Fire at Brookfield
It had been a mistake to hold the fireworks party in the garden of her farmhouse, built many years before on the Brookfield flood plain. Daphne hadn’t expected that strong wind to come in from the West to guide errant rockets or still glowing cigarette butts to land on the roof. The thatch was still dry after the rain-free month of October.
Perhaps it was caused by a single cigarette end from that blazer clad Henry she didn’t remember inviting. She had only seen him once before, in the Bull, and she hadn’t liked him then. He smoked, which was bad enough, but his suicide weapons of choice were Du Maurier filter kings. Those expensive cigarettes in their cartons with pretentious purple panels framed by gold.
The fire had been quickly seen by those in the garden so there had been time to get everyone clear of the house and call the fire service. Her mistake had been to go back in and climb the stairs to her bedroom to try to save some of her precious photos. Up here she could feel the heat but was taken by surprise when a backdraft up the stairs goaded the flames to break through the ceiling and free the deadly beam, dried to kindling by the cascading centuries, to fall, trapping her legs. Only her pride was injured but she could not move with the weight of the old knotted oak crushing her to the floor like an over enthusiastic lover.
The immediate danger was the choking smoke which quickly filled the bedroom, making her cough uncontrollably, rather than the encroaching flames which were already raising the air temperature. She burrowed her head down to the floor to hoover up some remaining oxygen from the clear air layer clinging to the floor boards. Then she felt the blessed coolness of the water spray from the firefighter’s hose as she fought her way up the stairs behind her partner who was protecting her with a water wall barrier against the flames and heat from his fan-set hose.
She had a sudden, panicky, irrational thought of Manderley. Had Becky managed to set the horses free from the burning stables or had the castle dor jammed, trapping her favourite Palomino, Jamaica, in? She remembered then that there were no stables at her farmhouse and she didn’t own any horses but she couldn’t look now. These crazy, fear – driven thoughts were for the birds.
‘I thought I was going to die’ she muttered to the first firefighter as she bent over her to check for injuries. ‘Can you get this off me?’
They strained to lift the beam, let it fall to one side and gently strapped her on the Neil Robinson stretcher ready for the medivac.
‘ We knew you wouldn’t die,’ they reassured her,
‘We checked the script and you are in the episode tomorrow’
Her over tensed body sagged with relief, she was desperate not to be written out of the Archers.
© Richard Kefford Eorðdraca
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