Malika returned home from her duties to find an ambulance crew taking away whatwas left of her parents. She walked into her living room stunned. There was so littledamage… how could both her parents have died in this? And her father a firefighter?
It didn’t make sense. Her house asstanding, the stairs were intact.But she was… her mind shiedaway from the word orphan. Thatwas too much.She was alone.
Not able to thinkstraight, she busiedherself with cleaning.Her sense of duty toostrong to ignore. Cleanand tidy first, collapse ina heap second.
She wasn’t alone. Gracietried to start tidying upthe still warm emberswhile Bernice stayed withthe children.Bernice was trying to keepthem calm while thebodies of Julian’s mumAmbrose and theirneighbour Alfred weretaken away.
Their house was burnt out. Most of the elevated floor was still there, a few pieces offurniture but they had basically lost everything.
A brisk wind the next morningcleared the smoke and revealed thedamage. Only the flats and Malikashouse still stood, the rest lying inruins. Even the Vickers house whichhad been built decades before therest of the street was gone.
Simon approached the exhaustedlooking Kasitova’s and offered hisflat to them. They’d been awakeall night, they and their childrenneeded a shower, something toeat and a long sleep.
Bernice accepted gladly.She hadn’t had anythingto do with thenewcomer in the bottomflat yet, but he seemed anice enough young man.Besides, Sonja wasswaying with tirednessand Julian… well hecould do with a lot ofcomfort.
Betty hadn’t slept muchthat night either, butshe rustled somethingup for the Kasitova’sand Julian to eat. It wasthe least she could dofor the poor things.
After her own nap, she noticed Julian was missing. She found him outside, staringtowards the beach. He said he was tired, but couldn’t sleep. She gently suggested hejust lie down then, so she knew he was safe. Betty then went to find Malika to inviteher to join them, she had been orphaned too, and could do with people around her.
Before long everyonewas sound asleep, thecurtains drawn againstthe daylight outside.Simon had given up hisbed to the marriedcouple, sleeping on hissofa with the kidsinstead.
Malika was upstairs on theNasirs sofa. She wasn’t sure ifshe wanted to be sleeping on astrangers sofa rather than herown bed, but the friendly oldwoman had insisted.Maybe it would make the nextday easier, if she didn’t wake upto a house full of ghosts.