My voice trembled over the phone. “Adam, I need you.”
“Woah, woah, Ellie, what’s wrong?”
I stared out the window and choked on a few gasps. Terror locked my voice in my throat, and I clutched my hand to my chest.
“I’m coming, baby, I’m coming. I’ll be there as soon as I can!” His statement grew distant as it ended.
I fought for control of my anxiety-laden voice. “Wait!” I spoke before he hung up the phone. “Please, stay on the line.”
“I’m right here, I’m in the car now. Just hold on.” Pauses followed each phrase as he fumbled with his words and thought of anything he could say to calm me. “Here, I’ll put you on speaker.” Another pause and a click as he switched over. “How’s that? Can you hear me?”
I fought to breathe in and forced myself to speak. “Yes, it sounds a bit distant, but I can hear you.” I couldn’t keep my words steady, and each tumbled out terror filled.
“I’m on my way. As soon as I…can get the car started.”
I heard faint shutters of his car’s engine before it died. Adam tried to force it, but the engine coughed and choked before giving up.
“Damn it!” His voice crept closer and I heard a click as his phone switched speaker off. “Ellie, I think it’s the battery, it’s dead.”
My heart seized in a new wave of horror and I groaned at the intense stabbing pain. “Adam.” I gasped out his name.
“Listen, I’m coming, okay? Just try to breathe. I know it hurts, baby, but you can do it.”
I forced my mouth shut and tried to inhale a deep breath through my nose. My lungs filled halfway before they refused anymore air and I choked the breath out of my mouth. Tears spilled over in a bout of pain.
“I can’t Adam, I can’t breathe!” It came out a desperate cry as if he could somehow command my lungs and heart to act like they should.
“It’s gonna be okay. Just lay back and close your eyes.” His voice grew fatigued, but he forced it to steady after a moment’s pause.
I laid back on the couch and curled up in a blanket before I squeezed my eyes shut. “Now what?”
“Now, just imagine us together in our own home. Our first Christmas as a family. You, me, and our little girl curled up in a nest of blankets in front of the fireplace.”
I pictured that future. Our daughter huddled in my lap as I talked her through a nightmare. Adam’s arms hung around us both as I whispered to her. I rubbed her back and her green eyes finally closed. Her breathing evened out and she slept in the protected circle of our arms.
“Do you really think that far ahead?” My voice strengthened as the image continued.
“Yes, I do.” His words came out in a faint croak and a longer silence followed.
A new fear swelled in my heart with each strike of lightning, each wave of pelting rain. “Adam, are you okay?”
“Don’t worry. I’m almost there. I’m coming as fast I can. Try to imagine something else.”
I forced my mind to create a new image of us.
I gripped his hand as we swam from the shore to a secret grotto. We dove under the aquamarine waves and swam forward to the entrance. We resurfaced in the shallow pool on the inside. We climbed out and watched the moon and stars through the eye of the grotto. Our safe haven.
“Ellie, can you hear me?”
“Do you remember Safe Haven?”
A pause followed before he answered, “I remember the picture of it. That’s the cave you always wanted to find. You pictured us there?”
“Yes, you pictured our first Christmas as a family and I pictured our honeymoon.”
“Fair enough.” The phrase came out breathless and fatigued. “Is something wrong?”
“Don’t worry, almost there.” He almost choked on the last words before he gasped and coughed.
My chest tightened and my heart pounded, gurgling fear fueled blood in my ears. “Adam?” My voice rose and trembled.
I pressed the phone closer, straining to hear anything but the silence on the other end. I gasped when I heard a knock on the door. I sprang to my feet and rushed to it, fumbling with the lock. I flung the door open to see Adam drenched and dripping in the doorway, clutching his phone in his hand. I dropped mine and pulled him inside, wrapping my arms around his soaked body.
“You said your car was dead.” Realization struck and stole my breath. “You-you ran?”
“You needed me. I wasn’t gonna let a crappy car and some rain stop me.”
I clutched him closer, listening to his pounding heart finally slow down. I trembled as he stood sopping just inside the house.
“Hey, hey listen.” He took my chin in his hand and brought my eyes up to meet his. “I’m here now, don’t worry about me.”
“I can’t believe you. Stay there.” I turned and walked down to the hall closet. I came back with a couple towels and a flannel shirt and jeans. “Go change before you catch your death by pneumonia, and I’ll take care of the puddle you left.”
He grinned and took the clothes, heading to the bathroom while I mopped up the floor. He came out a couple minutes later, finishing the last few buttons to the flannel. He scooped up the mass of soaked clothing, and I took it along with the towels and put them in the wash. I came back to the living room, finding him on the couch and two glasses of cocoa on the coffee table.
“I hope you don’t mind.”
“Of course not, you need to warm up.” I sat down and took one mug and handed him the other.
He gulped about half before setting back down. My knotted stomach decided for me, so I set the glass down without drinking. He took me into his arms and laid back. I nestled closer and rested my head on his chest, listening to the steady beat of his heart while I tried to get mine to do the same. Adam rubbed my back and anchored me down with one arm around my waist.
After a moment, he spoke up. “No matter what happens, I’ll do anything to protect you. You never have to be alone and afraid. I love you too much for that.”
“I love you too. I just want you to be careful. You don’t have to push yourself so hard for me.”
He pressed his lips to the top of my head. “I always will.”
I looked up to his emerald eyes and pressed my lips to his. “Stubborn. What will our future daughter think?”
“She’ll take after her mother.”
I smiled and kissed him again before I laid my head back on his chest, falling asleep to the beat of his heart in the protected circle of his arms. My safe haven.