Authors: Kelly Elliott
Standing in the shower, I let the hot water fall over my tired and aching body. I wanted nothing more than to crawl back into bed, but I knew I had to see her. I needed to know that she was okay. I couldn’t even begin to understand how she was feeling. I wasn’t even sure what I was going to say to her. The accident just happened yesterday, and I myself was trying to come to grips with it.
Leaning my head back, I fought to keep this foreign feeling away. This feeling of emptiness, loss, and regret was new to me. Maybe if I had gone to him first I could have saved him. I wasted precious moments.
Precious moments that could have saved his life.
The knock on the bathroom door caused me to jump. “Preston? How long are you going to be in the shower? I’m hungry and tired of waiting for you.”
Placing my hand on the wall of the shower, I shook my head. One thing I’d quickly learned about Sherry after we started dating was that she couldn’t care less about my job or how it could affect me. “I’ll be out in a few minutes. Why don’t you go ahead and eat without me? I’m not hungry.”
Sherry let out a frustrated moan. “Fine.”
The bathroom door slammed as I rolled my eyes. Sherry and I had been dating for two years now, and I knew she was waiting for me to give her a ring. Every single time I walked into a jewelry store, I stood there looking at the rings for about twenty minutes before turning and walking out of the store. I wanted to love her the way she wanted to be loved. When I closed my eyes, I dreamed of a future. Kids running around laughing as my wife and I looked on. No matter how hard I tried, I didn’t see Sherry in that future.
Letting out a sigh, I turned the water off and stepped out of the shower. Reaching for the towel, I dried off as the bathroom door opened again. Sherry smiled as she gazed at my body. One thing Sherry was good at was fucking. She knew when I needed to forget things and was more than happy to help out. Licking her lips, she dropped to the floor and took my dick in her mouth. Pushing her away, I took a step back.
“Sherry, I can’t. Not now.”
Looking up at me with anger in her eyes, Sherry stood. “What do you mean…not now? Baby, I know how to make it all go away.”
Shaking my head, I wrapped my towel around my waist and pushed past her. “Not this time, Sherry.”
Walking into the bedroom, I dropped my towel and pulled my jeans on. Sherry walked up and wrapped her arms around my waist. Closing my eyes, I took in the moment. I willed myself to love Sherry. I cared about her; I just didn’t think I was in love with her.
Knowing she was just trying to help, I turned around and pulled her to me. Placing my lips against hers, I gently kissed her. Sherry returned the kiss. “Tonight, dinner. You and me here in the apartment.”
Sherry’s eyes lit up. “Sounds amazing, Preston. I may just buy a new dress.”
Raising my eyebrows, I asked, “Oh yeah?”
Biting on her lip, she nodded as she let out a purr. “Maybe one with easy access for you.”
Grinning, I said, “Seven sharp. Don’t wear panties with that new dress.”
Kissing me again, she whispered against my lips, “Deal, Mr. Ward.”
Walking up to the nurses’ station, I waited patiently as one of the nurses talked to a guy who looked to be a few years older than me. His blond hair was a mess and he looked like he hadn’t slept in days.
“Mr. Harris, I assure you, your sister is getting the utmost care.”
He pushed both hands through his hair and let out a long breath. “Please just make sure no one talks to her first before me.
The nurse’s eyes softened and I instantly knew whom they were talking about. It was her, the woman from yesterday’s car wreck.
Clearing my throat, I spoke. “Excuse me, are you speaking about the young woman in yesterday’s car accident on Boylston Street?”
The guy turned and looked at me. “Yes. Who are you?”
Swallowing the knot in my throat, I said, “I’m one of the responding firefighters. I am…I tried…um—” The words wouldn’t form in my mouth as I fought like hell to tell him I was the one who worked on his nephew.
Reaching his hand out to me, he said, “Jake Harris. I’m Harmony’s brother.”
Harmony. What a beautiful name.
The way she was looking at me yesterday flashed across my memory and I squeezed my eyes shut to block it out.
She had counted on me. Begged me, and I let her down. Those blue eyes would haunt me for the rest of my life.
“Preston Ward. Have you eaten anything, Jake?”
Jake’s voice cracked. “No, I haven’t had anything to eat since yesterday morning.”
Walking closer, I asked the nurse for a piece of paper and reached for a pen. I wrote down my cellphone number on the paper she handed me and smiled. “If Harmony wakes up, please just call or text me.”
Nodding, she whispered, “When Mrs. Banks wakes up, I’ll let you know.”
Slapping Jake lightly on the back, I said, “Come on, lunch is on me. I hear the food here is amazing.”
Jake looked at me and managed to give me a weak smile.
By the time we got our food and found a table, I discovered that Jake was finishing up medical school at Boston University School of Medicine. His parents no longer talked to Harmony and Jake was all she had left.
Sitting at the table, I decided to go ahead and ask the question. “Why do your parents not speak to Harmony? If you don’t mind my asking.”
Jake took a bite of his club sandwich, then a sip of Coke. “About two weeks before Harmony and her husband, Trey, were set to graduate high school, she found out she was two months pregnant. She was set to go to Harvard and Trey was going to the University of Massachusetts. Needless to say, their plans changed. Trey’s parents bought Harmony and Trey a house and his father brought him into his business with the agreement that he would still go to school. Harmony was also expected to continue with college after the baby was born.” Jake let out a small laugh and shook his head. “My sister took classes that fall and right up until she gave birth to TJ at the end of December.” Jake smiled as he closed his eyes and shook his head. “Harmony wants to be a nurse. Has since she was little. I remember when I left for college, she cried her eyes out and begged me to take her with me.”
Smiling, I said, “She must be pretty smart to have gotten into Harvard.”
Jake’s smile faded some as he took another bite. After a few minutes, he continued talking. “When Harmony and Trey told my parents she was pregnant, they gave her two options. Abortion or be disowned.”
About choking on my sandwich, I gasped for air as I asked, “Are you kidding me?”
“I wish I was, but no. My parents are real assholes. The only reason I stay on their good side is because I’m dating the daughter of a Massachusetts senator. They put up with my behavior because they know that will help me advance. I call bullshit. Daddy likes to hobnob with the senator and I’m pretty sure he has helped my father with a few business deals.”
I noticed tears beginning to fill Jake’s eyes as he looked away. “It’s me and Harmony. It’s always just been us.” He turned back to me, and I watched as a tear rolled down Jake’s cheek.
“How do I do it, Preston? How do I tell my sister she’s lost everything…again?”
Closing my eyes, I dropped my head. My heart was pounding and I felt my hands starting to shake. Taking in a deep breath, I looked back at Jake and whispered, “I’m so sorry I couldn’t save him for her. I tried like hell and I can’t…I can’t get the look in her eyes to leave my mind. They were pleading with me. She was—” My voice cracked and it was my turn to look away while I swept my tears away with my fingers.
“Oh no. You were the firefighter working on TJ?” Jake asked.
I nodded quickly. “I’m so sorry. I keep replaying everything over and over in my head. If I hadn’t gone to the driver first, would those few split seconds have been enough to bring the baby back? Those few precious moments where I made the wrong decision.”
My head snapped to Jake. Tears slid down his cheeks. “The baby, his name was Trey Junior, but we called him TJ.”
Smiling weakly, I nodded as an ache grew in my chest.
Clearing his throat, Jake spoke. “May I ask you something, Preston?”
“Yes, of course you can.”
“How long have you been a firefighter?”
Leaning back in my chair, I took in a deep breath. “I started working at the volunteer fire department that my father ran in our small hometown when I was sixteen. He used to be a captain in the Boston Fire Department. My mother hated the city and wanted to live in the country.” Smiling, I shook my head. “So my father moved her out of the city. Anyway, I took the civil service test and started with the Boston Fire Department right out of high school. I’ve been working at Firehouse 37 the last four years.”
Jake searched my face for a few seconds before asking, “Do you like it?”
Staring down at the table, I attempted to find my answer. “If you had asked me two days ago, I would have told you my job is my life. Right now, I feel a bit lost. Trying to deal with feelings I’ve never had to deal with before.”
Leaning farther over the table, Jake said, “It wasn’t your fault. Fate played its hand, Preston. Regardless if you had gone to Trey or TJ first, you would have doubted it either way. There is no right or wrong in this.”
Pursing my lips, I nodded. “I’m sorry. You’ve just lost your family and here I am feeling sorry for myself.” Letting out a gruff laugh, I said, “I’m totally acting like a douche.”
Jake shook his head. “No man, I can’t imagine what you’re feeling. Was this your first…loss?”
A shiver ran over my body as the words seeped into my brain. I whispered, “First child.”
My phone buzzed and Jake and I both looked down at it. “It’s my girlfriend.”
I could see Jake’s body relax as he sat back in his seat.
Don’t be late. I have a spa appointment early tomorrow morning. I’m picking up takeout for dinner.
Looking forward to it and the dress.
Setting my phone back down, I pushed my sandwich away from me. “You’re probably wondering why I’m here.”
Shrugging his shoulders, Jake smiled. “Now that you mention it.”
Looking into his eyes, I could see the hurt and confusion. Wondering if my eyes mirrored his, I glanced around the room. “I had to know if she was okay. My mind won’t stop thinking about her eyes as she pleaded with me to save her child.”
Jake covered his face with his hands and let out a frustrated groan. “Damn it. Preston, how in the hell am I going to tell her? I can’t even understand this myself. She’s going to be destroyed. I’m about to start my residency and I’m afraid she is going to be alone in her…grief.” Jake looked away and closed his eyes as tears fell once again.
“Jake, when the time comes and you need to tell her, you’ll find the strength. I’m sure of it.”
My phone buzzed again, but this time it was from an unknown number.
Mrs. Banks is awake.
Swallowing hard, I took in a deep breath. “Jake, your sister is awake.”
Jake jumped up, nearly knocking the chair out from behind him. Without so much as a word, he turned and jogged to the elevator. My limbs felt like they had a hundred pounds on each one as I cleared off the table. Slowly making my way to the elevator, I hit the floor for ICU and silently said a prayer that Jake would indeed find the strength he needed to get through this and to be there for his sister.
My body ached. My head hurt the worst of all. Opening my eyes, I looked up at someone who was smiling back at me. “Welcome back, Harmony.” Smiling, she said, “Let me go get your brother.”
Turning before I had a chance to even ask about Trey and the baby, she vanished through the door. Closing my eyes, I snapped them back open. All I saw were his green eyes looking into mine. The fear in his eyes had scared me, yet there was something in those eyes that captured me as well. It was as if I’d seen those eyes before in my dreams.
The door slowly opened and Jake walked in. He smiled but it didn’t touch his eyes. It was probably the fakest smile I’d ever seen my brother wear. Before the door closed all the way, I looked out and saw green eyes staring back at me. Again.
“Harmony, sweetheart, how are you feeling?” Jake asked as he approached the side of my bed.
My mouth was so dry I couldn’t talk. Pointing to my mouth, I looked into Jake’s eyes.
“Water?” he asked. “You need water?”
I nodded as Jake leaned down and kissed my forehead. “Shit. Let me go grab some.”
Watching Jake open the door, I strained to see if he was still there. He was. This time he walked up to Jake and spoke to him. Nodding, he took the water pitcher from Jake and walked away. The door almost closed but Jake pushed it open.
“Just one second, sweetheart; Preston’s going to get you some water.”
Preston is taking care of him.
Opening my mouth, I attempted to talk but Jake shook his head. “Shh, Harmony, let’s wet your whistle, okay? Don’t try to talk just yet.”
The door opened and Preston walked in. Pushing his hand through his brown hair, Preston set the pitcher down, but not before looking into my eyes. Something happened between us. Words couldn’t describe it, but I knew he felt it too because his mouth dropped open and his eyes pinched together as he poured a glass of water and handed it to my brother.
Jake reached behind me and lifted my head as I took a drink.
“Small sips, Harmony. We don’t want you getting sick from drinking too much.”
I couldn’t pull my eyes off Preston as I took a few small sips.
“Um…I’ll just wait outside.”
Jake turned to him and said, “Thanks, Preston. You’re not leaving, right?”
Pulling my lips from the plastic cup, I spoke. “Wait.” My voice sounded strained. As if it had been months since I last spoke a word.
Preston froze, as did Jake. Preston stood with his back to me. “Please tell me. TJ, is he okay? Is my baby okay?”
Jake’s lower lip trembled as he pulled back and set the water on the table. My heart raced, nearly exploding. I began to gulp in breaths…the feeling of not getting enough air was beginning to scare me.
Jake’s expression turned slack as his eyes began to get wet.
“Jake…where is TJ? What about Trey? Is he okay?” Tears fell freely from my eyes as I watched my brother turn white as a ghost.
My eyes darted to Preston’s back. “Preston. You…you saved him, right? It was you? I remember…you saved him, right?” My body shook as sobs took over. I didn’t even care that everything on me hurt.
Preston slowly turned around, his movements lacking the energy to even move his body.
The moment his eyes captured mine, I knew. “Please tell me you saved him.
Jake’s head dropped as he cried. Preston looked at Jake and then back to me. As he took a step forward, his eyes never left mine.
“Harmony, I tried with everything I had…but…I couldn’t…I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to…to…”
Shaking my head, my lower lip trembled as I whispered, “No.”
Closing his eyes and dragging in a deep breath, Preston whispered, “I wasn’t able to save your son.”
Covering my mouth with my hand, I let out a scream as Jake quickly wrapped me up in his arms. Pushing him away, I began getting out of the bed. “No! I don’t believe you. Please take me to him!”
Preston grabbed me before I fell to the floor. “Harmony, please get back into bed. You can’t be getting out of bed.” Looking into Preston’s eyes, I saw his pain and it about destroyed what little hope I had left. “I’m so sorry, Harmony. I’d give anything to take this away.”
Falling into Preston’s arms, I cried into his chest. “Please, please God, no.”
Preston held me tighter to him as he whispered, “I’m so sorry, Harmony.” I lost all control. The door to my room opened and two nurses came rushing in.
“No! My baby! Not my baby! Why? Dear God, why?” I screamed out as one of the nurses attempted to place me back in the bed.
“Go get a doctor, quickly. We’re going to need to sedate her!” the nurse called out to the other nurse. Turning to look at Preston, I noticed he was crying and my heart broke even more knowing he was in pain as well. I heard it in his voice. I saw it in his eyes.
Shaking my head, I closed my eyes and went limp as I called out one last time, “Not my baby, please not my baby.”
The room was dark. The only light that could be seen was coming from the flashlight on his phone that he must have turned on to read with. Staring at him, I took everything in. Preston held a book in one hand and his phone in another. Both looked like they would slip from his grip at any moment. His light brown hair was a mess. His body looked cramped as he slept in the chair. Turning away, I stared at the ceiling as the realization hit me again. I had lost them both. As I’d been dealing with the shock of losing my son, Jake had told me that Trey died on impact. My heart ached more than I could have ever imagined. Shaking my head, I slipped into a memory.
“I will forever protect you, my sweet baby boy.”
Trey walked up and kissed TJ on the forehead as I walked around the living room.
“The only way to keep him from crying is to carry him around in my arms.”
Trey smiled and shook his head. “You don’t seem too bothered by that.”
Laughing, I replied, “Nope, not at all. I’d do anything for him. I’d give up my own life for him.”
Walking back up to us, Trey looked down at our three-week-old son and whispered, “As would I.”
The sound of Preston’s phone buzzing pulled me from my memory. He jumped up. Closing my eyes, I pretended I was still asleep.
I could hear someone talking. Rather, yelling on the phone.
Opening my eyes, I turned to look at him. Just as I expected, he was standing with his back to me as he looked out into the darkness that stood on the other side of the window.
“Shit, Sherry, I’m so sorry. Things just got really crazy and I didn’t want to leave Jake and—”
More shouting. His body tightened and his hand went up to his hair, where he grabbed a fistful of it before pushing it all the way through. That explained his hair. Now I just needed to figure out why the firefighter who attempted to save my son’s life was sleeping in my hospital room.
“I understand I haven’t been back home. It means something to me, Sherry. I can’t leave her. She only has her brother.”
Biting my lower lip, I felt tears begin to well in my eyes.
I can’t leave her. She only has her brother.
Turning away from him, I squeezed my eyes shut and forced the tears to stay at bay. Opening my eyes, I saw the water and my mouth was instantly dry. Reaching for the tray, I attempted to move it closer, but all I did was hit the bed and make a loud noise.
“Sherry, I promise we’ll talk when I come back home. I’ve got to run. Yes. I promise.”
The next thing I knew, Preston was standing there pouring water into the cup and reaching down to help me drink it.
After a few sips, I whispered, “Thank you.” Preston slowly let my head rest back on the pillow.
Smiling, he said, “Sure.”
I wasn’t sure what to say to him. I wanted to know why he was here, but I had overheard his reason. Maybe that wasn’t the reason though. My guess was he felt guilty and was now trying to play the hero by taking care of me. The thought made me angry.
“Why are you here, Preston? If you’re here because you feel guilty, you might as well just leave.”
The hurt in his eyes caused my stomach to drop. He slowly took a step back and nodded. “Right, um…I can leave if you’re not comfortable with me being here.”
I wanted to take the words back the moment they left my lips. Preston’s voice was laced with sadness and I knew the words I had spoken were the reason why.
“Jake went home to take a shower and eat, but I’m sure he’ll be back soon.”
Giving me a weak smile, he turned to leave. Turning and looking out the dark window, I softly spoke. “Preston, wait.”
His footsteps stopped, but I knew he hadn’t turned back around. “Harmony, I’m not here because I’m trying to be a hero. I’m here because I’m genuinely concerned about you…and your brother Jake. He hasn’t slept at all and barely eats.”
A tear slowly moved down my cheek as I looked at him and asked, “Why?”
Turning around and walking up to the side of my bed, he asked, “Why?”
Our eyes met and once again, that feeling I knew we both shared moved throughout my body. A small sob escaped my lips as I tried to keep my crazy emotions at bay. “Why are you concerned about me?”
Shrugging his shoulders, he looked away briefly before glancing back at me. “I guess maybe it’s because we share a loss. I’ve never…I mean…I’ve never had…” Turning, he spoke under his breath.
“You’ve never what?” I asked as my stomach felt sick.
Chewing on his bottom lip, he nodded. “I’ve never lost…a child…” His voice cracked and his words broke off as he looked away. “I’m sorry. My loss is nothing compared to yours. It’s just…I felt a connection with you.” Rolling his eyes, he dropped his head back. “Jesus, I’m making myself sound like a real douche.”
Smiling slightly, I reached for his hand. “I don’t think you are.” His thumb moved across my skin and it instantly made me think of Trey. He would do the same thing with his thumb. My heart felt as if it would never heal. I would forever be broken from losing not only my son, but my husband as well.
“I feel the connection, too, Preston, and I appreciate everything you’re doing for both Jake and me. But it sounds like your girlfriend might be upset.”
Preston chuckled. “When is she not upset?”
The door opened and Jake walked in. He looked refreshed and wore a smile on his face.
“Hey, sleeping beauty. How are you feeling?”
Giving Jake a fake smile, I tried to give him peace of mind that I was somewhat okay. Once I had calmed down after learning about TJ, I knew almost immediately that Trey had also died in the wreck, only to have Jake confirm it for me. My crying had given way to exhaustion, then sleep. I’d woken up off and on and, at one point, heard Preston telling Jake to go get a few hours of sleep.
“What time is it?” I asked as I glanced back at Preston.
Pulling out his phone, Preston said, “It’s five thirty in the morning.”
Squeezing his hand, I smiled bigger. “Preston, go home to your girlfriend. I promise you, I’m all right.”
His eyes searched mine. He knew I was lying, but he nodded and said, “Okay. But I’ll be back later to check on you and Jake.” Preston looked over at Jake, who gave a wide grin and a thumbs-up to Preston.
Oh yeah. My brother was for sure trying his best to put up a front. I didn’t have the energy to even think about it.
“Sounds good,” I said as I closed my eyes and let sleep take over again.
I was soon lost in the most amazing dream. I was chasing TJ in the backyard as we played chase.
My baby. I miss my baby.