It was likely going to be his last tattoo, so this one had to count. Morand chose a design that was symbolic of many of the things currently plaguing his mind. The woman who he had been too late to save from the fire was certainly always in his thoughts.
He was also about to embark on a very important stage in his life, his last, so he chose the word "Legacy" to be written down his spine in an ancient script and included a pair of angel wings in reference to passing on.
Once his tattoo was complete, Morand headed home to partake in his last birthday celebration.
It turned out to be quite an affair with many guests showing up to celebrate the man who had saved almost everyone in town at least once. Faith took this opportunity to invite Pete so he could be introduced to the family. He seemed quite enamored by his sister's famous sports star brother.
While Faith looked on, Morand chatted up his grand-daughter Khalilah who was growing up so quickly, now a teenager. She was doing extremely well in school and was currently seeing no less than three boys, hopefully she wouldn't be following in her grandmother's footsteps.
When it came time to blow out the candles, Morand put on a brave face for his party guests, but was in a state of turmoil inside. What was going to become of him now? Everyone knew that once you turned Elder your body started to slow down, how long would he have left?
He only had to look over to his family to feel reassured. They were his whole world, his life's work.
As he made his wish and blew out the candles, he knew that they would be there for him. He would do his best to be there for them as well, for as long as he could.
However, for someone who's life revolves around bravery and strength, growing old is a hard thing to cope with.
"You look great, dad," Cecil told the newly formed Elder, knowing how hard this birthday was hitting his old man.
He smiled at his son, "Thanks, Cecil. Luckily you've got a ways to go." They laughed, but Morand had more to say, "But, son, there's something I want to tell you. I received a notice the other day. Your mother has passed away. I'm sorry," he put his hand on his son's arm.
Cecil looked slightly crestfallen, but perked back up, "As far as I'm concerned, I'm a single parent kid, the result of an immaculate conception." He smiled and hugged his father.
The next day Faith had agreed to meet Pete at the park, at his request. It was a bit of an overcast day, but seeing him always brightened up her day.
"That was a great party last night," Pete said, not able to keep a grin off his face. "I'm glad I was able to finally meet your family, your dad is a riot and your brother is so down-to-earth."
Faith couldn't help but feel giddy whenever Pete was around, "I'm so glad you made it, my dad talked a lot about you after you left, I think he really likes you," she laughed.
"Well," Pete began, "I did have the chance to pull him aside and we had a really productive conversation."
She looked at him, a little confused, "Productive? That's an odd word to use, what do you mean?"
"Oh, you know, man to man kind of stuff," Pete laughed. Then his face dropped and he took a deep breath. "Your dad told me that this park holds some family history for you, that this exact spot is where he proposed to your mother."
Faith was a little surprised, "Really? I didn't know that." She always felt a sense of happiness whenever she learned something new about her mother.
"I'm hoping that it can become a part of our family history as well," Pete said, dropping to one knee.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a ring, holding it up to the shocked Faith.
"Ever since setting my eyes on you in your outrageous lab coat, I knew there was something special about you. Getting to know you, and now your family, I believe that you're so much more than special. You're fate, my destiny, my soulmate. Faith Cagley, I want to spend the rest of our lives together. Will you marry me?" He finished, out of breath, his nerves making his hands slightly shaky.
She was shocked, but not completely taken by surprise. Some part of her knew that Pete was 'the one' and that they would eventually get married, so she could only look him in the eye and tell him, "Yes, of course I'll marry you."
She pulled Pete to his feet and wrapped her arms around him. Everything was going so well, it felt so right.
When Morand received the emergency call his heart started beating faster and for the first time doubt crept into his mind. Am I ready for this? Can I even do it? he thought.
Seeing the house engulfed in flames, he tried to push the negative thoughts away and focus. He still had a job to do.
He jumped right into the blaze as he always did, concentrating on one obstacle at a time. Pushing all thoughts of failure and doubt from his mind. He was the Fire Chief, damn it, this is what he was born to do!
His body wasn't as fast as it used to be, though, and it was taking him longer to put the fires out. He was starting to feel a little nervous that the inferno might be getting out of his control when he heard a scream. A female screaming...
At once his mind went dark and his imagination went to the darkest of places, to the image of the burning woman, covering his view, filling him with the most all encompassing feeling of dread. It was all my fault, he said to himself, freezing in place. His self-doubt taking control, until the piercing sound of terrified screams penetrated his mind.
"Not again," he said out loud.
He shook his head, clearing his mind from the ghosts of the past, racing around the back of the house where he saw a young girl trapped by the fire. He jumped in front of her and extinguished the flames as quickly as he could.
Once the flames had died out, he grabbed the girl and flung her over his shoulder, carrying her safely away from the burning building. His adrenaline was racing as he rushed her to safety. He was berating himself that he'd nearly been paralyzed with fear, it could have meant another life. More blood on his own hands.
Putting the girl down, Morand felt his back crack and struggled to stand up again. He was in excruciating pain, but he forced himself to push on and finish the job, these people weren't going to lose their home with him on the watch!
Once the job was done, he was in so much pain, and still seeing the ghost of the woman floating in his mind's eye, that he came to the difficult realization that he wasn't able to fulfill the duties he had sworn to.
He called in and retired.
|"Is is supposed to tingle there?"|
Title / Cat Empire