53. Bailey

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I've been sitting at my desk for at least a half hour, staring at the wall. I had to take a shower desperately, to get the smell of smoke off of me. I thought it would get the images and the what-ifs out of my brain, but it didn't.

I will never forget walking through my Grandma's front door and being completely blinded by smoke. I closed my eyes and used my memory to navigate to the parlor where I know she likes to nap during the day. I knew it was my only chance. If she had been upstairs, or in the living room, I couldn't have gotten to her. I could feel the intense heat coming from those directions.

The relief I felt when I touched her hand on the chair was staggering. It took over my whole body. I yelled her name loudly and felt her arm jump beneath me. "Wha—what's going on?"

Once I knew she was fine—for now—a sense of calm took over. "Grandma, we have to get out of here. Now."

She tried to speak but ended up coughing instead. "Just follow me," I said as I rested her arm over my shoulders.

The heat was getting more extreme by the time I returned to the front door, but all I was focused on was getting outside. I pushed all other thoughts aside.

We reached the front porch, and I breathed in the fabulously smoke-free air, in through my nose, out through my mouth. "Grandma, you're going to sit in my car while I call 9-1-1."

She looked like she was about to pass out, so I moved quickly, opening the door with one hand and shoving her in with the other. It wasn't exactly graceful, but it got the job done.

As we waited on the fire department, I moved the car across the street in case the flames traveled to the driveway. It broke my heart seeing my grandma watch her beloved house be destroyed, tears unapologetically rolling down her face. It was worse than when I was in the house.

She had moved into this house right after she married my grandfather, and she raised her children there. I always thought I might raise my kids there, too. And there are so just many memories—good, bad, and insignificant—that now have no physicality.

After getting a clean bill of health at the hospital, I couldn't wait to get home. Every time I inhaled, I was transported back to the blinding smoke surrounding me.

I am beyond thankful that I was there and that my grandma is okay, but losing her house is taking an emotional toll on me. That house was part of our family. I've never really had to deal with death before—I was really young when my other grandparents passed—and that's what this feels like, a death.

I should call someone. My mind immediately goes to Nick, but then I remember Evan. He would drive here in an instant if I asked him to. He is everything a boyfriend should be. He is kind, and fun, and handsome, and loving, but he's not...

Nick. The boy who my heart can't seem to get over. He doesn't want me. He can't make it more clear. My heart just doesn't care.

I know the right thing to do. For once, my brain is taking control. I pick up my phone and dial Evan's number.

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