Meanwhile, several miles away, Orlando Bloom looked down at the doorknob and wondered why he felt so hesitant about going into his own house.

The sad thing was that he was almost used to this heavy dread that he wore like the clothes on his back. It had been gnawing at him for the past several months, slowly diminishing him until he looked in the mirror and barely recognized the person he had become. The motions he went through were automatic, practiced. He was such a good actor in his regular life that he didn’t know when he himself or a mime acting out the movements of Orlando Bloom’s life. Tonight, however, he felt so tired that he had no sense of what part he had to play.

When he walked through the door, it felt like he was walking into personified doom, complete with fire—but no brimstone.

The house was over-warm. The heat prickled his skin, and his sixth sense warned him that something was amiss. As he heard movements in the living room just a few steps to his left, he knew that it was his not-so-darling wife. She was up to something.

Orlando stopped in the doorway of the living room and watched the scene before him. A dark-haired woman wearing a nightgown and a matching filmy robe threw newspapers into a roaring fire. He didn’t recognize the hair, as the woman he had married had blond hair, but that could be easily fixed with hair dye. He recognized the silky ensemble; he had given it to her on their wedding night. That night they had been in love with one another, thinking of nothing but their future together. Now, as Orlando stared across the room at Samara Catherine Lewis, he wondered if he could get through the next few minutes without ending it all.

“What are you doing?” he asked very lightly. As she had been engrossed in her fevered disposal, his voice startled her. She whirled around, blue eyes wide and wild. In one hand was that day’s issue of a magazine. Orlando could not distinguish the name of it from that distance but he could see her face pouting on the cover. He could tell that whatever it was, it had angered Samara enough to make her buy several hundred copies of it. To destroy.

“What are you doing here?” It came out more as an accusation than a question.

“I asked you a question first, Samara,” Orlando reminded her sternly, stepping into the living room. He paused at the armchair nearby and saw that Samara was perspiring mildly. Her skin was flushed and her chest was heaving; it seemed unlikely that she was well. “What’s going on? I come home to find you starting an inferno in our home and you have the nerve to ask me what I’m doing here?”

Angrily, Samara threw the newsprint in her hand into the fire. She watched as the flames engulfed it greedily, shaking her head ironically. “You haven’t been home in a week, dear husband,” her voice dripping with resentment. “It sort of makes me wonder what you’ve been up to. After all, you have cheated on me before. Who’s to say you aren’t cheating on me now?”

Orlando placed his palms on the armchair and leaned upon it for balance. No, he still had yet to live down his affair with Eleanor. Orlando, intellectually anyhow, understood her bitterness. After all, Eleanor was always the slightly older, slightly more admired one between the two of them, and when Orlando had an affair with her, it stole Samara’s only triumph: getting the perfect guy. Even though Eleanor wasn’t here right now, and hadn’t been for several months, she had won.

“I am not cheating on you,” Orlando told her in a quiet tone. He didn’t want to yell. At this time of the night, the children were asleep, and he didn’t want them privy to their quarrelling. “Samara, I swear on the life of my children—”

Samara laughed, and it was a harsh, grating sound. “Oh, I think you’re trying to end the lives of our children now. It’s not like it would hurt you any. You always wanted that bastard of a being you thought you had conceived with my sister.” Something flickered in Orlando’s eyes, and Samara could tell that she had wounded him. Her laugh twisted his stomach into greasy knots. “You’d assumed it was yours, even though she couldn’t tell you for sure if you were the father or if Henry Cavill was.” The humiliation of that reminder made tears spring to Orlando’s eyes. “How idiotic can you be?”

“You will not taunt me and my emotions,” Orlando snapped.

“You and your emotions have led our family, our marriage to ruin. I care not that you want me to be gentle in regarding you.” She picked up a vase and heaved it at him. The movement was so unexpected that Orlando had barely any time to move out of its path. When Samara spoke again, her voice boomed like thunder. “When have you been gentle regarding me? How dare you expect for me to show you respect when you have afforded me none?”

Orlando opened his mouth to speak but a voice so soft, so pure stole the breath from him.

“Mummy? Daddy?”

Orlando turned away from his wife and toward the voice. Behind him, he saw his baby girl, the only light on the bleak landscape of his world. Hayley’s ash blond hair was ruffled from sleep, and as she lifted those ice-blue eyes to his, he felt himself slide into the only role that he knew how to earnestly play: loving father.

He brought her to him, wanting so badly to reassure her. Here, at this age, it was simple, really. She was barely under two years old and didn’t know the meaning of the loud voices coming from the living room at night. But Orlando brought her close anyway. It was as much for him as it was for her.

Orlando rose to his feet, and Hayley placed her head on his shoulder. He was through with this.

“I am not going to argue with you any longer,” Orlando told Samara stiffly. “I am going to bed.”

Orlando didn’t heed her response. He ignored the words she threw at him because he was resolved to be numb from all of this. And in the morning, once he had slept, things would change. He was no longer to be in the mockery of a marriage. It was either going to be worth the time…or dissolved.

* * *

A loud sound brought him up to the surface of consciousness a mere three hours later. It was a crackling that made no sense in the peace he had left when he had fallen asleep with Hayley in his arms. Orlando sat up in his bed, trying to listen closely. A possibility rose in his mind, but his pushed it down. There could be no way—

With no hesitation, he slid off his bed and strode to the door. He was shocked to discover that the doorknob was slightly warm.

What…? He turned it and threw open the door.

Orlando saw the flickering of firelight from downstairs, but this wasn’t a romantic golden light that bathed one in its majestic glow. It was a raging inferno that threatened to destroy anything in its path. For a moment, he paused, transfixed in its unearthly glow. It didn’t seem real; it didn’t seem plausible that something like this would grow while he was sleeping. Then rationality kicked in, inciting his limbs to action. He had to get himself and his family out of this before it killed them.

Thinking first of his daughter, since she was the nearest, Orlando grabbed the comforter off of the bed and ran into the bathroom. He dampened the duvet in the bathtub as quickly as he could, then entered his dark bedroom and scooped up his little daughter. He thought nothing of his own safety. Only of hers, at this moment.

“Daddy?” she asked against his chest, her voice muffled by the wet blanket. He did not answer her, for there was a lump in his throat. He swallowed hard to dislodge it. “Daddy, what are we doing?” she repeated.

“We have to get out of the house now, love,” Orlando said as gently as he possibly could. He didn’t want to alarm her. If she stayed calm, then so could he. He didn’t think about where his wife and son were at the moment. It would have broken through his hastily erected resolve, and that was the last thing they needed right now.

With a deep breath, he clutched his baby girl tightly to him and dashed into the blaze.

The fire engulfed the house that he had shared with his wife and children, and it licked at his pant legs as he quickly descended the stairs. Hayley whimpered as the smoke reached her pure, innocent lungs, and Orlando stumbled down the last of the stairs. Hayley squealed his name and started to cry then, and he desperately fought for control.

From what he could see, the fire had started in the living room where Samara had been burning magazines. Anger frissioned up from deep inside him, for he was outraged that Samara’s foolhardiness and dementia had caused the fire. He could care less about the house and the things that were in it. It was the people he cared more about, and he realized that his anger was nonessential right at that moment. Lives were more important.

He turned away from the living room and headed toward the kitchen where there was a side door that led outside. Hayley was crying openly now. He murmured to her in a voice husky from smoke and emotion as sweat dripped into his eyes. When he saw the door, relief washed over him—or at least a small measure of it.

Suddenly Hayley began to fidget in his grasp and screamed, “Mama!”

“Hayley love—”

“Mama!” Hayley cried desperately, alarming him both in her tone and her use of the word Mama. She only called Samara Mama whenever she was very upset. “Get Mama!”

Orlando whirled around, trying to follow the direction of her finger as the smoke thickened around them. When he saw what Hayley was looking at, his heart dropped into his stomach.

Samara, dark hair fanned out around her head, was unconscious on the floor, still clad in the nightgown and filmy robe. Her face was filled with the peace of oblivion, and in her hand was a wineglass, its contents spilled on the tile. Without thinking, without feeling the anger and the consternation, Orlando knelt down to his wife while his daughter wailed in his arms over her mother. She had a pulse, but her breathing was a bit labored. Using his free hand, he tried to rouse Samara.

“Samara…wake up!” he shouted over the din of the roaring fire. “Samara…you have to wake up—now! We have to go! The house is burning down!” At that moment, Samara’s eyelids fluttered. “Sam! Get up! We have to go…”

Samara turned her head in the sound of his voice. It took a couple of moments of her taking in the smoke and her daughter’s sounds of distress before she graduated fully to focus. Her eyes widened in astonishment, then fear. Before she could ask any questions, Orlando pushed Hayley into Samara’s arms.

“Take her outside, Samara,” Orlando ordered, thinking now of the safety of their son.

“But Orlando, you can’t—”

“I have to,” Orlando disagreed. “I have to go get Hayden. He’s still in his room.”

Samara’s blue eyes filled with tears as Hayley clung to her. It was the first time he had seen real concern for him in those icy pools. “You could get yourself killed.”

Orlando shook his head, eyes alive with anguish. “I have to try, Samara. He’s my son. The only one I have.” Samara opened her mouth again but Orlando helped her to her feet and all but shoved her in the direction of the door. “Go! Don’t argue with me.”

Chin trembling, Samara dashed with her daughter in her arms out into the cool night. Meanwhile, Orlando took in the deafening fire before him for a moment before darting into its fiery depths.

backhome – next

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