Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire by Marley Dowell

“She’s beautiful.”

I opened my eyes and looked to my left. My husband was sitting in the driver’s seat of our car. His stubble was growing back and his eyes were focused on the rearview mirror. A small smile appeared on my face as I turned around in my seat.

There sat my newborn daughter. Her eyes were closed and she was slouching in her car seat.

I didn’t reply to my husband. I didn’t have to.

I sat back in my seat the right way. A car passed us, flashing its lights rapidly.

“Wonder what that’s about,” my husband muttered. “Probably a deer or something.”

In the distance, I saw smoke. “Maybe there’s a fire.” I sat up in my seat and leaned forward trying to get a better look.

My husband didn’t seem too interested. “It’s getting hot in here. If I roll down the windows do you think it’ll be okay for Emily?”

“It’s just air, Jakob,” I chuckled. I took his resting hand in mine. “We’re gonna be great parents.”

More cars passed us, flashing their lights.

“What is going on?” Jakob stretched his neck. “Do you see anything?”

“I still see smoke,” I replied. “Should I call the police and ask?”

My husband shook his head no. A few minutes later, as I began to doze off, the car stopped abruptly.

My eyes shot open and I gasped. There, about 900 feet in front of us was a line of flames going straight across the highway. I grabbed my cellphone.

“Call 911, call!” Jakob yelled and stared at the fire at the same time. I frantically called the police. They answered and I told them about the fire, which they apparently already knew about and were trying their best to take care of. The woman on the phone suggested I turn around and find the nearest hotel. I hung up the phone and told my husband what the woman said.

“We need to turn around,” I said, trying my best to stay calm. “Turn around.”

“Wait.” Jakob unbuckled his seatbelt. “I wanna get a picture.”

“What?!” I grabbed his arm. “Are you kidding me right now? You are not getting out of the car.”

He stepped on the gas. I screamed.

“Jakob! Stop it. Now.”

“One picture. That’s all I want.”

I sighed. “Fine.”

My husband got out of the car and shut the door. I watched him walk closer to the huge fire.

He stopped about 30 feet away from it. After a few minutes of watching him stare at the flames, I heard a quiet sound coming from the backseat,

I turned around and locked eyes with my daughter. She sat there innocently and stared at me. I whispered gently to her, telling her everything was going to be alright. I turned back around to get into the baby bag and get a diaper, but as I glanced at the window, I didn’t see Jakob. I stretched my neck, but I still didn’t see him.

My chest filling with panic, I got out of the car and was immediately greeted by the smell of smoke. I coughed and got back into the car, making sure all the windows were up and all the doors were shut and locked.

I had a decision. I could wait for Jakob to return, or I could leave.

I decided to wait.

Emily began to cry. I unbuckled her from her carseat and brought her to the front seat with me. She quieted down slightly, but whined every couple of minutes.

I waited in the car for about 25 minutes. I wanted to turn around and leave to protect my baby, but my gut was telling me to stay and wait for my husband. 30 minutes passed, then 40, then an hour…

Meanwhile, I didn’t notice the fire inching its way towards my car. I held tightly to my daughter and tried to pass the time by listening to music on the radio. I jerked my head up and looked out the window. The sight widened my eyes.

There was a fire surrounding my car. I was boxed in.

I tried to stay calm by doing some breathing exercises, but there was no way I could stay calm in this type of situation. I laid Emily down in the driver’s seat and picked up my phone.

“Yeah, hi, I called earlier about a fire that was supposed to be taken care of…yes, well my husband got out of the car to see it and he hasn’t returned for about an hour.. ”

I gave her the highway we were on and she said to stay put where we were, which wouldn’t be a problem, obviously.

After a few minutes, I started to smell smoke. I had asthma. I dug around for my inhaler, but I couldn’t find it. Instead, I picked Emily up and held her against my chest while I put my face in her back.

We arrived at the scene about 35 minutes after the call. We would have gotten there sooner, but traffic was a mess. The car we were notified about was surrounded by huge flames. We drove our EMT vehicle closer to it, the fire trucks following behind.

Inside the car I heard a baby screaming. The flames that the lady on the phone had described had obviously grown since then. The firefighters were unwrapping their hoses as quickly as possible and another fireman was making his way through the flames. I stood back and watched him open the door and take the baby from the mother. He took the mothers hand and pulled on her. He tucked the baby in his coat as his coworkers washed the flames around the car away. He walked over to me and handed me the baby.

“The mother is unresponsive.”


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