Screams of terror filled the room - pain ripping through her once vibrant body. Holding onto every breath, gasping, thinking, “is this last breath I will have?” Eyes focused on the man she loves, wondering – why!
Falling to her knees, looking deep into his dark, brown, glistening eyes, remembering the first kiss; the soft touch of his hand and the warm sensation when he held her, while feeling the agonizing pain flowing through her limbs; clinches her stomach to ease her final breaths before shutting her blue eyes forever.
She barely had enough strength to crawl towards him, dragging her slim, body that was wrapped in a white beaded-sequins, spaghetti strap gown, along the plush carpeted floor. Brown, spiral hair was placed perfectly, falling around her porcelain doll-like face - weak arms gripping around his long, muscular leg knowing he is in control and the end is near.
No sensibilities, no words spoken. Troubled looking – bending to touch her soft, glowing beauty one last time; caressing the lips he kissed with passion of overpowering delight and whispering in her ear – “why?”
Stars glistening overhead and traffic noise below. The young city night just beginning and the grand opening of the hotel commencing, their big moment in the spot light crushed. Only to recall the last words to echo in her ears – “I love you.”
Lying lifeless, still, like a white rose, after a rain on a morning spring day. Hard to imagine his life without her, he drank the last drop in the small slim glass bottle and lied down beside her, closed his eyes, held her and said – “sorry darling.”
Mahogany furniture throughout the structure had been restored. Vibrant colors up-dated this grand hotel to reveal the expense of luxury city living, but before the demise of the hotel, Hollywood stars and well known, distinguished cliental ventured their stay with the Ivy Tower. All comforts of home were offered from the laundry service, to the bouquet of fresh-cut seasonal flowers, which filled every room. Bell Hops would carry your luggage with hopes of a tip and the house cleaners placed a peppermint on your pillow; the front desk clerk organized wake-up calls and the room service would be done to perfection.
Sheathe qualities of this eighty-two year old structure are still one of the most glorious pieces of architecture in the center city today, nestled on Spruce Street, where the action can be found. Corner hot dog stands, elite restaurants, high quality fashion, and the business center of the stock market are where all types of people near and far traveled each day to be professionals in the metropolis - the bread and butter limits. Traffic packed the streets and trains ran about every ten minutes, unless here were any technical problems.
Wrapped around the building, fresh grown ivy, as green as summer pastures, raised high above the sidewalk boundaries. Stone-carved pot boxes captivated the ingress surrounding the ivy for over eight decades, commencing high above the uproar of vehicles and pedestrians, over looking the river that separated New Jersey from Philadelphia. Attaching itself so tightly, anyone who ever tried to remove it was unsuccessful. Ivy representing this buildings vitality and strength to with stand all nature and human elements clung strong.
It seemed like an eternity to Mr. Sloan. His dream of reopening his life, to rekindle the love he once knew. Years of intense dedication to uncover a different world in luxury city living, instead of reopening the painful wounds of the past, he poured both heart and soul into joining his love again. A new building of hope would prevail.
Chance Sloan, a very well distinguished profile in the community resumed his role as Chairman and CEO. Dressed in an Italian black, pin-stripped suit, polished shoes and a red handkerchief in the top left pocket of his jacket; recently trimmed, brown stylish hair, with traces of gray around his ears and charming brown eyes, which caught every young women’s attention, standing six feet and two inches tall, with a take charge personality. Even when you wanted to argue, by the time you left the room, your anger subsided.
Reality hit as the residents came. Ideas set in to help the process, until one thought triggered his mind. The sight of a new journalist had consumed his sanity. “Can this be true?” thought Sloan… after all these years.
Taut, at the corner of his traditional 4x6 desk, Sloan engaged deep in thought. “How cleaver of me”, he thought while perfecting the mustache hairs around his mouth. Reaching around the tall, crystal lamp sitting by the phone, he made his call. “How are you? Is Mr. Schaffer available?” Discussing his business opportunity, Sloan sat back in his over cushioned, leather chair and smiled cunningly, waiting until the day arrived.
Residents were running out of the gold-plated doors as fear settled in their bodies with every move, and eyes filled with panic as they scramble to safety. Sounds of fire squads, police vehicles and pedestrian squeals, covered the sidewalk of center city, which could be heard a mile away.
Top of the building - the dome seemed to illuminate the sky – “a fire?” The thought ran through every ones heads as they stood on the street, “my home, my job, my life.” Bright, extravagant lights could be viewed from the ground looking up those thirty structured floors; from the outstanding multi-color (burgundy, sand, autumn) roof, to the defined designs, carved ledges, with angels sitting at the apex of the arch-dome above Spruce Street, which flows the perimeter of the structure, completing the magnificent edifice.
Arriving exhausted, famished, hot and curious, Jessica embarks on her first historic assignment for Historic Magazine. Spiral, shoulder length, brown hair hung dull from traveling. Holding her Perry Ellis designer bag with a leather strap wrapped around her arm; makes her way toward the entrance of the building.
“Excuse Me.” Keeps coming from her mouth as she pushes her way through the crowd and into the lobby of the building, wondering what is going on and if it will interfere with her task. Supported by the weight of her luggage, trying to get someone’s attention; feels someone or something behind her - a presence, an in-human form, but a feeling of calmness; turns to see, but only feels a cool breeze. Letting her imagination run wild or thinking maybe it was just all the commotion, she continues.
Noticing the desk attendant standing by the marble desk with monitors, phones and radios; short, dirty-blond hair; and glasses around his eyes - blue vest, toped of with a red tie, was guiding the resident’s placidity out of the building. Jessica taps him on the shoulder. Turning around and looking at her, says aggressively, “please, you need to exit the building!”
“There is smoke on the top floor and as a precaution we are evacuating.”
Not listening, as usual, having grown up in a well-polished structured family, rebelling against her parents to follow her heart, Jessica has only her mission on her mind. This assignment is to prove to herself and her parents she can be a writer. They wanted her to follow in her father’s footsteps as a doctor, believing writing is for enjoyment, not a living. All Jessica loved too do is write and this is her big break and no one is going to stop her.
Ignoring the desk attendant, she heads toward the corridor. Passing the residents as they run by, fighting to go the other way; bumps into a young man with an art case, charming, as he is comely, she stares into his deep, brown eyes, noticing his dark, erotic hair and tall, physic.
“You know you are going the wrong way?”
“Yes, I need to find out what is happening.”
“Well, the building might be on fire, don’t you think it would be a wise decision to exit?”
Taking note of his opinion, getting a grasp on her bags and trying to act calmly all at the same time, turns away and walks towards the desk personnel. Placing her bags down, “Mr. … Mr. …” the gentleman, looking into her face, in a nervous, but strong voice, “Miss you must exit the building.”
“Frank”… he voiced sternly, the middle-aged man that hated and loved his job at the same time. The last five minutes of his shift and hell breaks loose. All he wanted to do is go home and sleep.
“I am supposed to be writing an article about this place.”
“Right now you can leave and wait to see if there’s still going to be a place to write about.”
“Everyone must evacuate.”
Frank resumed his task and Jessica acting as if she was leaving, sneaks around the corner and back down behind the immense planters, which stood between the enchanting chairs that decorate the lobby and the gold-plated French double doors. Lights of extreme beauty allured the passion of the 18-century art justifying this historic magnitude of hand carved stone, embracing every curve. The end of the hallway seemed like an eternity to get to. Pulling back the hair from her face, wiping her warm blue eyes - like after the rain on a morning spring day, places down her bags underneath a table that was next to what looked like the freight elevator, however fastidious. Pictures eight feet high and six feet wide covered the length of the corridor in a subtle pattern, but the engrossing abstract colors made you breathless.
Jessica heard a faint noise. Listening to what she was hearing, or maybe not, was difficult with everyone leaving the building in haste. No one had heard what she heard. Cool, the evening a brisk 50 degrees - she pulls her pale blue, fleece sweater closed and heads further down the corridor.
Noticing a door a-jar with carved angels - peacefully lying on continuous blankets of clouds, peeps down the stairs, which descend to a dark, cold, basement, appearing to be lit by someone or something. Jessica holds the rail as she reaches the bottom of the cold, puddle cement floor, still hearing the faint resonance, sounding like howling – yet - almost like …
“Hello,” echoing through the tunnel made hallway, which leads off into five different directions, “anyone here?”
Slowly heading towards the first turn-off, Jessica couldn’t move. The pounding of her heart kept getting more intense as she was trying to breath. Hoping it was all in her head, she felt a hand touch the top of her dainty shoulder. No words voiced. Is this it? Will she not fulfill her dream? The beating of her heart grew intense. Wanting to turn around, but fearing what she might find. Only heard the words; “Why are you down here? The basement is off limits. You must leave. Everyone is evacuating.”
Feeling of relief came over her… the one aspect about her career no one taught, was fright. “I realize that - I am lost - it’s my first time in this building. With all the commotion, I must have turned the wrong way. Thank you.”
Jessica, thinking to herself as she exits up to the corridor, “There is something going on
here, and I am going to find out what.” The well-aged, well-groomed man stares at her curiously, until she leaves and continues his tasks, while saying softly, “is she the one?”
Chief Pascal, of the fire department ordered everyone to exit the building. Firefighting was his job and his life. An overpowering rush of being in control, along with a feeling of excitement, came over him when he fought to beat the blaze.
When the call came in, the Chief was just returning from a row-house fire, located a few blocks away on Spruce. If he had stayed a little bit longer he would have had to go only five blocks, instead of fifteen.
Pulling out of the firehouse was a daily routine most of the time. Alternating shifts, allowed the crew to share quality time with their families, unless you were a rookie. In that case, you started out on the night shift. All rookies got the shaft. Eventually they got their turn on the day shift. Tonight, Chief Pascal was working twice as hard, because two of his men were out on medical leave.
Lights were shinning and twirling in bright circles; sirens blared loudly through the streets as cars pulled over to allow the red, flashing fire trucks to pass; pedestrians were watching where the firemen were headed, while dogs barked and howled, joining in with the noise and chaos of the night. Having reached their destination; both trucks parked directly in front, but away from the entrance. Firefighters began jumping off the trucks, going in all directions, hoses pulled from the side of the life saving vehicles, not aware of what was in store for them, because every scene was unique. The only issue that remained constant was that of saving lives.
Men worked as a team, followed the direction of their chief, hearing the same words on each scene that never changed: “Let’s get the hoses hooked-up men”, yelled the Chief as he quickly rubbed his green eyes to wipe away the dust and ash from the row-house fire. His grayish hair was a witness to many battles he must have fought through the years. He was promoted to Chief a year ago. The entire city knew and respected him. His first priority was for the safety of his crew and those people who were directly affected by the fire. You could tell that in his demeanor.
All the residents were standing on the sidewalk, behind the police barricade, as the rest of the city life moves on. No single incident can stop the people of Philly, that is, unless the city blew-up. With horns blowing, people screaming at one another, traffic racing through the streets, along with wailing and sobbing of the burning buildings’ residents, patience wore thin, becoming almost non-existent.
Jessica came around the corner noticing the fright in everyone’s eyes. Tired from her journey and hungry, she could not get the noise she heard out of her head. Remembering the words her mother said to her when she left home to begin her adult life, “always trust in your feelings and let no one tell you differently.” Jessica’s mother grew up in a loving family, albeit strict. Maybe that’s why Jessica wanted to follow her own path instead of having her family tell her what to do. Her mother just wanted her to be happy and do what she loves, and for Jessica that was writing. Her goal - to win the Pulitzer Prize. No matter what her father said, she knows he loves her and wants her to be happy. However, she needs to prove to herself as well as to her family she can make it on her own.
Before the long haul to the city of brotherly love, the thought of not getting the story for her first assignment was unsettling. She had to prove to her boss that she could be the best journalist in the company. She begged him to let her write the story and this time he gave in. It was like fighting tooth and nail when it came to her boss. Yes, he believes she
is a good journalist, but was she ready? Always hearing, “it’s not easy out there. People can stomp on you, shut doors in your face, call you names, and sometimes get violent.” Jessie knew all this; she was prepared. College can’t really prepare you for what’s really out there, but she is not the timid type. She must use all her training she had learned in college. The sneaky ways to get a story and get into areas that were prohibited was the only way to find the truth. The words, “I’m counting on you”, the voice of her tight-ass boss, rang through her head. Deep down, he was crossing his fingers.
Thomas hurried down the corridor in his polished, red distinguished robe to exit the building. Carrying his little, white poodle, he rushes past Peter, (the door attendant), in haste. Dark hair with gray, softly running through it, tall yet bulky in shape, notices Jessica standing near Peter. Charming in a distinguished way, he always was able to enlighten a pretty woman of any age.
“Excuse me miss, you seem a little disturbed. Can I be of any assistance?”
“No thank you, I am supposed to be writing an article on this building. I do not know if that is going to happen”, she said, sighing as she looked all around him, but not at him.
“What type of article? Thomas asked? “If you do not mind me being forward”.
Looking directly at Peter, “I am a writer from the Historic Magazine. I write about historic buildings.”
“That sounds fascinating. If you need any help, I know quite a lot about this old, tired, tremendous structure.”
Jessica was about to respond, when her cell phone rang. Cordially answering the phone, she said, “Jessie speaking.”
“Are you there and settled in yet?”
“No, I just arrived and every one had to evacuate the building, because there might be a fire on the top floor.”
“I will get the story, a story; and have it to you by the deadline. I understand. No, I will be fine; there is no need for you to come down here. Please give me a chance…Thank you.”
Placing her cell phone back in her bag, “I appreciate your help, uh…”
“Thank you Thomas”.
Looking at her surroundings and all the people coming and going in this metropolis of a city; thinking how Boston is much like this; the only difference being that she is in another city. Taking a moment to gather her thoughts, she finds a window-ledge just big enough for her to sit down. Resting her tried feet and aching body; remembered the time she came to Philly with her friends to go to a frat party. Rutgers not being to far over the Jersey bridge - Jessica found herself adventuring more and more over the state line. She knew right from wrong and still managed to have fun too. Her parents never doubted their trust in her. A bond she did not want to break. Yes, they can have disagreements, but once that trust is broken, it is so hard to gain it back. Jessica does not know one friend that does not have their family feuds.
Recalling the last words her boss said, pulling herself together Jessica noticed a middle-aged woman sitting on the carved edged stone that commenced this structures stance. Not real tall; not real short; straight black hair, rolled into a bun on the top of her head; green eyes; tanned skin; dressed in Khaki pants, and a drab gray polo shirt with a light-weight jacket that read, “Amy on the name tag - hugging herself too block out the northwest wind. A wind that seemed to be intensifying as the evening rolled on and the alleged fire continued.
The woman seemed alone, yet content. Jessica decided to get started on her assignment, since time was ticking and her first draft was due Saturday. Inching her way through the audience of the spectacle stands in front of her, Jessica reaches out. “Excuse me, do you mind if I join you?”
“Ok”, mutters out of the woman’s mouth.
Not sure how to begin the interview, she turns to face Amy; smiles and says, “How are you?” Flashback of role-playing went through her mind. Be polite, kind, and to the point and remember to smile; it gives the person a sense of relaxation. “I am not here to hurt you; I just want to ask some questions”.
Not sure how to approach her, she just blurts out. “I am just going to come out and ask you. Do you mind if I interview you for an article I am writing?”
“Well, I can write the story about what I see and get some information, but it would help me to write an article with all the facts and perspectives of people that actually live, breathe and work in this building every day. Plus, this is my first assignment and I want to knock my boss off his seat.”
The woman had a calm sense about her. Not really a drop dead gorgeous woman, but a person who seemed to be loyal. She asked Jessica, “what are you writing about?”
“In that case, what would you like to know?”
Both women, sat on the edge of the carved stone building waiting to find out what is happening with the alleged fire; while talking about it in depth. In the middle of their conversation, Jessica feels another cool breeze onto her neck; just like the one she felt when she was in the lobby. Looking around her, finding no one else, she keeps calm.
“Did you feel that?”
“Feel what, replied Amy?”
“Never mind, let’s continue.”
All of Jessica’s questions were simple. Amy has been here for a while, she did not mention how long. Not crazy about her job, but really nowhere else to go. She keeps to herself and does her job each day. One question Jessica asked Amy, to which she did not receive an answer was, “would she ever leave to further educate herself?” Amy’s lack of response perplexed her. Why couldn’t she leave?
Content with the interview, Jessica summed it up in her notebook and waited for the next step. Whatever, that entailed.
Chance had no worries. No troubles in his mind. He knew everything would be fine. He stayed seated at his desk and let his dedicated workers handle the situation. Putting his head back on his chair, he closed his eyes and dreamed of his love. Memories came rushing back as he slipped away into his heart.
It felt real as he ran his fingers through her soft, silky hair; caressing her delicate skin along every curve of her body. Touching her lush lips with his, tasting her as he works his way around every corner of her mouth, while moving down her neck towards her shoulders. Removing her strap that held up her white, tank blouse, as his lips gently traveled towards her breast.
Picturing his loves’ face; her irresistible, sweet smell; her deep blue eyes, as she loved him, made it feel more real. Remembering the way her touched felt. The grasp of her hands around his arms. The caressing of his chest as they showed their love for each other. His strength and her poise melted together, the beauty of their love.
For hours they would just caress one another. Foreplay always played a part in their romance, leading up to the ultimate high of love-making. Not just for a moment, but for a long while, they moved in positions of delight.
Chance smiled with his eyes shut, thinking of all the special days and nights with his love. It seemed as if his dream could last forever, until he was rudely interrupted, by the managers’ call, checking to see if he was okay.
Annoyed, he stated he was fine and to leave him alone as he turned his chair, stood and walked to the over-sized window, overlooking Spruce Street twenty-eight floors up.
Katherine walked outside towards Frank, in her ruby full-length terri-cloth robe. Reddish, short cut hair and hazel-green eyes; with her full figured body held at attention as she spoke. After ten o’clock she slips into her robe and stays in it until morning, no matter what the circumstances are. Wearing a suit all day is hard enough. She takes pride in her appearance, but tonight is just another night. Of course she made sure what she is wearing is dignified, well at least she was covered up.
“Is every one out of the building?,” she voice nervously with concern.
“I believe so, Ed is doing the head-count now,” Frank said.
“Ed, how far have you gotten?”
“I am almost finished.”
As the residents were standing on the sidewalk adjacent to their home; Thomas looking up at the building, while his dog was bothering Ed with his barking; noticed a bright light coming from the top of the dome of the building. With fright, turns around and yells.
“What is that?”
Katherine, Frank, Ed, Amy and Jessica heard Thomas and peeked up. Katherine, Frank and Ed quickly looked up towards the sky, followed by Jessica and Amy. However, in an instant it took all four to stare high, the so-called light Thomas saw was gone.
“What light”? Katherine said.
“I think you’re seeing things old man,” stated Ed.
“I saw a bright light coming from the dome. I swear.”
Annoyed, Katherine hurried back inside the lobby of the building. Hearing the sirens of the fire department; worries that the security cameras may be damaged or have something on them they shouldn’t. Asks for all the cameras that are located throughout the building for
security purposes to be turned off, except for the lobby area. The workers did as they were told. They never questioned Katherine.
As the fire department enters the building, the crew works their way throughout the building to secure it. Dressed in Black and yellow attire rushing in the lobby, wearing protective gear in order to help their quest, supplied with oxygen just in case someone might need it. Drags hoses throughout the stairwells; while a dispatch team stays right outside guiding the men and motioning for every one to leave the lobby.
“Is anyone else in the building?” Chief Pascal said.
“I do not believe so, but it is so hard to tell,” said Frank.
“Keep all the people away from the door. I need it clear,” said the fire chief. Frank respected the chief for his brave actions and helps in any way he can regarding a fire, but recalls the day that he almost died in a fire years ago that made him respect the Chief even more. Fighting fire, not knowing whether you are going to die that day, he could not handle. Once he fought the blaze at an early age. His career choice of becoming a firefighter faded. To join the efforts of battle when he could, he did. At least he felt good about himself and joined efforts to help those in danger.
Jessica, tired and exhausted, just wanted to lie down, her long trip starting to catch up with her. Eyes hurting and back aching she stands up to go to the coffee stand at the corner of Spruce Street and Board. The little stand has gotten quite a few people from this ordeal. Chilly winds and nowhere to go, coffee sounded good.
“A cup of coffee please. Thank you.”
Stirring in five sugars and cream, liking it light, but not too light - felt the hot sweet coffee touching her lips; warming her body from within; running her hands through her hair tried to figure out how to complete her assignment. The night coming closer to morning minute-by-minute, and not even sure where her bed is on the twenty-ninth floor, once she’s allowed to enter, if she can, she stared at the magnificent structure.
Angelika DeFrancesco/ DEADLINE
Jessica examined the outside layer of the article she was going to praise in the next edition of Historic Magazine. Angels with wings perched on the corners of the edifice with jagged edges that almost tell a story of how hard it took the men to build it; stone of slate that covers the surface. The glow of the iron stain glass windows created, engulfed the entire surrounding of the bottom floor, enhancing the 1900 aged masterpiece. It seemed that iron was used a lot to capture medieval décor; in addition it also seemed it was the only building in the city that ivy grew upon as well.
Walking around the building; she comes across an iron fence that separates the public from the staff, blocking the path Jessica wanted to take; looks to find another way. However, as she leans on the gate, thinking of another way, it opens. Mumbling to herself, “a non-locked gate, should I go through? Why not, I won’t get anywhere if I don’t snoop a little.”
Being the young curious journalist she is; she crossed through the gate; pushing against the rust that formed on the gate and the fence around the building. Quiet, noise only heard from around the corner; then all of a sudden, startled now, with high alert, she feels another cool breeze. Assuming it is the brisk wind blowing on this October night, turns quickly around and to her amazement sees a bright light coming from the basement.
“I thought everyone was supposed to leave,” thinking to herself.
Calm, but nervous she walks towards the light. Holding her breath, because the door is opening, Jessica’s arms go up with caution. The light shinning right at her; fear flowing rapidly, not wanting this to be it; her demise, “I’m not ready” came running out of her mouth. Light coming closer and closer, fear overcoming her and no hiding place in sight. All memories of her child hood rushed to her head. Panic settling and trying to get herself together, thinking, “I am strong, nothings going to happen; why am I worrying?”
“I thought everyone was out or away from the building?,” said the fire fighter.
Jessica sighed with relief. Fear drifting away from her face as the fire fighter took her to safety. No signs of injury, just caught and being guiding out. She started working on her next
Everyone was still anxiously waiting to find out if they still had a home to go back to or what would be left and Jessica was desperately working on accomplishing her article, despite the obstacles. Jessica is not one to give up easily. About ten years ago, faced with a life and death situation, she chose to help her best friend, no matter the consequences. Saving her friends life was more important and she guarded their friendship with all her heart. Though they were both saved, it was heart breaking to see her friend loose her parents that day. Ever since the flood, their bond is stronger. Today, her friend works for the Red Cross to help families cope with loss. Jessica knows all about tough choices. She just has to decide which one.
Fire fighters are coming and going and all of a sudden a big noise was heard and a bright light was seen from the dome of the building. Screams could be heard, as everyone looked up at the red, orange, yellowish iridescent light streaming from the iron curved historic windows that lie on the surface of the dome.
“Oh my God!”, said a woman on the opposite side of the sidewalk, wearing a white mid-length medical jacket with a name-tag - Julia; returned home to find chaotic behavior. Tired looking, yet awoke from the shock of the situation, stood there in disbelief. With her blonde hair twisted on top of her head, glasses resting on the edge of her nose and red eyes from the process of learning the body in side and out; she had no energy to care. “Tangible items can be replaced, but memories cannot,” she sighed softly to herself. However, in a split second her aggression woke-up as well. “All I want to do is go to bed. What the hell is going on?,” speaking loudly.
“They believe there is a fire on top of the dome,” Thomas said.
Angelika DeFrancesco/ DEADLINE
“That did not look like a fire ball coming out of that window!”
“Look - the fire fighters are coming out, lets find out what’s happening,” said Thomas as he held his prize possession in his arms; that barked every other minute. That alone was annoying, but it added extra noise, no one soul wanted to hear, but no one wanted to deal with it tonight.
All hopes where set on having a home to go home too. Some residents huddled together to stay warmer as the night temperature settled firmly at 50 degrees. Others stood by themselves, rocking back and forth praying and others just sat on the sidewalk wrapped in whatever they ran out of the building wearing. Many hours passed and no word on what the problem was. “Soon,” they would keep saying to one another, but no one really knew.