Five years ago, Phoenix lost his lover Gabriel, his angel, in a horrific hate crime. All he wanted was to follow him into death and he struggled a long time trying to get his life back together. All this time later he still hasn’t been able to put the past behind him and forget about the love of his life.
On the anniversary of Gabriel’s death—and 25th birthday—Phoenix’ apartment building catches fire. Will Phoenix do the reasonable thing, or will he rise from the ashes to reunite with his beloved angel?
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I shake my head, trying to get out of the funk I’ve been in since I woke up. Grabbing his favorite throw blanket and my Kindle, I carry them to the living room and dump them on the couch before continuing to the corner of the room masquerading as a kitchenette and chug down a bottle of water. It’s pitch black outside my window and the streets are silent. Not even the cat that’s usually perched on a branch high in the tree spying on guileless birds is present. But sounds of people moving around in the hallway drift through my front door. I scrunch my eyebrows together and glance at the clock on the wall. Three thirty. Is the neighbor having one of his crazy all-night parties again?
Sighing, I shrug. I don’t really care what he’s doing. We made an agreement one of the times I woke up in the middle of the night to him blasting Nirvana so loud I was sure the people two streets away heard it: I would ignore the ridiculous volume and he would never try to invite me to the parties again. It has worked well so far.
A loud banging on my door, followed by a panicked “Fire!” makes me jump. “Yo, Phoenix, you in there? Get out, get out!” After another bang, hasty steps disappear from our apartment and the procedure is repeated next door.
My heart speeds up. The damned fire alarm must be broken. Again. If it’s not the elevator, missing light bulbs, or a faulty water heater, it’s the fire alarm.
Shaking my head, I try to get a grip on my thoughts. I need to get out of there, but my naked feet are glued to the floor and I can only stand there listening to the sounds of doors opening and people running. There aren’t many apartments on each floor in this crappy building, the sounds soon disappear, leaving behind only a thundering silence.
“Move, dammit,” I mutter to my feet and thankfully they obey. Jogging to my bedroom, I grab my phone and wallet. I shove my feet in my shoes and pull a warm sweater over my head before hurrying to the door.
When I get back out to the living room I feel it. The stench of smoke. It seeps in under the door, invades our home, and threatens my entire existence. I fight the urge to cough. Flutters of panic start in my belly and it has never taken so long to cross the floor of our small place as it does now. I feel like I’m stuck, like I’m moving in slow motion, like I’ll never make it.
But of course, I do. I reach for the handle, ready to get out of there, but …
The photo album! Shit, I almost forgot!
I can’t leave without my pictures of him. My most prized possessions that I watch regularly because I fear his dear face will fade from my memory and slip into oblivion.
I want to remember his piercing blue eyes forever. The way his entire person lit up as he laughed. I want to remember his chin dimple and the nose that was crooked because he sledded into a tree when he was a kid and broke it. I want to remember his hands, his long legs, his ridiculously small ears, and everything about him. I can’t go on with my life if I forget what he looked like.