A/N: This is a short story - 3 chapters long. It is an AU. I felt it worked better with Frank and Callie as opposed to Frank and Nancy. I love either pairing.
Callie gently placed the baby in the car seat. Eva was three weeks old and this was her first Christmas. She was dressed in a cozy, fleece onesie and a knit cap. Callie covered the baby with a soft, flannel blanket and tucked the edges into the car seat. No harsh wind would touch her precious daughter.
Callie was still in awe of the miniature human she and Frank had created. Eva was the most beautiful baby ever with the tiniest toes and fingers and the cutest little bow mouth. Of course, Callie might be a bit bias in her opinion. What mother wasn't?
Callie let out a heartfelt sigh. She gazed upon her sleeping baby and the delicate black lashes resting against her small, creamy cheeks. Callie had thought she knew what love was, real love. Eva had proved her wrong. The love Callie felt for her child was overwhelming. It was more powerful than any force in the universe. It was so powerful that at times, it hurt. Physically hurt. At night when Callie watched Eva sleeping in her crib, she thought her heart would burst. Her heart simply could not contain all the love she held for her daughter. Her joy and happiness knew no bounds.
Frank appeared in the doorway. "The suitcases are in the car and it's warmed up inside."
Callie looked over at her husband of two years. He was a good man and a wonderful father. Undying love shone in his eyes. Love for her and Eva. Callie's life was blessed and she knew it.
"I just have to get the diaper bag and my purse," Callie said.
Frank walked over to the sofa and smiled down at his daughter. A small, perfect human, sleeping peacefully. "I'll take Eva to the car and get her car seat buckled in," he said.
Callie smiled to herself. Frank grabbed every precious moment he could to be with his daughter.
"Thanks," Callie said. "I'll check the house and lock up and then we're on our way."
On their way to Bayport to see both sets of parents. Parents who now claimed the coveted title of grandparents. Eva was the first grandchild for both sets.
Callie grabbed the diaper bag from the bedroom and checked that it held all the necessary supplies for a newborn. My, but babies required a lot of stuff. And I wouldn't have it any other way, Callie thought. She was now a proud diaper bag toting mommy. Oh, she knew how lucky she was. She had a beautiful baby girl and was fortunate enough to be able to stay home and care for her child.
Callie's job as a freelance journalist for the local newspaper allowed her the freedom to work from home. Frank was a police officer on the small force in the small town in which they lived. His hours were fixed. He worked 8 to 5 Monday through Friday and had the occasional weekend shift. The work wasn't challenging and Callie knew Frank would soon outgrow the job. Then they would move to a bigger town with a bigger police force. For now though, Frank said he was getting his feet wet. As for Callie, she was getting used to being a wife and a mother. Their small town afforded her the time and space to ease into both. It also afforded Callie and Frank a comfortable distance from their parents. They weren't too far away and not too close. That allowed Callie and Frank to have a life of their own and to learn to depend on themselves. Of course, if an emergency occurred, their parents were only four hours away.
Callie checked the house, made sure all the lights were off, and scooped her purse off the coffee table in the living room. She took one last look around the modest home she and Frank had bought and decorated. There were touches of both of them in the furnishings and pictures on the wall. Their Christmas tree stood in the corner looking forlorn. In some ways, Callie wished she and Frank and little Eva were staying here and spending their first Christmas as a family alone, yet together.
Not going to happen this year, Callie told herself. Eva was a big attraction and if Callie and Frank were not driving to Bayport to be with the grandparents, the grandparents would be driving to Callie and Frank.
Callie inserted the key in the lock and locked the door. The air was bitterly cold and she wished she had put on her gloves. She looked up at the metal gray sky and tiny snowflakes pelted her cheeks. Thank goodness, Frank had warmed up the car before putting Eva inside it.
# # # #
Daisy brushed a strand of gray hair from her face and looked out the kitchen window. Her gaze traveled over the snow covered fields and to the snow gathering on the roof of the barn. Mark her words, they were in for a freeze tonight. Daisy had lived long enough to know such things without listening to the weatherman.
And Daisy knew her farm. She had been born and raised here. Married her husband Anson here. After her parents died, she had inherited the farm and all the acreage that came with it. Daisy had known great joy and great sorrow on this land. All part of the inevitable cycle of life. The good Lord giveth and the good Lord taketh away.
Daisy saw Anson coming back from the barn. She had sent him out there to check on the animals. He was her rock and had loved her deeply for over forty-five years. He had shared in the joys and sorrows of life right along with her. She saw the wind tug at his coat and hat. He would be cold. She went to the stove and turned the flame on under the tea kettle. Anson deserved a hot cup of tea.
# # # #
Anson hung his coat and hat on the hooks inside the back door. He heard the kettle whistle and grinned. Daisy took good care of him. At times, she seemed to know what he wanted or needed before he did. He sat on the wooden bench and removed his snowy, muddy boots and set them on the bristle rug to dry. They were in for a storm tonight. Daisy had told him so this morning. He never questioned her about her 'predictions' as he called them. All he knew was, she was rarely wrong.
Daisy handed him a cup of tea as soon as he entered the kitchen. "I thought you'd like a hot cup of tea," she said. "It looks cold out there."
"It is." He nodded and took the tea. The cup warmed his icy hands nicely.
"Dinner's close to being ready. Another thirty minutes."
Daisy had a roast going in the oven and it smelled heavenly. Fresh rolls were on the counter waiting their turn in the oven.
Daisy took two plates out of the cupboard and set them on the table. "You gave the animals extra hay?"
Anson sipped his tea. It was sweetened with honey and cinnamon. "Yes and I refilled all their water troughs, too. Not a one of them will go hungry or thirsty tonight." He watched his wife gather silverware and napkins and place them on the table beside the plates.
"It's going to freeze tonight," Daisy said not making eye contact with her husband. Instead, she checked the rolls.
Anson knew she was avoiding eye contact with him. After forty-five years together, he knew her ways and her moods. There was something on her mind, something she didn't want to discuss with him, something she felt he wouldn't understand. Although, given a chance, he was sure he would.
Give me a chance. Please.
They had shared their lives together here. Built a home and worked the land together. They had experienced joy and regret .. together .. side by side. Whatever was on Daisy's mind, whatever had her fretful, Anson felt certain he would understand it … if only she gave him a chance.
# # # #
Frank was officially worried. The sun was setting, the temperature was dropping, and the snow was coming down in big, fat flakes and beginning to gather on the road. Road conditions were worsening by the minute. Frank was going a measly thirty miles an hour. A trip that was supposed to take four hours had now stretched to five and counting.
Callie was in the back seat. She had just finished nursing Eva and was tucking the sleepy baby back in her car seat.
Frank used the rearview mirror to check on Callie and Eva. They were the two most precious things in his life. It was his duty to protect them from harm and danger. Right now, the weather posed a huge danger to all of them. Frank had come to the realization that he and Callie would not reach Bayport tonight. Not with the snow like this. It was too dangerous to be on the road. Frank needed to find a hotel. He and his little family could continue on to Bayport in the morning, road conditions permitting.
"Oh my God," Callie said from the back seat.
Frank's gaze flickered to the rearview mirror. He saw the concern in Callie's eyes as she stared out the windows, gaping at the falling snow. The snow had increased its fury while Callie had nursed Eva. It was coming down thick and furious now.
"Frank, can you even see the road?"
"Barely," he admitted and figured he might as well give her the rest of the bad news. "We need to find a hotel, Cal. I'm sorry, but we're not going to make it to Bayport tonight. Not in weather like this. It's too dangerous."
In the rearview mirror, Frank saw Callie's face fall, but she quickly recovered. "I'll see what my phone says about hotels."
"Thanks." Frank was relieved to have Callie focus on finding them a hotel. That left him free to concentrate on the road and the drifting snow.
# # # #
A dejected Frank walked back to the car, opened the door, and got in. The car was dark and the air cooling fast. He pulled off his knit cap and tossed it on the passenger's seat. "They're full," he told Callie. This was the second hotel to turn them away. "I argued with the desk clerk. I told her we have a baby and asked if we could spend the night in the lobby. I offered to pay her."
Frank felt Callie's eyes on him, waiting for the answer.
"She said no." Frank felt the crushing weight of those words. "But she did say there's a Bed and Breakfast about twenty-five miles down the road. She wrote down the directions." Frank pulled a piece of paper from his jacket pocket and passed it to Callie in the back seat.
Callie took the paper and powered up her phone. The phone's light allowed her to read the directions. When she finished, she lifted her head and looked at Frank. "It's not that far. Twenty-five miles."
"That could take another hour or hour and a half in this weather," Frank warned her.
Callie laid her phone on the seat and adjusted the blanket covering Eva. Callie wanted her baby in a warm, cozy room on a warm, cozy bed. "I'm okay with that, if we find a room." There was a calm acceptance in her voice. "Do we have enough gas to make it there?"
Frank grimaced. So, Callie had noticed. "We should look for a gas station," he said.
# # # #
The gas station was closed. Locked up tight. The lights were on, but nobody was home. The Bed and Breakfast had been closed, too. Closed for the season, the sign had said. How could the hotel clerk not have known that?
Things were becoming desperate. Frank turned to Callie in the back seat. The glow from the gas station's lights filtered into the car, revealing the scene in the back seat. Little Eva was fussing and Callie was trying everything she could to calm the baby.
The poor thing had spent over six hours in a car seat instead of her crib, or on her mat on the living room floor. This wasn't a typical day for Eva.
Frank drew in a breath, released it, and delivered devastating news. "Cal, we have to consider the option of spending the night in the car. We're almost out of gas."
"What?" Callie thought of how cramped her legs were and how sick she was of being in the car. It had been close to seven hours now. Of course, the alternative of freezing to death made the car look like a four star hotel. "Do we have enough gas to run the heater all night?"
Frank averted his gaze. There in lay the problem. Heat. And gas. Gasoline was needed in order to run the car and, therefore, heat the car. Frank shifted his gaze back to Callie. "No. We're almost out of gas. I'd have to be very careful with running the heater. I'm thinking you and Eva can bed down in the back and I'll stay awake so I can turn the car on and off throughout the night. If we can make it to morning …"
"Someone is bound to find us once it's daylight," Callie finished.
"Exactly. This gas station should open up by seven or eight in the morning. That's twelve hours from now."
The car was turned off at the moment and already, Frank felt the cold seeping in. His feet were numb. Could they survive the cold for twelve hours? They didn't have any blankets in the car. No bottled water or food. Poor planning on Frank's part and he blamed himself entirely for their situation.
You should have considered the weather, he scolded himself.
Callie's voice brought him out of his funk. "Can you hold Eva? I want to check the restroom. With any luck, it'll be unlocked."
Frank gladly took the squirming baby and cooed to her. She seemed to brighten at the sound of daddy's deep voice.
Callie zipped up her jacket, pulled the hood over her head, and wrapped a scarf around her neck. When she opened the door, Frank felt the frigid air sweep in. He watched Callie walk through the falling snow and to the building. Lights illuminated the outside of the building. Callie disappeared from sight for several minutes and then reappeared.
"Any luck?" Frank asked when Callie was finally settled in the passenger's seat beside him.
"The women's room was locked, but the men's room was open. It wasn't very clean, and the water was ice cold, but it had a toilet." Callie gave Frank a weak smile.
They sat in the car, bundled in their jackets, for an hour. They called their parents and informed them they would not be arriving tonight. Frank and Callie lied and said they had found a hotel to stay in. Neither person wanted their parents worrying about them and the baby, not this close to Christmas Eve.
They entertained Eva as best they could and discussed walking around, searching for a nearby house, maybe a friendly couple would take them in for the night. However, from what they could see through the rapidly falling snow, the gas station was isolated.
The wind increased and buffeted the car. Walking anywhere, for any length of time, was now out of the question. Frank had to turn the car on and, thus, the heater, more often than he liked. They were going to have to endure the cold for longer periods if they didn't want to run out of gas.
Another hour passed. The car grew colder and Callie grew more anxious. Frank could see it in the nervous bounce of her leg. Eva was snug and warm in Frank's arms. He had her tucked in under his jacket, providing her extra heat. She was perfection. Her little bow mouth made sucking motions. She was a sleeping angel that he never tired of looking at, but she was in danger. Frank racked his brain for a solution to their problem.
"I have to get out and stretch," Callie suddenly said. "I can't take sitting in this car another minute."
Frank sympathized. His lower back had begun to ache from sitting so long, but he dreaded Callie opening the door. It would let precious warm air escape.
"I won't take long," Callie said. "I just need to stretch and move." Her eyes pleaded for understanding.
"I understand," Frank said. "Don't go far." Compassion and love shone on his face.
# # # #
Callie put her hood over her head and exited the car quickly. She shut the door softly so as not to wake Eva and crammed her gloved hands in her jacket pockets. The wind snatched at loose tendrils of hair and flattened them across Callie's face. The cold bite at her cheeks and she thought about rushing back into the car. The temperature difference between outside and inside was significant.
Callie used a gloved hand to brush the wayward strands of hair off her face and wandered around the gas station parking lot. She looked to the heavens. All she saw was snow, a vicious whirl of gusting snow. She searched beyond the gas station, beyond this little world that she and Frank had inhabited for the past two hours. What lay in the distance?
And then she saw it. A light on a pole, or a tall building, shining like a star in the night.
Safety and shelter lay beneath that light. Callie somehow knew it and hurried back to the car.