Simon's entire world crumbled in an instant.
It wasn't until he glanced behind him to check on Jacob that he realized his grave mistake. Quickly handing Angelique the cell phone, he stood up and scanned the crowd around him, looking for Jacob's distinctly blue bathing suit.
He pushed his way through the crowd, hoping that Jacob had simply went back to their belongings looking for a snack. As soon as the bench came into his view, his stomach flipped. Panic immediately took over, and Simon feared the absolute worst.
He called out to Jacob, looking around for the little boy in every direction. The gravity of the situation hit him hard, and his jaw clenched as he steeled himself. An indoor swimming pool was the absolute worst place for Jacob to go missing. Danger surrounded him in every direction, and he ran along the deeper pool, fearing the most terrible of all possible circumstances.
A strangled cry left his lips as an image straight out of a nightmare registered in his mind. Horrified, he jumped in the pool after the toddler floating face down in the water. When he held him in his arms, his stomach sank, feeling the cold, stiff body, and he feared that he might be too late.
"Help!" Simon screamed, towing the lifeless toddler to the edge of the pool.
A lifeguard ran over and took the child from Simon. He quickly laid Jacob down on the concrete floor and began CPR compressions.
"One," the lifeguard counted.
Simon pulled himself out of the pool and kneeled next to Jacob's listless body. Time slowed down, and each individual heartbeat from within his chest pounded through his eardrums.
The little boy almost looked like he was sleeping peacefully except that there was no rhythmic rise and fall of his chest. His body remained unmoving, no sign of life within him.
The lifeguard blew a breath of air into Jacob's lungs. Not a sound in the entire building could be heard as he waited a short moment before beginning the next round of compressions.
Simon blamed the entire incident on himself. It was under his watch that Jacob fell into the pool. He wanted to protect this child and save Jacob from himself, and now he might not get the second chance that he deserved.
Helplessness was all Simon felt while he watched the lifeguard trying to coax life back into the boy's body. He wished he could do more, be more, but all he could do was hope for the best.
Another puff of air entered Jacob's immature lungs followed by an extended moment of silence. Murmurs rippled through the crowd as people began to expect the worst.
The lifeguard made eye contact with Simon, and the frantic father recognized that look. The doctor who spoke to him after Angelique's stillbirth had that same look on his face, and he couldn't believe that it was all happening again.
Simon's eyes found his wife's, and he could see the grief that had already began overwhelming her. She had already lost her first child, and now her second one might be gone too. He wondered if she'd be able to forgive him – if things could ever be okay again after this.
The lifeguard blew another breath of air into the little boy's mouth, and this time he waited a little bit longer for a reaction, hoping for something, anything. Just as the lifeguard put his hands on the boy's chest once more, a tiny trickle of water dribbled from the side of Jacob's mouth.
Simon gasped, not even realizing that he had been holding his breath. He felt Angelique squeeze his arm, probably checking to make sure that he'd also seen the miracle transpiring in front of them.
The little body twitched, and water gushed from his mouth. He coughed, sputtering out the liquid that had flooded his lungs. The lifeguard rolled Jacob onto his side and softly pat his back. The crowd around them cheered, and sighs of relief echoed throughout the building.
When his coughing fit had finally come to an end, tears flowed from Jacob's eyes, and he sobbed, frightened, confused and distressed. His caregivers leapt into action, embracing him between their relieved and rejoicing bodies. Their warmth soothed him while they waited for the paramedics.
After a short wait, the trio joined a paramedic inside the cramped ambulance. Jacob lay on the stretcher as his vitals were checked.
"Hey there, buddy," the paramedic began, holding a breathing mask. "I need you to take some big breaths with this mask on your face for me. You think you can do that?"
Jacob nodded and filled his lungs with the pure oxygen.
The paramedic turned to the boy's caregivers. "His vitals are fine, and I don't expect his condition to deteriorate, but it's important that you make sure to observe him for the next twenty-four hours."
"Is there anything specific that we need to look for?" Angelique asked.
"If he has a high fever, frequent coughing fits or discolored phlegm, you should take him straight to the emergency room. With all the water that entered his lungs, he could easily develop pneumonia."
"But he's okay at the moment?" Simon asked, needing confirmation that Jacob was no longer in danger.
The paramedic nodded. "From what I can see, there doesn't appear to be any complications."
"Thank you so much for you help," Angelique said.
"Yes, thank you so much," Simon added.
"It wasn't a problem. I'm glad your little one is safe and sound," the paramedic replied.
After a few moments, the paramedic removed the mask from Jacob's face, and Simon lifted the little boy out of the ambulance. The couple headed back inside to grab their belongings, wanting to head home as soon as possible.
Along the drive back, they stopped at a fast-food restaurant, and Jacob got his first kiddie meal. Neither of the boy's caregivers had the energy to cook dinner, and they wanted to get him fed as quickly as possible, knowing he would need a good, long recovery sleep.
When they got home, the couple took turns monitoring Jacob while they showered the chlorine off of their skin. Simon elected to give Jacob a quick shower, fearful that a bath so soon could trigger memories of his drowning.
Showered and dressed in pajamas, the therapist couple sat with Jacob in the nursery. The boy snuggled in Angelique's arms while Simon read him a book about ants. Soon, Jacob could no longer fight off his drowsiness, and he relaxed his little body completely, snoring lightly. His caregivers quietly tucked him into his crib and checked the baby monitors, remembering the paramedic's counseling.
Under the covers in their king-sized bed, Simon and Angelique simply held each other in silence. Words didn't need to be exchanged for either of them to express the depth of the trauma that they had experienced that afternoon. Traumatic memories resurfaced for the both of them, and they weren't easy to process.
"I'm so sorry," Simon whispered, eyes downcast and lip trembling.
"It was an accident. It's no one's fault," Angelique reminded him, squeezing him tightly.
Supported by his wife, Simon let his guard down and sobbed. He let himself experience the guilt, helplessness and fear that was building up inside of him. He crumbled for a moment, and when he was ready, Angelique helped him to pick back up the pieces.
The couple had just fallen asleep when Jacob's loud cries echoed through the baby monitor.
"I'll get him," Simon volunteered, crawling out from under the covers.
When he entered the nursery, Jacob was already standing against the bars of the crib. He lifted the boy into his arms and sat in the rocking chair, hoping to calm him down. Finally, after many soft assurances and faint whistling, Simon lulled Jacob back to sleep, and as he gently laid the boy in the crib, Jacob's eyes snapped open.
"No!" the tyke screamed, standing up immediately and outstretching his arms.
"You have to get some sleep, buddy," Simon explained. "We don't want you to get sick."
"No crib!" Jacob whined.
Simon sighed. "Do you want to sleep in our bed tonight?"
Jacob nodded, already pacified by the compromise.
Having overheard the conversation through the baby monitor, Angelique was in the process of making space for the little boy when Simon brought Jacob to their bedroom. He laid him down between them. This time, Angelique provided the boy with a soft lullaby until he nodded off.
When his snoring began again, she reached for her phone and snapped a picture of him in their bed, adding the memory to her photo album.
"He's so cute," Simon acknowledged, covering the boy's lower half with the comforter.
"Yes, he is," Angelique agreed, turning off her bedside table lamp.
That night, loving parents sandwiched the child between them, and they all slept especially soundly, exhausted by the traumatic events of the afternoon.