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On Thin Ice

Panic erupts in the hospital. A loud boom from the white hospital door whipping open sounds as the wheels of the elongated stretcher zoom from corner to corner. Voices from orders to screams comes from each side of the confused little girl bounded by the tight straps of the stretcher she laid in. That was the scenario that was playing over and over in Kris’ head ever since she had her check up a few minutes ago for any scars or internal damage the fire may have inflicted. But it only took a quick x-ray to check for any broken bones and a stomach pump to dig out any ashes that she may have inhaled.

“This wasn’t fun,” Kris moped as she held onto her pumped stomach. “I want my mommy.”

“Well maybe you’ll learn the next time you decide to become superman,” Ella rolled her eyes lightly. “Don’t you ever do something like that again, you hear me?”

“When do I get my lollipop?” Kris pouted childishly.

Typical. Only she would ask for a lollipop after facing death. As Kris and Ella waited outside the hospital room for Kris’ x-rays, Rainie had just come back from the other room, panicking over Robbie’s injuries.

“He’s just fine. The doctor says he’s having trouble breathing a bit but that’ll go away in a few hours,” she calmed her beating chest with a few pats from her hand. Ella walked over to Rainie and patted her back.

“Rainie, I’m so sorry for putting you through this. The school should have had more precautions for the safety of the children.”

“I think I’ll get some water for Robbie and head back in there. I just don’t feel safe knowing he’s in there all by himself,” Rainie continued to worry.

“I’m sure he’s just fine,” Ella ensured. “He wasn’t anywhere near the fire. Kris on the other hand…”

“Hey, hey, hey!” Kris frowned. “You should be thanking me,” she pointed with a stiff finger.

“Kris, should you even be talking right now?” Ella brought her hands to her hips.

That quieted her down.

“Oh you little bundle of fire!” Rainie suddenly rushed over to Kris and gave her a hug. Abruptly, Rainie felt her motherly intuition creeping up and shivering her down to give the little girl some comfort. “You must have been so scared! How are you? Are you ok?”

Taken aback, Kris’ eyes were about to pop from the tight embrace. “Mrs. He…you’re hurting me.”

“Huh? Oh, I’m sorry,” she held her tears back. “When is your mother coming?”

“Ms. Chen said she called her a couple minutes ago but she’s still at work. I think Aunt Sally is picking me up.”

“Well, Joe is here. He came to get his arm checked. You should ask him to pick you up,” Rainie inquired.

Just as Kris’ eyes were going to implode from excitement, Ella interrupted with a reality check.

“Kris, you already promised your mom that you’d go home with Aunt Sally everyday after school.”

“But- I- c’mon!” Kris moaned.

“She’s already on her way,” Ella shrugged. “Besides, I’m only allowed to send you off to someone whom your mom has granted permission to for your release. Letting you go with Joe would be like sending you home with a stranger. I’m sorry.”

“Fine,” Kris groaned, blowing her cheeks up.

“Let’s get that water, Rainie,” Ella nodded over to Rainie who was still shaky. “Kris, stay here and don’t move a muscle till Aunt Sally comes ok?”

“Blah…” Kris groaned even more as she slunk in her seat. She looked over at Ella with a nonchalant expression and made a face.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do with that girl,” Ella shook her head from side to side as Rainie snickered a bit.

Waiting impatiently in the hallway, Kris tried to amuse herself. Even after all that commotion, and excitement…nothing really happened. She wasn’t burned, she wasn’t hurt. Barely a scratch was visible on her pale white skin. So she sat there, whistling “Here Comes the Sun”, delightfully. Tilting her head side to side with the rhythm, Kris swayed to the music in her head and turned to see a slow coming visual that lurked from the corner of her eye.

It was someone coming out of a nearby hospital room with his arm wrapped up in white bandages. Kris was so enthralled in the injury that she didn’t even see who it was that was injured.

“Kris?” called the man whose arm was wrapped up in bandages.

She looked up and there he was: her sun. “Joe! Come over here!” she shouted.

Joe gave a small chuckle and nodded over to the doctor he was speaking to and bid his last farewells. Kris was so excited to see him ever since Rainie mentioned his name. But to know it was true, that he was really here, was more than coincidence.

“Joe!” she hopped up from her seat and rushed over to him.

“Ah! I can’t carry you,” Joe cautioned her and pointed to the bandage. “I got hurt a little trying to rush over to the talent show. My battle scar needs to heal.”

“Oooh, Can I see it?” Kris asked, a little too interested for his liking.

“You better not,” he cringed. Kneeling down a bit, he smiled at her and asked “Now what are you doing here? Don’t tell me you started a fire?”

“I put one out!” she proudly smiled back, in contrast to his astonishment. “See I’m just like Superman!”

“W-what?” Joe had to ask twice.

“I’m just like you. I fought my own battle too. There was a huge fire at school and I stopped it all by myself,” she excitedly told the story. “It was amazing, I ran in the middle of the fire and-

That threw him off. The image was enough for him to fall off balance. Was it all true? Was it really coming out of her mouth that she ran in the middle of a fire?!

“You what?!” he voice now raising with every sentence he spoke. “Kris why would you do that?”

“B-because I wanted to stop the fire,” Kris lowered her voice a bit, now that she could hear the disappointment in her father’s voice. “I thought it was the right thing to do.”

“Kris, the right thing to do when there’s a fire is to run away. You don’t run towards it. You could have been killed! Don’t you realize that what you did was unbelievably dangerous?” he emphasized. Joe tried to keep his voice stern but not angry. “What would have happened if we’d lost you? I can’t even imagine.”

“I-I thought it was the right thing to do,” she scratched her head nervously. “I thought you’d be proud of me.”

“Kris, this is nothing to be proud of,” Joe looked her dead in the eyes and spoke. “Your safety is most important thing in this world. I don’t know if you’re trying to prove yourself to me, but don’t you ever put your life on the line like that again.”

“B-but you’re superman and I’m your daughter. I fought fire and won,” Kris frowned at him. “See? Not even a scratch.”

“But we could have lost so much more,” Joe put a hand on her shoulder. “I’d rather have that field burn to the ground than to have the risk of losing you.”

“You worry too much,” she nudged him lightly and put her own hand on his shoulder. “I got it all handled.”

“Kris…” he scowled.

“I know, I know,” she rolled her eyes. She held out a hand and began to recite, “It was dangerous and I won’t do it again.”

“And…” he nudged for more.

“And…” she repeated. “And I don’t know what else.”

“Promise that you’ll think before you act” the familiar saying came once again. “Don’t do things out of impulse.”

“I promise that I will think before I act. I won’t do anything out of impulse. Whatever that means…” she recited.

This kid, he thought. Joe could only shake his head at her.

“Why do you always get into so much trouble, kid?” Joe muttered to himself. “I’m just glad you’re alright.”

“You love me that much eh?” she cheekily asked with a fully exaggerated wink. “Superman has my back at all times right? You would have been there to save me in that fire if I couldn’t do it myself right? I knew it. That’s why I wasn’t at all scared! I got daddy to protect me.”

How he wished he could keep up with her perception of him.

“Sometimes, you have to learn how to protect yourself,” Joe pointed out to her. “Maybe then you’d keep my heart safe.”

“I can keep it safe?” she asked.

“Mmhmm. If you’re safe, then my heart is calm and safe from fear,” he smiled back. “Like it is now.”

She thought for a moment, and soaked in his words. For something as serious as his heart, Kris decided to give another promise that she would never break. This promise was for her father. This time, this promise would be sincere and she finally said something serious for a change.

“I want to keep your heart safe, always.” Kris placed her hand over his heart and felt the beating. “That’s mine to keep.”

“Thank you,” Joe smiled at her.

Joe tugged his daughter towards and grappled her into a tight hug and brushed the top of Kris’ head slightly to feel the soft curls that only children possessed. At that moment he felt like a father for the very first time; the anxiety of fear, but also the joy of relief.

“I love you very much Kris,” he softly whispered in her ear.

“I love you too daddy,” she repeated back.

“…what did you say?” asked a sudden voice.

Both Joe and Kris turned to see who abruptly came in between their sweet moment. As soon as they saw who it was, they stood speechless with fear written across their faces. They were in trouble.

 

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