Shawn Rikkins had started off as her best friend at the early age of six when he and his family had moved to the city. He had been enrolled in her elementary school; sitting alone most of the time with his blonde bowl cut and kind green eyes, he was one of the smallest boys there, getting picked on unrelentingly until the headstrong Jade Larkin with her dark flowing hair and sparkling blue eyes had put a stop to it.
After that day, they were fast friends, seemingly attached at the hip and doing everything together into adulthood. They had attended the same college and had started dating, though many people including their families thought that they may tire of each other, being so close all the time, however, that was not the case. Shawn had supported Jade’s dream of becoming a small business owner, and Jade had supported his dream of becoming a firefighter. They had celebrated heartily when both of their dreams had come true.
For them, being together was so right and so easy, having already known everything about one another. Dating quickly turning into engagement, and engagement into marriage. Three years and a new home later, their little girl Calista Mae Rikkins had come along; the perfect mix of both her mother and father with his enchanting green eyes and her beautiful dark hair. They lived a happy life, reminiscent of a fairy tale for many years.
Today had begun as every other day had. She and Shawn waking up in one another’s arms, going through the motions of getting ready for work, getting Callie up for school, enjoying a quick breakfast as a family, and then separating for the day, after many kisses and “I love you’s”.
~~ “I love you.” “I love you, too.” “Stay safe, okay?” “You know I’m always as safe as possible.” He had smiled his handsome heart-fluttering smile, giving her a lingering kiss on the lips before turning to their daughter. “Love you, baby girl. I’ll see you for dinner. Have an amazing day at school.” “I love you too, daddy!” Callie had thrown her little five-year-old arms around her father’s neck tightly, hugging him just a bit longer than usual, before kissing his cheek and smiling radiantly, one of her front teeth missing. That’s when he had gotten into his car, heading to the fire station, and Jade had retreated to her own vehicle to drive Callie to school. The same school they had both attended when they were only a year older than her. ~~
The worry in the back of Jade’s mind was there like always, but it came with supporting him in the career he had always wanted, as he had done with her, despite the uphill battle it took them to get to where they wanted to be in their respective careers.
Having taken a half-day at her boutique, the way she usually does on Thursdays, Jade had returned home and had begun to make some lunch to the background noise of the TV, which is when the “Breaking News” had come on. Quickly losing her appetite and cool at the mention of Shawn’s rescue number, she had become transfixed on the screen, seemingly frozen in place as she watched the industrial building becoming rapidly engulfed in flames and part of it crumbling and turning to ash in front of her eyes.
Jade could hear screams of “Mayday” coming from within, which is when the news network decided to cut the live feed. The tears had begun to flow and sobs had escaped her, immediately feeling that horrid dropping feeling in the pit of her stomach, as if she had already known somehow. Getting up and grabbing her cell phone, she had paced around maniacally calling him over and over again, never getting an answer.
It wasn’t until nearly three hours later that Fire Officials had shown up at her doorstep and told her the news. Unable to control her shriek of grief, her body had folded in on itself and she found herself on the ground near their front door, her entire form shaking. Jade’s world stops as her ears become deaf to her surroundings and the words of the officials. Feeling the stinging and burning in her throat, she knows she is screaming, but she can’t hear it, she can’t stop herself, becoming void of all her senses as pain rips through her heart.
After the horror of having to go to the morgue to identify his remains, his face having been shielded from his helmet, she had broken down a second time, positively identifying him. Once she was able to speak, she had called her mother and begged her to pick Callie up from school, telling her about the tragedy, but making sure that Callie does not know. Not until she can find the right words.
~~ “Please”, her voice cracked. “Just take her for a bit. Please I-..I can’t...I-...I need a little while, Mum. I can’t be there for her if I don’t handle myself first. Please just give me the night.” Her mother sniffles and takes a breath. “Alright. I’ll try to distract her. You can’t keep this from her though. She needs to know, Jade.” “I know...she will...tomorrow.” ~~
Jade had gotten a phone call once she had returned home, completely numb to everything. The call was from Drew, Shawn’s best friend who also happens to be on the Rescue team. He slowly explained how Shawn had been the one trapped under rubble as part of the building collapsed, and that he was attempting a rescue. They tried everything they possibly could to get to him and the worker that he was trying to rescue at the time, to no avail. The flames were too heavy and the smoke too thick. By the time the fire was put out and they could enter the building again, Shawn and the worker were both gone, Shawn’s oxygen tank completely depleted. Drew shares some of his best memories of Shawn with her, and reminds Jade of just how much Shawn loved her; that he spoke about her and Callie all the time with the utmost fondness.
Once the phone call had ended, Jade found herself shuffling upstairs to their bedroom, unable to even force herself to eat anything. In all of the bustle that morning, she had forgotten to make the bed. Happens sometimes. Her body is weary and worn, aching all over. Clamoring into Shawn’s side of the bed, she yanks the blankets up over her, clutching his pillow with all of her might, tears beginning to fall silently onto the soft fabric. Breathing in the scent of him stirs up all of her sorrow, a lingering undertone of his favorite cologne on the sheets, and the clean aroma of his aftershave upon his pillow. The passage of time seems to evade her as grief begins to control her entire being by weighing her down. Her mind swirls with the thoughts of telling her little girl that her father is gone, and her sweet daughter, always a daddy’s girl, having her life ruined at such a young age. The tears refuse to cease as the nagging reminder of having to make funeral arrangements and seeing oh so many people with their pitied looks and tears of their own for her beloved husband, becomes too much to think of in the moment. Soon she slips into a deep sleep, her face tear-stained and her heart and soul crushed beyond its endurance.