All the children’s heads rose as the smoke alarm began its irritating wail.
Not again, Mary thought, irritated. The caretaker and her toast!
She stepped into the corridor. Acrid smoke immediately caught at her throat, making her gasp and cough.
Then she heard the roar and the crackle. She felt the heat . . .
* * * *
As Andrew stepped into the school yard, with the smoke alarm ringing loud in his ears, he saw smoke blown out of the open door of the school. There was a crash of glass as a small window shattered.
Jess! His baby!
He began to run.
At the door he threw himself on the floor and began to crawl beneath the smoke which threatened to choke him.
He saw a door frame burning fiercely next to a classroom.
He could hear children crying. He jumped to his feet and, with one arm thrown up protectively in front of his face, he ran through the arc of fire.
On parents’ night he’d been in that classroom, he recalled. Further along the corridor, he was sure, there had been a fire extinguisher on the wall.
After scanning the wall, Andrew spotted the extinguisher and grabbed it. How did it work? People should be taught routinely how to operate these things!
He banged the handle on the floor. Nothing. Again! And again!
Suddenly a jet of white foam spurted hissing from the nozzle. Andrew directed it at the flames, dousing the door frame and smothering the danger.
He opened the classroom door. He saw Mary. He saw little frightened faces.
Then his smarting eyes saw his daughter. Jess gave a little wave that brought a lump to his throat.
“I closed the door. It’s a fire door,” Mary stammered.
Her face was white.
“Let’s get them out of here,” Andrew said.
A few minutes later parents arriving to collect their children were hugging them fiercely in the school yard. The Skerrabost Volunteer Fire Service had arrived and had taken control.
Andrew stood holding Jess’s hand tightly, talking to Paul Bryant who was holding Mary’s hand just as firmly.
“Apparently the damage isn’t great, thanks to you, but we’ll be holding the lessons in the parish hall for the foreseeable future. They are opening all the doors and windows to let the sea breeze deal with the smell. You did well, Andrew. I hate to think what . . .”
“Best not to. It can get into your mind.”
He looked down at Jess.
“I’m just thankful I was able to do something.”
Jess threw her arms around his waist.
“You were very brave, Daddy. But you have no eyebrows!”