“Yes Kitty Boo, your baby cousin is in here,” Bella replied to her little niece giggling on the floor.
April came over and picked her daughter up swinging her onto her hip and hugging her closely. “Who’s my clever girl saying baby, I’m so proud of you.”
Bella stood by watching the exchange between mother and child. She could not believe how happy her sister was since Kitty had arrived. “I can’t believe how big she is getting,” Bella commented. “It feels like yesterday she was born and now she’s talking!”
“I can’t believe how big you’re getting,” April replied with a chuckle.
“I know,” Bella said stroking her belly. “Only six weeks left to go and then this little fella will be here. To be honest April I’m pretty terrified. How do I know if I’m really ready for a baby?”
“No one’s ever really ready for a baby,” April replied laughing at her sister. “But believe me Bel, they are absolutely worth it. Me and Sissy could not imagine life without Kitty Boo.”
Just then, Charlie came bursting through the front door and dropped his briefcase onto the floor with a dramatic thud. “Honey, I’m home,” he sung theatrically. Bella tutted, he had been doing this every day since they had married.
Charlie dashed over to Bella and pulled her into him. “Hello Mrs Starr.”
“Hello Mr Starr,” she replied letting him kiss her tenderly.
“Aww you guys,” April cooed.
Bella was not embarrassed by Charlie’s overly displays of affection. She just loved being in Charlie’s arms as much as possible. “I love you,” she whispered and he mouthed the words back to her giving her hand a tight squeeze.
Even though Bella was nearing her due date, she still worked every day on her paintings and photography and visited the Gallery almost every evening to check on her sales and hang new works of art.
“Owww,” she complained massaging her back with her finger tips and trying to stretch forward. The last few weeks of pregnancy had been tough on her and her back was killing.
She decided to call it a night and called Charlie to let him know she was on her way home. “Hey darling, I’m going to be leaving in about 10 minutes. What you up to?”
“I’m so pleased you’re coming home, you know how I hate you working so late in your condition. I’m just in the kitchen cooking dinner for us.”
“Cooking dinner,” Bella exclaimed, Charlie never cooked!
“I sure am! Stew Surprise. Your mums already gone to bed so it will just be you and I and I thought I would surprise you.”
“Well, be careful,” Bella giggled. “Last time you cooked you nearly set the house on fire.”
“Charming! I only burnt the food. I promise it will be wonderful. See you soon darling.”
“Can’t wait to try it. See you soon,” Bella replied hanging up the phone and laughing at her husband. She was not sure she was looking forward to this meal.
She cleared up her work space and headed home. She sang along to the radio as she drove through Bridgeport City centre, over the bridge and up into the hills. As she rose higher and higher the air got denser and she saw smoke in the distance. Not thinking much of it she continued to drive until her house came into view. Fire Engines were parked on the verge outside her house and the smoke she saw in the sky was emanating from her roof. Her house was on fire!
Captured in a blind panic, Bella pulled her car to the side and jumped out. Looking up at her home engulfed in flames she stood still in shock, her hands over her mouth stifling her screams.
“Bella, Bella.” She heard her name being called but she was too stunned to turn around. “Bella,” came her sister’s voice again.
Bella finally looked up to see April’s face peering back at her. She was dressed in her fireman’s uniform and had black smog streaked across her. “Bella are you ok,” April said again.
“Yes I’m fine. What happened?”
“I don’t know, we’ve only just got here. My colleagues are trying to put the fire out now. They thought it would be best if I stayed outside.”
“Mum,” Bella suddenly shrieked. “Where’s mum?”
“It’s ok,” April replied. “She’s ok. She got out. Look.” Bella looked in the direction April was pointing and could see her mother in her dressing gown standing on the road side, safe.
Then another thought ran through Bella’s head. “April, where’s Charlie?”
April stayed silent and looked at the ground.
“April, tell me! WHERE’S CHARLIE,” Bella screamed feeling herself becoming hysterical.
“We don’t know,” April finally admitted. “He ran back inside to find mum not knowing she had already gotten herself out. No one has seen him since. But they are looking Bella. I promise they are going to find him.”
Bella couldn’t breathe. She felt like the smoke was suddenly suffocating her and someone was strangling her all at the same time. She chocked on some far away tears and eventually heard herself screaming Charlie’s name.
April did not know what to do. “Mum, mum,” she called out. Allie looked over at April and spotting Bella sped over to her daughter’s side.
She clasped hold of Bella and let her sobbing frame fall against her. “It’s ok darling,” she soothed. “Everything will be ok. But you need to calm down and we need to move away from this smoke, it’s bad for the baby.”
“I’m not going anywhere without Charlie,” Bella howled sobbing uncontrollably.
“We have to go Bella darling. Its dangerous being this close. Please come with us,” Allie begged clasping hold of Bella’s shoulders. “April will find Charlie won’t you April.”
“Of course we will,” April stuttered.
“I’m not going anywhere without Charlie,” Bella yelled at her mother again. “Arrrhhhhhh,” she suddenly screamed out clutching her belly. “Arrrrhhhhh,” she screamed again.
“The baby’s coming,” April shrieked.
“No no,” Bella spat out between crippling contractions. “He can’t. It’s too early.” Just then, her waters broke.
“We need some help over here,” Allie screamed to one of the firemen.
“Leave me alone. I’m not going anywhere without Charlie,” Bella screamed one more time before the next contraction shot through her like a bullet and she had no choice but to let the fireman carry her to their truck to take her to the hospital.
A few hours later after the fire was finally put out and she had gone through the debris, April arrived at the hospital to see her sister. She walked past her stricken mother in the corridor getting herself a coffee and entered Bella’s private room.
Bella was sitting in the corner of the room in a nursing chair looking like a ghost. She was clutching hold of one baby, while its twin slept soundly in the crib nearby. April leant into the crib and looked the baby in his eyes. “He’s beautiful Bella,” she said. “They both are. Who knew you were having twins eh?”
Bella did not respond. She just looked straight ahead and asked, “Did you find Charlie?”
April braced herself and took a deep breath. “I’m so so sorry Bella. But he didn’t make it.”
Bella did not make a sound but a fresh supply of tears filled her eyes and dribbled down her cheeks falling onto her new born babies face. She looked into his eyes and saw Charlie. She had not lost him after all. He was still here but in the faces of her son’s, immortalised forever. Then why did it have to hurt so much?