Sitting in front of a half-painted easel in the middle of my little studio with the window shades drawn for the perfect lighting, I stop painting and lay my brush to the side. As I wipe my hands on my smock, I listen closely as a siren from an emergency vehicle draws near.
Any sort of action is noticed in a town the size of French Settlement. If Ms. Becky burns a cake, the whole town knows about it. And the day Mr. Johnson’s truck got stuck in the pond, practically every person was there to witness the fire department getting it unstuck.
Yes, the fire department, because, generally, they don’t have a lot to keep them busy.
So, sirens this close to town, especially on a Saturday morning, are a rare thing.
I watch out the window and listen for a minute or two as the sirens seem to get closer. Unable to curb my curiosity, I walk from the back of the studio, through the gallery, and out onto the sidewalk.
No one is around. My SUV is the only vehicle on the street. So, it doesn’t surprise me when the sirens get further away. There must be something going on out on the highway.
My heart skips a beat because I hate thinking about anyone being in a wreck or anything like that. As I walk back into the gallery, I say a quick prayer for whoever it is. Normally, that’s enough to help me relax. I always pray when I drive by a wreck or see an ambulance fly by.
But, as I sit back down at my easel and pick my paint brush back up, my heart still feels like it’s in my throat.
As I wait for another minute, still hearing sirens off in the distance, I decide to calm my nerves with a call to Annie. Carter is staying out there with her and Sam this morning because my daddy and Kay went into Baton Rouge to buy a new sofa.
“Hey, honey.” Annie’s voice sounds calm and chipper, so I try to make my stomach take a cue from her.
“How’s it going this morning? Everything alright?”
“I was calling to ask you the same,” I say, laughing at my paranoia. Since Carter came into my life, I have a tendency to be a bit over-protective. I now understand why my daddy was always keeping a tight rein on me when I was little. It would kill me when he wouldn’t let me do everything the boys did. But now I get it. I don’t know how I’d feel if Carter had been a girl. Being the mom of a boy is bad enough. It might be worse on some levels because boys can be such little dare devils.
“Everything is right as rain out here,” she says, with a clang of a pot in the background. “Me and Carter are whippin’ up some banana nut muffins.”
“We’ll be sure to save you some.”
“Don’t let Deke eat them all.”
“You’re in luck. He went into the restaurant to finish up some paperwork.”
“I thought he was takin’ the day off.”
“Well, he said if you were gonna be busy all day at the gallery, he might as well get ahead on some ordering.”
“Okay,” I say, the nervous ball back in my stomach. “Did Micah go in with him?”
“No, Micah’s in Baton Rouge this mornin’. He must’ve stayed at the apartment last night.”
“I think these muffins are ready to go in the oven. What do you think, Carter?” I can hear Carter telling her they’re ready. He loves being in the kitchen with Annie. I think he takes after his Uncle Micah in that sense. “Will we see ya for lunch?”
“Yeah, I should be done by then.”
After I hang up with Annie, I still can’t get the worry to go away. I think about taking a drive out to the highway just to check things out myself, but that would be silly. I’m not sure what’s going on, but whatever it is, I doubt they need an extra rubber-necker.
So instead, I sit back down on my stool and hit send on Deacon’s number, smiling as his handsome face comes up on the screen of my phone.
“It’s Deacon Landry. Sorry I missed your call. Please leave a message.”
I pull the phone away from my ear and frown at the screen, hitting end and immediately hitting the button to call again.
Maybe he left his phone in his truck?
He does that sometimes.
Taking a deep breath as I try to stay calm, I begin to pace around the room as I call the restaurant. Normally, if Deacon’s doing paperwork, he won’t answer the phone, but if he’s at his desk and sees it’s me, he will.
After five rings, the long message for Pockets comes over the phone.
“Thank you for calling Pockets, Home of the Gator Pocket. Our hours are Monday through Thursday, eleven to eleven. Friday and Saturday, two to two. We’re located on Highway 16. You can’t miss us. Hope to see you soon!”
I don’t know why I listen to the entire message. It’s not like Deacon can answer once the voicemail picks up.
Staring at the phone, I hit redial for the restaurant, letting it ring until the message starts over.
After three more tries, I call Deacon’s phone again.
Still no answer.
I can’t ignore the feeling in the pit of my stomach. There’s no way I can paint like this, so I might as well drive out to the restaurant and see for myself. I’m sure everything is fine, and I’ll have wasted fifteen minutes of my day, but I can’t relax until I know he’s okay.
As I pick up my purse and keys, my phone rings in my hand. I let out a relieved sigh until I see that it’s not Deacon who’s calling.
“Cami.” Sam’s voice comes over the phone, and he sounds worried, which makes my heart beat even faster, and my knees feel weak. I don’t even need him to tell me something’s wrong. I know it. I can feel it deep in my bones.