“Mary, it’s me, Jared.” Jared looked at Mary, now bathed in the light. Her hand covered her mouth as if to stifle a scream.
“You scared me half to death! What are you doing in my kitchen in the middle of the night?” She narrowed her eyes. “How did you get in?”
Jared rubbed his eyes, gritty from too little sleep and a long day outside. His throat ached and he thought his eyelids had been replaced by sandpaper.
“I’m sorry if I scared you.” He hobbled over to the table and pulled out a chair, sitting down heavily.
“Of course I was scared. You are supposed to be down at the carriage house, not up here.” She jumped as the grandfather clock in the hallway chimed two-thirty.
Under the glare of the light, he could see that she was fully dressed. He was too tired to wonder why she wasn’t in her pajamas in the middle of the night. “I didn’t mean to sneak into your house, but I couldn’t sleep because of my eyes itching so bad. I thought maybe you had some allergy medicine in the downstairs bathroom that I could borrow without waking you up. Then you came into the kitchen before I could check.”
She leaned against the counter, hugging her arms across her chest. “I probably have some in the medicine cabinet.” She bit her lip. “But how did you get in? I always lock the doors and set the alarm code.”
He squinted at her wavy figure. He blinked and she shifted back into focus. “I knocked, but when you didn’t answer, I tried the apartment key.”
Her mouth opened in a silent O. “And it worked?”
He nodded. Then placed a hand on his head as the kitchen started to spin. No more sudden moves and he should be okay. All he needed was to pass out in her kitchen. He didn’t remember his childhood allergies causing this much physical distress, but maybe now he was older, things hit him harder. Come to think of it, he had felt a bit off since he got up this morning, an achiness that he attributed to sore muscles from unaccustomed work.
“But what about the alarm code?”
“I don’t know about that. There was no beeping.”
She strode over to the back door. Jared carefully turned his head to see her staring at an alarm keypad on the wall. He could just make out blinking green lights.
She slapped a hand on her forehead. “Apparently, I didn’t set it tonight.” She shook her head. “I always do arm it before my chat. I must have forgotten.” She turned back to Jared. “I’m glad it was only you and not a burglar.”
Jared reached a hand up to rub his eyes again and stopped himself. “The Benadryl?”
“Oh, right. Be back in a sec.” She whirled around and dashed from the room.
He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes, but immediately popped them back open as the lids scratched his eyeballs. He turned his head as she reappeared in the doorway with a blister packet. She handed the pack to him.
“Let me get you some water.” She filled a glass from the tap. “Here you go.” She set the glass on the table in front of him.
His fingers fumbled to extradite the pill from the packaging.
“I was going to make myself a cup of tea. Would you want some?”
“Yes, please.” He kept his attention on freeing the pill and the package split open, spilling the pill onto the table. He caught it before it bounced onto the floor and popped the capsule into his mouth, chasing it down with water.
A slow burn worked its way down his throat. The kitchen shimmered like a desert mirage. He must be more tired than he thought. “I didn’t mean to sneak into your house.”
Mary set out a teapot, cups and saucers with precise movements. Jared watched the fluid motion of her body in its loose-fitting, long-sleeved striped shirt and faded blue jeans. Bare toes with bright purple polish peeked out from beneath the bottom of her jeans. Figures she would pick purple for the polish, to match her eyes. Eyes that were looking at him with concern. But she had no reason to be concerned about him. He was doing just fine, if only his eyelids would cooperate and stay open.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Phantom Love is copyrighted and cannot be used in any form without permission from Sarah Hamaker.