The soft footsteps of my five-year-old son, James Junior, who my husband and I nicknamed JJ, drew my attention from the screen of the television. He should be in bed but here he was in his pyjamas, a thumb in his mouth and his cuddly teddy bear clutched with the other hand to his chest.
"Sweetheart, It's almost midnight. What are you doing out of bed?" I asked as I drew him into my arms. I buried my face in his neck and sniffed in his warm, sweet scent and somehow it anchored me against the anxiety and sorrow I felt.
A warm bulk of fluffy coat bumped my leg and I knew Scooter, our Bearded Collie pet dog, had come downstairs with JJ. I ruffled his head as well.
"Mummy, are you okay?" My sensitive JJ asked. I smiled hesitantly. I did not know how to answer his question. I just held him to myself and glued my eyes to the TV.
On the screen was the breaking news that an airplane belonging to Air Maxina flight AMX-14700 crashed beside the Jetty river and there was barely any survivor. James, my husband, was on board the same flight on his way home from his work conference having been gone for a week.
It was our seventh wedding anniversary and he wanted to make it home on time so we could celebrate as a family. His company had booked their return flight for the next day but I wanted my husband with me today. It seemed I made a terrible mistake cajoling him to make it home today because I missed him so much.
In excitement, I had put JJ to bed and came downstairs, eagerly waiting for James to come home. To distract me a little, I turned on the TV. The late night news anchor was in a heated debate on a political topic with three guests when he stopped momentarily and tapped his index finger to his right ear.
The TV screen cut out the guests and zeroed in on his face as he announced, "We apologize to our viewers but we have to stop this program at this point to bring you this breaking news. There has been a fatal plane crash. Air Maxina flight AMX-14700 has been reported to have crashed close to the Jetty river. Reports just reaching us says the pilots and crew attempted an emergency landing after one of its engines failed and combusted."
I think I must have blanked out because there was a ringing sound in my ears as I blinked my eyes repeatedly to read the same news in bold letters as it scrolled round in a circle at the bottom of the screen. I gasped and cupped my face. Oh my God! James!
"We have a live view of the crash scene now. Let us take you there. Viewers are hereby advised that these scenes may shock and disgust you." The news anchor solemnly gave the warning as the tv changed the screen to reveal the sight of the crash beside the river.
This was real. I slowly slipped down from the sofa I was sitting on to the rug as I curled into myself, tears flowing down my cheek. No. No, please. No. Dear God, no, please. My husband.
I bit down on my knuckles to keep myself from bawling loudly. What have I done?
"Report says there seem to be no survivors but the rescue team, volunteers and EMTs are working hard to see if there are…" I scrambled to pick the remote and turn off the TV when I heard JJ coming downstairs. I quickly wiped my face with my palms.
JJ, Scooter and I huddled close for a long time that I had no idea time had passed. Scooter raised his head, whined a little and went to stand by the front door, wagging his tail. It was 12.45 am. The doorbell rang. JJ had fallen asleep in my arms. I sniffed and gently laid him on the sofa.
The doorbell rang again. I dragged my feet to the door, my heart thumping out of fear. Are the officials here to tell me about my husband? I took a deep breath, wiped my hands on my dress and slowly opened the door as the chain lock would allow.
I could not believe my eyes. There stood my husband of seven years, wet from head to toe, and looking a bit dirty. His eyes were stormy and intense and I knew he had been to the land of the dead and back.
"Jessica." He whispered because I was in shock. His eyes travelled from my hair to stop at my mouth and back to my eyes. I could not stop staring at him. "Jessica, open the door. It's me."
Tears threatened. "James! The news...the crash."
"Shh, I know. I barely made it. I fell into the river and it saved me. I'm here now. Let me in."
I shut the door to unlock the chain and opened it widely. He was empty-handed without his luggage. It must have been lost in the crash. I jumped into his arms as he squeezed me to himself and buried his head in my hair. He was home.