Mary yawned and stretched, her muscles tight after dozing in the chair beside the bed where Jared lay sleeping. The bedside clock blinked five o’clock. She rose to check on her patient, leaning over him and placing her hand on his forehead. Still warm but not as hot.
She rubbed her eyes and headed into the kitchen where she had left the ear thermometer. Her cup of tea sat stone cold on the counter where she had left it a few hours before. Sighing, she dumped it out and rinsed the cup.
She grabbed the ear thermometer and returned to Jared’s side. Carefully turning his head, she inserted the device into his right ear and pressed the buttons to get a reading. A few seconds later, the thermometer beeped. 100.4. Good, his fever had not spiked again. Mary counted back the hours to when he had taken the ibuprofen and realized it was too soon for more medicine. But at least his temperature had dropped. As long as he slept peacefully, she would not to awaken him.
Stepping away from the bed, she tripped over Jared’s jeans. Better get them in the wash. Back in the room, she settled back into the armchair and looked at Jared.
His coming back into her life right when things were moving along with David made her uneasy. She and Jared had shared a comfortable rapport thirty years ago, but that was when they were children. Mary wasn’t sure getting to know Jared on a deeper level, even as friends, was wise at all.
The brightening sky from the east-facing window cast a glow across his face. She leaned forward for a closer look to see if the boy had left any mark on the man. Laugh lines fanned out from his eyes and around his mouth. His white-blond hair had not darkened much with age, although a few gray hairs almost blended in at the temples. No receding hairline or bald spots, either. A strong jaw line brought to mind his forcefulness as a child when arguing his point. They had enjoyed discussing what rock skipped best or what tree provided the better vantage point.
He stirred. She placed her tea on the bedside table and leaned over to tuck the sheet more securely around him. Jared Quinby had grown up into a fine-looking man. She wondered what profession he had chosen. As a nine-year-old boy, he wanted to be a firefighter, a Marine, a dog catcher, and a doctor, all at the same time. She had almost asked him during their meeting with Pastor Smith, but Jared’s spilling tea on his hand had diverted her attention.
She looked at his still body beneath the sheets. His injured leg seemed to bother him a lot. She wondered why he wanted to push himself so hard to tackle the work necessary to whip the backyard into shape. Last night, she could tell it wasn’t just his eyes that were bothering him. The way his hand kept returning to rub his left thigh signaled the discomfort and probably pain he felt in his leg.
She settled back into the armchair and drew an afghan over her body. Mary yawned and snuggled down further in her chair. Just a few minutes of sleep should tide her over until she could take a proper nap later.
# # #
“No, don’t shoot!”
Mary struggled out of Morpheus’ arms, disoriented by a male voice sharply arguing with someone.
“Please. Don’t do this. It doesn’t have to end this way.”
Her eyes popped open. Jared thrashed about on the bed, the covers skewed to one side and his left leg dangling off the edge. She shook off sleep and rose, but his frantic movements checked her. She certainly didn’t want to get in the way.
She frowned, trying to remember what she’d read about waking someone from a nightmare. Did she touch his shoulder? Shout his name? Let him come out of it on his own?
Jared mumbled indistinct words and the anguish in his voice pulled Mary out of her stupor. No one should relive whatever put that much pain in his voice. She took a step toward the bed and leaned over him, her hand resting on his shoulder.
“Jared? Jared, wake up. You’re having a nightmare.” She pushed against his shoulder.
“What?” Jared twisted his body away from her touch.
“It’s okay. Wake up. It’s only a dream, a bad dream.” She tried to grab one of his arms as he waved it about but a groan from Jared distracted her.
“Jared? It’s me, Mary.” She leaned closer, her eyes intent on his face. Something smacked her in the face, sending her flying off the bed onto the floor.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Phantom Love is copyrighted and cannot be used in any form without permission from Sarah Hamaker.