Somewhere Below (Excerpt)

By Denisse Perez

"You're going to miss your flight."
"Don't worry, I'm not going to miss it. Just give me a few minutes." She was rummaging through the piles of clothes on her bed. Shirts, pants, jackets, all flying in every direction.
"Have you seen my wallet with my passport?"
"Didn't you put it in your bag already?"
"Did I?"
"You always get like this when you travel." Adam reached for her purse, and after digging around for a few seconds, he pulled out her black leather travel wallet.
"This is it, right?" He handed it to her.
"Oh my god, thank you!" She grabbed it and threw it back into her travel bag. Adam rolled his eyes.

    Emma always got anxious when she traveled. Her disorganized nature meant that getting herself ready for her travels was never actually easy. Although Emma loved going to new places, the process of getting there tormented her. It was a miracle she continued doing it. Adam, on the other hand, was extremely organized but hated traveling. He was terrified of airplanes - a fear that came from seeing a documentary on plane crashes at the young age of seven, from which he never recovered. To accommodate for his phobia he traveled by road, and had never left the country. Emma had been to four continents and many more countries. They were, what many would call, complete opposites. While some may have considered their relationship destined for failure, Adam and Emma had already been together for ten years. She accepted that Adam would never join her on her trips to far off countries. Adam thus accepted that Emma would be gone for many weeks at a time, traveling to far off countries. Somehow, they made it work.

"Will you write to me when you get to your apartment?"
"Of course!"
"You say that, but last time you forgot and I was worried sick for hours."
"In my defense, I had just traveled through mountainous terrain and nearly lost my life."
"Yeah, that doesn't make it any better. Because I knew you were going to be going through mountainous terrain. I was certain your car had been driven off a cliff."
"It almost was."
"Emma, please."
"I promise. And when I get back, we're going to have dinner at Tony's, right?"
"We will. So come home safe."
"I always do, don't I?"
"I know. I love you Emma."
"I love you too, Adam. I'll be home before you know it!"

    The ringing of a phone broke through Adam's sleep. His eyes had difficulty focusing, and he felt disoriented. He reached, in the darkness, for the blue light coming from his phone. Something, probably his glasses, fell on the ground.
"Hello?" He couldn't see the who it was on the caller ID.
"Is this Adam Wheeler?"
"Yes, this is he? Who is calling?" Something felt off. Who could be calling? And what time was it? No one called Adam when the sun wasn't out. Only Emma.
"Mr. Wheeler, I'm sorry to call you at this hour. I understand it's 2AM in New York, but it's already 7AM here in the Congo." That's where Emma was.
"What's going on? Where's Emma?" He was wide awake now. He tried reaching for his glasses in the darkness. After failing several times, he turned the nightstand light. With some light in the room, Adam could see an outline of where his glasses were. He could finally see, but the state of panic that had come over him left him disoriented. His mind was racing.
"Mr. Wheeler, I don't know how to say this. But I'm afraid your wife, Emma Wheeler, is dead." His ears started buzzing. He felt his body go numb, and his world slowly crumble.
"What did you just say? Who the fuck are you?!" He screamed at the phone.
"Mr. Wheeler, I know this is sudden-"
"Sudden?! You don't tell me who the fuck you are, and now you tell me my wife is dead? This isn't happening. This has to be a dream."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Wheeler. I don't think there's ever a good way of saying these things."
"What happened?" He spoke between sobs. He hadn't heard himself cry in years, and the voice he produced surprised him. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Adam realized he was shaking.
"She drowned."
"What?" Emma is an amazing swimmer, he heard himself say.
"Her car tried crossing a part of the river. The current was too strong and pulled her and two others out. They all drowned."
"Why was she crossing a river?"
"I'm sorry, Mr. Wheeler. We're flying them all back home."
"So you're saying that Emma's dead body is going to be flying to New York? All alone and lifeless..." If I wake up, Adam thought, Emma will be here with me, and this will all have been an awful nightmare. Emma can't be dead, he told himself.
"Mr. Wheeler?"

"Emma, do you want coffee or tea?" She was laying on the couch reading a book. Her legs swung back and forth, and her slightly unbuttoned shirt shower her underwear and part of her stomach.
"What did you say?"
"Coffee or tea?"
"Coffee. No, tea actually. I've been drinking too much coffee."
"It's because you've been up all night writing."
"I'm almost done, you know."
"I can't wait to read it."
"I can't wait for you to read it either. It's for you, you know?"
"What is?" At this she pouted. He knew she was writing a book dedicated to him. But he liked to tease her nevertheless; he also liked hearing her say it.
"The book!"
"Ah, yes. You know what's better than writing a book?"
"Having a book dedicated to you, of course."
"Oh really?"
"Yup. It shows you're so special that someone will write a book for you."
"You know you're special."
"Am I?"
"Shut up." At this he laughed and went to make tea.