41: Pappy’s Angel

41: Pappy’s Angel

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

Pappy’s Angel

We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.

~Luciano de Crescenzo

“Girls! Wake up! The house is on fire!” Daddy and my step-mom Shirley burst into our bedroom.

I jerked up in the bed.

My sister burrowed under her pillow.

Shirley yanked on Steffie and grabbed my hand.

“Follow me,” Daddy ordered as he led us toward the front of the house. We had a clear path to the outside door, but I couldn’t help looking over my shoulder at the smoke rolling out of the kitchen. Red-orange flames shot to the ceiling, snapping and spitting like firecrackers. But we were okay. We were in the living room. The fire was behind us.

My older sister, Tiff, clutching her ten-day-old baby, also fled from her bedroom to the front entry. When she opened the door, letting in outside air, the house erupted into flames. Smoke burned my eyes. Choked me. This wasn’t a nightmare. It was real.

Steffie, Shirley and I were together, but we couldn’t see Daddy anymore. Only thick, black smoke surrounding us and flames behind us. We couldn’t find the door. We were lost in our own home. Were we going to die? I screamed. I think we all screamed, as we groped through the blackness, hunting for the front of the house. Daddy yelled for us, but we couldn’t tell from which direction.

“Turn around, Brittini. Go back.” Did someone speak to me? Or was I so frightened I was hallucinating? It was like somebody whispered in my ear and I needed to listen to it. I grabbed my sister’s hand and we scrambled back over and around furniture until we found our bedroom, the only room in the house the smoke had not entered.

I couldn’t let Steffie see how scared I was. “Wait here,” I commanded in my big sister voice and forced myself to run back into the smoke-filled rooms calling for Shirley and Daddy. I found Shirley wandering through the smoke, searching, calling for us, but we didn’t see Daddy anywhere. I pulled on Shirley until we reached my bedroom. I prayed Daddy had made it through the front door, helping Tiffini with the baby.

Shirley, Steffie and I cried and hugged each other. We didn’t know what to do next. The voice spoke in my head more clearly this time. “Shut the door. Don’t let the fire in here.”

Smoke crawled under the closed bedroom door. I felt the heat, tasted the stench, as those hungry flames ate away at everything my family owned. How long before it would reach us?

“The window over the vanity,” Shirley and I said in unison, and ran to it.

The voice came again. It didn’t whisper this time. A familiar, stern, demanding voice took over my body. Like a robot, I followed instructions and leapt upon the small vanity under the window. “Pick up the lamp and break the window, Brittini,” the voice said. As the smoke curled from under the door, we all coughed and choked. It was hard to breathe.

“I can’t. I’m hot. I’m scared.” All I had was a small plastic lamp.

My sister depended on me. I had to save us. I beat and banged on the window, but it wouldn’t break. “Hit it hard, Brittini. Hit it harder.” The voice insisted. “You can do it. You can do it.” I picked up that small lamp and banged over and over again on the stubborn glass pane.

“Hit it again,” the voice instructed. Using all the strength I had, I drew my arm back and swung the little lamp into the windowpane. The lamp broke. But so did the window. I stared at the hole. It was not big enough for my body to fit through. The smoke twisted into thick clouds. I thought I was going to die. I prayed.

Suddenly the vanity crumbled from under me, and pitched me forward through the broken window. I landed outside on the ground. The glass snagged my leg and it was bleeding, but I was okay. I was breathing fresh air.

The hole was larger now. Shirley hoisted Steffie up, but a shard of glass caught her leg. Shirley pushed her from behind and I pulled her arms, as the glass sliced her flesh. When I helped her to the ground, she was bleeding a lot, and I couldn’t tell how badly she was hurt. She might bleed to death if I didn’t do something.

Shirley stuck her head through the opening and gulped the fresh air. Steffie and I shouted, “Come on, Shirley. Jump!” But the vanity had collapsed so she had nothing to climb on. We weren’t big enough to pull her through the window. We screamed for help and couldn’t stop screaming. I’d saved myself and my sister, but my stepmom was going to burn.

Steffie was getting weak. Her face was white and her hands cold. “Hang on Shirley. I’ve got to get help for Steffie. Please, Shirley, hang on just a little longer. Please God, help us.”

Sirens wailed in the distance. Would they get here in time to save Shirley? Were Daddy and Tiffini and the baby safe? I took Steffie to a neighbor and pushed her into her arms. “Please help my sister. Don’t let her die.” I ran back to Shirley, but by then Dad had heard our screams. He came running around the house and wrenched Shirley out the window before the emergency workers arrived.

Steffie needed eight stitches. Shirley and I needed oxygen. But thank God none of us were seriously injured.

The fire department tried, but couldn’t save our home. As I looked into the window and saw blazes ravaging the last room we were in, my bedroom, I said, “Thank you God. We’re all alive.”

My mother, Beth, came as soon as I got her on my cell phone. She looked at me like I was a piece of gold. “I’m so proud of you, baby girl. Only fifteen and you saved three lives.” We clung to each other and cried. My brother and sister, Jacob and Olivia, cried too. My stepdaddy, Jake, squeezed me until I couldn’t breathe.

“Momma, that voice that led me out of the house. It was Pappy.” I peeked up at her, not sure if she would believe me.

“Are you sure? You were only ten when your grandfather died.”

“I still remember his voice. God sent Pappy to tell me what to do.”

Momma didn’t take her eyes away from me as she kept on rubbing my arm and patting my hand, tears rolling down her cheeks. “I believe you,” she said.

“What day is it?” I wanted to always remember this day.

“April 12th.”

“Pappy’s birthday.” He saved me on his birthday! He used to call me “Pappy’s little angel.” Today he was mine.

~Brittini Jean Watkins, age 16

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