearing
through the front door. I could tell by the tone of her voice
that she was not sure whether or not she was going to come out
again, despite what she had just told me, but our mother means
everything to us; and Riley knew that we could not simply leave
her and hope she'll make it out herself. She had to go back.
I knew what she was doing was not what mom had always told us to do, and she knew as well, but in a situation such as the one we are currently in, she was not one to obey rules. Riley was taking a big risk by going back into our home, and this was something she also knew, but I know her well enough to know that she didn't care.
Walking down our darkened street which was only illuminated by the street lights and the glow of the fire which was currently ablaze in my home, I finally stopped at a small tree that was only big enough to stand under. I leaned my back gently against the trunk and let out a deep breath I had not known I'd been holding in.
My family had never really talked about what we would do if the house was to catch fire, but we had formed a small plan a few years ago-my sister and I were to get out as quickly as possible and head to this tree one the corner and wait for Mom, and if she didn't come out, she specifically told us not to go back. But here I am, waiting at this small tree alone while my big sister went back inside to get our mom, and to possibly never come out.
My family is small. It's just us three, our dad died years ago. I don't have any close relatives because my mom and dad were both the only children in their family, which means I have no aunts, uncles, or cousins; and the last of my grandparents passed away last year. We really are alone. If they were both to not come out alive, I would be completely alone.
I don't have friends, either, not since 5th grade when my best friend and her family moved to a different country so her father could have a better job. I never understood it, really, how some people only can find a better paying job in a different country. How they could just pack up and leave everything behind including their family and friends, but I guess I can't control that. Since Olivia left, I have been stuck here in a small town near Chicago, Illinois called Elmwood Park. It only has about 20,000 residents and there is not much to do. I'm a freshman at the only high school there is here, and I'm the outcast. People don't hate me, they just don't necessarily like me. I'm okay with that, though. No one there is my sort of friend in the first place. Riley has a lot of friends, but none of them like me, so when they came to our house they would pretend as if I wasn't even there.
I was interrupted by my thoughts when a loud crash filled m ears. My eyes went from the damp grass and up towards my house.
"No," I muttered as I stared at my home in shock. "No. Please let this be a dream." I stared at my house in utter disbelief. The roof had collapsed, making the house half of the size it was before.
My mom's bedroom was downstairs. Riley had to be downstairs to get her, and it would be impossible that their bodies would be able to withstand the weight of the roof on top of them.
When it finally hit me that both my mother and my sister were probably dead or close to it, and would be soon, I started sobbing. My knees buckled beneath me and I was now sitting against the tree, with my knees pulled up to my chest. Both of my knees were practically in my eye sockets as I covered my eyes with them. It was as if my whole world had collapsed around me like the roof of my house just did on my mom and sister.
The cracking of the fire started to become louder and louder and I knew that soon there would be nothing left but a pile of burning wood and bricks.
Why didn't I try to do something? I thought as my sobs started to turn into quiet screams. If I would have just gotten Mom on the way out the front door this would never have happened; they would both be okay. I blamed myself. It was true, in a way. If I had gotten Mom on my way out she and Riley would still be alive. I would still have my family. I would still have something to live for. But that's gone now, all because I was too stupid to even think about what was actually happening. It's like the fire drills at school; when you hear the loud beep signaling there's a fire or it's a drill, it becomes instinct to just get up and walk out the door. That is what I did. I didn't think, I just went out the front door. I didn't let it sink in that there was an actual fire in my home, and now, because of that, I have lost everything that means something to me.
I sat there, on the corner of Nordica Avenue and Cortland Street in the darkness of that tree for hours. Sobbing. Thinking about how my life turned upside down in a matter of minutes.
A few blocks down, I heard the roaring siren of a firetruck coming my way. Someone must have woken up early, looked out their window, and saw our house-or what was left of it-burning in a pile of wood, and called the fire station. But by now, it's already too late to save the house or the people inside of it. Its always too late.
The firetruck zoomed past me, obviously breaking the speed limit. I still had not taken my eyes away from my knees, but I felt the breeze as it passed by.
When I felt as if I had no more tears left inside of me, I finally looked up, only seeing spots because of how much pressure I had been putting on my eyes. I blinked a few times, adjusting to the new lighting. The sun had now risen, so it must be around 5:30 A.M. I looked in the direction of where my house once stood and the fireman were already trying to stop the vicious flames.
I pushed the hair out of my face before slowly standing up. I leaned against the tree and watched the flames slowly begin to die down. That's my home, I thought, and it's gone.
I know that I should go up to the firefighters and tell them what had happened, and who was in the house, but I didn't see the point in it. Instead, I stayed exactly where I was, watching, thinking. I thought about what I was going to do next; where I was going to go. Then I realized; I have nowhere to go. And for all anyone else will think; I died in that fire along with the rest of my family. No one will know that I was the only survivor. No one will know that I'm still alive. School had just ended a few days ago-It is May 23rd-So no one would know by me showing up at school. And I don't hang out with anyone during the summer. There really is no way for anyone to know if I am alive or dead.
Of course, I could easily go to the police station a few streets away, and have them put me in a foster care somewhere, but I don't want that. Call me crazy, but I would rather live on the streets rather than live in a place that I will never get out of until I turn 18, and live with people that will never like me.
I looked at my old home one last time before I turned around and headed to who-knows-where, never planning to return to this spot again.
I walked for about 10 blocks until I found myself standing in front of a coffee house. I suddenly started to crave the taste of coffee on my lips, the warmth of it sliding down my throat; and they way the steam clears my nostrils, making the scent even stronger.
I pushed the double doors open, being engulfed by the comforting scent of warm coffee and the dim lighting, making the atmosphere of the place even more comforting.
I have a few dollars on me from when I went to the supermarket yesterday to buy tea and got a few dollars in change. It's only lucky that I decided to go to bed in the jeans that I was wearing yesterday.
The place was nearly empty. There was a girl around the age of seventeen sitting in a booth. She was reading a book and every so often she would take a sip of the coffee she had bought. Other than her and an elderly couple, the place was empty-except, of course, the workers.
Slowly, I walked up toward the counter where there was a woman at a about her mid 30s standing there. I looked up towards the board that had everything that they sell before ordering.
"Can I please have a medium peppermint mocha coffee?" I asked as nicely as I could manage with the day I'm having. I doubt she noticed the pain in my voice, though. It is not like it's obvious that both my mom and older sister had just been killed a few hours ago.
"Do you want any sugar?" The woman, who's name-tag says 'Karen', asked nicely, confirming my thoughts that she couldn't see my sorrow. I simply nodded as she typed a few things into a machine. "What kind of dairy would you like?"
"That will be $3.50," I reached into my front pocket of my jeans and pulled out a very crumpled five dollar bill. I handed it to her and she counted $1.50 in change and gave to me, then began to make my coffee. "Have a nice day." Said the barista with a warm smile and she handed me my beverage. I nodded and walked over to a booth in the very back corner of the coffee house. I sat down, setting my coffee on the table because it is too hot to drink right now.
Staring straight ahead of me, I began to become lost in my own thoughts.
I began to think about the last thing Riley had said to me, "I'm going back. I have to make sure Mom's okay. I'll be right back, Amelia, don't worry about me okay? I'll be fine." I replayed her words inside my head over and over again. She said that she would be right back, that she'd be okay; she lied. She never came back, and she is now far from okay. I couldn't help but noticed how worried she had sounded-like she knew that she wouldn't be fine. She saw the intensity of the fire. She had to have known.
Riley had always been a caring person, putting others safety and well-being before her own. I admired that. I had always wanted to be just like her in so many ways. She was a role model to me and she had always looked out for me as her little sister. We were not only sisters but best friends. I could tell her anything and she could tell me anything. If I didn't want her to tell Mom something-no matter how much she wanted to, she wouldn't tell.
She had amazing grades and all of her teachers used her as an example as the perfect student. I was always looked at as 'Riley's little sister', which meant that people expected me to be just like her. I used to hate that, but eventually, Riley had a talk with me about it and told me that whatever anyone said, I didn't have to be like her. That I could be and do anything I wanted. I loved her for that.
She may have been praised a lot, but she never acted as if she was better than anyone else. She treated everyone equally and didn't judge them based on their background.
Riley was such an amazing person. And now she's gone. She has so many people that would miss her. People that will cry for hours over her death.
I can't help but wish that it were me in that house rather than her. Honestly, not many people would miss me if I died. It would have been better if it were me. But I can't change or alter what happened today, and it will always be me that lived. It will always be me that's forced to carry on without her sister and mom. And lastly, it will always be me that has to live with the guilt of not going back and helping both of them.
It will always be me. Not her.