Flames had erupted from a scrap bin on the eighth floor. It consumed the entire building, slowly eating away at the wood before making it's way to the top floor. The locked doors blocked the escape of the many women working on the shirts. The many women who had worked for nine hours every day for six days a week. They had been packed in there to do tedious work which earned them little money.
He whirled around at the quiet voice, and brokenly whispered, "What?"
She looked up with that look in her eyes. The determined one that he had fallen for in the first place.
"Let's jump. I don't want," she hesitated, "I don't want to burn."
Even now, her fear of fire still gripped her tightly, refusing to release her. He looked towards the window, where the first women had started to throw themselves out of the burning building. Little Camilla had been the first.
Screams from the bottom drifted up to the open windows.
"Wait until we get the net in place!"
He couldn't imagine Little Camilla's sweet face splattered across the ground. No, he wouldn't. Not Camilla, not the little girl who had first introduced him to Rose. No, not her.
Her plea brought his attention back to his Rose.
"Please, don't let me burn."
What could he do but obey? He was powerless against her. He would do anything for her. He would jump around the park for her. He would steal the rarest diamond for her. He would murder anyone for Rose. Even her.
Looking back at his love, he inhaled what little he could. He could only whisper, "Very well."
Taking a firm hold of her small hand, he was momentarily taken aback. He had never really noticed how small her hand was. It was too small to be sewing the shirts for hours every day. It had been calloused with the work she had had to do since she was young. She should never had had to work. She should have been treated like the princess she deserved to be, not forced to work for her own survival. Her pain, her worries, and her life were etched into her hands. Had he just met her a bit earlier, maybe he could have saved her.
Had she not had to work, she would never had to have been in this situation in the first place. God worked in such strange ways. What had they done? What exactly had they done wrong for God to have brought hell to them before they had passed on? Surrounded by the unforgiving inferno and the bodies desperately throwing themselves out of the windows in an attempt to save their lost souls, he could only wonder.
Little Camilla was the eldest of ten children and had quit her schooling to help her students raise her siblings. Everything she had earned while working nine hours a day went towards her siblings. Lucia was a young widow with a blond, dimpled two-year-old whose blue eyes shone even in their corner of the grimy tenement house. Antonia was beaten by her drunkard husband, but had dutifully doted upon him. His Rose had never done anything wrong except maybe having been born to the wrong family who abandoned her. None of them had.
All of these girls had been dealt a bad hand in life. All of them should have lived in a world where they didn't have to fight to survive. They should have been able to live the remainder of their days peacefully. Camilla should have been able to see her siblings finish school. Lucia should have been able to raise her son up with the memories of her husband who had doted on them. Antonia should have been able to see her husband sober up and return her affections. He and his Rose should have been able to have loved each other a little longer. But God and Lady Fate had other plans.
Leading his love to the cramped windows, he couldn't help but be confused. He had just married her. Today was the first day of the rest of their lives. They were supposed to have moved out west next week! He was filled with an undeniable rage which purged all rational thought from him, when his wife suddenly tugged on his hand. He turned around and saw Mrs. Giovanni, the kind lady who had always taken care of Rose.
"We can't let her burn, either."
"Of course not."
Collecting Mrs. Giovanni, her daughter, and Mrs. De Luca, the little group made their way to the nearest window.
He stepped out onto the ledge first before holding his hand out to Mrs. De Luca who took it fearfully. She trembled slightly, but clutched onto his hand with her left hand and clutched a rosary in the other.
"Santa Maria, Madre di Dio, prega per oi peccatori, adesso e nell'ora della nostra morte. Amen."
With a small, reassuring smile to Mrs. Giovanni and her daughter, she nodded her thanks to him before looking at the skies one last time. With her eyes closed and a smile on her lips, she took the step and plunged to the ground.
The screams grew. The heat intensified. He just remembered that Mrs. De Luca's husband had just recently died in another factory accident. She had joined him.
When he reached out to grab the next hand, he was shocked to grip the tiny hand of Mrs. Giovanni's daughter. Looking bewildered to Mrs. Giovanni, he was given a tight lipped smile.
"I can not let her see me. I can't."
With a sideways glance to Rose, he nodded. He understood.
Mrs. Giovanni kissed her daughters forehead before wiping Renee's tears away.
"Be brave, amore mio."
With shaky knees, the teenager made her way onto the ledge. With a reassuring squeeze of her hand, he held onto her for another second before handing her over to death. A small sob broke out of Mrs. Giovanni.
She then turned around and hugged her surrogate daughter one last time before climbing onto the ledge. She was in a hurry to get to her daughter.
"Grazie," she whispered.
She then took a step and dropped like the pennies her daughter loved to throw into the fountains.
The nets had failed, and everyone who had jumped had jumped to her death. In a way, by dying, Mrs. De Luca, Mrs. Giovanni, and her daughter had all escaped their harsh lives. They were leaving behind all of their worries for the next world. Perhaps this wasn't God punishing them, but his way of saving them.
He dreaded what was to come next, but dutifully held out his hand. With a peaceful smile, his wife, his beautiful Rose, looked into his face. She searched his face, tried to memorize everything about him, from the little crease near his mouth to the scar on his forehead.
"I love you," he whispered.
"I love you too."
Helping her onto the ledge, he gripped her hand tightly. He wished that the fire would miraculously extinguish itself, and that Mrs. Giovanni, her daughter, and Mrs. De Luca would get back up. He wished that they could climb back into the window and head out west again as planned. He wished he had had the chance to live a peaceful life. He wished and wished and wished.
Looking at her dark chocolate eyes, long hair, and soot covered face, he wondered again. Maybe this was for the best. Maybe not. Who knows.
With the same smile, Rose asked the question they had always asked each other.
"Never alone, right?
Never alone, sweetheart. Not anymore. Never again.
As orphans who had had a rough time, being alone was their greatest fear. It was greater than their fear of fire and their fear of death.
He grinned back at her, the same grin that she had fallen in love with, before assuring her: "I'll be there soon."
She suddenly put her arms around him and kissed him. It wasn't like any of their other kisses. It was sweet, but it was filled with so many regrets. It said so many words that she wanted to say, but couldn't. Likewise, he poured in everything he wanted to tell her as well. So brief, but so sweet.
Breaking away, he smiled at her and hugged her one last time.
He stepped back, instantly missing the warmth of her soft body.
Squeezing her hand one last time, he dropped her.
For a moment, her skirts floated up around her ethereally. They seemed to form a cloud that would miraculously brace her fall and allow her to get back up and walk away unharmed. She looked like an angel. No, she looked like his Rose. Just Rose.
The moment passed, and he quickly averted his gaze. But for a split second, he had seen her, his beautiful Rose, sprawled on the hard concrete, blood slowly pooling around her body and the bodies of the other women.
Looking across the park, he marveled at the world. So harsh, so short, yet so beautiful at the same time. He may have been born a scoundrel with no parents, and he may have been a good for nothing, but he had been given another wonderful, albeit short, chance at life with Rose. It was amazing how he had met Rose and had finally found a goal in life; to protect her.
Two orphans, two people fighting for their lives, two lost sheep had been found.
Looking back, he couldn't regret anything he did. He had done the best he could, and he could only regret that his time on earth had been so short.
Looking down at the figure of his wife, he was ready. Rose never changed. Even in death, she was beautiful and was still a shining beacon for him. She was leading him into the next life.
In the face of the unbearable heat and the screams of both the women in the building and the firemen watching helplessly from the ground, he smiled.
His coat fluttered up like Rose's skirts.
The next day, the entire country was ablaze over what would be forever known as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.
Hello! This is the first story I've ever written, so I hope you enjoy. Please review with criticisms. Thank you.