My Way to You Page 2

Austin turned back around and put his nose in his phone.

Forty minutes later, Parker sat tapping her foot against the air while she waited with her brother. The photographers provided a dress shirt and tie for pictures. Around them, boys sat in formal attire from the waist up with shorts and flip-flops waist down. The girls had these drape type things that offered the same effect.

She snapped a couple of pictures of the crazy scene for Mallory to see later. Her phone buzzed with a text from her sister. Did you see the fire?

We noticed it as we were leaving. Is it close? Parker felt her heart skip a beat just asking the question.

I think it’s in Acton. I’m not sure. You guys should get home before they close the road.


Parker snuck out of the studio and shuffled through the lobby overflowing with teens, and out the door. She looked up to the eastern sky, saw only a puff of smoke from her vantage point. Then again, they were miles across the Santa Clarita Valley.

I’m sure it’s fine. Parker quickly walked back into the studio.

Austin still sat on the bench waiting for his turn.

She glanced at the time on her phone.

Minutes clicked by.

If the fire was close, she wanted to be home. The last time they closed the canyon road it was off limits for anyone coming in for four days. The fire hadn’t come that close, but the authorities asked for an evacuation. Only half the residents left. Her parents were alive when that had happened. Her father had loaded their horses onto the trailer and told her mother to take the animals, Parker, and her siblings out of the neighborhood. Dad had stayed behind. He promised that if things got hairy, he would leave.

Nothing happened. Not even a layer of ash. For three nights and four days they were kept from going home.

Austin’s name was finally called, and Parker released the breath she didn’t realize she was holding.

She smiled at her brother as he took his seat and grinned for the camera.

Much like an attraction at a theme park, the wait was much longer than the ride. Once Austin was out of the hot seat, she rushed him along. “Mallory thinks the police are going to close down the canyon.”

“The fire?”

“Yeah. She thinks it’s in Acton.”

The silent drive home buzzed much faster than the one out. The small bursts of smoke in the sky had been replaced with huge mushroom clouds in less than an hour. When she passed the point of entry where the authorities would close down the road, she sighed in relief.

They both exited the car with their heads craned toward the sky.

Mallory met them at the bottom of the driveway. “What do you think?”

It was close.

Too close.

“The wind is blowing the opposite way. If the sky wasn’t blue above us, I’d be worried.” Her insides quivered, but she wasn’t about to show her siblings that.

“What do we do now?” Austin asked.

“You skip burgers with your friends. If they close the road, you’re not getting back in. And if we have to leave, I’d want to pack your car with as much stuff as we can.”

Their property sat on the edge of the Angeles Forest. It was one of the best parts about it. The ten acres that they called The Sinclair Ranch had the illusion of being even bigger without neighbors on one side of them. The house itself had been engineered by the previous owner to withstand a California wildfire. Stucco walls, tile roof. Their father had planted ice plant all around the back hill. Although a freeze one winter and then multiple summers of zero rain and water rates as high as they were . . . yeah, most of that had died off. The neighbor directly above them did a crappy job of clearing their brush. Parker had hopped the fence many times in the past two years with a Weed Eater to knock down the vegetation close to their fence line.

She turned without comment and started down the long driveway.

“Where are you goin’?” Mallory asked.

“To open the gate so the fire department can get in.” If there was one thing that was consistent with fires in the neighborhood, it was the fire department using their property to stage. The land was flat, with the exception of where the house was perched, therefore the fire engines could easily turn around.

The three of them ate dinner in front of the TV, the news all competing for the best angle of the fire. Thankfully none of them were on her street or in her yard, which gave Parker some semblance of safety. And the sheriff wasn’t going house to house asking for evacuations either.

They’d gathered the photo albums and put them by the stairs leading down into the garage. It was all they had left of their parents, the pictures and the memories. One sparked the other and it’s all that really mattered.

As much as Parker hated to admit it, she worried. It was hard not to when darkness replaced the sunset and the glow in the east was easy to see.

Austin stood by the big bay window overlooking the property. “The fire department is here.”

Her chest squeezed.

Parker stopped doing the dishes and walked outside. Lights flashed from the engine slowly rolling toward the house. Austin shadowed her down the driveway while Mallory hibernated in her room. Scout, their black lab, ran circles around them with the excitement of a nighttime walk.

“Good evening,” she greeted the firefighters, who were standing beside their engine looking at the glow.

“Hello. You the homeowner?” one of the men asked.

“I am.” She reached out a hand. “Parker. This is my brother, Austin.”

“I’m Captain Moore. Thanks for opening the gate.”

“Of course. Anything to make it easier for you guys to put this out. How far away is it?” she asked him.

“Miles. We’re just keeping a watch on it tonight.”

“No evacuations?” Austin asked.

“No, not yet. If the wind keeps going the way it is, it won’t get here. Don’t worry. If something changes in the night, we’ll wake you up and get you out of here. Do you have livestock?”

She shook her head. “Just chickens.”


Scout pranced around the captain, looking for attention.

“We’ll probably be in your yard most of the night.”

That was a relief. Not that she thought any of them would find any sleep. “Good by me,” she told him. “If you need anything, please just ask.”

“We’re pretty self-sufficient.”

Parker noticed a couple of her neighbors at the edge of the property looking in. She left Austin talking with the fire guys to chat with her neighbors.

She walked just outside the gate and put on a fake smile. “Shit gets real when the fire department camps in your yard,” she said with a nervous laugh.

“What did they say?” Lori asked.

“They’re just watching right now. No need to panic.”

“It’s not coming down here,” Mr. Richards said. “I’ve seen this a dozen times. I remember sitting on your porch with your dad the last time, drinking beer and listening to the quiet before they opened the canyon back up.” Mr. Richards had to be in his early seventies. His property didn’t touch hers, but his home was tucked higher on the hill. If anyone needed to worry, it was him.

“I wouldn’t stress, Parker.” Susan and her husband, Ron, shared a fence line with them. “Your dad would be kicking back a beer.”

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