“Don’t be sad, princess. I promise it will go by fast. In the meantime, we can get the room designed by anyone you want. Pick a designer and let them go at it.”
“Trying to buy my happiness?” I asked, sounding sharper than I’d intended.
“Don’t be upset, Nina. I won’t be gone long, and I’m only a phone call away.”
“You’re thousands of miles and a huge ocean away, Tristan.”
“We can Skype, if you like. How’s that sound?” he asked, being so sweet I couldn’t stay angry at situation.
“Okay, but it’s not the same. I don’t think cuddling up with my laptop is going to be like lying here with you.”
“I know. I miss you too. I’d rather be there waking up next to you, watching you snore as you sleep and holding you in my arms. I promise it won’t be long.”
“Okay, but I don’t snore. We need to establish that before you hang up the phone and go into another meeting,” I joked, trying to make up for being so surly just a minute before.
“You do snore, but that’s all right. I love that part of you too. Tell Jordan I said hi, and I can’t wait to be back with you as soon as I can.”
“I love you, Tristan. When we Skype you’ll see I’m getting as big as a house. The babies must be getting big now. At least I hope that’s it or I’m just getting super chunky.”
“I’ll call you later, and don’t worry about what you look like. You’re gorgeous, so you have nothing to worry about.”
I told him I loved him again and heard him say it one more time before I pressed End on my phone and laid back on my pillow. At least this time our time apart wasn’t going to be for any terrible reason. I hated that he would be gone for another week, but he was the CEO of Stone Worldwide. I had to understand this kind of thing was going to happen once in a while. As long as we were together for the babies’ births, we could handle a few days apart as I busied myself with designing the nursery and bolstering Jordan’s spirit.
And then one week turned into two. And two weeks turned into three.
By the time late October came around, the jungle themed nursery was complete and Jordan was back on her emotional feet again. She’d even gone out on a date with a guy she’d met one night at Tony’s Pizza Heaven. It hadn’t been the beginning of a whirlwind romance, but it was a new beginning for her.
I had gained at least another five pounds, but other than feeling like a beached whale, I was happy, except for missing Tristan. Each day I hoped when he called that he’d say he was coming home, but the laws of the UK continued to make that an impossibility.
Jordan had to go back to school after our first few days together, so I spent my time doing what all the pregnancy books called “nesting.” Most days it involved an odd need to clean and straighten things, which confused Maria, but she was sweet about it, even if she couldn’t understand why I trailed behind her tidying up rooms she’d just finished cleaning.
I also spent an hour or so swimming each day. I’d read in one of my library of pregnancy books that it was a great activity for pregnant women since it allowed them to get exercise, but it wasn’t hard on the body.
So every day right around two in the afternoon, I put on my maternity one piece bathing suit and marched myself down to the pool. Just a few laps at a time with a rest in between each set, but it made me feel good, especially concerning the cramps in my legs, which had become an everyday occurrence. Sometimes the babies would move around as I swam, making me feel like the three of us were getting exercise. I’d talk to them and tell them how much their father and I couldn’t wait until we finally got to see their sweet faces, the sound of my words echoing in the pool area.
Like every other day, I climbed out of the pool after my swim on the last Friday before Halloween, tired but feeling good. Looking up at the clock on the far wall of the room, I saw it was close to three o’clock. Jordan would be back within two hours, and Tristan would be calling soon, hopefully with the news that he was finally coming home.
Grabbing my towel from the lounge chair, I bent down to dry my legs and feet, barely able to reach my toes because of my belly. As I wondered if I’d ever get back to my pre-pregnancy size, the room began to spin. Slowly I raised my head, remembering that lightheadedness was normal for pregnant women and all the books had said to move slowly to avoid making the dizziness worse, but it was no use. I reached out for the chair to keep my balance but missed it. The last thing I saw was that chair at eye level and the Italian tile floor of the pool deck coming up to greet me.
Darkness surrounded me as I felt my way along the smooth wall, unsure of where this was or how far away the exit was. The heat pressed down on me, making it hard to breathe, and sweat rolled down from my scalp into my eyes. I stopped to wipe my forehead with the back of my hand and then continued feeling my way, hoping my fingers would touch a doorframe or corner sometime soon.
My eyes strained to sense even the tiniest speck of light, but there was none. This was like swimming in a pot of black ink. I called out for Nina and the kids, hoping to hear their voices to lead me out of this darkness, but my pleas went unanswered. I had no idea how long I’d been here. Hours? Days? I didn’t have a clue. How far I’d walked down this hallway I didn’t know either. My legs ached, but I didn’t know if that was because of the heat or how far I’d gone.
My drenched collar rubbed against the skin on the back of my neck, and with each step, sweat rolled down my back beneath my shirt. Why was it so hot?
“Nina! Where are you? Can you hear me?”
Again, there was no answer from the darkness.
I felt the wall end and stopped, hope springing up inside me. Pushing my hands out in front of me, I searched for another wall or anything to guide me, but I felt nothing. I spread my arms to my left and right, but suddenly the wall that had been there for so long was now gone.
“Nina! Answer me! Tell me where you are!”
The faintest sound of a baby’s cry hit my ears and sent my body into overdrive. Nina and the kids were there, somewhere in the distance, and I had to find them. I lunged forward and felt the ground drop away beneath me. Flailing to grab onto anything, I fell through the darkness as the baby’s cry became louder and louder with each passing second.
The sound of my phone ringing pulled me from my nightmare, and I sat up trying to shake the memory of it from my mind. Every time I laid my head down I had a different version of the same nightmare—Nina needed my help, and I couldn’t find her, no matter how hard I tried. This one included a baby, but it was the same nightmare that had haunted me for weeks.
Swiping my finger across the face of my phone, I held it up to my ear and heard a female voice. “Tristan? Tristan, are you there?”
The voice on the other end fell silent. When I heard it again, I knew something was wrong. “It’s not Nina. Tristan, it’s Jordan. There’s been an accident.”
Suddenly, it felt like all the oxygen had been sucked from the room and I was left hanging suspended in midair with nothing to grasp onto. One thought ran through my mind—I had to get home. Jordan began explaining what happened, but I wasn’t listening anymore. Everything was moving in slow motion, even though I was racing around the room mindlessly throwing things into my suitcase. It was like moving under water in one sense and fast forward in another.
“…but I don’t know how long she was there. She usually took her swim between two and three, so I don’t think it was long. I don’t understand why this happened. She told me you hired more security, so why didn’t they see her lying there on the floor?”
I stopped dead and stared at the Teddy bear Nina had gotten me from the toy museum. Quietly, I answered Jordan’s question with the terrible truth. “Because of me. I turned off the security cameras in the pool area months ago.” I reached out and ran my finger over the soft fur of the stuffed animal staring up at me. “Because of me.”
Jordan’s voice shook with fear. “They brought her to the hospital near the house, but her doctor wanted her at Lenox Hill. I’m here, and her OB-GYN is in with her now. Tristan, you need to get here.”
“I’m coming. Tell her I’ll be there as soon I can.”
“Tristan, didn’t you hear me? She’s unconscious.”
I let the suitcase slip out of my hold onto the floor next to me. “What?”
“I don’t know how long she was lying there, but she was unconscious when I found her. Just come now. Please.”
My head felt like it was spinning as each word sank in. Nina needed me, and I was an ocean away. My pregnant wife had returned home alone, and I’d done nothing but give her excuses why I had to stay in London.
Swallowing hard, I said, “I’m coming, Jordan. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“I’ll be here right by her side, so don’t worry about her being alone. I’m here. I’ll see you in a few hours.”
The phone went dead, and I mechanically slipped it into my pocket, my brain shutting everything else out but thoughts of Nina and how once again I’d failed her when she needed me most.