Climbing onto the hood, I sit watching as the firefighters roll out their hoses and direct torrents of water at the church. The steeple is ablaze now, a brilliant streak against a dark sky. It's terrible... and beautiful. My heart, which has been racing since the moment I awoke from my dream, finally slows. I can relax now. The situation is being handled by experts. A fire this big will take hours to quell, so it won't hurt to linger for awhile.
Crossing my legs, I stare down the hill, fascinated by the fire's ferocity. At the center of the church, it's white hot, but the flames turn to red above that, and then orange, and finally, at the top of the steeple, nearly yellow. How is it that I never noticed the color variations in fire until recently? It's incredible.
"Enjoying the show?" someone asks.
I'm so startled I slip off the hood of the car, ready to bolt. Fumbling with my iPhone, I hit the flashlight app and direct its feeble beam at Kai Seaver, who's standing a few yards away, dripping wet from head to foot. His white T-shirt clings to his chest, and his dark track pants are sodden.
Squelching in wet sneakers, he comes toward me. "Did you set it?" he asks.
I take a couple of steps backward, toward the driver's side. This guy is menacing, and with all the commotion below no one would hear me scream. "What?"
"You heard me." He puts one hand on the hood and stares at me with eyes that look black in the dim light. "Did you set that fire?"
"Of course not," I say. "Are you crazy?"
He runs both hands through his hair and drops of water come flying off. Some of them land on my bare arm and tingle—or sting. I'm not sure which.
"Well, you're here, aren't you?" he asks. "Watching a fire at three o'clock in the morning."
"That makes me an arsonist?"
"It puts you at the scene of a fire in suspicious circumstances."
"Excuse me, Officer Rudeness. Is your being here any less suspicious?"
"My father's fighting that fire," he says. "Where's your dad?"
"At his security job," I say. "Like it's any of your business."
"It is my business, because his truck is parked just down the hill. And he's watching the fire, just like you." He smiles at my reaction. "I know, weird, huh?"
"It's not a crime to watch a fire, especially when you're a firefighter by training."
Kai continues, as if I haven't spoken. "You know what's even weirder? Your dad's naked."
"Naked!" I feel my face flush, and hope it's dark enough that Kai can't see that. "Well, he was getting dressed when I walked by."
I remember my last dream, where my dad emerged from the fire carrying the security guard and wearing very little.
"So what?" I say, trying to sound as if it were perfectly normal for my dad—or anyone—to be out on a hill in the middle of the night watching a fire naked.
He laughs. "Okay, maybe I'm the only one who thinks it's strange that two Forsythes are so drawn to fire."
"Maybe you should stop thinking about us."
"I can't exactly turn my back on you, can I?" he says. "Not after seeing what you can do."
"What do you mean?" I ask, inching toward the car door.
"You set Bianca Larken's purse on fire."
"That's ridiculous. I didn't get anywhere near it."
"You didn't need to," he says, coming closer. "I know what you are."
I open the door and slide into the driver's seat, but Kai holds onto the door so I can't close it. "What I am is scared," I say, pulling on the door. My dad was obviously right about needing to avoid him. "Get away from me."
"Oh please," he says, still holding the door ajar. "You can defend yourself."
I pick up my cell with my right hand, while trying to close the door with my left. "I can call the police."
"Do that. I'll hang around to hear you explain what you're doing here. And I'd be happy to give a statement about your dad."
"Fine," I say. "I think Bianca's dad will be glad to meet you. I'm sure she mentioned that you tried to steal her purse."
We stare at each other through the crack over the door. His fingers, wrapped over the door frame, are dripping, and water runs down his face, as well. Even if he had a run-in with a fire hose, he can't still be that wet. The guy must have a serious perspiration problem.
I use that problem to my advantage now, placing the heel of my hand against his fingers and pushing. He jerks his hand away abruptly and I hear a slight hissing sound as I slam the door closed.
Starting the car, I pull away from Kai, half-hoping to run over his wet sneakers. Leaving the lights off, I pause at the corner to look down the hill. If Dad is there, I can't see him. There's just the gorgeous orange glow coming from the church. The huge arcs of water from the fire hoses are still losing the battle. I have to fight to keep my eyes off the rearview mirror and on the road as I drive away.
© Sandy Rideout