So it means something to me.
I pull the pin from the top of the extinguisher, sidestep between the Wagoneer and the car next to it and get to the grill. Squeezing the mechanism at the top of the canister, I direct the white spray at the hot metal as it hisses out in a cloud, then move the hose back and forth to cover the open grill, before moving around the side to douse the air vent across the hood near the windshield. Moving back and forth two more times, I see the flames finally being choked out.
When they are almost down, and I’m fairly sure it’s safe, I open the driver’s door and pop the hood, then set the canister down for a second as I reach into my back pocket and pull out my pocket knife. Moving quickly, I reach into the inside pocket of my coat and pull out a canvas and leather work glove, then move around to the front of the car. Using the knife, I pry open the hood a few inches until it catches on the release, before retrieving the canister to spray more inside the opening. Then I quickly use my glove to release the hood and heave it open.
The fresh oxygen gives new life to the fire, and the heat pushes me back, forcing me to shield my face with one arm. I was ready for it, but no amount of experience can lessen the effect of that kind of heat. I reach out to pick up the canister one last time, knowing I’m winning as I coat the inside of the engine with the white foaming smoke until my lungs burn, but no more flames are visible.
I take a breath, choke out a lungful of smoke and step back, blinking against the stinging in my eyes. It’s barely a moment later before my senses return and I scan around me and see Issi still standing where I pointed. The wind taking most of the smoke in her direction, clouding her in the darkness.
I make it to the back of the car and drop everything in my hands, giving the trio barely a glance as I run by.
When I get to Issi, my hands cup her frozen cheeks. “You okay?” I look her up and down, fighting the urge to run my hands inside her coat and check her body to be sure she is not harmed.
In the distance, I hear the sirens, and I turn to the three girls who are now laughing and chatting and making their way back inside. Someone should have a word with them, but I decide not to deal with that right now. Issi needs me and more than anything in my life before I want to be the one to be here for her right now.
“Come on. Fire’s out, and you’re freezing. Let’s go inside.”
I half carry her as her eyes lag behind on the Jeep, and she coughs and gasps.
“Yours.” I manage, not a question, more an affirmation and I see her slight nod and a half forced smile.
“Thank you.” She looks at me, and I melt. “Thank you so much for saving her.” She coughs again, dipping her head, so her hair covers her left eye.
She just called her car a her?
She means something to her alright. A girl like her, loving a car like that. What is going on here? I can’t stop my heart from slamming around inside my chest like a crazed pinball, dinging every bell and whistle.
“You’re welcome. Sorry I couldn’t do better.”
The car is damaged, not beyond repair, but certainly beyond driving. It will definitely take a few weeks and some high dollars to put a classic like that back together.
“It was my first car.” More coughing and I wrap my arm around her shoulders as we walk.
“How long were you in the car when the flames started.”
She looks down, not meeting my eye. “I don’t know. Couple minutes.”
“Couple minutes?” From being in so many crisis situations on rigs, a couple minutes is an eternity.
“I don’t know why. I just sat there like an idiot. I guess I thought it would go out and I didn’t want to get out and have them see my stupid old car on fire.”
“Yeah, the girls from my high school. I saw them watching, and I sort of froze. Like nothing’s changed. So humiliating. All these years later and I’m still so insecure around them. I hate it.”
My heart breaks at her admission.
“You’re not an idiot, Issi. Not even close.”
The doorman shakes his head as we approach, and I give him a nod. “Everyone okay?”
I nod and add, “Fire department is on the way. Let them know it’s all under control. If they want to check out the Jeep, cool. But I’m taking her to my room to warm up. If they need us, I’m in 412.”