Her phone sang its happy song from the crisp white countertop in front of her. She sat on a high wooden barstool, still in her lounge pants and a half t-shirt. When she saw his name on the display, a smile touched her delicate lips.
She picked up the phone and hooked a stray lock of dark hair behind her ear, swiped and held the phone to her head.
“Hi,” she said, and couldn’t keep the warmth out of her voice.
“Hi, you,” he said, and she heard his smile. “How’s the second month of marriage treating you?”
“It’s amazing,” she giggled, and leaned on the counter. “I miss you.”
“I miss you too.”
“How’s the trip going?”
“Well,” he sighed, “not as well as I hoped.”
“Oh, babe,” she said, “I’m sorry. Meetings going bad?”
“I…I haven’t been in them.”
“Things haven’t gone the way I hoped. That’s all.”
She shifted on her seat. “Any chance they’ll get better?”
He sighed. “I really don’t think so.”
“Oh, love,” she cooed. “I wish I could help.”
“So do I.”
“I wish I could be there with you.”
“No. I wouldn’t want…no.”
She blinked, barked a laugh of feigned insult. “You don’t want me there?”
“Not this time.”
“Well,” she said, and a sly grin danced over her face, “would it help if I told you what I’d wear?”
The smile faded from her face as seconds rolled by.
“Babe? Still there?”
“I’m here,” he said, and something heavy in his voice sent a chill down her spine. “Just a…just a bad flight out. That’s all.”
She shifted on the barstool again, looked out at the flat white-gray day, reflected in their white, modern kitchen. “I’m trying really hard not to get my feelings hurt, but…”
“I’m sorry, sweetie.”
“What’s wrong? What happened?”
The thud of her heartbeat drummed in her ears as the silence on the phone screamed.
“Babe?” she said, voice tight.
“I’m…here.” He sounded so depressed, so sad.
“Is the reception okay on your end, Love? I thought I’d lost you.”
Another silent beat, then two. “You did, babe.”
“I did?” She fidgeted now, uncomfortable.
“Have you seen the news this morning?” he said, and the strain in his voice caught her.
“No,” she said, and eased off the chair. “You’re scaring me. What’s wrong? What’s happening?”
His voice hitched. “It was a bad flight, hon. A bad one.”
She paced to the living room, stepped down into it, and snatched the remote from the coffee table. “How bad?”
He didn’t answer, and she stabbed the power button with her thumb. The TV put up a PLEASE WAIT message.
“Babe, how bad? Are you all right?”
“No,” his low voice froze her. “No, I’m not. It was as bad as you think.”
The picture on the TV showed a column of black smoke billowing from a smoldering crater, emergency vehicles and rescue workers scrambling and jostling. A news reporter in a heavy coat droned into a microphone, and the camera panned behind her toward strewn wreckage and flames.
She heard a gasp and realized it was her.
“It was a bad flight, babe,” he said, and static broke into the call.
A lump gagged her when she tried to swallow it. “Sweetie? Love, you’re scaring me! How bad? How bad was it?”
“I didn’t make it. I wanted to talk to you one more time, but there wasn’t any time. It happened so fast, and all I wanted was to say I lo–”
A burst of static and the phone went dead.
She pulled it down, and the screen was dark. Tears burned her eyes and a distant sound raked to her, when it finally dawned on her the sound was her screaming. Her hands shook as she swiped, called him back.
The cold automated voice told her the phone was not in service.
The TV images showed the frantic motions of the rescuers, flashing lights and water spraying, the choking black smoke. She blinked to clear her vision and huge tears rolled down her face.
The call log. The phone’s call log. Maybe…
She opened it, checked the incoming calls. And the last one came the night before.