False Alarm

The alarm sounded – an urgent, metallic voice crying “emergency” between shrieking beeps.

Lauren’s heart raced as she saved her work, slipped a folded piece of paper into her pocket, grabbed her security pass and phone, and rushed to the exit.

“These damn alarms,” her co-worker said, as they hustled down the fire stairs with the rest of level three. “Probably just some idiot burning their toast.”

“One day it might be real,” Lauren said as they burst into the sunshine.

“Everyone by the fence,” the fire warden bellowed. “You know the drill.”

Lauren shuffled away from the grumbling crowd and towards a large gumtree at the edge of the mustering area.

When she heard the siren approaching, she bit her lip.

***

She’d been reading a book in the park when he’d dropped onto the grass beside her.

She’d looked at him, trying not to gape. He was handsome – the kind of handsome you see in the movies – and tall, she could tell by the way his legs stretched so far beyond hers.

“You work in the Hutchings building, right?” he’d said. “I’ve seen you in the muster area when we’ve responded to the alarm.”

“You’re a firefighter?”

He’d waved his hands down his uniform. “It’s the outfit that gives it away, isn’t it?”

She’d cringed.

“Just teasing.” He’d elbowed her gently. “I’m Billy – and I know this sounds creepy but – I’ve always noticed you – under the tree, away from the crowd.”

“That would be me. Lauren. Our alarm goes off a lot.”

“At least you know it works.”

“I guess.”

He’d closed his eyes and tilted his face towards the sun.

She’d taken the opportunity to allow her gaze to drift over his profile, admiring his long black lashes and full mouth.

“Lauren,” he’d said, suddenly opening his eyes and turning towards her.

She’d quickly looked away – heat flooding her cheeks.

“Would it be okay if I – um – got your number? I’d like to ask you out. For a coffee. If you’re interested?”

She’d blinked. Hell-yeah, she was interested. “Sure,” she’d said, and hoped he hadn’t noticed the awkward squeak in her voice.

“Great.” He’d handed her his phone. “Pop your number in and I’ll text you.”

As she was putting her name in his contacts, a voice from across the road called, “Billy. We’re up.”

He’d leapt to his feet and flashed her a dazzling smile. “Gotta go,” he’d said, shoving his phone in his pocket. Then he’d dashed across the road and onto the fire truck, turning and waving as he disappeared inside.

That’s when her heart sank. She’d made a horrible mistake.

***

Lauren took a deep breath as Billy and his team exited the building and spoke to the fire warden.

“Another false alarm everyone,” the man said to a resounding groan.

She swallowed hard, waiting until she caught Billy’s eye. When he finally looked her direction, she gestured him over.

He seemed to hesitate before walking towards her.

“I gave you my old number,” she blurted as soon as he was in ear reach.

He threw his head back with a laugh. “Phew. That’s a relief. I thought you gave me the brush off.”

“No. God no. I changed numbers and I keep forgetting.”

He smiled. “Well then, I better get your new one.”

She took a folded piece of paper from her pocket and handed it to him.

***

Lauren dropped into her chair – a wide grin plastered across her face.

It hadn’t taken much to set off the alarm. She’d just popped some bread into the toaster, shifted the machine a little to the left, put it on high, and walked away.

She chuckled to herself, as she logged back into her computer.

When her phone dinged, her heart leapt.

She opened the message and saw a tiny firefighter emoji.

Then a second message popped up.

“P.S. Next time you don’t need to burn your toast – just call me 😉

© Amy Hutton 2021

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