A Better Friend

The sky had turned grey and orange, smoke blocking my airways.
Sarah sat next to the fence, her knees drawn up, her shoulders trembling and staring at the sky. She had saved for years to get this house and couldn't wait to host our annual Christmas gathering. The day she purchased it, she called to tell me all about it from bathroom to backyard. It was her dream house. Since moving in, she'd painted it and made pretty sky blue curtains to hang from all the windows.
In the distance, sirens wailed, too late to save a house long gone. Smoke hung over us in a thick cloud and flames danced as they devoured the building, delighting in the damage.
“You know you’re welcome to stay indefinitely at my place,” I said, patting Sarah’s shoulder. When I didn't get a response, a random thought occurred to me: maybe I should jump up and act like a chicken? Would that make her laugh? I doubted it.
I opened my mouth and closed it again. I felt like it was partly my fault. I wanted to be more useful. I wanted to be a better friend.
The others had trickled away, but I wasn't going anywhere.
Fire fighters rushed around, steam hissing from the ruins. A synthetic reek clung to the air, a harsh reminder of what had just happened. I wanted to close my eyes and pretend we were still yelling out cheesy Christmas jokes, but the smell prevented that. I wondered if Sarah felt the same. Probably, but on a worse scale.
I wanted to tell her that she could get a new home, a better place. I wanted to tell her not to worry; she had a good job and would be safe and secure. But I just sat there. I hope it was enough.


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