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From “Fire Extinguisher”
by Rowan Elizabeth
Middle-of-the-night sirens wake me. I pull up on my elbows and my covers slip down past my breasts.
Fuck. I hate midnight runs.
I tune in on the direction of the sirens. If they get louder, the guys are headed for downtown. If they grow dim, it could be the interstate. I can’t wish for either. No one wants a house fire. No one wants a nasty wreck.
The sirens scream closer and then past, one street over.
“Be careful, guys,” I whisper into the dark and flop back into my pillow. I desperately want to call my husband. But he’s on that ride. Geared up. Adrenaline pumping. So, I pull the covers up to my chin and wait for his text when it’s all done.
Eric has been on every type of run. The ones he laughs about and the ones he won’t talk about, even to me. I hope tonight’s run is another black-humor night.
But then I hear more sirens as the ambulance and a couple of police cars follow.
Eric’s in charge of the fighters on this run. He’s the shift lieutenant—always in control and fiercely tough. He never stands back and barks orders. He’s in the smoke and flames or in a gasoline pool with the rest of them.
I am firmly on the awake side of sleep. He’ll text. He always does.
At six-twenty-three in the morning, he texts me a simple message.
It was ugly.
He’ll need me today in a way he doesn’t always need me.
I get up and begin getting ready for him.
Eric will shower off the soot and smoke and stench from his skin and come home to me in his blue work T-shirt and pants—provided another run doesn’t make itself known.
I down a Diet Coke and protein bar for energy as I make up the bed. I reach behind the covers at the head and pull up the soft rope ties. I take in a deep, humming breath as I run them through my fingers. Too soft to make marks, unless one really fights hard.
I pin up my hair and jump in the bath, where I shave everything smooth. I dry and lotion and slip into a tight, floor-length blue nightgown.
I putter around, straightening the house a bit, until I know his shift is over and I’ve heard no new sirens.
My heart beats faster when I hear the garage door open and then close behind his SUV. He’ll be exhausted, so I simply wait in the kitchen for him to come through the door.
I watch as he pushes the door open and sees me. I smile and open my hands, beckoning him.
I see his strong body relax in relief. I know what he needs. After a night like this one, he no longer has to make every decision.
“Come here,” I tell him.
Eric slumps in on himself and reaches me in three long strides. Leaning in, he wraps his thick arms around my waist and rests his head on my breasts.
I let him relax into me as I stroke the skin of his shaved head. A shiver of anticipation runs through me. He feels the electricity.
I lift his face between my two hands and kiss his lips. “Follow me,” I instruct him.
I take his hand and walk toward the stairs. Leading him up, I feel the tension in his grip. It was a bad night. Worse than I will imagine. It will make the paper. I will read about it. He may or may not talk to me about it. But for now, that doesn’t matter.
We reach our bedroom and I bring him to the end of the bed.
I kneel down and unlace his boots, removing them.
“Take off your shirt.”
Eric pulls at his tee and rakes it up over his head. I take it from him and lay it on the laundry basket.
I run my hands over his muscled chest and push him down on the bed.
Eric inches up the bed and rests his head on the pillows.
“Shut your eyes.”
I run my hand up his left pant leg as I walk around to the head of the bed. Over his taut belly and chest, I trace my way.
I reach for his arm and pull it up to the rope. Expertly wrapping his wrist in the soft bind, I tie his left arm to the bed. He doesn’t flinch, but relaxes into it.
Half-tied would work for any other night. But not tonight.
I straddle his prone body and stretch his right arm up and out. The rope encompasses his wrist nicely, and he’s all mine—control relinquished. I smile.