From my position on the floor in front of the china cabinet, I smile up at the only man I’ve ever loved- my husband. Well, my husband-to-be. But it’s the thought that counts. Besides, in a week I’d be Mrs. Santiago.
“Why are you smiling, carino?” he asks affectionately.
“Nothing…I'm just so happy, Rafe. I love you.” I reply, still astounded at how that statement can make me blush.
He smiles back indulgently, and tells me he loves me too.
How in a moment it would all change.
Almost as soon as we start placing the cups in the cabinet, the whole floor starts to shake. The cabinet shudders before giving away and falling to the floor. Rafe pushes me away and not a minute too late, if the tinkling sounds of shattering china are anything to go by.
“Run, querida!” he yells at me, stumbling as he hauls me to my feet.
The walls start shaking violently and cutlery and furniture are falling and breaking as they land on the cracking floorboards.
Beneath the torn wood, I can see the ground moving as if it were like the waves in an ocean. Rafe pulls at my arms again.
“Run, carino. Get out of here!” he gives me a hard shove from his position on the floor, towards the door. “Don’t look back, I’m right behind you, love. Run!”
And I do. I don’t look back no matter how much I want to, because he told me not to.
The door breaks off its hinges as I burst through and fall onto the dirt, bouncing because of vibrations.
The next thing I know, the house collapses behind me, and Rafe is not here. He’s still in the house.
I don’t exactly recall what happened after that. I was told that I was near hysterical. I was kicking, screaming and crying; begging them to take me back to him.
The neighbors had found me and had carried me to safety, but I didn’t care. I wanted Rafe.
The police told me what happened once the terror was over and we could go back.
The cabinet had fallen on his legs and his ankle had shattered. He wouldn’t have been able to move in his condition; at least, not fast enough to get to safety before the house crumbled. So he had done the noble thing. He had pushed me out and told me to save myself.
And I didn’t look back.
He was lying on the floor, helpless and I had run away.
I didn’t look back.
They told me it was not my fault- if he hadn’t made me leave, I’d probably be dead with him.
I’d be with him.
I should have looked back. Why didn’t I look back?
The earthquake had taken over 4,500 lives that day.
Why didn’t it take mine?