Then I noticed people checking their text messages, and answering their phones, and then running out.
Raegan noticed, too. She stood up, her eyebrows pulling in. “That’s . . . weird.” She waved at Kody. “Fight outside?”
He leaned back, trying to make eye contact with Gruber at the entrance. “Something going on outside?” he yelled. His voice boomed, carrying across even the club music. Kody shook his head at Raegan. “Nothing.”
Blia ran in, holding up her phone. “Holy f**k balls! It’s all over Facebook!” she cried. “Keaton Hall is burning!”
“What?” I sat, every muscle in my body tensing.
“Turn that shit off!” Hank yelled to the DJ. The music was silenced, and Hank pulled out the remote, turning up the flat screen that usually broadcasted sports. He switched channels until the news came on.
The dark image was shaky, but finally it came into focus. Smoke was billowing from Keaton and terrified students were running across the lawn. The caption read Amateur Video Taken by Cell Phone Outside Eastern State University’s Keaton Hall.
“No. No!” I yelled, grabbing for my keys. I pushed up the hinged section of the bar, taking two strides before Hank yanked me back.
“What are you doing?” Hank said.
“Trent is in there! He’s at Travis’s fight!” I pulled against his grip, but he wasn’t letting me go.
Jorie appeared next to us, her eyes flickering. “You can’t go in there, Cami. The place is on fire!”
I fought against Hank. “Let me go! Let me go!” I screamed.
Kody came over, but instead of helping me, he assisted Hank in holding me in place. Gruber rushed around the corner, but he stopped several feet away, watching with wide eyes.
“Shh,” Raegan said, gently pulling me away from them. “Call him,” she said, handing me her phone.
I took it, but my hands were shaking so much that I couldn’t press the numbers. Raegan took the phone from me.
“Four-oh-two-one-four-four-eight,” I said, trying not to freak out any more than I already was. My heart was trying to beat out of my chest, and I was gasping for air after my struggle with Hank and Kody.
We waited. No one moved. No one spoke. Raegan’s eyes danced around until they finally settled on me. She shook her head.
I didn’t wait to give them a chance to restrain me again. I sprinted for the entrance and burst through the double doors, to my Jeep. My hands still shaking, it took me a few tries before I got the key in the ignition, but once the engine started, I peeled out of the parking lot.
Campus was less than ten minutes away, and I rolled over several curbs to get past the traffic and to the parking lot closest to Keaton Hall. The scene was even more frightening in person. The water from the pumper trucks had already soaked the ground and had reached the asphalt. As I ran across the lawn, my boots sloshed on the saturated grass.
The red-and-blue lights from the emergency vehicles flashed on the surrounding buildings. What seemed like miles of hoses ran from the hydrants to various windows and doors of Keaton, where firefighters had run toward danger. People were screaming and crying, and calling out names. Dozens of bodies were lying in a line, covered with yellow, wool blankets. I walked along them, staring at the shoes, praying I didn’t come across Trenton’s yellow work boots. When I got to the end of the line, I recoiled. One pair of feet was missing a heel. The other foot was bare, displaying perfectly manicured toes. The big toe was painted with a black-and-white chevron, with a red heart. Whoever she was, she was alive when those toes were painted, and now she was lying lifeless on the cold, wet ground.
I covered my mouth, and then began searching the faces around me. “Trent!” I screamed. “Trenton Maddox!” The more time that went by, the more bodies were dragged out, and fewer people were being saved. It looked like a war zone. So many of my regulars went to these fights—classmates, from college and high school. Since I’d arrived on the scene, I hadn’t crossed paths with any of them. I didn’t see Travis, or Abby, either, and I wondered if they were among the dead as well. Even if Trenton had made it out and his brother didn’t, he would be devastated. After a time, it grew eerily quiet. The crying was reduced to whimpers, the only sound the buzzing of the hoses, and the occasional yelling among firefighters. I shivered, and realized for the first time that I wasn’t wearing a coat.
My cell phone rang, and I nearly dropped it trying to get it to my ear. “Hello?” I cried.
“Cami?” Raegan said. “Stay put! Trent is on his way to you!”
I hung up, and held the phone to my chest, shaking uncontrollably, and looking around, waiting and hoping Raegan was right. Trenton appeared, a hundred yards away, running at full speed in my direction.
My legs gave out, and I fell to my knees, sobbing. Trenton fell in front of me, wrapping his arms around me. “I’ve got you! I’m here!”
I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t do anything but sob and claw at his shirt. Trenton ripped off his coat and draped it over my shoulders, and then his arms were around me again, rocking me until I calmed down.
“It’s all right, baby,” he said, his voice calm and soothing. His face was streaked with soot and sweat, and his shirt was filthy. He smelled like a campfire, but I still buried my face in his chest.
“They’re okay. Come on,” he said, bracing himself to stand. “Let’s get you home where it’s warm.”
Trenton drove the Jeep to my apartment. Hank had closed down the bar out of respect, so Raegan and Kody huddled together on the love seat, watching the news while Trenton and I took turns in the shower.
In a fresh pair of gray sweats and fuzzy socks, I snuggled up to Trenton in my bedroom. I hugged him tightly, pressing my temple against his side. My wet hair was soaking his Spaceballs T-shirt, but he didn’t care. It was all too hard to process, so we just sat in silence, holding one another until I’d spontaneously break down again.
Kody knocked on my door, and then he came in, followed by Raegan. She looked everywhere but into my eyes. “Baker’s mom was just interviewed. He didn’t make it.”
I was devastated, but I was all cried out. I just closed my eyes, and my lip quivered. Trenton held me close, and we both jumped when his cell phone rang.
He glanced at it. It rang again. “It’s just a number.”
“Local?” I asked. It rang a third time. He nodded. “Answer it.”
He held the phone to his ear, hesitant. “Hello?” After a short pause, he lowered the phone to his lap. “Too late.”
Kody and Raegan went to bed, but I just lay there in Trenton’s lap. I didn’t want to turn off the lights. I wanted to see him, with my own eyes, and know that he was alive and okay.
Trenton ran his fingers through my hair. “I left her,” he said.
“Abby. Travis couldn’t get to us. He was going to go out the way everyone else came in, and Abby was going to take us through the back way. We got lost. We ran across a bunch of lost girls. They were following a guy, but he was just as lost as they were. I panicked.” He shook his head, staring at the wall. “And I f**king left her.” A tear fell down his cheek and he looked down.