“Matt!” she yelled despite her scratchy throat. I can’t reach the car.”
The silence was broken by the patter of dirt falling. A rumble followed by another threatening heave made her press to the floor. She crossed her arms over her head and prayed.
“Where are you?” Matt shouted.
“The headlights are near my head, a big slab of concrete to the right between me and the car,” she gasped.
“Stay where you are,” he ordered. His commanding voice filled her with relief. He was a fireman. He knew what he was doing. The headlights went out but a powerful light flickered back and forth over the crack. “I’m looking for an opening.”
“Hey, If I could move, I’d be out of here,” she replied. The sudden surge of relief had her dizzy. Matt had come for her. And she planned to accept that dinner invitation. Her fingers curled in the silt and she pushed sideways so she could look the other way. A faint gleam appeared and she realized there was a hole. With fierce determination she managed to wiggle around. Her blouse tore with a ragged sound and her shoulder scrapped painfully on the encroaching walls.
“Are you hurt?” he asked.
“Just scratches and bruises,” she panted as she crept forward. “I can see your flashlight. There’s a hole.”
“Be careful. Don’t knock anything lose. The whole garage came down.”
Belle winced but didn’t ask about her store. That wasn’t as important as Matt’s safety.
“But you’re okay? Do you know about the rest of the city? The church? My parents?” her voice ended on a wobbly squeak.
“Hush. Hush. The quake is pretty localized. No reported loss of life. I helped rescue some others on the upper levels, but I told them I had to find you.”
“Can you see me?” Belle reached the opening and thrust her arm through. She started to cry. “It’s too small. I can’t get through.”
His warm hand closed around hers. “I’ve got you. Don’t be afraid.”
“I’m not. Not since you got here. I know it’s silly to feel safe, but that how you make me feel.”
Know he was so close sent hope rocketing through her. She tried twisting her shoulders sideways, but remained trapped.
“I should have gone on a diet,” she grumbled under her breath.
“Don’t be silly. You’re perfect the way you are.” Matt shook her hand gently. “I’ll get you out.”
“But how? That concrete is a foot thick.” She wondered if she sounded as frantic as she felt.
“I wish I could hold you. I know you’re anxious.” His fingers tightened and her eyes filled with tears. “Hang on. I have tools with me to chip away some of that block and if that doesn’t work, the department had bigger ones. Are you thirsty?”
“Oh, yes,” she managed, suddenly aware her throat felt like a desert road. The light brightened as he moved the flashlight closer. Her gaze moved over the jagged cement and twisted rebar as he fit a plastic bottle into her fingers.
“You need to keep hydrated. Drink that,” he instructed.
“Is it like the magic potion Alice drank? Will I shrink so I can get through that opening?”
“Don’t I wish. Then we could share a magic chocolate to return you to normal.” His familiar laugh wrapped around her like cocoon and she drank carefully. It wasn’t easy lying on her stomach. Water splashed down her chin. She dug in her pocket for a tissue and found the chocolate. The wrapped pieces were intact. She took a couple out.
“Matt? I have that magic chocolate here. Take one.” Although she was enclosed by the blocks, she managed to reach out and handed him one of his favorites.
“What a girl! Just what I needed. Did you know your kiss tasted sweet? ” She heard the rustle of the wrapper and smiled. She bit into one and the flavor filled her mouth.
The walls shook. Rumbling deafened her. Matt’s hand snagged hers and she clutched him. A piece of rebar jabbed her in the back and she squirmed sideways. The slab was coming down.
Matt yanked on her arm as the world tilted.
She popped through the twisting hole like a raft over rapids. She felt his powerful arms wrap her in a protective embrace. When everything settled she was sprawled over him.
“Don’t call me,” she whispered.
“Why not?” he said and gave her a quizzical stare. His arms remained locked around her and she pressed her face to his chest. The thick rubber protective clothes felt strange under her hands, but his familiar form reassured her.
“That number is no longer in service.” She sighed and gestured at the rubble. He laughed and kissed her. His mouth felt like home.
A long moment later he lifted his head. “Much as I’d like to continue, we need to get out of here.”
Belle nodded. He crept through a jungle of broken slabs and she kept on hand on his thigh as she followed.
Her parents were waiting outside. She scrambled to her feet, but didn’t let go of Matt. Her heart filled with joy. Everyone she loved was safe. She had gotten her best wish.
“Come and meet my parents. You’re coming to dinner. I’m not wasting another day wishing.”
A happy ending.
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A really special holiday was post on the Roses of Prose blog and will be in
Just One Wish, a Christmas Anthology