The clock on the wall had become her enemy, and each tick of the second hand was one more stab to her heart. Her lover was late. Lauren had promised to be home at five, and it was now quarter to eight. She had called Lauren's office and they had confirmed that she had left at the usual time. So where was she? Christie was fifteen minutes' away from calling the neighboring hospitals.
Her fingernails were slowly being whittled away by her teeth in an explosion of nervous energy. Had she crashed the car? Was she hurt or, worse, dead? Christie didn't want to think about it but she could do nothing else but. She tried valiantly to dismiss the morbid thoughts from her mind, instead thinking of other reasons for her partner's tardiness.
Christie tried to think who it could be. Was it a work colleague or maybe a friend? It was a stupid thing to do, and she knew that, but in her mind it was a better option than dwelling on the thought that Lauren was tangled in a twisted heap of metal, her mangled body lying lifeless in her car at the bottom of a deep ravine somewhere.
Christie's gaze went to the clock on the wall once more, disappointed that the minute hand had only moved one notch. Why did time go so slowly in times of crisis? The phone rang loudly, its shrill ring cutting through the silence. She rushed to the phone and her hand hesitated over the receiver. Was it good news or bad? Tentatively she picked it up.
Christie mentally cursed the woman who bore her. "Mom? Is something wrong?" she asked politely, wishing that the conversation was over.
"What's the matter with you?" the voice down the line accused her, "Can't a mother phone up her daughter on her birthday?"
Christie had been so concerned about Lauren that she had forgotten about her birthday.
"You sure can. Thanks, mom."
At that precise moment Christie heard a car pull up in the driveway. "Can I call you back? Someone's at the front door." And it was someone that she prayed was uninjured.
Christie heard a key slide easily into the lock and the door opened. As soon as she saw Lauren's face she ran and threw herself into her lover's arms, forcing the woman to drop everything to catch her. "Oh, God. You scared the life out of me."
"Yeah?" Lauren looked at her perplexed.
"It's nearly eight. Where were you?"
"Your mother reminded me that today was a very special day." Lauren put Christie on her feet and reached down to pick up the floral arrangement from the floor. "These are for you." She presented the red roses and placed a gentle kiss on Christie's cheek. "But this took a little longer." Lauren held up a tiny diamond-encrusted heart pendant. "I'm sorry if I had you worried. Happy birthday, hon.