Chapter Two: The Glowing Girl
She looked from one side of the street to the other. The busy streets of the city made it hard to cross without running. The typical sound of honking horns and sirens filled the Thursday morning spaces, and the shops and street-side stores opened their doors to wake up to the early-morning traffic. She skipped across the street behind two disgruntled looking businessmen and landed on the opposite sidewalk whistling a tune. Her pink, 60’s style high-heeled shoes matched her hot pink and orange dress perfectly, and her shining red hair was rolled up in a orange butterfly clip. Baby yellow sunflowers hung off of her neck on a tiny silver chain, and matching earrings threw her outfit into a summer frenzy, even though it was March. She whistled and skipped, and the sun shone through the chill with no reservation.
Mr. Ying’s produce market stood open on the street before her, and he greeted her, holding a wooden box full of peaches as she skipped towards him.
“Analyse! Good morning… you are early today.” Mr. Ying’s face wrinkled into his usual smile, and he tossed her a peach. “What is the hurry?”
“I am having coffee with Rhamir today… we’re going to Kelly’s before work.” She gave him a curt smile and bit into the peach. “Mmmm, juicy and sweet as usual, Mr. Ying!”
“I give you only the best. Tell Rhamir I said hi- don’t worry about it.” He held up his hand to her, who was digging into her yellow clutch for some money to pay for the peach. “You pay me with your sunshine every morning. Tell your friends Mr. Ying’s Produce is the best, and I will give you the peach for free.”
Ana nodded and hugged him, wooden box and all. “Thanks, Mr. Ying! Ill talk to you later, see you tomorrow!” And she departed.
The walk to Kelly’s Coffee Café was not long, but it took Analyse ten more minutes than usual because of the wind pushing against her. She pulled her sweater closer to her shoulders.
“Ana! It’s 40 degrees out… aren’t you cold?” It was Rhamir, standing outside the café as she rounded the bend.
“A little… but Ill be fine.”
The buildings shadow made the outside patio feel even more chilled. She looked at the sky, bearing a face that longed for the sun.
Rhamir gave her a hug that warmed her bones, and she looked back down upon his face. It was dark and handsome, his longish-curly black hair fell around his ears and foreheads, making his black eyes look even more like deep, dark pools. “How was your morning, babe?”
Analyse’s smile returned. “Very, very good.” She stole a kiss and then pulled away, twirling in the breeze. “I finished my book this morning. Im so excited!”
Rhamir beamed. “That’s great… I want to read it as soon as possible. You’re amazing, Ana.”
She blushed. “Oh, I’m nothing special. You’re going to love the ending… I wont tell you what it is, but I just know you’re going to love it.”
He opened the café door for her, and they walked into the busy shop. Kelly herself stood in front of the counter, greeting customers and serving coffee and cookie samples as they walked by. “Hey there Ana! Good morning, Rhamir! How are you two today?”
“We’re awesome,” Rhamir nodded, helping himself to a chocolate cherry cookie and taking a bite. Kelly’s cookie concoctions were renown in the entire area as the best. “Ana was just telling me how she finished her new book this morning.”
Kelly’s golden-yellow hair and brilliant blue eyes matched her bouncing personality. She beamed. “Another book! Our beautiful new author is going to find herself on the New York Best Sellers soon, I just know it!”
Ana nodded. “Oh, I hope so. I love this one, its going to be a hit.”
Rhamir and Analyse left Kelly and joined the long line that lead to the counter. The college students that helped Kelly around the shop lacked some of her natural exuberance, but most of them engaged the customers in the same enthusiasm for life. Danielle was the cashier for this morning, and although she seemed to be alittle out of it at times, she met Analyse and Rhamir with a knowing smile. “The usual?”
“Yes, for me.” Rhamir nodded, and looked at Ana.
“Yep, me too.”
“Regular Latte and a Carmel Frappachino coming right up! You guys have a wonderful day.” Danielle added after completing their transaction.
They went back outside to sit on the patio; the little wrought-iron patio sets were surrounded by a beautiful wrought-iron fence, dividing the patio from the sidewalk. A single maple tree reached up over the tables and chairs, making a hush every time a slight breeze sifted through its branches.
Ana sat back against the hard chair-back and sighed. “Im happy, Rhamir. Very happy.”
“Me too, hun. You look beautiful, today, by the way.” He smiled at her and took a sip of his coffee. “What do you have in store for the kids today?”
“Oh, a little of this, a little of that. I printed out, like, thirty copies of this water-cycle coloring page… I was thinking of cutting out little rain drops from blue construction paper and making collages in those millions of shoe boxes we got from that guy from the shoe store…”
Rhamir nodded. “Sounds great.” He took a breath and set his coffee cup down, reaching into his trouser pocket with his right hand. “Analyse, I have something to ask you.”
She held her cup in mid-air and looked at him quizzically. “Yes? You can ask me anything, you know that.”
He cleared his throat and pulled his hand out of his pocket, a small brown, antique box in his hands. “Ana, I love you. The second you entered my life I knew that I couldn’t possibly know what love, or life, or even laughter was unless you were there showing me. Will you be my sunshine?”
She took the box and opened it, a sparkle meeting her eye. Rhamir had stepped out of his chair and taken a knee onto the patio dirt. Kelly found the right time to look out the window, and shouted in joy.
“Y- Yes, Rhamir! Yes, of course!” Analyse bent to kiss him and squealed. He jumped up and pulled her out of her chair, wrapping his arms around her waist and twirling her off of her feet.
Kelly flew out of the shop, a smile as wide as a cruise ship. “Yippee! I knew this was going to happen… and at my café, too! I’m so happy!” She hugged them both in a crushing embrace and danced on her toes. “You two were made for each other… I saw it in your eyes, Rhamir, today was the day…”
Rhamir chuckled nervously. He took the ring out of it’s box and slipped it onto Analyse’s petite finger. “There… some shine for my sunshine.”
If she was happy before, it was nothing compared to the clouds she was walking on now. She had kissed Rhamir one last time and left running for work. Fortunately for her, the school was just a couple blocks away from Kelly’s.
The little school sat in the shadow of the great Calvin Hosthen tower, it’s charming character and antique architecture threatened by the modernistic monstrosity beside it. Analyse took the steps two-by-two and entered the school in mid-skip.
The door to her little classroom stood open, and she passed through, leaving her bag and clutch on the chair in the corner, and erasing yesterday’s class work from the chalkboard. Turning back to her desk, she cleared the papers she had failed to grade the night before into a drawer for later, and pulled her book bag onto it, sitting down.
Half an hour later, her students filtered into the doorway, each one laying their homework onto the corner of the desk, into the little red basket marked “Homework Due” and murmuring “Good morning, Miss Winston.”
“Good morning Charlie, Good morning Denise, Good morning Anna, Good morning Mary, Good morning Ben.” She beamed. “Have a seat. We’ll begin as soon as the bell rings.”
The bell sang a few minutes later, and the last student ran in before the door closed. “Sorry I’m late, Miss Winston.”
“Its ok, Tom. Maybe walk quicker next time.” Analyse took a glance up and down the hall, and closed the door.
The first graders of Miss Winston’s class were busy with their math sheets, the Kindergartners of Miss Leigh were in the middle of naptime, and Molly McArture’s fifth grade class were working on the chemical reaction between vinegar and baking soda when it happened. It seemed like the whole world had shook from beneath them, and the kids squealed.
Analyse sprang from her desk and went to the window. “Its ok, kids, go back to your work. Ben, keep your hands to your own paper!” Out of the window, people had stopped their cars and were getting out, every one on the street was looking up and pointing. Something terrible had happened, Ana could feel it.
“Everyone stay put-“ She began, and then the alarm went off. It screamed warning, warning, WARNING! into everyone’s ears.“Never mind, everyone get up, out of your desks and into a single file at the door!” She flew to her book bag and grabbed her clutch and opened the door. “Single file, kids… stay put.”
She looked out into the hallway, and the other teachers of Challowmen’s Academy were preparing their children as well. The principal’s voice echoed over the alarm on the intercom. “Teachers and students, this is not a drill. The Calvin Hosthner building has been hit and we have been ordered to evacuate. The route of evacuation is on your emergency folder taped under your phone in your classroom. Proceed as practiced. Again, this is not a drill-“
The world shuddered again, and Ana grasped the door frame to steady her. Her thoughts wrung around her mind, riddled with fear and tears. The kids lined up in twos looked up at her in innocent trust, and her heart fell and shattered in her stomache. In one motion, she ripped the emergency folder off of the wall and took Tom’s little chubby hand in her own. “Its going to be alright, guys. Everyone take the hand of your buddy and follow Tom and I… we’re going to all stay together, ok?” She took a step out of the classroom, and courage surged through her veins. ‘This is not the time to be afraid. These kids need you… its time to take the plunge and face it. You can do this, Analyse Winston, you can do it. Your kids are counting on you to make everything ok.’
The doors leading outside seemed to be so far away as the first-grade procession speed-walked towards them. The people outside were running in the street, and what looked like glitter was falling from the sky. The fourth graders were in front of them, walking through the glass doors behind their teacher Mr. Mahoney. For a split second, the sounds from outside were audible to those inside- sirens, screams, and the distant burst of an explosion. Analyse met the end of the fourth-grade line and led her first graders through the open doors. The glitter falling from the sky turned to be pieces of glass from the breaking windows of the tower above. Papers blew all around like clouds of white confetti. The kids behind her looked up into the sky with wide eyes.
“Don’t look up, kids, don’t look up!” Analyse tightened her grip on Tom’s little hand and looked at the tower rising into the sky beside them. The flames high above licked the blue and made her shudder. “Its going to be ok, everyone stay together…”
A scream shattered her speech. The tower cracked like a flash of lightening, and the ground shook. A piece of the side slid from it’s frame and hurtled down to the ground below.
Analyse froze for a single moment that felt like years. Then, in an instant, she turned on her heel and shoved the kids back into the building. “INSIDE! Get back INSIDE!”
The next few seconds seemed to pass in slow motion. Tom and the kids flipped and ran inside, their trust in her urgency showing in their faces. She felt her book bag slip down her arm in her rush and fall into the door frame. Behind her, the screams of the fourth graders pierced her ears, and before the speed of time resumed to normal, she turned her head to look over her shoulder…
Mr. Mahoney had his arms over the heads of two of his students, his mouth open in mid-shout. The little boy in front of him, named Casey, had both arms wrapped around his head, his backpack hitting his back as he ran, his sandals slapping the ground with such intensity it echoed in the room. Two girls were behind him, twins named Layla and Lindsey, clutching each others hands, heads together on each other’s shoulders, tears streaming down their arms and onto their beautiful green and yellow jumpers their Mother color coded to tell them apart. The others followed close behind, almost tripping over their feet as they tried to reach the doors in time.
Then it came. Huge sheets of glass, steel and concrete fell down from above like rain to an ant. Fire dipped down and spewed into the street. The school shook, and smoke and ash rushed at the people below, enveloping everyone in blinding darkness. Mr. Mahoney threw himself into the building and pushed closed the glass door with his foot, and time began again with a painful TICK.
The ground shuddered one last time, and they heard the roof cave into the attic, then the ceiling fall into the second floor. Analyse pulled her class into a huddle, and as plaster and dust began to shower on them from the ceiling, she had one last thought before the darkness descended. ‘O, God, Help us!’
Ana’s eyes opened to nothingness. The pain in her mind threatened to pull her under again, but she fought against it. Coughing, she moved each of her fingers and toes, then attempted to sit up. Her head hit something before she could get up any further than six inches up, and lifting her hand up, she felt the rough surface of concrete. What happened? Was her first thought, but then the recount of the alarm, the fire, the falling glass- everything- came back to her. Tears started to fall from her eyes, and she coughed and sobbed. Claustrophobia set in, and she sucked in dust and air. The darkness was terrifying, and she shut her eyes to it, though it was no different.
My kids! Was her next thought. I need to make sure my kids are ok. Where are my kids?! She opened her eyes again, squinting them, the intensity of her gaze attempting to cut through the darkness and create light out of nothingness. “Hello? Tom? Linda? Denise? It’s Miss Winston… anyone there?”
The sound was coming from just beyond her. Her eyes strained to see, and she put her hand out on the ground before her. Suddenly, a light flew from her fingertips and illuminated the space in front of her.
Shining pieces of glass and metal lay scattered on the black granite tile that covered the school building’s hallway floor. Just a few feet in front of her she could see the head of a boy. He moved, and whimpered again. Stretching out her hand that was creating the light, the strands of shine from her fingertips illuminated his face, and it was Kevin, a boy from her class. Blood covered one side of his face, from a cut above his right ear. His hands were sprawled in front of him, and his fingers twitched. He pulled them under him and he lifted his head, brown eyes meeting her blue ones. “Miss Winston… you’re… glowing.”
“I… I know, hunny. I don’t know how.” She tried pushing herself across the ground towards him, and the pain in her legs protested. After trying to move them, she succeeded in getting them free from being wedged underneath a something wooden. It looked like the only thing that kept her legs from being completely crushed was a concrete block propping up the weight of the world. Dragging herself under the ceiling of rock that surrounded them, she reached him and held his head between her hands. “Are you hurt? Where does it hurt?”
“Everywhere.” He mumbled. “What happened?”
“Don’t think about it, now, Kevin. Im going to try and see if I can get you out. Lay still for me, ok?”
The light from her fingertips had stopped at his face, but as she reached out to feel beyond him, the streams of light laced out farther into the darkness and lit up the wall of rocks piled up around his torso. She pulled herself closer and tried to pry the rocks loose with her fingertips. Some wiggled loose and pulled away, but most stood firm and rolled tighter to each other. A shard of glass cut her hand and she gasped, coughing as the dust around her settled once again. Blood poured from the little cut on her palm, and she felt lightheaded.
NO. She argued against herself. NO, I will NOT let a little cut defeat me. I have to get Kevin out of this! Again, with more force she tried to dig Kevin out of the rocks piled on top of him. More fell from the pile, and the sound of something shifting was heard overhead. She breathed hard and paused, waiting for more movement… there was none. Kevin whimpered again.
“Are we going to die?”
“We’re going to be fine, Kevin. As soon as I get you out we’ll figure out what to do next, ok?” Analyse grabbed a rock that was sitting nearby and hit the pile with it, hoping that it wouldn’t disturb the pile too much to bring the whole slab of concrete come down on top of them.
“Ok.” Kevin rolled his head to meet her gaze, and took a deep sigh. “I feel sleepy.” He said groggily.
“No, Kevin, don’t sleep. Try not to sleep… you’ve got to stay with me. Don’t go to sleep, ok?” More stone crumbled and fell, and more rocks rolled down to fill the spaces. She took a break and looked at him. His brown eyes were filled with tears, and his little face was puckered, as he tried to fight them. His black curly hair fuzzed out in the makings of a little afro, and his fingers were wrapped around his head. Blood covered his fingertips, and dripped off of his ear onto the ground.
This is someone’s little boy. She thought in horror at the realization. Her own tears filled her eyes, as she reached for his hand and held it. This is someone’s baby… He’s got a Mommy, and a Daddy who’s worried about him and who probably fear the worst. I have to keep him safe… he’s got to make it. I have to do everything in my power to keep him safe. She struggled to pull off her sweater in the little space and bunched it up under his head. The gash on his head was shallow, but she tied the sleeve around his head despite. “Put pressure on this, Kevin… it will make you feel better. We got to get you out, you’re going to be ok.”
Straining with her mind, she forced the light to stretch and fill the whole area they were in. She turned her head, searching for something to help. More rock, more dust, shining metal and glass sticking out and scattered around them… a leg connected to a shoe underneath the steel beam just five or six feet to the right. Analyse shuddered. It looked like it belonged to Mr. Mahoney, but she halted her thoughts there and shook her head to rid them. The left met them with a wall of rock, but behind, where Analyse woke up from, the tunnel under the ceiling of stone seemed to go on and reach out into darkness. Her mysterious, miraculous light ended, stretching almost twelve feet across in all directions.
Kevin laid his head down again, in the direction of the leg. “Don’t look at it, Kevin.” She whispered.
“Look at what? Its all dark, except you, Miss Winston.” He murmured, looking back up. “Your glowing… like a glowstick.”
“You can only see me?” She asked, surprised.
“Oh, ok. That’s ok. Just wondering.” She pulled her thoughts back in, and turned her head around again. The handle of something cloth caught her eye, and she focused on it. My book bag! My cell phone is inside… maybe it still works.
“Ill be right back, Kevin.” She whispered.
“No! Don’t leave me alone here in the dark. Im… Im scared, Miss Winston.” Kevin’s little voice broke her heart. He started to cry.
“Kevin, Im not leaving you. Im not going far, just over there to try and get my book bag out of the rock. Ill be right back, ok?”
He nodded his head, and his crying slowed to a whimper. She pushed herself back and over to where the book bag handle lay. She grasped onto it and pulled it with all of her might. The rocks slipped around and let it free, dousing them both with dust.
Crawling back to Kevin’s side, she opened the bag and dug around in it, pushing papers and books aside, reaching the cell phone at the bottom.
Pressing the power button repeatedly, she shrieked in joy at the glowing power-up light it emitted. The searching icon remained on the screen for what seemed like a long, long time, when finally one single bar popped up. She breathed a sigh of relief and opened it, dialing 911.
“My name is Amanda, what is your emergency?”
“Hello, my name is Analyse Winston and I am trapped inside the Challowmen’s Academy with a little boy and a number of other childeren and faculty…”
“Yes, ma’am, we have our entire force out at the tower… they’re doing their best to get you out. Im going to relay your location to one of our officer. Its going to be ok, all right ma’am?”
Analyse shook with un-relieved sobs.
“Are you injured, ma’am?”
“I… I don’t think so. Kevin is. His legs and waist are buried… and he’s bleeding.”
“Is he conscious? Where is he bleeding?”
“Yeah, he’s conscious, he’s bleeding from a small wound on his head, right above his ear.”
“Alright… Im going to walk you through a procedure to stop the bleeding from the cut until the professionals get to you, ok?”
Analyse pushed through her own thoughts to listen and do what the women said, her tears bathing Kevin’s face, making little paths in the dirt on his cheeks.
“I have to go help other people calling in, ma’am. A lot of people have been hurt by the disaster. Are you going to be alright?”
Analyse nodded. “Yes, I think we’re going to be ok for now. Thank-thank you.”
“You’re welcome. People are coming to help you right away. Hold in there, help is on the way.”
Ana lay holding Kevin’s hand for the longest time, the light of her hands illuminating the space between their heads.
“Do you know you’re phone number, Kevin?”
“I… I don’t remember.” He said.
“That’s ok… I think I might have it here-“ And she scrambled through her book bag, pulling out one sheet that held all of the children’s names and Emergency phone numbers she kept with her at all times. She dialed the home number and let it ring, hanging up before it went to voice mail. She tried the second number, Kevin’s mother Theresa’s cell phone.
“Yes, Theresa Brown?”
“Yes, this is she.” The woman on the other end of the phone sounded like she had just been crying.
“This is Analyse Winston, your son’s teacher at Challo-“
“Yes, yes! Do you know anything about my son? Is he ok?”
“I am here with him… we’re still in the school, in the rubble.”
“Oh my Lord… my baby-“ Her voice broke.
Analyse swallowed away a huge painful lump in her throat. “Do you want to speak to him?”
“Yes! Yes please… may I?”
Analyse put the phone on speaker phone. “Its your mom, Kevin. Listen.”
“Kevin? Kevin, baby… its Mommy!”
“Hi, Mommy.” Kevin coughed a little, and listened.
“Mommy’s so proud of you, Kevin. You stay strong for me and listen to Miss Winston and the people who are going to get you out… its going to be ok, ok, Kevin?”
“Ok, Mommy. Im not scared anymore… you… you don’t have to worry.”
“I love you so much, Kevin. Jesus is going to take care of you, I know it.”
“Yes, baby… what?”
“I love you, too, alot.” Kevin’s little voice gurgled and coughed, and breathed hard.
“I know, baby. I love you so so SO much. Be strong, ok? Miss Winston?”
“Yes?” Analyse swallowed back another tough lump.
“Thank you. I know you probably want to call the people you love and talk to them, too… just… thank you.”
“You’re welcome Mrs. Brown. He’s going to be fine.”
“I’m praying for you. God’s going to take care of you.”
“Thank you.” And the conversation ended.
The light from her fingertips waned and she trembled under the weight of her own emotion. She pressed her fingertips against the keys once again, and pulled the phone up to her ear.
“Are you calling your Mommy now?” Kevin asked.
As the emotion flowed out of her onto the face of the little boy before her, she nodded slowly and pursed her lips. “Yeah.”
I am somebody’s little girl, too. I am somebody’s baby. Was her thought.