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Fear

An Emergency Story By

Julie
 

 

     It was a very warm November.  The sun was shining brightly in the blue cloudless afternoon sky.  Blankets, towels, sand, sandwiches and laughter.  It was always a wonderful time when firefighters and their families were able to get together.  Since A Shift was stuck working Thanksgiving this year, they were a part of the beachy after Thanksgiving day celebration.  The crew of Station 51 met the crew of several other stations at the beach for the annual after Thanksgiving beach picnic and of course football.

 All the families were there to enjoy the day.  Captain Stanley and his children, Roy brought Joann and the kids, Captain Harrison and his wife and son, and there were all the other station crews and their families too.  The hi-light of the day was the friendly football games.  Station 51 beat station 8 earlier in the day.  Now it was time for station 36 and station 10 to play their game.

 

     The team of Station 51 watched as station 36 played the guys from station 10.  Captain Harrison was quarterback of the station 36 team.  Sam and Harrison's teen aged son, Todd, were receivers.  Terry hiked the ball to Harrison and he went back for the pass.  Sam looked back just as the pass was thrown to her.  She jumped and reached up making an amazing midair grab.  As she was still in the air, Matt from Station 10 tackled and planted Sam roughly into the sand.  

     Matt jumped up and screamed at her, "Yeah!  Football!"

     Sam laid there for a minute, not getting up.  Johnny ran up to check on her.  Sam started to get up from the sand slowly as Johnny approached.

     "Sam, are you ok?"

    "I'm fine," Sam said.  "I just had the wind knocked out."

     Johnny was so angry, "I'm gonna...."

    Sam grabbed his arm, "John, No," she said.

    "But..."

    "I know.  He was rougher than he should have been," she agreed.  "He's scared."

     Johnny was confused, "what are you talking about?"

     "This is more than a football game to him.  He doesn't know me.  He wants to see if I can handle myself.  He wants to show himself and his family that he can trust me to have his back at work."

    "What?"

     "Trust me Johnny.  No matter what happens, let me handle it," Sam said.  "I need to earn his respect and I can't do that if you defend me."  Sam smiled, leaned in and touched her forehead to his.  

     "Please?"  

     Johnny reluctantly nodded, Then Sam ran back to her team mates.

     "Are you ok?" Captain Harrison asked her.

    "I'm fine Cap," Sam said.  "Same play."

     "What?"  Harrison asked.

     "Same play," Sam said.  "I need you to throw me the ball."

      "Same play," Harrison said giving in.

 

      Sam nodded.  They clapped their hands and yelled, "Break."

     Harrison had worked with Sam long enough to know that she wouldn't have asked if it wasn't important.  Besides, they were moving the ball down the field, so there was nothing anyone could complain about.  The ball was hiked.  Harrison went back and threw it to Sam.  She caught the ball, turned and was again roughly tackled by Matt from station 10.

 Sam slowly got up again without complaint and joined Harrison in the huddle.

 

     Chet turned to Johnny, "Matt is kicking her ass.  Are you going to do something about it?"

     "Sam can take care of herself," Johnny calmly said.

     "But she hasn't even been released for duty yet," Chet said.  "How can you just let her take a beating like that."

     "Chet!  Back off!" Johnny snapped.

     Captain Stanley, seeing Chet prodding Johnny came over to intervene.  "Chet, come on pal.  How about you give the girls some instruction on the finer points of football?"  

     Captain Stanley put his arm across Chet's shoulders and led him away.  Johnny was left to continued to watch and worry.  He knew how close he came to being a widower only six weeks ago.  It was  hard for him to hold back and watch her being hurt without doing anything to stop it.  Roy came up beside Johnny and put his hand on Johnny's shoulder.

 Roy had been married long enough to know that Johnny was doing the right thing.  But he also knew there would be hell to pay if she was hurt in this game.

 

     The ball was hiked to Harrison.  Everyone went out for the pass.  Harrison threw the ball to Sam again.  Sam knew that Matt was going to be there to tackle her.  She grabbed the ball and spun past Matt.  Running in for the touchdown.  Sam did a little dance in the end zone.  Johnny clapped and cheered for her as did the rest of station 51 and 36.

     Now it was station 10's turn to see what they could do.  The ball was hiked.  The captain of station 10 threw the ball to Matt.  He turned to run.  Sam lowered her shoulders and hit Matt in the abdomen, dropping him hard to the sand.  Sam pushed off on Matts chest and stood up.

     "Yeah!   Football!" She said to Matt with great enthusiasm. 

     Chet stood on the sidelines and screamed, "yeah!  You go Sam!"

     Sam then reached down her hand to Matt and smiled at him.  She wanted him to know that there were no hard feelings.  Matt took her hand and she helped him up.  Johnny was relieved.  He had to admit, his wife was right.  She needed to handle the situation herself and she did.  The rest of the game was still rough and tumble, but With lots of laughs and a little good humored cheating.

 

     Once the game ended station 10 and 36 shook hands.  Matt came to Sam specifically to tell her, "Good game."

 

     Johnny was so proud of his wife.  He came up to Sam and did a double high five with a kiss in the middle, then they walked over to the DeSoto blanket hand in hand.  7 year old Jennifer and 9 year old Chris were building a sand castle just off the edge of the blanket and Joann sat next to them in a beach chair and a big floppy yellow sun hat on her head that matched the one little Jennifer wore on her head.  Chris had collected numerous shells earlier in the day and was decorating the castle with them.  Roy reached into the cooler and handed Sam a cold soft drink which she happily guzzled.  Johnny brushed some of the sand off Sam's shoulders.  Her shoulders and back were almost getting as bright as the red tank top that she was wearing.  Roy noticed it as well as Johnny.

     "You better get some more sunscreen on or you're going to look like a lobster," Roy said.

     Johnny grabbed the bottle of sunscreen off the blanket and started rubbing some on Sam's back and shoulders.

 

     "It's too bad Alex couldn't make it," Johnny said as he rubbed in the sunscreen.  "He would have loved that game."

     "He didn't think it was a good idea to bring a newborn to the beach," Sam explained.

     "The baby finally came?" Roy asked.

     "Three days ago," Sam said.  "Alexandra Sarah Martinez."

     Joann smiled.  "A little girl.  That's wonderful.  I need to give Sarah a call and congratulate her."

 

     A small airplane was flying low nearby.  The engine began to sputter.  The plane started to turn parallel to the shore.  Roy's son Chris looked up at the sounds of the aircraft behind him and pointed it out to the grow ups.  

     "Daddy, look at that," Chris said.

     Roy, Johnny, Joann and Sam turned and watched as the plane came down and crash landed a few hundred yards off shore in the ocean.  The nose hit first, then the aircraft began to cartwheel and break apart across the waves.   The wings had flown off in all directions.  Everyone looked over as the plane began to take on water and slowly sink.

 Without hesitation, Johnny, Roy and Sam rushed into the ocean past the breakers and began to swim to the downed plane.  As they ran past, Matt and Chet grabbed a couple rubber rafts off the beach and followed them out.  Everyone else gathered blankets and first aid supplies together to prepare to help the survivors as they were brought to shore.

 As Captain Harrison organized the help, Captain Stanley ran to the lifeguard tower where the terrified teen was coming down the ladder.  The blonde shaggy haired kid was used to jelly fish stings and occasionally pulling a scared kid out of the surf.  The events happening before him were already overwhelming.

     "I'm Captain Stanley with the LA county fire department.  Do you have a radio?  Can you call in for help?"

    "Yes sir," the boy said.

     "Tell them we need a squad, engine and a boat," Stanley said.

     "Yes sir," the boy said.

     The boy got on the radio to call for help, relieved in knowing that he didn't need to swim out to the sinking plane.  There was trained help already there to take care of things.

 

    Chris DeSoto watched his father, Johnny and Sam charge out into the ocean toward the downed plane.  His mom and little sister Jennifer came up at his side, also watching.

 They had always heard about what Roy did as a firefighter, but it was a whole different thing to see what he did in person.  

 

     Roy, who was most comfortable in the water reached the plane first.  He had often swam in conditions like this when he was training for the high school swim team.  Roy roughly yanked the pilots door open.  A scared 4 year old boy was strapped in the back seat.  His frightened Blue eyes looking to Roy for help.  The boys parents were unconscious in the front seats.  Roy quickly assessed the scene, then helped the boy. 

 

     "Are you hurt son?" Roy asked.

     The boy whimpered, "My arm."  

     "Now you just relax and let me get you out of here," Roy said.

 

     Roy quickly kneeled one knee in the doorway of the plane, leaned in, unbuckled the boy's seatbelt, then helped him to climb from the plane, careful with the boys obviously broken arm.  Roy swam past Johnny and Sam, who were coming to care for the other two victims.  

     "There are still two unconscious inside," Roy said as he swam by.

     Sam climbed into the now vacant back seat to help Johnny to quickly move the man out.  The plane continued to fill with water.  It was up to their knees.  Sam unbuckled the unconscious man, checked his legs for breaks, while Johnny checked the mans head and neck.  Neither could find anything too serious so Sam guided his legs through the open door as Johnny controlled the movement of the mans head and upper body.  Chet came up behind Johnny with the raft and they slid the still unconscious man on top of it. 

     "Watch his head," Johnny said as they moved him.

     Now that they had him out and secure, Johnny and Chet headed toward shore with their victim.  

     Sam turned to the last victim in the plane.  The woman had a nasty cut and bruise above her right eye.  It was bleeding down the side of her face and caked in her long blonde hair.  The rushing sea water was quickly climbing past the woman's waist.  As the woman began to regain consciousness, she became more aware of what happened and where the plane landed she began to panic.  She screamed in pain and terror.  

 

     "Calm down," Sam said.  "I'm going to get you out of here.  Are you hurt?  Can you move?"

     "I'm caught," she screamed.  "My foots caught.  I can't get it loose."

      The woman was in a complete panic and Sam wasn't far behind.  The water seemed to be coming in faster now and Sam knew there wasn't much time.  Sam put her head underwater and looked at what was holding the woman's foot.  The plane twisted on impact and the woman's foot was caught in the twisted metal next to the closed door.  It was bent over the top of her foot and ankle.  Sam pulled at her foot, but it wouldn't budge.

 She could hear the woman screaming in pain.  Sam came back to the surface, took a deep breath and dove back under again.  The water continued climbing to the woman's chest.  Sam pulled at the metal frame and it seemed to loosen some but she still couldn't quite get the woman's foot free. Her eyes burned with saltwater and she could hardly see.

 Sam came back up again for air.  There wasn't much room left to do that now.  The water was up to their chins.  Sam unbuckled her seat belt so that the woman could stretch into the air pockets, then dove to the woman's foot again.   The woman had her head tilted into the air pocket.  The plane now, nearly full with water, was so heavy that it pivoted and plunged nose first the final twenty or more feet to the bottom.  Matt was outside the aircraft, with his raft.  He watched in horror as the plane went down with the two women still on board.

     "SAM!!  SAM!!" He screamed.   Matt turned to Johnny who was about 100 feet away, "JOHNNY!!"

     Johnny turned to see what Matt was screaming about and saw the tail of the plane was following the rest of it below the surface.  Only Matt and the raft were left on top.  Johnny watched as Matt let go of the raft and dove down to rescue the two.  

     "Chet," Johnny said pleadingly.  

     Chet looked at Johnny, "Go!  I've got him,"  Chet said.

     Johnny swam back to where the plane once was as other firefighters rushed out to help Chet bring the man the rest of the way to the shore.

 

     Chris DeSoto anxiously watched as Roy ran ashore carrying the small crying child to a beach towel.  Roy used Joann's magazine for a splint on the boys wrist.  And wrapped it with a kerlex bandage from the first aid kit, constantly trying to soothe the frightened child.

     "Mommy!  Daddy!" The boy cried.

     "Now don't worry," Roy cooed.  "I'm a firefighter and a bunch of my friends are too.

 They are getting your mommy and Daddy out.  Everything is going to be ok."

   The boy continued to cry for his parents.  Roy looked behind him just in time to see the plane go below the surface of the water, watch Matt dive under and Johnny swim back to where the plane once was.  Chet and the others were bringing in the raft with one victim past the white water and a bunch of help awaited them there to rush the man into dry land.

 

     With the plane below water and sinking, Sam knew that time was up.  She pulled the woman's foot and the metal around it as hard as she could.  The metal shifted and there was a snap of bone, but the foot was free.  Sam grabbed the woman under the arms and pulled her out of the open plane door just as the plane hit the bottom, nose first and crumpled the rest of the way on impact.  Silt from the ocean floor flew everywhere like a dust storm.  Seeing that, Sam knew that there was no way the woman could have been pulled free if they had hit bottom.  Sam kicked and pulled the woman as fast as she could toward the surface.  Matt was approaching from above and could see Sam struggling.  He grabbed the now unconscious woman from Sam and swam toward the surface.  Just as Johnny got to the raft, Matt popped up with the female victim.  Matt grabbed the raft and worked to get the woman on board, then started mouth to mouth.  The woman coughed and began to breath again.

 

     "Sam?"  Johnny asked Matt.

     Matt out of breath said, "Right behind me."

     Matt turned back to help his victim.  Johnny looked for Sam, but couldn't see her.

 

     Sam could see the surface of the water.  She could see the raft, her victim, Matt and another pair of legs.  She was getting so very close to the surface but there was no breath left in her body.  She had used so much oxygen just getting the woman free and out of the plane.  As she struggled to the surface there were bright spots flashing before her eyes then it started to get dark.  She could hear the siren of the rescue boat in the distance.

 Sam's head popped up out of the water just as the darkness was about to overtake her.

 Johnny grabbed Sam by the scruff of her neck and pulled her up.  Sam didn't feel his grab or the pain as he pulled her hair.  She took in a huge lungful of air and ocean water, then coughed and coughed.  She was still on the verge of unconsciousness.  

     "Sam!  Stay with me babe," Johnny said to her.

     Johnny grabbed around Sam's chest in a lifeguard hold, to help her to float on her back, then started dragging her to shore.  Now that she was above the surface and able to take some wheezing breaths, she became more aware of where they were.  The darkness that previously started to surround her was replaced by the bright sun.  Sam coughed more seawater out, then turned to face Johnny.  He looked into her still a little dazed face.

     "Are you okay?"  He asked, treading water.

     Sam nodded to him, coughing and still unable to speak.  Then they started to work their way through the impact zone and whitecaps.  Once they were close enough, they put their feet down and Johnny helped Sam to shore where she went down on hands and knees, coughing from the exertion and near drowning.  The shallow water swirled around her.

     "Are you sure you're ok?" He asked.

     "I'm fine," she said looking at him.  "Go check on them."

 

     Johnny reluctantly went to check on the other three victims.  Sam was safe for now, but he might be needed to those who were more seriously injured.  At least until the squad arrived.  The lucky three victims of this plane crash were quickly getting cared for.  Sirens could be heard as help began to arrive.  It seemed like a lifetime that was actually less than ten minutes.  The squads slogged through the deep sand with their equipment.  

     With all the victims now being cared for, Matt looked over and saw Sam sitting in the sand.  Small waves were hitting her in the lower back and drawing the sand away from her bare feet and legs.  Matt sauntered over and plopped on his butt right next to her.  

     "Are you okay?" He asked.

     She coughed deeply a couple more times before horsely answering, "Yeah, I'm fine."

     "Her ankle is broken," he said.

     Sam sat back into the sand.  "I know," she said.

     "You have guts," Matt said.  "I don't know if I could do that."

     "I wish I didn't have to," Sam said.  "Bones heal.  If we didn't get out of there when we did, she wouldn't have had to worry about a broken ankle."

     Matt paused for a minute, watching the activity.  "You know, you could have died down there," he said.

     "I know," Sam responded.

 

    Matt and Sam continued to watch as the squad took care of the three victims.  The woman was breathing well now.  She had an oxygen mask on her face and was getting a splint on her foot.  The man was being moved to a backboard and wearing a cervical collar, and their little boy was watching them.  Roy still sat at the boys side.  Chris came up and had his small hand on Roy's back.

 

     Now that Charlie was there taking over care for Johnny's victim, Johnny looked over at Sam and Matt sitting in the sand and waves.  Johnny came to check on his wife.  He walked up and kneeled in front of Sam.  She took a deep rasping breath, coughed deeply and looked Johnny in the eyes.  They both looked exhausted.  Sam's eyes were red and bloodshot.

 

     "It looks like the picnic is over," Johnny said.

     "Good, I'm ready to go home," Sam said coughing.

     "Maybe you should go to Rampart first," Johnny said.  "I don't like that cough."

     "I'm fine," she said.  "I really don't want to be in the hospital again.  Please Johnny, Let's just go home.  If it gets worse, I promise I will go."

     Matt watched them together.  Johnny gave Sam a smile.  He stood and reached out his hand.  Sam took his hand and he helped her to her feet.  Johnny put his arm around her waist and kissed Sam on the top of the head then he walked her to the car.

     "I love you babe," he said to Sam.

     Sam squeezed him tight and quietly said, "I love you too."

 

 ***************************************

     The Range rover pulled up into the circular driveway of a beautiful Spanish style ranch house.  It was amazingly landscaped.  Huge rose bushes of red and yellow lined the front of the house, filling the air with fragrant rose scents. The sold sign still stood by the driveway waiting to be removed.  Johnny stopped the car close to the front door and looked over.  Sam was sound asleep with her head against the car window.  For a few moments, Johnny just watched her sleeping, but they couldn't stay there forever.

    

     "Sammy, were home," Johnny gently said.

     Sam began to stir.  She looked around and saw where they were.  Sam put up her hands and stretched her upper back, then yawned.  

     "Are we home already," she said.

     Johnny got out of the car and opened the car door for her.  "My lady," he said as Sam got out of the car and gave him a drowsy smile.

 

     They walked into the house.  Boxes were still stacked everywhere from the recent move from their apartment to their newly purchased home.  They had only been there a couple of days.  Even though they should have stayed home to unpack together, they had to participate in the picnic.  Johnny put the keys on the table and set down the beach bag.

 Sam came walking into the house behind him.

     "Why is it that everywhere we go something like that always has to happen?" Sam said.

     "Just lucky I guess," Johnny answered.

     Sam coughed again.  Johnny looked at her with concern.  "I should have taken you to Rampart," Johnny said.

     "Johnny, I'm fine," Sam said in an annoyed tone.  "I don't want any more hospital.  I'm going to take a shower, then if you want to check my lungs, feel free."

 

     Sam went back to the bedroom to take a hot shower.  The sun, ocean water and the adrenalin left her cold and cranky.  She knew she shouldn't have snapped at Johnny, after all, he was just concerned, but she was so tired and tired of being injured.  The warm water ran down her body.  She could feel the frustration and soreness flowing away with the warm water.  Salt and sand accumulated on the bottom of the shower as she washed her short brown hair and soaped up.  Finally feeling clean and more relaxed, Sam stepped out of the shower and wrapped a fluffy white robe around herself then walked into the bedroom to change into pajamas for a quiet night in.  Her wet hair dripped down her back and between her shoulder blades and she rubbed her head with the towel as she walked into the bedroom.  When she lifted the towel the first thing she saw was a beautiful red rose from the garden and a hot cup of tea in a small bowl on the night stand.  Sam looked at what Johnny left for her and smiled, then she looked over to see Johnny laying in bed with the stethoscope around his naked shoulders.

     "You said after the shower I could check your lungs," he said.

     Sam smiled brightly and giggled a little as she looked at him tucked under the covers watching her.

     "Yes Doctor," she said as she climbed in bed, leaving the robe and towel on the floor behind her.

 

********************************************************

     Sam always seemed to wake up bright and early in the morning, no matter how late they stayed up.  She looked at the clock.  It was just after six am.  The birds were singing and Johnny was laying back with his arm over his face.  Sam stood up and stretched.  She looked in the mirror at all the scars she had accumulated over the years.  Each scar was well earned but this morning she didn't like any of them.  She rubbed her right hand across the fading scars across her rib cage.  She was hurt so badly then, it was hard to remember exactly what happened.  All she really knew was what she had been told.  Sam took a deep breath.  As much as she hated her scars, she loved her job.  Sam pulled on blue shorts, a purple tank top and running shoes then headed out the door.  The morning run was always a great way to clear her head and get ready for the day.  Today was overcast and she could feel a mist on her face as she ran.  Even with that, she felt very hot and sweaty.  It was a work day.  Johnny would need to be at the station soon, then Joann would be there to help finish some of the unpacking.  Sam loved to spend time with Joann and the kids, but she longed to get back to work.   The extra help was welcome though.  It would be nice to have the house even halfway organized.  It had only been a few days since they moved and so few boxes had been unpacked.  It was hard to believe how much they had accumulated in that small apartment over the past year since their Christmas Day wedding after she nearly lost Johnny in the brush fire.  But, Sam figured that it shouldn't take more than a couple days more to get settled in and comfortable.   Then they could focus on the holidays and their first anniversary.

 

     Sam made it to the neighborhood park.  She ran right up to the jungle gym and started doing pull ups.  Her face was determined as she finished her set of ten.  Then Sam kneeled in the grass and started doing push ups.  The muscles on her back rippled with strength.  She even challenged herself by pushing one armed.  First her right, then her left arm.  Sam was happy that she seemed just as strong as she had been before.  She finished her set then started walking in circles around the play ground.  She flexed her left hand open and closed.  Even with the physical therapy and all her work, it was still a little sore and stiff.  She continued to walk, trying to decide if she should do another set, or go back home.  Yesterday was such an active day between the football game and the impromptu rescue, Sam was still a little tired and there was so much still to do before she was released to go back to work.  Hopefully by next week.  She just started running back home.  Sam walked in the door dripping with sweat and red faced.  It had been nearly an hour since she had set out on her run.  By the time she got back, Johnny was already awake and in the kitchen finishing a bowl of cereal.  A glass of juice was waiting on the table for Sam.

 

     "Hey babe," Johnny said.  "How was your run?"

     Sam washed her face and hands in the kitchen sink.  "It was good," she said.

     Sam dried her face with a kitchen towel then sat down again flexing her hand.  She picked up her glass and started sipping her juice.

     "Is your arm still bothering you?" Johnny asked.

     "It's not bad," Sam answered.  "Just a little stiff.  But I've got my strength back."

     "What time is your appointment with Dr. Early?"

    "Not until tomorrow at one.  With any luck he will release me to go back to work on the next shift."

     "Good," Johnny said.  "I know you've been anxious to get back."

     Johnny took his bowl to the sink where he rinsed it.  Then he turned to face Sam.

     "If there's any doubt, I'd rather have you take an extra week off than get hurt again," Johnny said.

     "I know," Sam said.

     "I better get into the shower and get going," said Johnny. "I don't want to be late."

     He kissed her on the head and headed off to the shower.  She followed him back past the stacks of boxes.

     "So what are your plans for today?"  Johnny asked.

     "Joann and the kids are coming over in a couple hours," Sam explained as she sat on the bed watching Johnny.  "She's going to help unpack a bit more.  Maybe we can get the kitchen together enough for me to cook a real breakfast for you tomorrow morning."

     Sam could hear the shower going in the bathroom and pulled out some clothes for Johnny to wear to work, and some clothes that she could change into before Joann and the kids got there.

 Johnny came out of the shower.  Sam was sitting on the bed.  He didn't see her sitting still very often.  She was always such a ball of energy unless she was sick or hurt.

     "Are you ok?" He asked.

     "Could you stop asking if I'm ok all the time," Sam snapped, then she thought better of what she said.  "I'm sorry honey.  I didn't sleep very well last night and I'm just a little cranky."

     "A little cranky," he teased.

     Johnny sat down next to her as he put on his socks and shoes.  

     "I worry about you," he said.

     "And I worry about you my love," Sam said smiling.  She handed him his shirt and said, "so you be safe, ok?"

     "Ok," Johnny answered.  "I'll try to call tonight."

     Johnny kissed her quickly, buttoned the front of his shirt, grabbed the keys and was out the door.  Sam heard the door close behind him and the range rover start up and pull out of the driveway.  She laid back on the bed.  Sam was so tired, but needed to shower and get ready for company.

******************************************************

Joann DeSoto and the kids came to help Sam with all the unpacking and getting the house together so that they could be ready for the Christmas holidays.  Chris seemed to be a little distracted.  He was quiet and emptied the boxes his mom told him too.  Sam and Joann watched for a while.

     "Is Chris ok?" Sam asked.

     "I know he's been acting a little odd," Joann said.  "I checked and he doesn't have a fever or anything.  To be honest, I really don't know what's bothering him."

 

     Chris went into the kitchen and began pulling things out of boxes and putting them on the counter.  He was trying really hard to be helpful just like his mother told him to be.  Sam came into the kitchen and started taking the dishes that Chris was taking out of the boxes and putting them into the cabinets.

     "You seem awfully quiet this morning," Sam said.  "Is something bothering you?

     Chris just shrugged his shoulders.  Sam came down to one knee so she could look Chris into the eyes.  His blue eyes just looked really sad.  

     "Chris, I can tell something's going on in that little head of yours," Sam said.  "You can tell me."

     Chris just looked down.  He saw the red scar on Sam's left arm from her injury two months before.  He ran his index finger along the scar and a couple tears ran down his cheek.  Sam wiped the tears away.

     "Chris?"  She said.  "Did what happened yesterday at the beach scare you?"

     Chris nodded his head and started to cry.

     "I was afraid my Daddy would get hurt going to that airplane," Chris said.  "I was afraid it would blow up like in the movies."

     Sam sat down next to Chris.  They both leaned up against the cabinet.  She pulled him onto her lap and hugged him as he cried.  

     "I can understand you being afraid like that," Sam said.  "But you really don't have anything to be afraid of."

     "You got hurt and uncle Johnny gets hurt sometimes too.  I don't want daddy to get hurt," Chris cried.

     Joann hearing Chris crying, came into the kitchen and watched Sam with her son.

     "I know exactly what you mean," Sam said.  "I get afraid and worry about Johnny and your Daddy.  Just like you do and just like your Mommy does.  And you know, your mommy and Daddy worry about you too.  We worry so much about each other because we love each other so much.   But you really don't need to worry.  When you scraped your knee riding your bike the other day, did you mean to do that?"  Chris shook his head no.  

     "Of course not," Sam continued.  "It was just an accident.  You do your best not to get hurt, just like your Daddy does.  And you have people around to help keep you from getting hurt.  Right?"

 

Chris nodded again.

     "But I Know sometimes we do get hurt, but see, that's why we have you?"

     Chris looked at her confused.

     "We have our friends and family and our little Christopher to help us," Sam said.

     Chris smiled and nodded in agreement.

     "Johnny, your Daddy and me.  Captain Stanley and the whole crew.  We all take care of each other," Sam explained.  "We do our best to keep each other safe and take care of each other when we're hurt or sick.  Just like a great big family."

 

     They were quiet for a few minutes as Chris processed the information that Sam gave him.  He looked at her as though he wasn't sure if he should ask, then blurted out,  "Did it hurt?"  As he touched the scar on Sam's arm.

     "You know, it did hurt when I broke it, but it's better now.  And the best part is I was able to help some scared boys be safe.  I think a broken arm is worth that.  Don't you?"

     Chris had to agree. He nodded softly.

    "There aren't too many boys your age mature enough to understand so much about your Daddy's job, like you do," Sam said.  "You are one smart cookie."

     Joann smiled at that.  "Hey you two.  How about we get this kitchen together and make some lunch," she said.

     Chris got up and wiped away the lingering tears.  Jenn came into the kitchen excited to help.  She was bouncing up and down.

     "Grilled cheese?" Jennifer said.

    Sam smiled and stood up.  "You got it princess." Sam said.  "Grilled cheese sounds great and how about some tomato soup with it."

     "Yeah!!!" Jennifer screamed as she grabbed her mommy's hand.  "Come on mommy.  We have work to do."

     The two smiling kids dove into the boxes to pull things out and place them all over the counter while Joann and Sam put shelf liners in the cabinets and put all the kitchen stuff away.

 

**************************************************************

     Johnny and Roy were riding back from Rampart.  Johnny was looking out the open window of the squad.  His shaggy black hair blew in the breeze from the window.  Johnny was rarely quiet as they drove.  He was always chattering about something.  That made this silence deafening.

     "Johnny, is something wrong?" Roy asked.

     "I'm worried about Sam," Johnny said.

     "I thought she was fine.  She looked great at the beach.  Is she still having headaches?"  Roy asked.

     "No... I don't know," Johnny answered.  He ran his hand through his hair.

 

     "She's been acting really strange," Johnny said.  "She seems really tired lately.  She has little or no appetite, even with all the activity she's been doing.  I think she's been losing some weight too."

     "You know, you guys have had a ton of stuff going on," Roy said.  "Between the injuries, the trip to Alaska and the move.  I can understand her being so tired and affecting her appetite."  

     "Roy, Sam's mom died of cancer at about this same age," Johnny said.

     Johnny took a deep breath, "Ever since we met, everything has been going along so well.  This is the happiest I have ever been.  I never thought I would ever find someone like her.  Now I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I'm so afraid of losing her."

     "Have you talked to Sam about all this?" Roy asked.  

     "I tried," Johnny said, "but it's so hard."

     "Maybe if you explain and ask her she will go in and get checked out," Roy said.

     "I tried.  She doesn't want to go to the hospital," Johnny explained.  "If she didn't need to be cleared to go back to work, I don't think she would go in at all."

         "Then Talk to Dr. Early," Roy said.  "Maybe he can make an excuse to do some tests while she's there?"

     "You don't think she would figure it out?"

     "It's worth a try," Roy said.  "It's better than driving yourself crazy with worry."

     They pulled into the station.  Johnny walked around the front of the squad, then paused as Roy got out.  

     "Roy, I'm a..." Johnny said.

     "Good," Roy said.

     Johnny put his head down and went into Captain Stanley's office to call Dr. Early.  Roy understood and just went to the Rec. Room.  They had been friends and partners so long, they didn't always need to speak.  

     "Where's John?" Chet asked.

     "He just needed to make a phone call," Roy explained.

     "Oh, trouble at home," Chet said.  "I knew paradise wouldn't last, and less than a year too."

     "Chet, stay out of it," Roy warned.

     Marco brought the pot of chili to the table and Mike walked over to place bowls and glasses on the table.  Chet was placing the silverware out.

     "Are you ready for lunch?"  Marco asked.

     "Lunch sounds great Marco," Roy said.

     Roy got the cornbread and grated cheese off the counter and carried over the to the table and placed them in the center hoping that Chet would just forget things.

     "Chet, for once why don't you just leave him alone," Mike said.

     Johnny came into the Rec. Room at just the wrong time.  "Trouble with the wife?" Chet said.

     "Shut up Chet," Johnny snapped back.

     "So it is," Chet went on.  "I knew it."

     "Chet!" Roy said.  "Don't."

     "Well Johnny, it's to be expected," Chet continued.  "A fine girl like that with you?"

    Johnny turned about to react  to Chet when the klaxons sounded.  "Squad 51, child trapped.  1322 Wilshire.  1322 Wilshire.  Cross street grove.  Time out 14:22."

     Johnny and Roy went running out on their call. For once, Johnny didn't care about missing lunch; It got away from Chet and his needling.

 

*****************************************************

      Johnny walked into the front door of the house the next morning.  The boxes were all gone.  Pictures were hung on the walls and furniture was positioned.  It was nice and cozy although sparsely furnished.  Johnny looked down at the picture of Sam and her parents that they had brought back from Alaska a few weeks before.  It was displayed on the table.

 There was a wonderful smell of breakfast coming from the kitchen.  Johnny walked into the kitchen and watched Sam as she pulled the eggs out of the pan and placed them on a plate beside bacon, and pancakes.  The kitchen table had glasses of milk, a bowl of fruit and a red rose in a vase.  It was the same rose that Johnny had brought in for Sam the night before.  Sam turned and looked over at Johnny watching her.

     "You're just in time," Sam said.  "Breakfast is ready."

     "It looks wonderful," Johnny said.  "Smells wonderful too."

     "You must have had a pretty hard night to actually compliment my cooking," Sam said.

     He gave her a kiss and they sat down to eat.  He did often tease Sam about her lack of cooking skills, but not today.

     "Last night wasn't too bad," Johnny said as he ate, "Breakfast just really does smell good.  The house looks great too.  You must have been busy yesterday.  You got a lot done."

     "Thanks," Sam said.  "I had lots of help."

     "Did you have fun with Joann and the kids?"  Johnny asked as she put the plate down in front of him.

     Sam smiled.  "Yes.  Joann was a huge help and the kids were so much fun.  I couldn't have done it without them."

     "That's great to hear," Johnny said as he stuffed food into his mouth.

     Johnny watched as Sam nibbled at her meal.  She seemed to spend more time pushing the food around than actually eating it.  He was about to try to talk to her as Roy suggested when the doorbell rang.  

     "I'll get it," Sam said.

     Sam got up and went to the front door and received a delivery.  It was a small box with an return address from Alaska.  Sam looked at the small box that that the delivery person handed her as she shut the door.  

     "This is Bucks handwriting," Sam said to Johnny.

     Sam took the box to the kitchen table.  She took the scissors that were laying there to cut the paper and open the box.  Inside she found an envelope from Buck and opened it.

 

     Dear Sam

           We all hope that you are doing well and enjoying the California sunshine.  We have been having a typical cold winter here, but luckily a safe one.  All the guys say hello.

          Anna and Ivan are doing well.  They are so happy to own the store now.  Anna keeps talking about how it was a dream of hers ever since she came to America and your father gave her her first job, even though she didn't speak English very well.  They have even begun to expand their inventory by bringing in Russian vodka.

          Another piece of good news, the land where your house sat has sold for the asking price.  I have enclosed the check from the realtor for you.  The papers were just signed this morning.  Johnny said that you have been looking at buying a home of your own in California.  I hope this will help with the down payment for you.

          Finally, you will see a small box.  I enclosed it for you.  Your mother wanted you to have it when you married.

 

          Have a wonderful Christmas and wish Roy and his family the same.

         Talk to you soon.

 

          Buck

 

     Sam opened the small box and looked inside.  There was a simple string of pearl necklace laying on top a pad of cotton.  The box the pearls were purchased in was gone long ago.  The pearls glistened with white.  Sam smiled.  She could remember playing with the necklace as a small girl.    

 

     "That's beautiful," Johnny said taking the time to swallow his food before speaking.

     "The last time I remember my mom wearing it was when we had our picture taken.  Before she got so sick," Sam explained.

     Sam reached down and rubbed the tips of her fingers across the pearls.  Not totally smooth like the fake ones she had seen in the store.  The texture flooded her mind with memories of when her mother let her try it on and how big it looked back then.  Sam quickly stood up and rushed out of the room saying, "I better get ready for my appointment."

     Johnny watched her rush out of the room.  He didn't know quite what to do.  Johnny followed Sam to the backyard.  She stood on the patio looking out over the grass, trees and flowers.

     "Sam, your appointment isn't for three more hours," Johnny said.  "And I'm not sure you could do much to get ready to go, here in the back yard."

     Sam smiled a little at that.  "The pearls are beautiful and I love that she wanted me to have them," Sam said.  "Why is this so hard?  Why did she have to go?  I was so young.  I barely had a chance to get to know her.  Most of what I do remember was her being so sick."

     "I know," Johnny said.

     Johnny did know, all too well what Sam was feeling.  He had lost both his parents in a traffic accident at about the same age that Sam lost her mom.

     "How about we get out for a little while before your appointment?" He asked.  "We still have some furniture we need to get.  Maybe we can pick out a set for the spare bedroom."

     "Ok," Sam agreed.

 

**************************************************

     Johnny took Sam's hand and led her into the house.  After shopping, Sam went to her appointment with Dr. Early.  He checked her eyes, heart and lungs.  Basically a good looking over.  Everything looked good to him.  He asked that Sam get a blood test to make sure all the numbers were all right.  But even though it would take time to get the results back from the blood test, Sam was relived to hear that she could finally return to work the next week after a few more trips to the physical therapist.  It was getting close to Christmas and this made a wonderful Christmas present for her.

 

 

******************************************************

     The LA County Fire Department Christmas Party was 10 days before Christmas.  The big ballroom was so beautiful.  A huge green Christmas tree stood 12 feet tall in the corner of the room. It was covered in white Christmas lights, gold ornaments and red fire trucks.

 There were large circular tables scattered all around the room decorated with dark green table cloths, small Holly wreath center pieces and silver candles burning on each table.  A live band was playing a variety of Christmas music and romantic songs for the people on the dance floor.  The lights, the music, the beauty of the room, was like a dream.  Roy, Joann, Johnny, Dixie and Doctors Early and Brackett were sitting around one of the tables talking and laughing.  Everyone was dressed to the nines and looked wonderful.  Johnny was very handsome in his navy blue suit and red tie.  He didn't often have a chance to go to the Fireman's Christmas Ball, but this year was different.  He was married and they were healthy.  Everything was wonderful and he was going to enjoy himself.  As Johnny listened to the jokes and banter, he started thinking that it was only ten more days until his first wedding anniversary.  He could have never before imagined this ever happening.  Things sure changed in just a year.

 

     Chet came walking into the party with Marco.  They both looked dapper in their suits and ties.  The two men looked around the room.  They saw their crew mates sitting around a table talking and saw a tall beautiful woman standing at the drink table with her back toward them.  They both seemed to spot the woman at the same time.     

     "Who is that?" Marco asked.

     "I don't know," Chet answered, "but I plan to find out."  

     Chet sauntered over to the drink table where the woman was filling a cup.

     "Hi," Chet said.  "Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?"'

     Sam turned and Chet saw her face.  Sam was a vision in her spaghetti strap, floor length forest green gown.  Her mothers pearl necklace hung from her neck.  Chet's mouth dropped open with the realization of who it was and was embarrassed that he didn't recognize Sam from the back.  

     "Chet, does that line ever work?" Sam said.

     "Sometimes," Chet admitted.  

 

     Johnny looked from across the room and saw Sam was standing by the drink table talking to Chet.  As he stared, she took his breath away.  

     "Will you all excuse me for a minute," Johnny said without taking his eyes off Sam.

     Roy and Joann smiled at him.

 

     Chet looked up and down Sam.  He had never seen her dressed up and looking so fine.

 Until this point, he had only seen her in her uniform or hurt in the hospital.  

     "You look beautiful tonight," he said.

     She smiled at him, "Thank you Chet. You clean up pretty good yourself."

 

    Johnny crossed the room and walked over to Sam. She had her back turned to him and didn't see him coming.  Johnny stopped behind her.

     "Sam," Johnny gently said.

     Sam turned and looked into Johnny's chocolate brown eyes.  She smiled at what she saw in them.  Johnny held his hand out to her.

     "Can I have this dance?" he asked.

     Sam handed Chet her punch cup and took Johnny's hand without another look at Chet.

 Johnny looked down at her hand in his and rubbed his thumb gently across her knuckles and on the simple gold wedding band that matched his.   Then Johnny led Sam onto the dance floor just as the music started to play,  You don't know me.  He held one hand around her waist and one hand in hers in perfect dance position. 

 

You give your hand to me

And then you say, "Hello."

And I can hardly speak,

My heart is beating so.

And anyone can tell

You think you know me well.

Well, you don't know me.

 

     As the music played Sam melted into Johnny.  She laid her head on his shoulder with her arms around his back and closed her eyes as they swayed to the music.  He in turn snuggled into her, his arms around her back and eyes closed as well, moving with the music almost as one person.  It was as though they were the only two people in the world.  

 

     Roy, inspired by Johnny, held out his hand to Joann.  

     "Shall we?" He said.  

     Joann took Roy's hand and They joined Johnny and Sam on the dance floor along with Hank Stanley and his wife Emily, David Harrison and his wife Susan.  They all looked at Johnny and Sam, so glad that those two found each other.

 

     Marco walked over and joined Chet at the drink table.  Chet was holding Sam's cup of punch.  He drank it as Marco came close.

     "Smooth move Chet," Marco said.

     "Well you didn't recognize her either," Chet said.  

     Chet and Marco, looked over at Johnny and Sam with envy and joy that the two of them found in each other.  Longing for the day that they found what Johnny and Sam had.

     "He's a pretty lucky guy," Marco said.

     The music continued to play.  Chet watched Johnny and Sam on the dance floor and had to agree with Marco.  Johnny was definitely a lucky guy.

     "He sure is," Chet said.

 

 

Oh, you give your hand to me,

And then you say, "Goodbye."

I watched you walk away,

Beside the lucky guy

Oh, you'll never ever know

The one who loved you so.

Well, you don't know me.

 

      "I love you Johnny Gage," Sam whispered into Johnny's ear.

      "I love you too," he answered.

 

     This night was so beautiful, no one wanted it to end.  

 

*********************************************************

     Finally two physical therapy sessions down and released to go back to work, Sam was anxious to get started.  She arrived just as roll call was started, to welcome back greetings.

     "Well, we have a busy day today," Harrison said.  "After we get housekeeping done, I want everyone out hanging hose, then we can work on the high rise drill.  Let's get Sam back up to speed.  Terry, Rec. Room, Dave, clean the apparatus bay.  Alex, dorm and Sam, latrine.  When you all get done, join us in hanging hose."

     Sam went to the squad to do the morning telemetry check before cleaning the restroom.

     "How's your little one?"  She asked Alex as they pulled out their equipment to work.

     "She is noisy," he said laughing.  "I'm looking forward to when she can ask instead of scream.  But this morning she gave me a smile.  Of course my wife says it's only gas."

     Sam laughed as Alex called on the radio to Rampart.  The morning was unusually quiet.  They finished all their chores and had the hoses hung in record time.  Just as they were getting ready to start lunch, the tones sounded, ending the quiet afternoon.  Sam, Alex, Terry, Captain Harrison and their engineer ran to the vehicles and headed out.

     "Station 51, station 36, foam 8, deluge 10 Structure fire at the refinery...."

 

     Johnny, Roy and the rest of the crew of Station 51 also heard the call and rushed to their vehicles as well.  As they approached the scene, they could see two tower tanks.  Oil and gas fueled fires burning below.  The first of the engine companies, engine 36, already had lines cooling the heat and fighting back the flames at the base of one tower in particular.  Johnny and Roy looked up to see a victim stuck at the top of that tower waving his coat at the firefighters below.  Flames blocked his way down the stairs.  Johnny watched two firefighters already making their way up to victims.  The stream from the ladder truck hose soaked the fire down so that the pair were able to pass climbing up.

 Johnny and Roy pulled out some equipment as a couple of injured men were brought to them with some minor cuts and burns.

 

     Captain Harrison watched as Sam and Alex were jogging up the stairway to get to the top of the tower where two victims were trapped.  They were already soaked by the spray from the hoses and sweat even though they were only halfway up.  Sam continued to climb the tower with great speed, just ahead of Alex. As she climbed, one foot slipped a little on the wet step and Sam bumped into the stair rail.  Instead of holding, the old rusty rail broke and Sam fell over the side of the staircase about 100 feet in the air.  Catlike, she snagged the edge of the wet stairs gripping with the fingertips of her right hand.  She hung on one handed, spinning back and forth.  There was nothing below her to put a foot on and no rope to catch her if she slipped.  Only the fire that burned far below.  Sam's helmet flipped off her head and slowly fell to the ground.  This was the most precarious position she had ever been in and the most frightened she had ever felt.  Alex quickly laid down on his belly and Sam felt him grab her hand and wrist to keep it from slipping off the wet step as she swayed.

 

     Johnny was bandaging one of his victims badly burned hand when the man, who was watching the activity on the tower caught his breath.  "Oh my God," he exclaimed.

     Johnny turned and looked up to where the man was watching.  He saw Sam dangling from the stair case with one hand.  He echoed the mans sentiments.  "Oh my God!" Johnny cried.

 

     "Use both hands," Alex yelled to her.

     Sam closed her eyes for a moment to summon all the strength she had.  She knew Alex wouldn't just let her fall without a fight.  Sam twisted and reached her left hand up and around to grab a fragment of the railing, then she started to pull herself up.  Alex got a better grip on her right hand and pulled her hand up with all his strength then when she was high enough, he reached down with one hand and grabbed her pants belt, pulling her up more.  Sam let go of Alex to use her other hand on the step to push up on the stair case until she was finally pulled to safety.  Sam leaned back against the tower, totally out of breath and took a minute, then looked over at Alex who was also leaning against the wall next to her and she said, "I hate refineries."

     Alex nodded.  "Me too."

     "Come on, let's go," she said.

     They stood up and continued climbing the tower to reach their victim.  They found one man frightened but in good shape.  His friend had slipped and hit his head hard against the rail.  He was unconscious.  Sam ran up to the unconscious man and began to check his eyes. 

     "Eyes unequal," she said.  "We're going to need the stokes."

     Alex threw the line over the top rail to have the stokes brought up.  Sam continued to check the injured man.  As she did, she noticed blood.  She hadn't realized before that when she grabbed the broken railing, that she had cut her hand.  Sam pressed the cuff of her turnout  tightly on her palm to stop the bleeding while Alex hauled the stokes up from below.

     "For Gods sake, stay away from that rail," Sam breathlessly said.

     Alex continued to work away from the railing.  He brought the stokes up and they placed the injured man inside.  They found a good place to tie off and together they lowered the man to the waiting ladder truck.  With their victim now to safety, they started the long climb back down to ground level, escorting the other man with them. 

     Once down, they went to squad 51 who was working with their victim on the ground.

 

     "How is he?" Sam asked Johnny.

     "Possible skull fracture," Johnny said as he adjusted the IV.

     The ambulance attendants came and they carefully moved the man onto the gurney to take him to Rampart.  Roy followed the victim, giving Johnny and Sam a moment.

     "Are you ok?"  Johnny asked concerned.

     "I cut my hand," Sam answered.

     Johnny checked her open hand and put a gauze pad on her palm, then wrapped her hand to protect it until they could get to Rampart and get it taken care of.

     "Get in to Rampart and get that checked," Johnny said.

     "I will," Sam answered.

     "I swear I will be bald or grey from watching you work," Johnny teased.

     Sam smiled at him.  "I'm thinking bald," she said.

     "Sam!"  Alex called.

     Sam took a longing look at Johnny then turned and ran back to Alex, while Johnny headed to the squad for follow up.  Sam, Alex and the rest of the firefighters continued to fight the remainder of the fire.  It was nearly contained.  It wouldn't take much longer to get it under control and clean up.  They both had a job to do.

 

**********************************************************

 

     Johnny and Roy were having a cup of coffee at the Base station when Dixie and Dr. Brackett walked up.  

     "How's he doing?" Roy asked.

     "X-Ray is in there now," Brackett answered.  "Probably is a depressed skull fracture.  We will know more in a bit."

     Alex and Sam walked in.  They were both wet and dirty from the fire.   Their hair stood in all directions and their faces were smudged black with smoke and grit.

     "You two look a fright," Dixie said.  "Bad?

     "Yeah, it was pretty bad," Sam answered.

     "Hey Doc," Alex said.  "Are you busy?"

     "What do you need?"  Dr. Brackett asked.

     "Just a small injury that needs tending," Alex said.

     Dr. Brackett looked up at him, curious.  Sam held up her cut hand.  Blood soaking through the bandage that. Johnny had put on their earlier.

     "I think 3 is open," Dixie said.

     The group went to treatment three as Dr. Brackett looked at Sam's injured hand with Johnny looking over his shoulder.  The bandage was pulled back to show that the cut went all the way across the palm of her hand.

     "This is pretty deep, but I don't think there's any nerve damage," Brackett said.  "You are going to need a few stitches and a tetanus shot."

     Sam nodded.  Dixie got the supplies she needed from the cabinet so they could stitch up her hand.

     The handy talkie called, "squad 51, possible heart...."

     "I got to ah..." Johnny said.

     "I know," said Sam.  "See you later."

     Johnny and Roy left Sam in Dr. Bracketts capable hands.  They talked as he cleaned and stitched up what needed to be done.

     "So how did you do this?" He asked.

     "On a broken rail at a refinery fire," Sam answered.

     Dr. Brackett finished with the stitches and bandaged Sam's hand.  Then Dixie gave her the tetanus shot.  

     "Keep that clean and dry," Dr. Bracket said. "I want you back in a day or two so I can change the dressing."

     Sam agreed and she left with Alex.  By the time they left the hospital it was later in the evening.  The whole crew of 36 was looking forward to a quiet evening.

     

*******************************************************

     The crew and family of Station 51 were crowded in the DeSoto living room drinking apple cider and hot cocoa for their annual Christmas Eve together.   Joann and Sam came downstairs to join Party.

     "They are finally asleep," Joann said.  "They are so excited about Christmas I thought we would never be able to get them to sleep.  Sam is a natural with the kids.  She is going to be a great mother someday."

     Sam smiled and sat next to Johnny.  He reached his arm around her.  

     "I agree," Johnny proudly said.

     "A toast to Christmas," Captain Stanley said.

     "And to a first year together," Roy interjected.

     "Here here," everybody said to the toasts.

     Glasses clinked and Sam and Johnny made their obligatory anniversary kiss, while everyone quietly cheered them on, not wanting to wake the kids.  Unable to wait any longer, Roy suggested, "Well, how about presents."

     "Roy," Joann said, "sometimes you get so excited you are worse than the kids."  

     Roy really was excited, like a kid in a candy store.  He brought out all the Christmas stockings for everyone. Years before they had decided on small gifts for the adults and each person from the station had their own stocking.  Roy handed all the stockings to everyone.  In her stocking, Joann found a few pieces of candy and a small jewelry box.

 She gasped when she opened the box and saw a small sterling silver heart necklace with the kids birthstones in the center.

     "Oh Roy I love it," Joann exclaimed as she kissed her husband.

     Johnny gave Sam a wonderful gift of a new wrist watch.  Her old one was crushed when she broke her arm.  

    Emily Stanley received small diamond earrings that she had to immediately model for everyone.  Roy a new tie and Hank a gift certificate for a set of hand weights.  Everyone laughed and opened their gifts.  Everyone but Johnny.  Johnny's sock was virtually empty and he was confused by just the few pieces of candy.  Roy looked at Johnny, then looked under the tree and found a box with Johnny's name on it.  

     "Here Johnny, I'm sorry, I must have missed it," Roy said as he handed Johnny the carefully wrapped package.  "I didn't expect you to have a package under the tree."

     The package looked like a very small shirt box.  Johnny smiled as he took the present from Roy.  

The tag said...

 to my precious Johnny.

 Merry 2nd Christmas together and 

 Happy 1st Anniversary.   

     Johnny smiled big at Sam and started opening the present.  Everyone else had opened their gifts by that point and were watching Johnny open his.  He ripped the paper off, turned the box over, set it on his lap and lifted the lid of the box.  Johnny scrunched his eyes together with a confused look.  He reached into the box and lifted out a small yellow footed blanket sleeper with pacifier and in the other hand a small quilted blanket.  "Baby clothes?"  

     Johnny stared at the present for a minute then looked over at Sam.  She gave him a half smile.

     "Are you?... Are we?..." Johnny asked.

     Sam nodded at him, "Surprise."

    Johnny stared off, a little shocked from his gift.  The other guys started patting him on the back with congratulations.

     "A baby?"   He said still seemingly shocked.

     "Johnny?" Sam said.

     Johnny got up and walked out onto the DeSoto deck.  Sam just watched him go.  She couldn't tell if he was happy or sad about the news.  She could feel the tears welling in her eyes.

     "I thought he would be happy," Sam said.  "Unexpected, yes.  But still..."

     "Sam, go talk to him," Roy encouraged.

     Sam walked out of the room to follow Johnny.  The rest of the group looked at each other, confused.

 

     Sam walked onto the deck.  It was so dark.  The air was cool and the stars twinkled in the sky above.  Johnny was leaning on the deck rail looking out into the backyard filled with swing sets and wagons.  He was running a hand through his hair.

     "Johnny?" Sam said.  

     A tear rolled down her cheek.  "I know this is a little sooner than we had planned.  But I still thought you would be happy."

     "When did you find out?" Johnny asked.

    "Dr. Brackett told me yesterday when I had my hand checked and the stitches removed.

 Dr. Early asked for some blood tests for some reason and it showed up on that.  I asked Brackett  not to say anything to anyone until after I told you."

     "Sam, I asked Dr. Early to run the blood tests," Johnny said.  

     "Why?" Sam asked.

     "I was worried about you.  You were acting so tired.  Not eating.  You look so thin.  And your mom.  She was your age when...  You are the best thing that ever happened to me.  I was afraid you would.. I don't want to lose you Sam."

        Sam grabbed Johnny's face in both her hands.  When she looked into his eyes she could see the tears.  

     "Johnny, You are not going to lose me," Sam said. "I'm not my mom."

     "Is this all it showed?  It's not???"

     "No.  It's not cancer," she answered.  "It's just a little bitty Gage."

     Johnny smiled at that.  "Really, a baby?"

     "Really," Sam said.  "Johnny Gage, you're going to be a daddy."

     Johnny hugged her, tight.

     "Merry Christmas, Johnny Gage.  And happy Anniversary," Sam whispered into his ear.

 

     

      THE END

 

 Posted to Site 07/04/14

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