The sound of an explosion in the distance woke Jameson Carter from his nap. At first he didn’t know what the sound was. He was still groggy. However, the subsequent sound of fire engine sirens told the final story. He rose from his chair to look at the window but could see nothing from where he stood.
‘It’s probably another propane fire,’ his mind prompted. There’d already been two since winter began. He, once again, felt sorry for the poor on the outskirts of town. They often had no other way of keeping their families warm. All they had were unsafe propane heaters.
Jameson immediately sat down and wrote a check to a local group trying to raise money to buy safe heaters for those who needed them. He’d meant to do it earlier but life got in the way. Who was he kidding, his writing got in the way.
Jameson Carter had writer’s block. The bad thing was his novel was due in two weeks. Sadly, he was only halfway done with it. He just didn’t know where to take his heroine next. There were so many choices. Sadly, none of them appealed to him. It was probably because he never wanted to write a love story in the first place. It was out of character for him. What did he know of love? He and his wife, Stephanie barely orbited the same planet anymore.
Most people who knew the couple thought their love story was charming. They met at the hospital where they both worked. It was love at first sight despite the fact that she was only 14 at the time of their meeting. They dated five years before marrying on Stephanie’s 19th birthday.
They had three beautiful children – one boy and two girls. They also had nine lovely grandchildren whom they both adored.
Jameson shook his head. Their love had grown complacent. He wondered if that made it less important. He didn’t think so but he was uncertain how Stephanie might answer. After all, she was still beautiful. He, on the other hand, was less than the strapping young man she’d met all those years ago.
Jameson stared down at the blank page on his computer once more. ‘Should his heroine stay with her husband or leave him for a lover?’
The ringing of the phone jarred Jameson from his thoughts. He picked it up and answered, “Jameson Carter here.”
“Mr. Carter, my name is Lieutenant Jeffrey Storm. I’m with the police department. Sir, I need you to come to your wife’s office as quickly as possible. There’s been an explosion. She’s asking for you.”
“What do you mean she’s asking for me?” Jameson felt the blood rush to his head in a mixture of shock and anger. “Is she hurt?”
“I’m afraid so, sir. She’s trapped in the rubble. The fire department is trying to get her out as we speak but we fear it might not be in time. She’s badly injured Mr. Carter. Come quickly.”
Slamming down the phone, Jameson grabbed his keys and rushed out the door. He was in his convertible and speeding to the scene within seconds.
“Stephanie is hurt,” he whispered out loud. “How did I not feel that? I should have known it the instant it happened. What kind of husband am I?”
Other negative thoughts invaded his mind as he drove. He cursed the red lights that stood between him and the only woman he’d ever loved. At last he reached his destination. He stared in shock at the building that once held his wife’s business. It was nothing more than a pile of rubble.
Springing from his car, Jameson ran forward to the cordoned off area. A policeman tried to stop him.
“My wife’s in there,” he screamed. “They called for me – Jameson Carter.”
“I’m sorry Mr. Carter,” the policeman said quietly. “Please go through.” Jameson caught the look of sadness and pity in the man’s eyes. He suddenly found himself running.
“Mr. Carter?” Another policeman called out to him. “I’m Lieutenant Storm. Follow me,” the man ordered.
Jameson felt his heart beating faster and faster as the two of them made their way through the rubble. Jameson blanched at the sight. Finally, they reached Stephanie. Firemen were trying valiantly to pull her out from underneath one of the beams that used to stand in the building lobby.
“Jamie,” she called, her smile flashing despite the pain she had to be in. “You came, my love.”
Jameson rushed to her and grabbed her hand. He bent down to kiss her cheek. It was wet with tears.
“What happened here?” Jameson threw the question at one of the firemen working on his wife.
“We aren’t certain yet but it looks like the old boiler in the basement exploded. We’ve been trying to get the landlord to replace that thing for years. Instead, he just did what was needed to keep it within code. There wasn’t anything we could really do.”
Jameson nodded, his anger building. He’d deal with that later.
“Can’t you hurry and get her out?” His eyes questioned, turning dark with fear.
“We’ve almost got it, sir. Hang in there, mam,” the fireman prompted with a smile at Stephanie.
“Jamie, let them do their job,” she whispered softly. “I want to talk to you, just in case,” she began.
“In case what, Steph? You are going to be fine darling.” Jameson reached down to run his fingers through her silky black hair. He loved how it was beginning to salt with gray. She didn’t cover it up. She called her ‘badge of honor’.
“I love you, Jamie. You know that right?” Stephanie’s dark brown eyes explored her husband’s gray ones.
“Of course I do,” Jameson cooed. “I love you too.”
“I’ve never doubted that,” Stephanie smiled. “Your eyes still light up when I enter the room. You have no idea how special that makes me feel.”
Suddenly, Stephanie grimaced and let out a small yelp as a piece of the beam was moved off her body.
“Sorry, mam,” the fireman offered, his face still concerned. “We’re almost there.”
“Jameson, I can’t feel my legs. I can’t feel anything below my waist. I think the column crushed my spine,” Stephanie cried.
“Honey, I love you dearly but you aren’t a doctor,” Jameson started. “You shouldn’t diagnose yourself.”
“Come on, Jamie. You remember your medical training too. You know what it means when a person can’t feel their extremities.”
“I don’t care,” Jamie muttered. “I’ll take you any way I can get you. I’m never going to let you go, Stephanie. You can’t get rid of me, no matter what.”
As the fireman removed the last of the beam, Stephanie’s eyes closed suddenly.
“Tell the paramedics to hurry,” Jameson shouted. “She’s fainted. That can’t be good.”
The paramedics moved in quickly and began their work. Within minutes they had Stephanie on a back board and gurney. Jameson followed as they put her in the ambulance. He laid his head on her chest to feel her heart beating as they ambulance roared toward the hospital.
“Don’t leave me, Steph,” he cried out to her soul. “Please don’t leave me. I can’t live without you.”
As the doctors worked in surgery, Jameson paced the halls. He couldn’t believe that hours ago he’d considered their love complacent. It was anything but. The idea of life without Stephanie scared him to death. He knew he loved her with the same burning fervor that he’d expressed on their wedding day.
Finally, the surgeon came out of the operating room. Jameson held his breath as he began to speak.
“She’s going to live but I’m afraid she was right about her spine. I’m sorry, Mr. Carter. Your wife will never walk again.”
“I don’t care,” Jameson answered. “All I care about is that she’ll live. I’ll take care of her. I’ll do anything for her,” he cried. He knew in his heart the words he spoke were true.
A year later, Jameson sat in the green room waiting to be interviewed by a famous television talk show hostess. It was for his latest book. Stephanie sat next to him in her wheel chair, smiling happily.
“You are finally getting the praise your work deserves,” she cooed. “I’m so proud of you, Jamie.”
“It seems strange to write something out of your comfort zone and be rewarded with accolades. I always thought my mystery books were better.”
“No, Jamie. ‘Don’t Leave Love Behind’ came straight from your heart. It revealed the inner you; the man I’ve always known and loved. It shows the world the man who takes care of me without complaint.”
“I have nothing to complain about,” Jameson said honestly. He leaned over to kiss his wife’s soft, pink lips with passion. “I still have you. I’m the happiest man in the world.”