Athalena had returned recently to live in her home town after decades away in California. She planned to stay only if her new job worked out. Since her stay may be temporary, Athalena decided to rent a small room in a house near her new job for now.
Athalena’s attempts to fall asleep on most nights, were thwarted — there was no quiet place at the house. Her next door neighbor’s dog seemed to like barking at midnight each night. At the Stop sign outside her window, cars screeched to a halt with their windows down, generously sharing their music selections with the world. And, Emergency vehicles frequented that road because the fire company and the hospital were both nearby.
Now, in the early hours of the dawn, quiet was the usual scarce commodity. “She needed her rest this morning” Athalena thought, “because today was the big day. Her first day at her new job as Head Nurse at the city’s second largest hospital.” She rolled over in her bed and wrapped the pillows around her ears, but to no avail. She could still hear every sound the world made outside her window, at what was now 3:11 am. Therefore, she got up.
It was then that Athalena thought she smelled her mom’s perfume in the room.
Athalena strolled to the fridge, in the pitch darkness, to prepare a cup of her favorite coffee. Her mom had introduced her to this blend, two years ago when Athalena came to attend her mom’s retirement party. “Its tradition, quality coffee beans should be stored in the fridge,” her mom would say. Athalena continued the tradition and began storing her coffee beans in the fridge, since her mother passed a year ago.
As Athalena, walked to the fridge she felt something soft underfoot, it was Tippie her cat who was sprawled out on the rug, fast asleep. He meowed loudly. She promptly side-stepped him and picked him up apologizing. She gently deposited Tippie to the rug, where, he quickly went back to sleep. “At least someone was getting some rest,” she thought.
She continued her trek to the fridge to begin the process of making her coffee. The smell of her mom’s perfume, still quite distinct in the room. Before, she could investigate the source of the perfume–suddenly, the fire alarm went off. She stood frozen in her footsteps, annoyed, both at yet another loud noise and, at the thought of evacuating the rooming house– for yet another false alarm. If this was a false alarm, it would be the third one, thus far in her one month stay.
Athalena listened but heard no footsteps in the hallway outside her room. She thought, “well, since I am up. I may as well get dressed, go downstairs and sit in my car with Tippie.” No sooner had she dressed – there was an authoritative knock on her door. It was Kimmy, her landlord. Kimmy was yelling for everyone of her renters to leave the house immediately. This was the first time that Kimmy’s voice had a distinct tone of urgency.
Athalena, wasted no time. She picked up Tippie who was none too pleased by the interruption of his slumber. Then, carrying Tippie tightly under her right arm, and her car keys in her left hand, she ran out of the room, down the back stairs to the sidewalk and got into her car. Athalena looked back to see everyone safely out of the house, milling around in their housecoats, under the moonlight, by the Stop sign. Then, the fire truck arrived.
Since everyone was safe, Athalena could hear distinct voices explaining the cause of the, now billowing smoke escaping from the basement windows of the rooming house. From the chatter, Athalena surmised that apparently, one of her fellow rooming-mates fell asleep while popping pop corn in the microwave.
It was an eternity for an hour before the Fire Department gave the all clear. Then, Athalena noticed the number of the fire truck – it was number 11. One of the firefighters walking past her as she got out of her car, stopped and turned to her. She recognized the friendly face of her mom’s friend, firetruck engineer, George Oncee. Athalena’s mother was a retired fire truck engineer who drove that very truck- for six years.
“Is that you Athalena?” he said, smiling. “The last time I saw you was at…” and he stopped. Athalena said “Oh, its okay George, (feeling her eyes welling up with tears), it will take some time, for me to– you know–but it is okay to mention mom’s memorial -it was a beautiful tribute to her life.”
George offered to make plans for Athalena to come visit his family, the next week, to which Athalena agreed. Athalena asked George, who was now more than willing to share the details of the incident in the basement, what they had discovered.
George explained that it was fortunate that a major fire did not start in the rooming house where Athalena stayed — the basement wiring was ancient and not up to code. George commented that God had clearly been keeping watch over everyone in that house for years. Athalena nodded in agreement. It was then that Athalena recalled the smell of her mom’s perfume. Smiling to herself, Athalena could not help but think, that perhaps, her mom in Heaven was looking out for her that early morning.
©Short tales for Suzette B’s blog