“Kate!” Luke screams at her. “Get back!”
“I can help!” She argues. He glares at her, but she’s undeterred, choosing instead to climb onto the hood of the car, which is slanted at a precarious angle from the way the car came through the side of the house, and knock on the windshield. “Hello? Are you hurt?”
“I think he’s unconscious,” Luke says urgently. “We need help… an ambulance.”
“But the cell towers are down,” Kate reminds him.
“We might be able to make emergency calls…”
“Luke,” I interrupt him. “There’s a lot of fluid coming from under the car.”
He looks down at the river of different colored liquids quickly flowing across the floor. Most of it is a shiny dark brown, which must be oil, but there are streaks of red and green cutting their way through the inky puddle.
“Fuck,” He hisses as he glances nervously back towards the once merry, low burning fire now dancing threateningly in the fireplace. I can feel my head starting to feel a little light from some kind of fume hanging in the air, and since it smells of petrol, I have a horrifying feeling of what it may be.
“We’ve got to get him out of here,” Kate says as she too worriedly glances down at the fluid rapidly coloring the kitchen floor. “If something sparks…”
“Yeah,” Luke nods, though his face shows that he’s still not convinced that’s the best course of action. “Ana… put out the fire.”
“The fire?” I repeat. “But we don’t have heat.”
“We don’t have a lot of options right now,” He says. “I can smell gasoline in the air.”
I bite down nervously on my lip but then nod and start closing the vents to cut off the oxygen feeding the fire, while Kate and Luke argue how best to get the unconscious driver out of the car. I can hear the sound of breaking glass and when I turn, I see Luke standing on the slightly upturned side of the car, holding onto the wall for support, as he stomps down on the back passenger window. Once he’s cleared away all the glass, he slowly lowers himself into the car, into the backseat. Kate climbs up to the open window and after a few long minutes of not being able to see what’s going on, I see her reach down into the car and then pull up a skinny looking kid who doesn’t look as though he could be older than 19.
I want to rush forward and help them pull, but after only one step towards the car, I feel my stomach roil, finally reacting to the soup from earlier, and I have to throw up in the bucket Luke brought to set next to the couch earlier. The recovery period after I’m finished expelling the contents of my stomach seems much more difficult as I take the deep steady breaths which just end up pulling more of the petrol fumes into my lungs.
“Ana?” Kate asks, looking up at me with concern as I have to reach out to grip onto the couch for support.
“She shouldn’t be breathing in this shit,” Luke shouts from inside the car. “Tell her to go upstairs until we figure out what to do.”
Kate looks back towards me and I nod, signaling that I heard him, and then make my way to the stairs. I can tell immediately once I’m above the gas line as the air very suddenly begins to smell clean. Unfortunately, it’s also very cold upstairs, and as I make my way into my room and immediately crawl into bed to try and get warm, I start to appreciate the gravity of this new problem. We don’t have any heat, we don’t have the ability to build a fire, there’s a car with mechanical and electrical damage in my fume filled dining room room over a river of combustible fluids, and there’s a giant hole in the side of my house forcing in freezing cold air.
Suddenly, this isn’t just about waiting out the storm anymore.
I reach down into the front pocket of my sweatshirt for my phone, praying Luke is right and that I can still reach an emergency number even though the cell towers are down. I’m already so cold that it’s difficult to get my fingers to move over the screen, but after I successfully dial 911, I bring the phone up to my ear and say a small prayer that someone can help me before I burn through the 5% battery that is all I have left.
My breathing is loud as I wait, listening hard for any sound, but after several seconds of nothing, I pull the phone away to look at the screen and see clearly that the call is not going through.
“Please, please, please,” I whisper, but after another minute of staring at the 911 number on my screen, my phone goes black and can’t be turned on again. I feel like I want to cry as a violent shiver trembles through my whole body, and as I throw my phone onto the bed, I hear the thumping sounds of Kate and Luke coming up the stairs.
“Ana?” Luke calls.
“I-In here!” I reply, forcing my voice through the harsh broken breaths that are all I can make out through the shivering. The door to my bedroom opens and Kate and Luke come inside, each holding onto an end of the boy they pulled out of the car. I watch silently as they place him on the floor, and then reluctantly pull back the covers for Kate to crawl into the bed with me. Luke straddles the boy on my bedroom floor and begins checking his vitals. Once he’s sure he’s breathing, he starts talking, trying to get him to wake. It takes several more minutes, but eventually, the boy’s eyelids begin to flutter and he starts to stir.
“Whoa there,” Luke says gently. “Don’t move. You’ve been in an accident and we don’t know if you’re hurt.”
“Where am I?” The boy asks, his voice filled with terror and confusion.
“You’re in a house on Maple Avenue. You slid off the road and came through our exterior wall. It looks like you may have hit your head pretty bad from the jolt of the accident.”
“Yeah, it hurts,” the boy agrees.
“Do you know who you are?” Luke asks. “Do you know you’re name?”
“Son,” He replies, but his voice is getting weaker and it looks as though we may be close to losing him again. “Hyun Son.”
“And are you from Cambridge, Hyun?” Luke asks, trying to keep him talking.
“No. No, I’m from Korea.”
“What brings you to Massachusetts?”
“MIT. I’m an engineer. The heat went out in my apartment and it was too cold to stay. I tried to leave. The roads are bad.”
“I can see that,” Luke says.
“Speaking of which,” Kate interrupts, as we both shiver under the covers that don’t seem to be doing anything to provide warmth on my bed. “What are we going to do without the fire? The last weather report said the temperature had dropped to 13 degrees and that was hours ago. The snow turned to ice. We can’t stay here.”
“Can we go to a hotel?” I ask.
“A hotel isn’t going to have heat either…” Luke says.
“But it also won’t have a giant hole letting in the all the cold air,” I tell him.
“Didn’t we learn anything from a car barrelling through the dining room wall?” Kate interjects. “We shouldn’t be driving anywhere.”
“So what do we do?” I ask. Both Kate and I turn to Luke, waiting for his miraculous solution, but while he glances uneasily between us and the rapidly fading Hyun, we hear a voice float up the stairs towards us.
“Anastasia? Katherine? Are you here?”
Kate and I both look at each other, and then immediately scramble out of bed to run for the hallway. At the bottom of the stairs we see Ms. Simmons, the reclusive but very kind widow who lives across the street, peering cautiously up at us.
“Are you girls alright?” She asks, clearly nervous. “I saw the accident through my front window.”
“We’re okay,” Kate tells her. “The driver needs medical attention, but Ana and I are fine.”
“I tried to call 911 but we don’t have any reception. You haven’t had any luck making outgoing calls have you?” I ask.
“No, I had an old emergency radio that lasted a little while, but it’s dead now too. Almost all of the communication towers from Augusta to Charleston are down, they’re calling this the worst storm since Katrina.”
“Oh my god,” I say, automatically reaching up to cover my mouth as I think of Christian in Seattle, unable to get ahold of me, and watching the news reports.
“Ms. Simmons,” Luke says, coming up behind us. “I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Anastasia is pregnant. The car downstairs is leaking chemical fumes and we don’t have any way to contain heat with the structural damage to the house…”
“You should come with me,” Ms. Simmons interrupts him. “Of course you should come with me. I have plenty of room for all of you, you’re most welcome.”
“Thank you,” Luke says. “Kate, help me get Hyun downstairs. Ana, go now.”
I nod and then hurry down the stairs towards Ms. Simmons, who holds her arm out and wraps it around me as she leads me across the street through the deep, completely frozen snow.
It’s a welcome feeling stepping into her house from the freezing cold of outside, but I can’t help notice that the heat pouring out of her small, iron, pellet stove isn’t even as good at heating the space as the fireplace in my living room was. The one plus side of the stove though, is that she can heat things on top of it, so once she’s settled me down as close to the heat source as possible, she wraps a blanket over my shoulders and then hands me a hot mug of black tea.
“How far along are you, dear?” She asks once she’s taken the seat next to me.
“About 10 weeks,” I reply. “It was a surprise. A good surprise, but a surprise nonetheless.”
“Well, the best things in life usually do come as a surprise,” She says, warmly. “I think I’ve seen your boyfriend before. The tall, young man who’s usually wearing the suits?”
“Yeah,” I nod. “He owns a business in Seattle. He loves a good suit.”
“He’s very handsome,” She tells me.
“Yes, he is,” I agree, smiling now. “And he’s wonderful. When I found out I was pregnant, I was afraid to tell him because I thought he’d be angry, you know, bad timing and all… but, he wasn’t. He was so happy, and I didn’t expect that. It’s made me really excited to start a family with him. I’m so worried about him right now, watching all of this and having no idea if I’m okay. He… tends to overreact when he’s not in control of things and he’s probably freaking out.”
“That just means he loves you.”
“I know… I just, I hate for him to worry. Especially since I’m pregnant.”
“Are you getting married?”
“Yes. I mean, we’re not engaged yet, but we’ll get married. He proposed… well, kind of, but we’ve decided to wait to think about marriage until I’m done with school and can move home to be with him.”
“Well, congratulations, Anastasia. It seems you’ve got many wonderful things to be grateful for.”
“I do, thank you.”
The front door opens and Kate and Luke come in, Hyun’s arms slung over each of their shoulders as they struggle to get him into the house. He looks to be completely out of it again, making both Kate and Luke a little unsteady on their feet, and it has me worried about how serious Hyun’s condition is. Once they’ve laid him out on the floor again, Luke begins doing the few things he knows from his military training to try and help, but he doesn’t wake up again so all we can do is make sure he’s breathing and continue to try to call out to 911 until both Kate and Luke’s phones are dead as well.
Now that we’re finally decently warm in Ms. Simmons’ living room, I’m starting to feel tired again. She brings pillows and blankets from a hall closet for Kate and I to share, which is fine since the room still feels cold enough that we need to cuddle close together to feel even slightly comfortable. We all agree to take shifts to keep an eye on Hyun, but both Luke and Kate insist I sleep first.
“Are you okay, Ana?” Kate asks, wrapping her arms tighter around me as I shiver a little.
“Yeah,” I nod. “I’m fine. A little cold, but fine. However, you may have to ask that again when I wake up and the not-only-morning-sickness hits me full force. I don’t know how long we’re going to be here and that’s not going to be fun without running water.”
She’s quiet for a moment, and then I hear her sigh. “How does this end, Ana? There aren’t any rescue crews going door to door, no one even knows we’re here.”
“The storm won’t last forever, Kate. The power will come back on, they’ll clear the roads… we just have to wait it out.”
“That could be days, maybe longer. My family is waiting for me… you’re supposed to spend Thanksgiving with the Greys and your parents so you can announce your pregnancy. What if the phones don’t come back on? What if Ray calls and you miss it?”
“It’s going to be okay,” I reply, immediately dismissing her concerns because I can’t bare to think of them myself. “We won’t be here that long. A few days tops.”
“I hope so,” She says. We both fall silent and once I feel the change in Kate’s breathing that I’m sure means she’s fallen asleep, I reach down and place my hand tenderly over my stomach.
“It’s going to be okay,” I whisper as I trace my finger over my sweatshirt. “I know your dad is doing everything he can to get us out. He knows we’re here and he’s going to find a way to get to us. He won’t leave us here.”
The next day is one of the most simultaneously boring and stressful days of my life. With the morning comes the return of the storm, and we’re only gifted a few precious seconds of daylight before the thick cover of shocking white clouds returns and begins dumping fresh powder over the hardened ice blanket left behind from the frigid temperatures the night before. Hyun is in and out all morning and his clarity seems to worsen each time he wakes, which makes Luke think he might have a brain bleed, but we still can’t call out. We’re completely cut off from the outside world and the only thing we have to distract our minds from the horrible reality of the situation is an underwhelming collection of Mary Higgins Clark novels I found in the back office.
Ms. Simmons’ wood burning stove isn’t quite up to the herculean task of fighting off the cold temperatures determined to pour into the house through the thin, single paned windows, so I spend a great deal of the day huddled under a blanket as close to the stove as possible, reading through You Belong to Me. It’s difficult to stay focused on reading though as I keep picturing Christian pacing back and forth across the great room of our apartment, slowly losing his mind as the hours tick by without any word from me. But that concern quickly takes a back burner when Luke tries to add fuel to the stove late in the afternoon and discovers the wood pellet supply used to fuel the fire, is running dangerously low.
With everyone’s priorities suddenly shifted, Kate and I do what we can to prolong the life of the wood we do have, mostly by using aluminum foil and old bedsheets to try and insulate the windows to keep more heat in the room so the stove doesn’t have to burn so hot. Luke spends the remainder of the afternoon on Ms. Simmons’ sun porch attempting to hack the wood we had stored for our fireplace into mulch with an axe, but it’s slow going. Once I’ve done everything I can think to do, I spend most of the rest of the day making my way back and forth to check on Luke and to bring him hot drinks because he’s out there for hours and the sun porch feels like an icebox.
“There’s soup,” I tell him, well after the sun has set. “Well, broth anyway.”
“I’ll be there in a second,” He says, taking a deep breath before raising the axe over his head to pound into the wood again.
“Luke, you’ve been at it all day. You’re not going to be able to keep up this w-way, the wood is too hard.” I shiver.
“We have to do something,” He says. “My job is to keep you safe and right now, that means keeping you warm.”
“What about you?” I ask. “It’s f-freezing out here.”
“I’m fine. Go back inside.”
“No, you’re not. You’re not Superman, Luke. You’re going to get sick.”
“No, I’m not going back in unless you come with me,” I say firmly. “And if I don’t go in right now, I’m going to die, so you’re literally endangering my life staying out here.”
He looks up at me for a moment, clearly irritated, but eventually lets out a harsh breath of defeat, drops his axe next to the pile of wood, and steps forward to join me in the house. Kate is stirring the pot of chicken broth sitting on top of the stove and, between standing in the cold arguing with Luke and hardly eating anything all day, I’m suddenly ravenously hungry for it. She picks up a bowl, and dishes me a full ladle of the steaming liquid, but when I step forward to take it, my body seems to forget how to move correctly and I nearly fall to the ground, but Luke reaches out to catch me.
“Whoa,” I say, shaking my head slightly as I work through the weird disorientation. “Head rush.”
“Are you okay?” Kate asks, her alarmed eyes widening as she automatically looks down to my stomach.
“Fine. I just…”
“You’re not eating enough,” Luke says. “You’re pregnant, you need calories. All you’ve eaten today is dry cereal and tea, and you barely ate yesterday.”
“I’m sorry,” Ms. Simmons says. “I’m not much of a cook so there isn’t much food in the house. I usually order in… I think I have some crackers.”
“Please,” Luke says gratefully, but I shake my head.
“Don’t fuss, I’m fine. I just need to sit down.”
Ms. Simmons smiles down at me for a moment, but disappears back into her kitchen anyway as Luke lowers me onto the floor next the fire. I reach up to take the cup of broth Kate offers me, but even after that and a whole sleeve of Ritz, I still don’t feel any better.
“Maybe you should try to sleep?” Kate suggests, rubbing her hand over my back comfortingly as I lower my head between my knees. “You’re under a lot of stress, that can’t be good.”
“Yeah,” Luke agrees. “And I’m sure you’re not getting good sleep with so much going on anyway. You should be resting as much as you can.”
“Okay,” I nod, but just as Luke reaches for the pillows and blankets folded on the table next to him, he stops. There is a loud, thumping sound, like something hitting or running into something else over and over again, coming from outside, and a bright light comes shining through the thin cracks left between the foil and the molding around the window.
“Snow plows?” Kate asks, perking up, and when I shrug she immediately jumps to her feet and runs for the window, peeling back the foil just enough so that she can see through.
“What is it?” Luke asks.
“It’s a helicopter…” She says, sounding confused. “Wait, maybe someone saw the accident and was able to get through to 911. It could be lifeflight.”
Luke and I both get up from the ground, and Kate tears back the foil more so that the three of us can all see, though it’s hard to make anything out through the droves of snow still falling outside.
“That’s not lifeflight,” Luke says as the helicopter settles down into the road and the cockpit door opens. A man steps down onto the snow, shielding his face from the flakes still whirling around him as the propellers of the helicopter haven’t completely stopped spinning yet.
“Anastasia!” The man yells, and the second I hear his voice, I gasp.
Immediately, I launch myself off the couch for the front door, wrenching it open just in time to hear his panicked cries from across the street as he stares at the car still buried in the side of my house.
“Anastasia! Jesus Christ, Anastasia!” He shouts again as he begins charging through the snow towards the house.
“Christian!” I call out, and he stops. I run out into the snow, not dressed nearly warm enough to wade through the knee high blanket, but not caring as I make my way to the middle of the street where I’m able to run into his arms.
“Anastasia,” He repeats, the fear still clear in his voice as he holds me as tightly against him as he can. “Thank god.”
He pulls me away from his chest, but continues to grip me tightly by the arms as his eyes rake over me, looking for any injuries, but even as he examines me there’s a constant string of “you’re okay, you’re okay, you’re okay” bubbling through his lips.
“I’m okay,” I assure him. “I’m fine.”
“What happened?” He asks, turning to look at the car buried in the dining room wall.
“There was accident… the roads are really bad. Can you get us to the hospital? The driver is in really bad shape.”
“The driver?” He repeats, looking back at the car and then shaking his head, “You need to get to the hospital. You’re shaking, god you must be freezing.” He shakes out of his coat and wraps it around me just as Luke and Kate finally make their way to us.
“I’ve never been so happy to see you in my life,” Kate says, rushing towards us and pushing herself into Christian so she can wrap her arms tightly around his middle. Christian looks slightly taken aback for a second before he reaches down to pat her awkwardly on the shoulder and then pulls her off of him.
“Are you okay?” He asks.
“Yes,” She nods.
“Good, get in the helicopter. Both of you,” He tells us, and then turns to Luke. “How bad is the driver?
“Emergent,” Luke answers. “He’s been in an out of consciousness for the last 24 hours and it’s getting worse.”
“Is he inside?”
“Yes, sir,” Luke says. Christian nods and they both disappear back into the house. It looks like there’s room for five people inside the helicopter, but there are six of us and one who is injured, so I have Kate come sit in the front with me. The harness isn’t made to go over two people and when Christian and Luke get back, carrying Hyun between them, with Ms. Simmons trailing wearily in the back, I can tell Christian wants to say something about Kate sharing a seat with me, but ultimately decides against it. It’s clear we’re the only ones small enough to share a seat, and the only other option is to leave someone behind.
It takes them awhile to get everyone loaded and strapped into the back seat, but once the doors are closed and Christian has powered up the engine again, glorious, welcome heat begins to fill the cockpit. Christian hands me a set of cans, then passes headphones to the other passengers that don’t have microphones. After he’s done all of his pre-flight checks, he takes hold of the control between his legs, and after a horrible jerk from the wind and a bumpy kind of drag from the too deep snow, he eases us into the air.
“It’s not an easy ride going through the storm.” Christian warns us. “Hang on.”
Kate looks over at me, reaches down to grip onto my hand, and then we both hold onto the metal bars that run along the curved edges of our seat. The wind beats against us and the helicopter jolts every now and again, forcing Christian to adjust and move to keep us level and on the course set by his radar. Not easy is an understatement for what we go through on the flight home, and yet, I’m more relaxed next to him in the air, than I’ve been since I left to take my test what now feels like 10 years ago. We’re getting out of here. Only now that I’m certain of that am I able to fully realize I’ve subconsciously been worried that might not have been the case.
As my mind races through the worsening situation I’m getting out of, what would have happened if Christian hadn’t come for us, my nausea is triggered and, since there isn’t anywhere for me to throw up in the helicopter, I take a long, calming breath and then think of something to distract myself.
“How did you get here?” I ask Christian. “You didn’t fly this helicopter all the way from Seattle, did you? This isn’t Charlie Tango.”
“No,” He says, continuing to concentrate on the open airspace in front of us rather than turning to look at me. “The moment I lost communication with you, I got on a flight to Albany. I was going to do whatever I could to get my plane to you, but I couldn’t. I didn’t know if you were okay, I didn’t know if you had heat, I didn’t know if you were trying to drive out of Cambridge… the news has reported over 75 fatalities in the last 48 hours, most of them from car accidents. I didn’t know if you were safe or…”
“I was safe,” I reassure him. “Luke has been amazing and Ms. Simmons… she saved us.”
“You look pale,” He says, glancing over to me for the first time. “Do you feel okay?”
“I’m fine,” I tell him.
“She almost passed out right before you got here,” Luke chimes in from the back seat. “I’m pretty sure she’s dehydrated, and she needs to eat.”
I glare at Luke over my shoulder, and when I turn to face forward again, I see that Christian is looking over at me like I’ve betrayed him or something.
“Thank you, Sawyer,” He says sharply, and then turns forward to focus on the snow still falling around the helicopter. “When we get to the hospital, I want someone to look at you and I want you to have an ultrasound.”
“Okay,” I agree. I can hear the low moan of Hyun finally rousing again in the back seat and the sound makes Christian turn around, but we’re suddenly violent jolted by the wind again and he has to concentrate his focus on piloting again.
The flight takes almost an hour and a half with the weather batting us around, but the farther inland we get, the easier the flight becomes. When we finally clear the clouds and the snow and see the lights of Albany coming towards us through the clear night sky, the sense of relief I feel is so overwhelming, I nearly start to cry.
“Tower, this is Echo Charlie Delta-Delta November entering ALB airspace northbound on heading zero-three-zero,” Christian says into the microphone protruding from his headphones. “I have a passenger on board who requires immediate medical attention, requesting clearance to land at Albany Memorial Hospital.”
We wait in silence for a moment, until a disembodied voice finally comes through the crackling white noise in my headphones.
“Roger, Echo Charlie, please stand by.” It takes several minutes this time, but eventually the voice echos in my headphones again. “Echo Charlie, this is tower. You are clear to land. Please continue on Eastbound heading seven-zero-seven to Albany Memorial Hospital.”
Christian immediately reaches forward and begins making the corrections to the on-board navigational system to get him on the correct heading and a few minutes later we’re hovering over the tall red brick building, onto a helipad that looks to be surrounded by hospital personnel.
There’s a lot of confusion in the commotion around me once we land. The doors are thrown open and we’re quickly ushered out of the helicopter so the medical team can get to Hyun. I nearly stumble trying to get out as fast as possible, but Kate grabs ahold of me and seconds later, her hands are replaced by Christian’s.
“OB?” Christian asks one of the doctors holding onto the gurney that I assume will take Hyun down to the emergency room.
“Second floor,” She dismisses him, and he immediately pulls me tighter against him as he hurries us both for the stairs.
“Kate, stay with Sawyer!” Christian calls over his shoulder. “Sawyer, Taylor is waiting with the pilot who will come for the helicopter. Let him know we’ve arrived.”
“Yes, sir!” Luke calls back, and then Christian takes me through the door and down the stairs into the main building of the hospital. I can tell by the number of ambulances I got a brief glance of outside and the tense atmosphere around the doctors and nurses scurrying through the hallways of the hospital that they’re slammed. This must be where a lot of storm victims are being transferred to, and while I’m worried about seeing the faces that will put a number to the devastation caused by the storm, I’m relieved to find that the Obstetrics and Gynecology floor is relatively empty.
It’s fairly late at night, which means that there’s only one doctor on duty, but Christian somehow manages to get us seen right away. My vitals show that Luke was right. I am dehydrated and my low blood pressure suggests that I need food, but otherwise, I’m completely fine. Christian asks for an ultrasound so the doctor can check on the baby and, as they wheel the heavy machine into the room, I realize this is the first time Christian will have the chance to hear our baby’s heartbeat.
“Are you ready?” I ask, squeezing tightly to his hand while the doctor prepares the instruments for the exam.
“Ready,” He nods.
“Okay, please lift your shirt for me,” The doctor asks, and, when I do, he scoots closer and takes a brief pause. “Alright, Anastasia. This might be a little cold.”
My breath hisses between my teeth as he touches me with the cool plastic probe covered in blue gel and begins moving it all over my skin. Christian is staring at the monitor more intensely that I think I’ve ever seen him watch anything before, but after several seconds, nothing has come up on the monitor yet.
“How many weeks are you?” The doctor asks.
“Ten,” I reply, “Ten and a few days.”
“Well, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find…” He says, letting his voice trail off, but when he still doesn’t find anything, I feel Christian’s hand squeeze more tightly around mine. It almost feels as though my heart has stopped, but when I turn to look at Christian, his perfectly stoic face doesn’t betray any of the emotions he’s feeling. I know him well enough though to know he’s hiding a rising sense of panic behind his stone facade. I bite nervously down on my lip, but as I turn to look at the monitor, I see it. The fuzzy white peanut flicker once in the pool of black on the monitor, only it doesn’t look like a peanut at all anymore. The baby has a defined head, a body, even little nubs for arms and legs. The picture has completely transformed and it’s only been a few weeks.
The doctor reaches forward and flips a switch on the side of the monitor and suddenly the quick flickering of the image is accompanied by the rapid, gentle thrumming sound of the baby’s heartbeat. I stare at it for a moment, mesmerised, before I remember Christian standing next to me, seeing this for the first time, and I turn to look at him again. His mouth has popped open a little, and his face has softened the smallest degree, but his actual expression is hard to read. It’s definitely not the happiness that radiated off of him when I first told him I was pregnant, but it’s not anger, sadness, or regret either. His brow is furrowed and the way he’s stares at the image makes him look as though he’s trying to solve a difficult equation.
“Well, great news. Everything here looks perfectly healthy. You’re developing very well for 10 weeks, I’d say you’ll probably be able to find out the gender before Christmas.”
“Gender,” Christian repeats absentmindedly, but when both the doctor and I begin to stare at him, he seems to gather himself and nods. “Thank you, Doctor.”
“My pleasure,” He replies. “Would you like a DVD to take home with you?”
“Please,” I smile, and after the doctor burns the disk, hands it back to me, and shakes both our hands, he wishes us safe travels to Seattle and then leaves the room so we can have some privacy while I clean up.
Christian takes the empty chair across the room while I wipe the gel from my stomach and grab my sweatshirt to slip over my head. He’s holding his phone in his hand and looking down at it, but his fingers never move. He’s just… staring.
“What’s wrong?” I ask him, my worry over his reaction now heightened too far for me to hold back anymore.
“Nothing,” He dismisses me quickly, but when I don’t drop my accusatory gaze, he sighs, leans over so that his elbows are resting on his knees, and scrubs his face with his hands.
“I have really good parents,” He says at last.
“I know,” I agree.
“But… really good parents. My father’s a lawyer, he had his own firm to run, but he never missed even one of Elliot’s baseball games or was ever late to pick me up from piano lessons. He taught me to ride a bike, he taught me to sail… he used to sit at the dining room table every night to do my homework with me. My mother is a pediatric surgeon, and even after she went back to work, she was room mother in every one of my classes in Elementary school. We had home cooked meals every night, we got the best education money could buy, we had tutors to teach us to play instruments and speak foreign languages. My parents were present, they cared about all of us. They told me they loved me every day, even when I was a fuck up in High School. I had really good parents.”
“And you’ll be just like them,” I assure him. “All of those things, they’ve instilled in you. I know how deeply you can love and I know that you’re going to be there for our children, just like your parents were there for you. You’re going to be an amazing father, Christian.”
“That’s not…” He begins, but his voice cuts off when he breaks eye contact with me.
“Then what is it?” I ask.
“She still got to me,” He says, and when I furrow my brow at him with confusion, he continues, “Elena. My parents did everything right, everything they could to protect me, and Elena still got to me. She was my mom’s best friend, they had no way of knowing. They trusted her. It would be like if Kate…” He shakes his head. “If they couldn’t protect me from Elena, how the hell am I supposed to protect this baby from someone just like her?”
“Oh…” I breathe.
“Ever since you told me you were pregnant, the nightmares have come back,” He says. “I’m happy that you’re having my baby, I really am… but I’m terrified, too. I don’t know if I can handle this…”
“Hey,” I say, moving into his lap and wrapping my arms around him. “You’re going to handle this perfectly.”
“I don’t know, Ana.”
“Would it help if I told you that… well, I think you’re going to do better than I am?”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re so good with Mia, and from what you’ve told me, you’ve always been that way. I’m in awe of the bond you have with her. I don’t have any brothers or sisters, or any cousins, or even family friends with small children. I’ve never had any practice with babies and I don’t know the first thing about raising children. My mom isn’t exactly the best example… what if I’m a terrible mother?”
“You won’t be,” He says gently, and when I look up at him, he leans forward and kisses me softly on the lips.
“We’re not going to be perfect,” I tell him. “We’re going to make mistakes and we can’t protect them from everything. We can only do our best to make sure they’re safe and that they feel they can always talk to us when they don’t feel that way. I can’t promise you that nothing bad is ever going to happen, but no matter what the future holds, the best we can do is make sure that this baby knows that he or she is loved and that that love doesn’t come with conditions. We know how to do that.”
“You’re right. We do,” He agrees. “Are you finished?”
“Then, let’s get out of here. I hope you know I’m never letting you out of my sight again.”
I roll my eyes. “It’s going to be a little hard conducting GEH business in the middle of my Advanced Poetry Writing class.”
“I think you’re missing the point entirely,” He says, but I simply give him a wide, defiant grin as I walk past him through the exam room door, and back out into the waiting room.
When we get back to Seattle, there are two cars waiting for us on the tarmac. The first I know is Christian’s SUV, which I assume Ryan must be driving, but I’m not sure who the second one belongs to until we step off the plane and see Kate’s mom immediately dart out of the front seat to envelop her daughter in her arms. They’re both crying all over each other, even Ethan seems to get a little emotional when he steps forward to give Kate a hug, and, as Mrs. Kavanagh turns her emotions onto me, Mr. Kavanagh steps forward and shakes Christian’s hand.
“We can’t thank you enough, Son. Err… Mr. Grey,” He says.
“Christian,” He corrects him. “And it’s my pleasure. Have a good Thanksgiving.”
“You too,” Mr. Kavanagh says. Kate waves goodbye to both Christian and I from under her mother’s arm as she’s led back to their car, and once she’s tucked safely inside, Luke takes my bags and begins loading them into the SUV while Taylor opens the back door for us. I go first, but as I step through the back door, I jump in surprise because there’s a body in the backseat I hadn’t expected.
“Elliot? What are you doing here?” I ask, sliding into the middle seat to leave room on my other side for Christian, and trying to work through the shock. Elliot has been MIA for months, a total recluse, and now, suddenly, here he is.
“I just…” He pauses as he turns to look out the window at the Kavanagh’s car driving away over the rain soaked pavement. “I just wanted to make sure you got back okay.”
“Oh,” I reply, feeling my heart sink a little as I can still hear the pain in his voice. “Well, thank you. It was kind of scary for a while, but we’re fine. We’re uh… we’re all fine.”
“I’m glad,” He says, but after a long exhale, he turns to look out the window again and is silent for the rest of the drive home.