Rose faced the table. Amanda, she began, dialing back her tone, you have to understand that teasing is bullying. Words can hurt as much as a punch.
Youre not allowed to yell at me! Mrs. Douglas said!
Rose blinked, surprised. Shed be damned if shed be intimidated by somebody in a Hannah Montana headband. Im not yelling at you, she said calmly.
Im going to recess! Amanda jumped to her feet, startling Emily and Danielle.
Suddenly, something exploded in the kitchen. A searing white light flashed in the kitchen doorway. Rose turned toward the earsplitting boom! The kitchen wall flew apart, spraying shards of tile, wood, and wallboard everywhere.
A shockwave knocked Rose off her feet. A fireball billowed into the cafeteria.
Rose woke up lying on the floor against the wall. She opened her
eyes. Overhead sprinklers poured water, like cold rain. Acrid black
smoke clouded the air. She rolled over onto wet debris and broken
glass. Her head pounded. Her ears rang.
what happened what is going on
She propped herself up to a sitting position, in the water. Her face hurt. She touched her cheek. Fresh blood covered her fingerpads. Dust caked her polo shirt and khaki capris, getting drenched from the sprinklers. Her legs splayed out in front of her, with a bloody cut on her ankle. She shook her head to clear her brain. She couldnt hear anything but the ringing in her ears.
She looked through the water and smoke. An inferno raged in the kitchen. Fire blazed from its doors. Hot orange flames spread upward. A jagged hole gaped in the kitchen wall. Rebar twisted from it like black tentacles. Wood studs lay splintered and broken.
Rose couldnt process what she was seeing. The perfect suburban cafeteria was a war zone. Acoustic tiles hung from the ceiling. Shattered skylights rained glass shards. The air felt furnace- hot. A burning smell filled her nostrils. Bits of flaming material blew around like a nightmare blizzard.
Rose looked wildly around through the smoke. Amanda sat stunned on the floor nearby, then got up stiffly. Her mouth formed a terrified circle. Tears ran down her face. A cut bled on her arm. Emily lay near the door, crying in a little heap on the floor, like dirty laundry. Only Danielle was in motion, fleeing toward the door.
Suddenly, Rose could hear everything. Amanda was screaming. Emily was sobbing. Alarm bells were ringing. Fire roaring, sprinklers whirring, water whooshing. Flames billowed from the kitchen.
Whoever was in there would have been killed. She had to get the kids out before they were, too.
Oh my God. Melly.
Rose stumbled to her feet, unsteady. Her knees buckled. Her head thundered. The room whirled. She struggled to get back up. The handicapped bathroom was across from the kitchen, where the explosion had been. Fear gripped her heart. Melly could have been killed in the blast.
Please God no.
Rose raced through the other possibilities. Melly could be trapped in the bathroom. If she hadnt gotten out, no one would come to save her. No one knew she was in the bathroom. Even if she got out of the bathroom, she wouldnt know how to get out of the building. Rose staggered to her feet, panicky. She didnt know what to do. The smoke was getting thicker, the air hotter. Flames licked from the kitchen doors into the cafeteria. A skylight popped, showering glass. Amanda and Emily were slowly moving around. Screaming. Crying. Stunned. They needed help. They were right in front of her.
They were just kids. They couldnt save themselves.
Melly was in the bathroom, far away. Out the opposite side of the cafeteria and down the hall, at the very end.
Excerpted from Save Me by Lisa Scottoline. Copyright © 2011 by Lisa Scottoline. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
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