Saturday, 22 November 2008

Finding Love out of Tragedy: Theresa by Anna Volk

Jake walked through the store, looking at the various arrangements of flowers. Daisies, tulips, carnations, ivies…hundreds of different flowers littered the shelves; the only one he recognized was the roses.
Surveying the rows of flowers, he kept one eye on the young woman going through what he was sure was the morning ritual of making coffee, flipping over the open sign. The ballast in the fluorescent bulbs hummed as she turned on the remaining lights. She then stopped behind the cash register.
Jake continued to wander around the flower shop. He had absolutely no idea what type of flowers to give Kirsten.
Stepping up to the desk, he decided to ask an expert for some help in making his decision.
He had just reached the counter when he heard the God-awful noise and, being a SEAL for so many years, he knew that there was trouble.
The building rumbled. Jake heard Theresa cry out in alarm. “Get down!” he yelled as he leaped across the counter top and grabbed her around the waist.
“What?” she began to ask. The noise was deafening. Jake didn’t wait for her to finish speaking. Rubble began to fall all around them as he hustled them underneath what he hoped was a well-built counter top. He wrapped his body protectively around the young woman beneath him.
He could feel her trembling and knew that she was scared. Hell, to be honest, so was he. Still, no one spoke; with all the falling debris and noise from outside, no voice could be heard. All they could do was wait--wait and pray. What the hell was going on out there? He knew that he had heard a plane flying much too low and that there had been an explosion.
He could only guess that a plane must have had mechanical difficulties and crashed in the city.
The ceiling and other rubble continued to fall around them. Powder and dust from the plaster floated in the air, making it impossible to see beyond your hand. They would have to wait before trying to leave their somewhat safe haven to see what was happening in the world outside. The deafening noise began to lessen. Jake leaned closer into Theresa's trembling body. He hoped that the sound of his voice would somehow comfort her.
"Theresa?" Getting no response, he shifted until he could reach her face. Placing his finger beneath her chin, he brushed back her curly hair and saw that she had her eyes squeezed tightly shut…maybe somehow hoping that if she couldn't see what was happening, it wasn't. He only wished that were the case.
"Theresa,” he tried again. "It's me, Jake, Jake Riley. Do you remember me?"
He waited patiently for what seemed like minutes for her to finally open her eyes. He smiled reassuringly at her. He saw her slowly open her eyes and nod her head.
"Yes, I remember. You came in to buy flowers for your sister. What has happened? Was it an earthquake?” she asked with a still-shaky voice.
Theresa was ashamed at the way she had shut down. She'd never been so afraid and then this man had thrown himself over the top of her to protect her. He reminded her so much of her brothers.
She was right to trust him. Any man who would throw himself over a stranger to protect her without regard to his own safety was indeed trustworthy.
She slowly looked around, trying to take in all that she could see from their position. The countertops still stood protectively over them. She then turned to look up at him. White dust covered his face and arms. His eyes shone out through the drywall and concrete covering him. It gave him a ghostly appearance. "I'm fine, Jake. Thank you for covering me from all of the falling stuff. Delores is going to be mad as hell when she gets a look at the shop."
Jake knew that she was trying to make light of the situation. He also knew how scared she was, but he was sure glad that she was staying so calm. Hysterics weren't going to do either one of them any good.
"Yeah, definitely more than a broom and dust pan can handle." He tried to go along with her light-heartedness, but knew that things were far too serious. “I’m sorry for handling you so roughly. Are you all right?”
“You saved my life, Jake; don’t apologize for that. Do you know what happened?” She started to move from beneath the counter.
"Listen, Theresa.” Jake put his hand on her arm to stop her movement. “I think that an airplane crashed. We're going to sit tight under here for a few more minutes and wait for the building to settle."
Jake assessed the situation as best he could from their current location. There was rubble everywhere, but nothing so heavy that he couldn't clear it away to make a path to the front door. He saw lots of broken glass; tiles from the ceiling had fallen to the floor. The computer monitor lay broken right in front of where they waited.
Jake pushed it out of the way and stood up to survey for further damage. Fortunately, the counter top had held under the weight of the numerous bricks and other heavy debris that had fallen.
Theresa watched the stranger who had protected her. He was looking around as if he were looking for the enemy. She wondered who he was. Was he an ex-cop? He seemed to know what he was doing and was a take-charge kind of guy. She was very glad about that; she hated the thought of being trapped here all alone.
Jake, seeing no more danger, reached down to help Theresa to her feet. He watched her closely as she turned around and slowly took in the devastation and destruction of the shop.
She brought her hands up to her face. Her blue eyes opened wide in amazement. The place was a mess. She didn't think that there would be any saving it. Flowers lay crumbled and broken, their petals already wilting. Vases and other glass decorations lay broken on the floor. A beam had fallen and gone through the glass of the front window.
"Should we go outside? Is it safe to stay in here?"
Jake glanced around for any unseen dangers. He didn't smell any gas or see any electrical sparks, so he felt that they were pretty safe to stay where they were.
Looking toward the door, he saw people running. He heard them still screaming and wondered why.
"It's been about a half hour since the last crash," he said as he glanced at his watch. "The rescue workers should be at the scene."
He started for the front door, aware that Theresa was following close behind.
"I can hear the sirens from the rescue vehicles," he called over his shoulder. Oh God, he heard something else, too! But he didn't want to believe what he knew it to be.
"Get down!" he hollered as he turned to grab Theresa. He knew that they wouldn't have time to make it back to the safety below the counter top. But knowing that they were in great danger, he had to find a way to protect her. He reached her just as another explosion erupted. The ceiling came down around them as the small building shuddered under the strain.

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