Second Chance with the Single Mom(6)

By: Annie Claydon

‘Stay there, Raina. Anya needs you home tonight.’

There had been a time when they wouldn’t have thought twice about it. She would have been right there next to him. Now it seemed that Alistair acted alone.

But he was right, Anya did need her to come home tonight. How many times had Raina hesitated and looked again before crossing the road, knowing that Anya couldn’t lose another parent. And the ledge that Alistair was now edging along towards the boy was too narrow for a second person to be of any use.

He almost lost his footing, stopping to regain his hold. Suddenly Alistair looked up again, his golden-brown eyes searching for her.

‘Easy does it. You’re nearly there.’

He nodded, carefully moving closer to the boy. Just as it seemed that Alistair could reach out and touch him, his mother called out to him. The boy looked up, lost his balance and toppled backwards, twisting as he fell and landing flat on his stomach in the river.

Alistair didn’t hesitate. Kicking off his shoes, he jumped, disappearing underwater for a few heart-stopping seconds. Then he surfaced, looking around for the boy.

He didn’t have much time. The boy had landed amongst some floating debris and the swell of the tide had washed him against a large piece of wood. He struggled weakly in the water, seeming stunned by the impact, and then was still, floating face down. He was already starting to drown and soon he’d begin to sink. If that happened it would be a miracle if Alistair found him in the murky water. Raina screamed Alistair’s name, pointing to the boy.

He looked up, and then in the direction in which she was pointing. A few strong strokes, and Alistair had the boy, lifting him up in his arms so that his head was clear of the water. The child started to choke and fight, but Alistair held onto him.

‘He’s choking... He’s going to drown...’ The boy’s mother was behind her, clinging to her other child, her eyes fixed on her son.

‘My colleague’s a strong swimmer and he’s a doctor.’ Raina tried to calm the woman down. ‘And if he’s choking that means he’s breathing.’ The instinctive drowning response was a silent struggle, one that often didn’t alarm onlookers.

Raina looked around, trying to see how Alistair could get out of the water. The wash from boats travelling up and down the river was swelling against him, and he and the boy were in danger of being thrown against the river wall.

‘Hey!’ A pleasure boat was moored at a jetty nearby and she shouted at the top of her voice to the people on board. ‘Hey, there’s someone in the water...’

There was a scuffle of confusion on board the boat, and then a man ran to the railing, carrying a lifebelt. Throwing it into the water with as much force as he could, it landed with a splash, and Alistair started to swim towards it.

Raina ran for the jetty, clambering down the angled wooden ramp that led down to the craft. A man blocked her path.

‘I’m a doctor. Let me through.’ The man nodded, taking her arm and guiding her to where the boy was being lifted up onto the deck and laid down on a folded fire blanket. Alistair was still in the water and she barely had time to glance in his direction before the child claimed her attention.

A policeman had arrived on the scene and was shepherding the boy’s mother towards them. The boy started to cry when he saw her, reaching for her. ‘It’s all right, Jamie. Let the doctor take a look at you.’ The woman took hold of his hand.

He’d had a shock, and he’d obviously swallowed some water, which wasn’t good. But he was breathing and seemed alert, despite the bump on the back of his head. Raina examined him as well as she could, and then sat back on her heels, looking up at the policeman.

‘He seems okay, but he’ll need to be checked over at the hospital.’ The policeman nodded, taking his radio from its clip and speaking into it.

‘Will he be all right?’ Jamie’s mother caught hold of her sleeve, an imploring look in her eyes. Raina had seen that look so many times before, but hadn’t really understood the agony behind it until she’d become a mother to Anya.

‘He’s breathing, and he’s safe.’ Raina started with the good news. ‘But I want that bump on his head looked at. The doctors will be checking to see if there’s any water in his lungs, and they’ll have to clean any cuts very carefully to avoid infection.’

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