Keep me warm

By: Jude Ouvrard




Prologue


Sitting in the back of a cab on a cold, starless night after an amazing night with my friends, I see flames leaping from a roof down the street and the flashing lights of firetrucks. Checking our location, I try to convince myself the chaos is far from my place, but the closer we get, the harder it is to breathe. My chest aches and my mouth is dry. In actuality, we’re very close to my home.

“This can’t be real,” I mumble to myself.

When we reach the last corner, a police officer asks the cabbie to stop. Panic and agony build in me at an unreal rhythm. There’s no more question as to whether it’s my home, our building, on fire. I jump out of the car and run toward the scene, but am held in place by two strong men. Though their hands are keeping me in place and they’re talking to me, I don’t hear anything.

“My husband and my son are in there. My husband... my son... please. Hurry!” I yell at them urging them to get my family out. Pushing their hands away, I try again to run inside to get them myself. My life is in there. My whole world. “Gabe? Brock!” I pray calling upon all the Saints, and God.

“Ma’am, you can’t go inside. It’s too dangerous.”

Crying, hurting, and looking everywhere around to see if they’ve made it out, I don’t see them. I don’t. The firefighter is trying to bring me to the ground. I’m kicking, pushing, and punching, though; there’s nothing stopping me while I yell, “A boy and a man from apartment four, on the second floor.” Pushing myself from the ground with my legs, once more I’m trying to run away.

“Ma’am, you can’t go in there.” Another man has joined the first, and together, they drag me out of the danger zone.

“Where are they?” When his face falls, void of all emotion, I know how bad my life has just gotten.





Chapter ONE


It’s been a year since I lost myself.

My name is Adele Gordon, and I’m trying to find my way again. Some days I fear I may not find that woman ever again, though.

The days have gone cold again. Winter is coming and I’m not looking forward to it. Cold makes everything harder, including fighting to keep warm and chase the nightmares away. Will they ever go?

So many things changed in an instant. Everything changed during my battle to survive mentally at a psychiatric institute, and the fight to build myself up again. Starting life over from scratch, from the clothes and furniture which had to be replaced to salvaging my mental health, has not been easy.

My reality is not a dreamscape nightmare, but a real one. Surviving the death of my future, the love of my life and my soul, is the worst nightmare anyone can encounter. I go to bed every night freezing and alone, and wake up the exact same way.

There is nothing left in this world to keep me warm.

Yet I fight, in hope of someday finding my way.





Chapter TWO


Trapped in the flames of our apartment, my son and husband died while I was out with my friend celebrating the last of her bachelorette days. Partying like never before, we had so much fun that night—so much fun while my boys were dying.

Waking up from another nightmare to my own screams, my body shakes in the cold air enveloping me while I claw at my chest, gasping for air. Each night I try to save them in my dreams, and fail every single time. All I wish for are a warm bath and a delete button to my brain, but I don’t have either one. If only I could forget the last twelve months. It almost feels like my heart is being torn in two. A searing pain which burns through every single vein and nerve.

Now I live in a small studio, with used furniture given to me out of pity. Everything was lost in that fire. We hadn’t had insurance. Part of moving on was needing to get a job and hoping for the best.

“What kind of job experience do you have?”

“None. I was home, raising my son.”

Following my admission would come the inevitable sigh or the end of the interview, always. Nobody wanted to hire me. Nobody except one of the downtown hotels.

I’ve been cleaning rooms for months now, working long hours to pay rent and most of my bills. Those damn bills. There are days where I don’t get to talk to anyone. It’s a solitary life which allows me to be lost in my thoughts most of the time.

“How are you doing, Adele?” Mom asks every two days, when she calls on me.

“I’m hanging in there.”

“You’ve gained weight again.”

I know I have, but I don’t have the willpower to eat healthy. When those are the words I keep hearing, sometimes I’d rather be lonely.

★★★

I’m turning a room, fixing the bedsheets, when the guest enters the room. I hate when this happens. It’s always embarrassing for us both and I never know what to do with myself. Hide, leave, or continue my job.

“I can come back later if you would like, sir,” I offer, my voice a notch above audible.

The man turns around, sipping on his cup of coffee and looks at me. “No, it’s okay. I’ll be out in five minutes.” His handsome smile turns into a frown. “And, please, don’t call me sir. It makes me feel old.”

When I think about it, he looks a tad older than I am, not much more. From where I’m standing not a single grey hair or wrinkle is noticeable on him. His clothes appear to be of good quality and trendy; I hate my maid uniform. The peach color makes me look sick. “I’m sorry, s–I’m sorry,” I stammer. Come on, Adele, get it together.