BURNING LOVE

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Thanking her

As soon as he hung up the phone he threw his head back, resting it on the couch. He rubbed his face with both hands and let out a heavy sigh.

His father had just told him that his mother fell down the stairs and she was now hospitalized. He was so nervous that he couldn’t give him many details.

“Is everything alright?” Her sweet velvet voice full of concern brought him back to reality.

He opened his eyes and saw her bewildered expression looking at him from above. He would have loved to grab her by the neck and taste her lips again. Damn, he hadn’t gone to his parents’ that day to spend that night with her. After seeing her break like she did the previous day, he wanted to make sure she was alright, and maybe tell her everything. But the universe had other plans for him.

“My mother had an accident. I have to go. Sorry,” he said as he stood up.

“Is there anything I can do?” She asked.

“Maybe... Could you take Noah with you while I’m out?” He looked her in the eye. “I mean, if it’s not a problem, of course. I’ll probably spend a lot of time in the hospital and won’t be able to take care of her...” He was rambling.

“Of course.” Lizbeth smiled at him.

“Are you sure? I can call—”

“It’s fine. We get along pretty well and you need to go to your family. This part is covered, don’t worry so much.” She walked towards him and caressed his arm up and down. “Besides, if you take her with you, she’ll get nervous too and you need to focus on your mother right now.”

“Thanks. You’re a lifesaver.” He hugged her without even thinking.

“Sure.” Her voice felt like a summer breeze on the skin.

He packed a small suitcase and soon after he walked out of his apartment, Lizbeth and Noah following behind. “Be careful on the road, okay?” She said as she sweetly caressed his arm again.

He rubbed the back of his head. “Yeah, don’t worry. And thank you so much!” He kissed her cheek, and after that, he ran to his car.

The anxiety rising up made his heart beat rapidly. He was nervous and scared. The lack of information about what had happened was driving him nuts. His father wasn’t able to leave the kids with anybody and he was overwhelmed taking care of everything by himself.

Sawyer got into his car, started the engine and seconds later he was on the road. The streets were empty as it was late at night, and he didn’t exactly respect the maximum speed. However, the trip to the area where his parents’ lived had never seemed so long. He was sure it was just something psychological, but he still hated it.

When he finally parked, he ran to the hospital. A woman in her late forties sitting at the front desk sweetly smiled at him.

“What can I do for you?”

“I’m looking for my mother. She was rushed to the emergency room a few hours ago.”

“What’s the last name?”

“Cox.”

She searched on the computer for the information. She didn’t say anything for a minute, but it felt like forever for him. He needed to calm down, so he took a deep breath in and clenched his fists hard until his knuckles turned white.

“She’s in surgery right now. Your family will probably be in the waiting room.” Her voice was calm and soothing. She was probably used to dealing with nervous family members, and much worse. He was glad she was so capable and kind.

“Thanks,” Sawyer said, and immediately after he ran down the hall the nurse had pointed to.

He was almost out of breath when he got there. He was used to running, jumping, and climbing. As a firefighter, he trained to deal with difficult situations and to keep his mind cool under the worst circumstances, but that was his family.

His heart was pounding so hard inside his chest he felt as if it was going to break through his ribcage. When he reached the waiting room, he took a moment before going in, closing his eyes and trying to relax. His father was with the kids inside and they didn’t need another grown-up freaking out.

As soon as he pushed the door open both kids ran toward him.

“Daddy!” The little girl hugged his leg as the boy circled his arms around his waist. Both had marks in their faces that showed they had been crying. Their eyes red and puffy.

He mentally kicked himself for not being there for them when they needed him the most. It wasn’t as if he could see the future but still felt guilty, his job was to protect them and he felt as if he had failed them.

“Hey...” He said in a low voice as he kneeled to hug them. “I’m here, I’m here... Don’t worry. Everything’s gonna be alright.” He kissed their heads and tightly hugged them.

They stayed there for a few minutes until the kids seemed to have calmed down a little. He lifted them, one on each arm, and walked toward his father, who had been just watching them. He patted him on the back.

“How are you, son?”

“I’m fine. A bit stressed out, but fine. How are you, and how’s mom?” He asked as he placed the kids on two empty seats. Then, he nervously ran a hand through his hair. “What happened?”

“Doctor said it wasn’t as bad as it looked. She stumbled with some of the tools and stuff she was using for the bathroom renovation and fell… She wouldn’t wake up and I didn’t know what to do with the kids since the neighbor wasn’t at home...” He rambled. Then rubbed a hand on the back of his neck.

“Hey, Dad. Stop beating yourself up, it was an accident, okay?” He hugged him. “She’s a tough woman, and if the doctor said she’ll be alright, she will.” He couldn’t stand seeing his father so vulnerable. Before that night, it had only happened once and it killed him to watch him like that.

“Yeah... Sorry... I— Sorry.” He was so emotional he couldn’t put two words together.

Sawyer softly chuckled when he noticed him relaxing in his arms. “Stop apologizing.”

“Thanks for being here. I don’t think I could do this again...”

“You’re not alone, Dad. Won’t ever be.”

A man cleared his throat behind them. “Sorry to interrupt, are you the Cox’ family?” He was wearing a white physician coat. His uniform was dark blue, so he was a surgeon.

“How is she?” Sawyer asked right away.

“Mrs.Cox is fine. She’s stable and the surgery or her broken hip went well. She’s resting now and we’ll keep her on the ICU for the night to observe there are no other complications. We’ll bring her to her room tomorrow morning.”

“My father said she was unconscious when she came in. Is it serious?”

“Yeah, she was. We couldn’t get her into surgery right away because she had a concussion, but she’s out of danger now. And as I said, we’ll keep an eye on her, but most likely she’ll be in her room tomorrow.” He held a hand out to him, then to his father. “If you have any more questions, you can ask the nurse at the front desk.”

“Thanks.”

“Have a good night.” The doctor smiled at them and turned away, followed by the nurse that was accompanying him.

“See? She’ll be alright,” he reassured his father and then let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding in. “There’s nothing we can do here and the kids need to sleep. Let’s go home and rest for a bit, okay?” He noted as he looked at the kids.

“But...”

“Dad, there’s nothing you can do here now. So let’s go home. I promise I’ll drive you back first thing in the morning, okay?”

“You look like the father now,” he tiredly chuckled.

“Looks like I am one too,” he said as he glanced at the kids. They were already asleep. Sophia had her head resting on her brother’s shoulder. And Adam had his resting on her head. Going through such intense emotions had drained their energies down. Sawyer slightly smiled.

They drove back home in complete silence. He was worried, but he had to be strong for his father and the kids. It was his turn to keep the boat floating.

As he parked in the driveway, he took Adam from the back seat and his father took Sophia. They walked them up the stairs and softly placed them on their beds.

His father’s eyes watered as he watched the kids slowly breathing. Sawyer patted his back and left him in the room. He needed some time and space to process what had happened that day.

He walked down and when he got to the kitchen, he grabbed a kettle and put it on the stove. Only when the water was hot, he put some valerian tea bags in the cups and poured it into the mugs.

“What are you doing?” His father asked.

“Preparing some tea so we can relax a little,” he noted as he offered him one.

“Thanks...” He let himself fall on one of the chairs. “By the way, where’s Noah?”

“I let her with a neighbor.”

“I see...”

Without adding another word, they drank the hot tea, taking in the sweet smell and enjoying the silence of the night.

Sawyer hadn’t noticed that his hands were icy cold until he touched the hot cup, it felt nice. He used to be always warm, even in the coldest winter days, but being so nervous put his body upside down.

Worry invaded his mind while he stared into the darkness. His father wouldn’t be able to take care of the kids and his mother at the same time. And with a full-time job and more concerns than he could handle, Sawyer thought that the best thing would be to take the kids with him, even though his schedules would make it hard to take them and bring them from school.

He sighed in defeat.

His father was watching him out of the corner of his eye but didn’t say anything. They were pretty much the same, and he knew that at that moment all he needed was that quietness to put all his shit together.

Tired as hell, his brain wasn’t functioning well, so keep trying to do a jigsaw was useless. I’ll have to think about it tomorrow morning.

When his father was done, he placed the cup on the table. He got up and looked at his son.

“Are you staying?”

“Yeah, just for a little while.”

“Okay. Good night, then.”

“G’ night, Dad.” He nodded his head as his father left the room.

The clock hanging on the wall was ticking three in the morning. Lizbeth would probably be worried since he still hadn’t contacted her.

He took his phone out of the pocket of his jeans and unlocked it. The first thing he saw was a message from her asking how everything was going. He smiled. She would probably be asleep by now, but he texted back anyway. To his surprise, she replied right away.

Sawyer: Hey! Sorry to answer so late. I was trying to calm down my father and talking to the doctor.

Liz: It’s alright. How’s she?

Sawyer: She fell down the stairs. She’s broken her hip and has a concussion. Doctor says she’ll be alright tho

Liz: Glad to hear that

Sawyer: I’m probably gonna stay a few more days to arrange a few things

Liz: Take your time, and if you need anything else just give me a call

Sawyer: Thanks, Liz. Night

Liz: Night

As he blocked the screen of the phone, he got up from the chair. stretching his back and feeling a bit more relaxed. He had finally managed to cool down. Roaming through past facts he couldn’t change was stupid and wouldn’t help him at all.

He walked up to his bedroom and only when he was in his room, he undressed, letting his clothes on his old desk. He should be feeling more worried, but something inside of him was telling him that everything would be alright. Maybe it was just the exhaustion taking over his whole body and mind, but he couldn’t help it and lightly smiled.

The doctor said his mother was out of danger and that she just needed to rest. And Lizbeth was definitely the best woman he had ever met. There weren’t words to express how thankful he was for what she was doing for him, for supporting him at that moment like she always did. Knowing she was holding his back made it a lot easier to deal with everything. He loved that side of her and was dying to let her know. But it would all have to wait until he came back home.

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