They had the grounds to themselves, and he had a campfire going before the stars came out. He toasted marshmallows, and soon she was licking sticky blackened sugar off her fingers.
He leaned up against a rock and stared at the stars.
“Whatcha thinking about?”
He smiled. “I’ve got a buddy. Bill, back in Wilmington. I’ve grown up with him, practically. I’ve even asked his advice when I met you. I was wondering what he would think about me now.”
“What advice did he give?”
“‘Give the goth girl a closer look.’”
She chuckled. “Well, let him know....” She winced and shook her head.
“I’ve got to stop thinking about the future. It’s a bad habit.”
“Come here.” He patted the rock next to him.
She sat down on his lap instead.
He put protective arms around her. He could feel all the tension leak out of her body. He planted a kiss on her head.
“I’m a horrible person.”
He kissed her again. “I differ.”
“Whatever is coming in the morning. It could kill you, too. I should never have begged you to be here.”
“Silly. It was in the dream. Both our dreams. If these things are as immutable as you say, then there was nothing you could have done to keep me away.”
“But I should have tried!”
“Table all regrets until tomorrow. Tomorrow at noon. I’ll listen then.”
She was quiet for a bit. “Sam?”
“If you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do tonight?”
“I think I’d want to spend it proving to my wife how much I love her.”
“Oh, you have a wife somewhere?”
“I’ve got a piece of paper somewhere--now where did I put that?”
“Not signed yet.”
“Details, details. If God wants proof, I’ll blame it on bureaucracy. I didn’t have the stupid 72 hours from the moment I knew about your dead-line.”
She slapped him playfully.
“Cut that out--Wife.”
She sighed and her body tried to melt into his.
She mumbled too faintly for him to hear.
“What was that?”
“Oh, I was just trying it out. ‘Teri Delany.’ ‘Teri Jo Delany.’ It’s got a nice rhythm. Not so choppy like ‘Teri Perry’.”
“I like the sound of it.”
She shivered slightly.
“Well, the fire is turning to coals.”
“We do have a sleeping bag.”
“Yes, we do.”
He found a spot near where he’d parked the Jeep where tents had been set up in the past. It was flat and had been cleared free of stones. And it had a clear view of the ridge they’d be seeing in the morning.
She hesitated, suddenly bashful, with a hand on her buttons.
He cleared his throat. “There were a couple of things I learned from my vision.”
“One was just how much I loved you. And the other was just how much I enjoyed the sight of your body in the morning.”
“You got a good look, did you?”
“Not good enough.”
She corrected the oversight.
He joined her in the sleeping bag. They clung to each other, desperate for an anchor of stability in a moment poised to fall over the edge into infinity. If he could have, he would have taken the high road, and waited out a chaste 72 hours. He did not have that option. The other choice was to give his wife so much joy and love that she wouldn’t be able to fear the dawn.
Squeals of delight and other sounds echoed off the row of trees next to the campground while the stars above gave their silent approval.
Sam sniffed the dew on the sleeping bag. He pulled his head back in where a warm bundle of love had her legs twined with his.
“Still dark,” he whispered.
She squirmed, mostly asleep.
I can’t lose her. The idea that some danger could come out of the sky and blot out the most precious thing in his existence was impossible to grasp. But other impossibles had become real. He had to face it. The threat was too close. It was breathing down his neck.
He peered out. There was a hint of light to the east. And then, a streak of light crossed the sky in a fraction of a second. He flinched.
“Nothing. Just a meteor.”
There were meteor showers all year round, but his infallible memory didn’t have a listing for this calendar slot. Still, sporadics could happen at any time. It’s okay. It’s normal.
Teri tugged at the padded fabric. “It’s getting light.”
She put her hand on his chest. “Come back in here, just for a bit.”
There was no time for more than kisses and caresses. Still in the tight warmth, they were soon slick with sweat.
She opened the zipper and folded the sleeping bag top half back to let in air.
He marveled at her bright face and felt like he could get lost again in those dark brown eyes. There was enough light to highlight her bright red hair, so short it was almost a skull cap.
Sam loved her so sharply he could barely breathe.
But this was so familiar, and the danger was right out there coming for her.
She smiled at him, joyous in the light of the dawn. “It’s nearly time.”
No. It can’t be.
She locked her deep eyes on his and he could feel her love for him, trying to wash away his fears. “It’s how the world is supposed to be.”
I will not let you die.
He gripped her tighter. Her eyes widened, and all around them it got brighter and brighter. Behind his head, she was watching something coming at them.
There was an incredible flash, and a shock that shook his jaw with the force of his teeth clashing together.
For an instant, it seemed he was spread wide across time and space.
He collapsed, half draped across her.