This is the first of the short stories inspired by YOU, my dedicated readers. I appreciate all of you so much, and the contest
I held a while back was only the beginning of showing you how deeply I appreciate your following my blog. This short story is a little
longer than I intended, but once I began discovering the characters and situation, I simply couldn’t stop until they’d had at least a piece of their say. In fact, I’m thinking of expanding this one into a full-length novel at some point. After you read it, please tell me: What would you think about this one becoming a full-blown novel?
*Copyright 2018 by Andrea Cox.
Last to Call
inspired by Angela R. Watts
An owl screeched as Tristan tromped through the dusk-shadowed Garden of the Gods park. It was his favorite place to think after a long day’s work at the shop. Being a mechanic was tough, but he wouldn’t trade it for anything.
He checked his phone. No texts or voice mails. Why was it that the one person you wanted to ring you was always the last to call?
Had he blown his final chance with Maggie? Sure, he had long hours. He didn’t put much stock in flowers or candy, so Valentine’s Day was a wash-out. They’d really connected that one time, when she’d invited him over for Passover dinner. Of course, that was when he found out she was Jewish. That didn’t bother him, though he supposed his being a Christian might make her family not want him added into the family line.
He pushed himself harder, speeding up his pace of hiking. Maybe he shouldn’t focus on Maggie anymore. She hadn’t called in two months. She probably wasn’t going to call anytime soon.
The owl screeched again.
Only… it didn’t sound much like an owl this time.
The sound reached his ears again.
No, that definitely was not an owl.
“Where are you?”
A voice came at him, but he couldn’t pinpoint the direction. The rock formations that created the park diverted sounds a thousand ways. Would he find the woman in time? Was she injured? If she was lost in the park overnight, she’d get chilled, but the heat of the summer day tomorrow would roast her to a crispy red glow. He had to find her now, before it was too dark to see anything at all, or find his way back to his pickup truck.
He climbed atop one of the formations, which gave him a great overview of the land but hampered his vision down into the pathways between rocks. He cupped his hands around his mouth. “Do you have a light with you? Shine it straight up. Straight up!”
He scanned the area from right to left. Nothing. He turned ninety degrees to his left and scanned again. There! A beam of light shined into the darkening sky. He raced across the top of the rock formation and jumped to the next one, then jogged along its surface as well, keeping his gaze fixed on the light.
Another scream pierced the air, and the beam fell away.
“Hang in there! I’m coming.” He kept going toward the light, but the crooked path of formations caused him to lose track of his destination. He paused. “Hold up the light again, lady! I can’t find you without it.”
A scraping, scrabbling sound reached him before the light took its position again.
“Perfect. Keep it right there!” He raced toward it as fast as he could without getting himself hurt. All he needed was to slip and fall a dozen feet to the pebble-strewn path below. His luck would be to scrape up his face in a bone-shattering, concussion-inducing face-plant into the wall of one of the formations. Slamming face-first into the boards in a hockey game would hurt less.
Finally, he came to a halt above the pathway the light beamed from.
A woman lay stretched out on her back, one hand grasping the flashlight while the other trembled over her large belly. Her face was marred in a grimace, but she somehow managed to keep breathing heavily, steadily.
“Hang on a minute more, sweetie.”
She jerked her face toward him. “H—argh!—Hurry!”
A quick search proved there were no good handholds to climb down on this particular rock formation. Great. He’d have to jump. He moved to where he wouldn’t land on the woman, then took two steadying breaths. He leaped before he could think too much about it and landed hard on his left leg, causing the knee to buckle. He let loose a manly scream that was more an extended grunt. He circled around the rock formation till he saw the woman aiming the flashlight at the spot he had been standing moments earlier. He rushed to her side and knelt, wincing at the pain that shot through his knee and into his thigh and calf. Good thing he’d be heading to the ER soon.
“How long have you been stuck here?”
“I don’t… don’t know. Ten, twenty minutes, maybe?” She gasped and grabbed his hand. Her grip tightened till he thought she’d cut off the circulation to his fingers. Her breaths became shallow and quick.
Once her hand slackened in his, he spoke again. “Can you stand up? I’ve got to get you to the hospital quick. My truck’s not that far away.” Sort of.
He helped her to her feet, and she leaned heavily against him. “I…” She peered up at him with large green eyes. “I don’t think I can walk. My lower back really hurts, and I might have sprained my ankle when the first contraction came.”
Swiftly, he wrapped an arm beneath hers and around her back and swept the other arm against the backs of her knees, scooping her up into his arms. He settled her into place against his chest and jogged through the park, dashing here and there around rock walls until he stumbled upon the trail where he’d left his water bottle. He’d have to leave it, though he hated to litter. Another few minutes and he set her gently on the ground by his aged and rusty truck. He really needed to restore it, but the business had boomed so much in the last three years that he’d not had a moment to spare to work on it.
After helping her into the passenger side, he rounded the hood and climbed behind the wheel. His breaths heaved the entire way to the emergency room, but she didn’t have the kid in his truck, so he must have made incredibly great time and couldn’t care less about his breathing. He’d probably get some tickets in the mail in a month’s time, because he used his flashers and horn and buzzed right through several red lights, but they made it to the automatic doors just in the nick of time.
“Oh! Ooooooooh!” She moaned and wailed in his arms. “It’s… it’s coming!”
An entire team of doctors and nurses surrounded them. Before Tristan knew what was happening, he’d deposited the woman onto a gurney and been swept aside as the team blocked his view and got busy with the laboring woman.
He went and parked his truck in a proper spot, though he might have taken up two slots, and made his way slowly back to the waiting room. He’d need to find out if she had someone to pick up her car from the park or where he could take it, if his driving was needed.
Tristan jerked awake. Had he fallen asleep? Wow. He must have been quite tired from the adrenaline dump of the evening. Not to mention the long day under several hoods as he fixed engine after engine earlier today. He rubbed his neck and got to his feet, then collapsed with a moan when his left knee refused to work properly.
“Sir?” A nurse placed a hand on his shoulder. “Are you all right?”
“Landed hard on my knee when I was… Never mind.” He waved off her help and got to his feet, leaning more heavily on the right leg than the left. “What was it you wanted to tell me?”
“Let’s get a look at that knee.”
She eyed him but must have seen his stubborn determination to hear her news first. “Your little girl was born a few minutes ago. Would you like to see her?”
His little…? “What?”
He slapped his forehead. The staff thought he was the woman’s husband. Boy, oh boy. Did they have a lot of explaining to do!
Limping, he followed the nurse and headed into the room she pointed to. He paused in the doorway and smiled at the lady hugging her newborn close. He leaned against the jamb and watched her for a few moments.
Eventually, she looked up and offered him a tired smile.
Oh, he could get used to seeing that grin.
“Come on in, hero.”
He waved off her compliment but followed orders and stepped into the room. “Want me to call your husband for you?”
Her smile dimmed. “He didn’t make it back from his tour of service.”
“Today would have been our first anniversary, which was why I was out walking when I was too pregnant to have been doing so. He proposed to me in the Garden of the Gods, and I just wanted to reminisce a little. Guess it nearly cost this little girl’s life.” She looked down at her baby.
“Nah.” Tristan came closer to get a good peek at the little face. Wow, was it chubby! She must be a good nine or ten pounds. “There’s a reason for everything, you know.”
The lady looked up at him again, and her eyes were green pools. “How’s that?”
“I was heading straight home after a long day of work when I got the craving for a hike through the Garden. God’s little nudges often lead to the best surprises.”
“Bumping into a woman in labor is a ‘best surprise’?” She cocked her head to the side, and her lips quirked into a smile she attempted to hold back.
His grin matched hers for width and tiredness.
Perhaps it was time for him to stop waiting for the last call. Maybe he’d stumbled upon the girl—make that girls, plural—of his dreams.
“Do you think you might want to go to dinner sometime? Once you get out of here, that is.”
She chuckled. “Sure. You can take me anywhere—except the Garden of the Gods. I don’t think I’ll be going back there for a long time.”
“Aw, it’s not so bad.”
He slowly shook his head. “I might have wrenched my knee, you may have sprained your ankle. But, honey, I think we stumbled into our happily ever after out among those rocks. What’d you think?”
Her smile spread till it seemed she’d swallowed the moon. Oh yeah. He was going to love falling heads over heels—hopefully not literally—for this woman, whose name he still needed to learn.
Thank You to my Heavenly Father, Who constantly amazes me with the incredible stories He plants in my mind. I’m so grateful to share His creativity with my readers.
Thank you to Angela R. Watts, who participated in a contest on my blog, Writing to Inspire. Her answers to my prompts inspired this story (and each one made it in there!). I am also blessed to call this young woman a writing buddy. Ang, you’re awesome.
What do you think becomes of Tristan, the woman, and her baby?
What roadblocks do you imagine they’ll run across in their journey?
I’m open to ideas as I brainstorm this baby.
Join the conversation!
I love hearing from you.
This month’s reading challenge shines a light on the classics.