Home > Reunited on Sugar Maple Road(6)

Reunited on Sugar Maple Road(6)
Author: Debbie Mason

She heard the sirens in the distance. “They won’t make it in time.”

Glancing at the dead pine tree on shore, Em waded through the shallow water, her movements sluggish. She rubbed her arms and legs to get the feeling back into them. When she reached the pine tree, she turned and walked up to her waist before diving beneath the water. Under normal circumstances, she swam fastest under water. But this was anything but normal. It felt like she was swimming through mud.

She came up for air where the SUV should be and treaded water, searching for some sign Steve had gotten out. The sirens were coming closer. She dove under again, stretching out her arms. Her fingers brushed against something. Hair or weeds, she wasn’t sure. Her fingers were numb. Time was running out for both her and Steve. She didn’t want to give up on him but she couldn’t see more than a few inches in front of her. She’d barely completed the thought when a bright light illuminated the inky depths, and she saw Steve. He was alive.

He’d punched out the driver’s side glass and was halfway out of the window. He pointed behind him. His foot had gotten caught in the shoulder strap. A surge of adrenaline gave her a burst of energy, and she swam through the backseat window and into the front seat. She struggled to free him, her vision dimming. Thinking of Jenny and his daughter, she got another surge of strength and a flash of insight. She pulled off his shoe.

As his foot slipped out of the shoulder strap, her vision went black. She could no longer see him, though she sensed he’d turned back to her. She shook her head, motioning for him to go. He wouldn’t have the strength to swim her to the surface too. She wasn’t afraid to die. She’d been half dead since losing Brad anyway.

“Em, open your eyes.”

She startled at the sound of that deep, familiar voice. “Brad?” She struggled to lift her eyelids. His face swam before her, and she choked on a cry. “Oh Brad, I’ve missed you so much.”

“I know, baby.” His worried gaze roamed her face. “You don’t have much time, Em. You have to fight.”

She shook her head. “I have nothing more to live for. Not without you and the baby. I lost the baby. It was my fault.”

“You have to stop telling yourself that. It’s not true, Em. You couldn’t save me, and you couldn’t save her. You didn’t do anything wrong. She’s with me.”

“I don’t understand. How… You mean, the stories are true? There really is a heaven?”

He smiled and nodded. “Now come on. I know you’re exhausted and cold but you can’t give up. Not now.”

“No. I want to stay here with you. I can’t go on without you. I can’t, Brad. You don’t know what it’s like.” As hard as she tried, she couldn’t keep her eyes open.

“Em, don’t let go. Open your eyes.”

She managed to open them a crack, enough that she could see his lips moving. “Em,” he shouted.

She heard the urgency in his voice and fought to open her eyes wider.

“That’s it. Keep fighting, Em. I’ll stay with you. I won’t leave you until you’re ready to let me go.”


“I promise, baby. Just hang on. Help is on the way.”



Chapter Three



Josh scanned the river and the rocky shore as he jumped from the fire truck. He spotted a black Camaro with its headlights on and the door hanging open. It wasn’t just any black Camaro. It was Em’s.

“It looks like HFPD beat us to the scene,” said Cody, a new member on their crew. He was a career firefighter who’d recently moved to the area. Like Josh, he wore a dry suit. They’d been told to prepare for a water rescue. The dive team wouldn’t get there in time.

Josh sprinted toward the group huddled at the water’s edge without responding to Cody, desperate to see Em lift her head and shoot him the look she reserved just for him. Her cherry-red lips compressed in a flat line, irritation flashing in her bottle-green eyes.

The searchlight hummed to life, illuminating the fast-moving river and the people on shore. Something inside of him had known she wouldn’t be there.

An older man got to his feet. “I told her not to go back in but she wouldn’t listen to me.”

Of course, she wouldn’t. Em was annoyingly contrary, frustratingly confident, and probably one of the most courageous people he knew, and he was going to shake her until her teeth rattled. “Can you show me where she went in? What direction she swam?”

“There. She looked like she was using that dead pine tree as a marker.” The man pointed it out to him. Then he lowered his voice. “It’s been at least two minutes since she dove in. The woman begged her to save her husband.”

Josh shouted the location to the firefighter handling the searchlight. She immediately changed the angle, focusing the powerful beam of light in the middle of the river.

The older man’s voice followed Josh and Cody into the water. “I don’t know where she found the strength. She swam both the mother and her daughter to safety, the two of them on her back. Her lips were blue. She didn’t notice that her dog went in after her.”

“You know her. She matters to you, doesn’t she?” Cody said as they battled the current to reach the middle of the river. “Don’t bother denying it. I can see it on your face.”

“She’s family,” Josh said, treading water in the center of the beam of light, searching for some sign of the husband, of Em and Gus. Something caught his attention, and his heart began to race. “There. On that rock. Is that a hand?” He didn’t wait for Cody’s response and swam downriver. It was a hand, but it didn’t belong to Em. Gus had the man by the back of his collar, holding his head above water.

“Cody!” Josh waved, scanning the nearby rocks for Em while grabbing both Gus and the man. “Good boy. I’ve got him.”

The man’s eyes fluttered open as Josh rotated him onto his back, his voice barely a whisper. “Did she make it?”

“She wasn’t with you?” He searched the shoreline as he placed the flotation device under the man. His head lolled, and Josh gave him a gentle shake. “Sir, where did you last see her?”

“Car… inside.”

She was still down there. She had to be. Gus would’ve found her if she’d made it out. He lifted the dog onto the rock. “Stay here, boy.” Gus whined, looking at him with his sad eyes. “I’ll get her.”

Cody glanced at him as he reached for the man. “Josh, it’s been at least five minutes.”

“You don’t know Emma Scott. This is a rescue mission until I say otherwise.” He’d never give up on Em.

Josh swam hard toward the beam of light, the current fighting him for every inch of progress. He caught a glimpse of a large shadow a few yards to his left and cut through the choppy, white-capped water with powerful strokes before diving under. The air constricted in his lungs. Em was floating inside the car. He wasn’t too late. He couldn’t be. Reaching inside the driver-side window, he grabbed her hand.

Hang on, Em. Don’t give up, he silently pleaded as he eased her through the window and then pushed off the car with his feet, swimming as if his own life depended on it. He didn’t know what he’d do if he lost Em. Or what his best friend would do, or hers. He shut down thoughts of Cal and Bri as he broke the surface of the water and turned Em onto her back, fitting his forearm under her chin. As he swam toward shore, he shouted at Em to stay with him, to fight. Cody swam out to him. Placing a flotation device under Em’s back, he towed while Josh swam. The moment they reached shallow water, Josh lifted her into his arms and ran.

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