Part three -- Winter
I burrowed myself deeper into my woolen scarf as I all but slid over the sidewalk. Winter had hit hard this year and the regular bus I took to the diner was canceled because of the weather. I eyed the long road ahead of me. Just a few more blocks. Icy wind prickled my eyes and for a moment I thought about turning around and calling in sick. But I knew there wouldn't be a replacement for me. Not this last minute. I briefly wondered if Matthew would conquer weather like this in order to get to the diner. Matthew. I wanted not to think about him but my mind always found its way back to him. I had gotten over the initial shock of being his heroine rather more quickly than I had thought. I grasped a lamp post to my right as not to slide to a fall. This weather was crazy. The wind picked up even further and snow clouded my vision. There were few people on the streets. Many preferring to stay in. I would've done the same if I didn't need the money, the job, and Matthew. I had all but fainted when he told me the story of his novel. I couldn't grasp the fact that anybody would ever see me as a heroine. Much less the man I looked up to so much. In the days that followed Matthew told me more about her, about me. Surprisingly enough he had quite managed to portray me the way I actually was. Aside from the dragon slaying that was.
I shrieked as I lost my footing once more. I slid over the sidewalk and grasped at the snowy air, only to fall down. What a mess. What a big mess. Jonah was lucky he lived only a few minutes away from the diner, instead of a few blocks like me. As I got up my mind slipped back to Matthew. Fall had been the most wonderful time. I enjoyed working even more than before with Matthew there and almost felt alone the nights I was off. Business was still doing well and that was good for both me and Jonah. We got bigger tips, tips I gladly stored away to save for a new laptop. On the quiet nights I settled opposite from Matthew as he told me about his novel. I loved to get lost in his stories. His voice very low, and enigmatic smile gracing his face. He was a wonderful story teller. Though sometimes I wished he would tell me more about me than his stories. I didn't know anything about me, he sometimes asked about me -while saying it was for the story- but I never had the guts to ask something personal about him in return. He had asked me about the way I handled things, how I got to working at a diner. It made me think about my own decisions in life too. I hadn't managed to scrounge up enough money to go to college so my life long dream of studying art history had gone down the drain. My parents had both passed when I was 19 so there wasn't much financial help either. I came from a small family, hardly spoke to the people that were still alive. My grandmother had been the last relative I was in contact with often, but she had passed away a year ago. I sniffed. It was hard being all alone, and not going to college had made my social life even more isolated than it already was. I had been so glad when I found a friend in Jonah when I first started at the diner two years ago. Two years, what a long time. I had come a long way since then. When I first started I had been so angry at myself, and at life. I felt as if the whole world was against me and there was nothing I could do about it. I had learned to let go of it though and it helped my well. Now I was slowly but surely saving enough to start college in a few years.
Just turning around the last block I slipped again, bumping into an elderly man.
'I'm so sorry, the road is so slippery.'
The man steadied himself -and me- before grinning widely.
'No worries, there. I know how it is. You had best get home before bigger accidents happen. The weather is supposed to turn even worse later on.'
I nodded and smiled, not telling him that I was walking away from the comfort of my home instead of getting back to it.
'Oh and you might want to make a little detour, I saw a firetruck heading to the next block. I think there's a big fire. Nasty this time of year.'
'Thank you. Take care.'
I briefly wondered what building could possibly be on fire, but accidents happened everywhere and anywhere. I focused on sliding around the corner again and heading towards the block I needed to be. I could smell the fire, thick and stifling. Even worse than the snow and ice cold wind. A few specs of black destroyed the stunning -and nasty- winter snow. I rounded the last corner in haste of getting into the diner and out of the terrible weather and nasty smells, but the sight that greeted me made me tear up. The diner was in flames, thick clouds of smoke emitting from the roof and gleaming red licking the broken windowsills. I choked. No, no. No!
I watched as at least a dozen firemen were attempting to put out the fire that raged through the entire diner I had all but called home for the last few years. How was this possible? Tears welled up in my eyes and I coughed to get rid of the thick smoke in my lungs. It didn't help. I choked up, wheezing and watching the gruesome scene enfold in front of me. Jonah? Matthew? I swallowed heavily before looking around. An ambulance was parked nearby, and I all but slid towards it. What if they were hurt? There were several people bunched around the ambulance, and a police officer was trying to create some space. Ignoring him completely I slid through the crowd and looked into the ambulance, half dreading what I would find there.
'Eve! Don't worry... I.'
I couldn't stop the tears from rolling over my cheeks in thick torrents. Most of Jonah's arms were already bandaged up, thickly. His eyebrows were furrowed and it looked like he had cried just moments ago. I tried to climb up into the ambulance but in my haste I slipped, hitting my knee on the surface of the vehicle's floor and smearing snow everywhere.
'Calm down Eve. Take a deep breath.'
I did as Jonah told me and took a deep breath before trying again. Soon enough I was in the tiny space as well, hunched over in front of Jonah and looking him in the eyes.
'I don't know how it happened, Eve. I was just about to open the door to get into the diner when there was a loud explosion that knocked me off my feet and back into the street.'
'Who else was hurt?'
'Jenny was unharmed, she was outside putting out the trash. Lena got the worst of it and Jenny went with her to the hospital. There weren't any customers, so at least there's that. Just us three that were unlucky.'
'O my god.'
'You can say that again.'
Jenny and Lena were from the day crew and while I didn't speak to them all that often I knew that both women were exceptionally friendly and sweet. I felt so sorry for Lena. She didn't deserve this.
'They're bringing me to the hospital soon, the burns aren't too bad but they need to be looked after.'
'D-do you want me to come with you?'
'My family is already on their way, I'll be fine.'
'Are you sure?'
'Positive. Just go home. Calm down. The owner will figure it out he's already been notified.'
I squeezed Jonah's unbandaged shoulder and clambered out of the ambulance again. Feet firmly on the ground, yet feeling as if I lost all my footing. In a matter of hours, our lives were destroyed. No job, no diner and the worst part, Lena and Jonah were injured. Snow hurtled down in thick waves now, and I could feel my sweater getting wet from under my thick winter coat. With one last look at the devastating scene in front of me I turned away and started trudging through the snow again. Willing, wishing, wanting to forget everything for a moment. My tears hot over my ice cold cheeks and my thoughts miles away.