At first the flames merely scorched the building; everyone thought that it would go no further than that. The firetruck had arrived and water would drown the ambers of a fire that would leave some scorch marks but nothing more on the two buildings. Unfortunately the elements allied to turn what was an incident into a blasted inferno. Wind gathered the glowing ambers into a fiery dance and soon, the entire block was under threat.
The firefighters didn’t have enough water and though more came from close neighbourhoods, nature wouldn’t relent. It appeared the four buildings were evacuated from the number of people in their nightdress in the street, watching helplessly as their entire lives were crumbling to ashes. But suddenly a scream tore into the night.
“Oh God, children.”
One woman gasped. They all watched desperately as a group of four men rushed inside the orphanage. How could the wards leave without ensuring all their charges had come out? As it was, one of the employees had remained because of the three disabled children. They had to go slowly; but the fire wouldn’t allow the privilege. Viciously it had spread and closed every possible exit. Like a lioness on the prowl, it took its victims by surprise.
And now they were now stuck. One of the children had screamed. Miss Faversham was holding Lily in her arms, while holding Matthew’s hand. In turn the boy held Sarah. They’d managed to reach the refectory; but the exit was sealed. A beam had fallen against the door, preventing any escape.
“It’s going to be alright children.”
Felicity told them confidently; of course, fear was coursing through her entire body. And if she mustn’t be strong for the little ones she would have knelt and cried and prayed. But she couldn’t. She must keep hope. When she heard the stomping of feet over the raging inferno, she cried for help.
She jumped when an axe went through the door. Once, twice. Thank God. They had come for them.
“Miss, don’t stay close; we’ll tear the door down.”
“There’s a beam behind.”
She yelled over the roaring flames. A grunt seemed to be an acknowledgement. But she wasn’t sure. The axe fell again. And again. Until the door gave way. A gust of air entered the room and the fire fed on it. The heat scorched their skin, as the fire spread higher, looming over them like the predator about to pounce.
Two of the men entered the room. They each grabbed one of the kids. She followed. Lily screamed in her ear and let go of her. The child kicked her and fell on the ground, pushing herself away, causing Felicity to turn. She too screamed. Another beam was falling down. She whipped around; she must protect the girl. She fell over Lily, as the rafter fell. Flames surrounded her and she found herself pinned down. The wood had fallen on her dress. It was catching fire.
“Lily run.” She whispered to the child.
She let go of the child who did as she was told. Once the child reached the door, Felicity turned and tried to free herself. She had mere moments before she turned into a human torch. Fear was the greater enemy and it threatened to overwhelm her. She pulled at the dress, despair clutching her heart. Smoke surrounded her, she could barely breathe. She coughed, wiped tears away from her eyes. She didn’t want to die. Not like this. And then the dress caught fire. She screamed. Her arms flayed around her. When the flames kissed her face, she passed out.
The firemen were hailed as heroes for saving the children and the woman, although the latter would be marked for life. No one seemed to think that hers had been the greater deed, for she could have left them and save herself. But no, she was merely a victim. A nameless one at that. Her skin scorched by fire kept her in the hospital for a year and she could no longer work at the orphanage afterwards. She would scare the children, they said.
Nobody would hire her… Not to do what she was trained to do, teach children, help coax their intelligence with knowledge and lessons and generosity. She sought the job of a maid but no lady would want to be taken care of by an ugly thing like her. Then she lowered her expectations and searched a place as a servant; but she made other personnel awkward. She ended up on the streets; and even there, clients were few and far between. So it was that less than a year after the leaving the hospital, Felicity Faversham’s body was found in the street. Nobody even knew who she was. The fire would probably have been the kinder death.
In response to the Daily Post writing prompt Scorched