THE CRACK of the thunder woke her from a sound sleep. Next to her Rafe lay still, unaffected by the raging storm pelting the apartment building. Snuggling closer to his warmth for a feel of security, René felt his arm tighten around her at her shifting. He was her pillar of strength during the rough points in her life.
They had been married almost five years. Their anniversary was coming up in a month, and she’d been planning a party behind his back. Keeping it a secret was hard, as he had come into the room where she was making plans with a caterer or talking on the phone with the musicians.
“Is my baby scared of the storm?” his whispered words were sweetly spoken. Rafe knew of her fear of storms, and he loved that she looked to him for safety. She made him feel as if he was everything in her world.
Outside there was great wind whipping around them. Usually the sounds of nature weren’t heard within their apartment. This storm was definitely not to be ignored. The rain pelted the bedroom window. Then louder, until they both realized it was hail that was falling.
The sounds quieted for just a few moments before the howl was heard, what some would call a freight train roar. The rain and hail couldn’t be heard over the solid whoosh of the wind going wild inside a giant vacuum.
Rafe was pushing her away from him. “Get on the floor, next to the bed.” His tone was harsh. He knew they were in immediate danger, that outside their home was the ragings of a tornado. He’d heard it before.
“Not without you, Rafe.” René didn’t want to be away from him, even if it would be inches that separated them.
Pushing her toward the edge of the bed, he gave answer. “I’ll be right behind you.” As she slipped off the mattress, he scooted his body toward the edge following her.
At that moment, part of the roof lifted above their bedroom, slammed down, then lifted again and flew away. The noise was deafening, rain and hail pelted down through the large hole above the bed.
“Rafe!” René tried to scream for him, but his name was lost before it reached her ears. “Where are you?”
There was no answer, and she wondered he had heard her.
She lay on the carpet, as much under the bed as she could get. Only an arm was beneath, and a leg. The bed was too close to the floor for her to get under it. The feel of suction made her wonder if she would be pulled out through the ceiling. The rain and hail wasn’t hitting her, yet she heard it pelting the dresser above her head.
Then all was almost too quiet. The wind was still howling, but it sounded as if it were miles away. The rain now soaked through her gown, leaving her shivering. Lightning flashed and thunder followed, but not as it had a few moments before, when it would crash through the air before the light had a chance to leave.
Where are you? Rafe, you were following me. Where are you? The words went through her mind, but she wasn’t able to get them out through her lips. She was afraid to move, yet she couldn’t just lie there not knowing.
Slowly René lifted her upper body, shivering in the wet cold that came from above her. Her hand on the mattress, she pulled herself to sitting, where she could see that the bed was empty. Panic hit her when her husband was nowhere to be found.
“Rafe? Are you on the other side of the bed?” There was no answer. “Rafe?” Scrambling up on the bed, across it, she peered over the other side to see the empty floor. “Rafe!” Her husband’s name came from her in a scream that should have been heard by all her neighbors.
Nothing came in return. Again and again, she shouted his name. He was nowhere in the room. He
hadn’t had time to get out on his own.