Kai tells his co-workers about Paisley. The guys give him kind of a hard time, but Cherise makes him feel better about himself.
Kai knew he’d died recently, after a lingering illness. He couldn’t remember, but he thought it was A.L.S.
“He was a cool guy, Cherise. I liked him a lot.”
“I learned more about courage from that man, than anyone else I know.” She blinked hard, fighting tears. “But enough about me. Don’t let them get to you. You keep being you, and let them be the barbarians they are. You’ll get the smokin’ hot chicks every time.”
“I only want one. We were gonna go out for our first official date tonight. Then this happened.” He looked disgusted.
“Well, there’s a reason for it. You may never know what it is, but rest assured, there is. So, where were you going to take her?”
“I was gonna do dinner and a movie. Not that exciting, I know, but I didn’t want to do something she’d misconstrue.”
“I’m real impressed you know that word. And you’re right. It’s a fine line. A first date doesn’t have to be fancy to be fun. You know what you could do? I know this is gonna sound silly, but take her to the park, and sit on the swings.”
“You’re kidding me.”
“Might not sound like much to you, but I bet she’d have fun. There are some nice parks around. You could go before it got too dark and spooky. Afterwards, dinner someplace non-threatening, like a cozy family spot.”
“And keep that bad boy under control. I came in when you were sleeping. Got an anaconda trapped in there?” She nudged him again, bumping his shoulder with her head as she giggled.
“God, not you too. Thad already commented on my embarrassing moment. Did everyone see?” Kai whispered sharply.
“Just us, and we’re not telling. Girls got it easy. We can have that kind of dream without the whole world knowing. Were you not so uniquely blessed, you wouldn’t have such a tough time concealing it.”
“God, I’m embarrassed. I can’t begin to tell you how much.”
“It’s okay, baby. Go get yourself a shower and head to bed. You look beat.”
“I’m pretty tired. I think I will.”
“I’m headed that way myself. I can spend only so much time around them, then I start wanting to burp, scratch myself inappropriately, and fart in public.”
Kai laughed hard, muffling it when the other men jeered him from the TV room as they watched the end of Deadliest Warrior. Normally, Kai liked that show, but he was too tired to care. He had to pick up Paisley in the morning, as well as taking his morning shift at the pool.
The shower felt good on his tired back and shoulders. He would have liked to linger, but wanted to get to bed before the other men came into the dorm. He crawled into bed in his boxers, uniform neatly draped on the chair next to his bed. The lights were dim, but there was still enough illumination that the others could see to get ready for bed. Partitions between the beds gave them a modicum of privacy.
Cherise was lucky. With only two women on the payroll, she had the women’s dorm to herself. Kai liked his privacy, but didn’t have it when he was working. Fortunately, he was able to sleep without too much trouble, but only if he was asleep before the others came in. He rolled on his side, closing his eyes.
The blare of the alarm woke Kai and the others around 2:00.
“House fire,” Cherise told him as they headed to the truck.
Kai hated fires. They were too unpredictable. Every time the firefighters went in, there was a chance they’d get hurt. He’d seen fire related injuries, and his empathic spirit felt each one along with the victim.
The stricken family stood on the street watching their lives burn. Father, mother, three children, a cat, two dogs and a boa constrictor—all their lives uprooted.
Kai and Cherise checked the family for injuries. The father’s hands were burned, but not seriously.
“I did it getting Louie out,” he explained, pointing to the snake his 10 year old son held. “Couldn’t let the poor guy roast.”
Kai smiled as he treated the man’s hands.
“At least we’re all alive,” the wife said. Sooty tears streaked her cheeks. “It’s bad, but it could’ve been so much worse.” She and her husband hugged one another, weeping.
The firefighters stayed to make sure the fire was completely out. Kai and his team returned to the station. Although they really needed to try for more sleep, they were too keyed up to rest.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes
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