Jared jerked upright on the couch, scattering pages on the floor. He squinted at the clock. Nine-thirty. Man, he wished his leg would hurry up and heal. It was getting old to feel this exhausted after a half day’s yard work. He would be up all night now that he had taken an hour’s nap.
He picked up the papers Will had dropped off yesterday and stacked them on the coffee table. He’d straighten them out later but first a snack and something to drink. He stood and amended that list as his injured leg stiffened. He went to the bedroom for his pain medication. As he washed down the pills with water from the bathroom sink, he knew he needed to find a massage therapist who made house calls. Hot baths and warm compresses only helped so much to relax those muscles.
He hobbled into the kitchen for a beer. Thank goodness for grocery stores that delivered. He’d noticed the website of one on Mary’s fridge while making breakfast two days ago. His order had arrived as promised this morning and now his pantry and fridge contained all the essentials like beer, chicken wings, and cheese curls. Typical bachelor fair, but he deserved to eat what he wanted to after all the work he was doing to restore that mess of a yard.
He took out a carton of eggs and some cheese for a quick omelet. He needed to eat some protein. Otherwise, he would vomit the pills. Experience had taught him that painful lesson. He turned on the gas and slapped a frying pan on the burner. Dotting the pan with a small pat of butter, he cracked three eggs into a bowl and whisked them together. Marla, his former girlfriend, always said he had a light hand with omelets. Too bad she never appreciated anything else about him.
While the pan heated, he turned on the portable radio sitting on the counter. “Do You Believe in Magic?” by The Lovin’ Spoonful filtered fuzzily into the kitchen. He poured the eggs into the pan and then reached over to adjust the tuner. The song ended and a sultry voiced DJ came on the radio.
“That was dedicated to Ted and Allison, on the anniversary of their first kiss. You’re listening to ‘Love Letters With Layla’ on easy listening WMCR, 98.6 on your FM dial. More dedications and listener comments coming up after a commercial break. Don’t go changing the station.”
Jared expertly flipped the omelet and tuned out the commercials. He carried his omelet and beer back to the living room just as the DJ came back. “This is Layla with ‘Love Letters With Layla.’ What’s on your mind, Maysona?”
“I had a big fight with my boyfriend tonight. He wanted to try that new Mexican place but I hate Mexican food. I wanted to eat Thai, but he blew up, saying I always pick the restaurant. We ended up screaming at each other in front of my apartment building.”
“Sometimes we say things we don’t mean and it can be hard to make it right again.”
“I said some awful things. But so did he.”
Sniffles from Maysona came over the airwaves. Great, one of those sappy romantic call-in shows with a DJ who would apply arm-chair psychology to solving relationship problems. At least the host had a great radio voice, very low and sexy. He’d bet a lot of guys would listen to the show just to hear her voice. He knew he would, if he could manage to stomach the drivel that passed for banter.
“I think the question you have to ask yourself is whether you love him enough to be the one to make the first move. If the thought of never seeing him again is worse than the thought of apologizing, then you have your answer.”
More sniffles. “I do love him. And I’ve been such a, well, I know you don’t approve of such language on your show. But I’ve got my pride. He shouldn’t be able to treat me that way.”
“Pride can be a rather lonely companion on the long dark nights of the soul.”
Jared forked another mouthful of omelet into his mouth and chewed, contemplating that thought. The radio host wasn’t as glib as he had originally predicted. Her remark on pride was spot-on. Pride had gotten him shot, and it had sure ruined his relationship with Marla, no doubt about it.
On air, Maysona was working toward a resolution. “So you think I should say I’m sorry, like nothing happened?”
A soft laugh from Layla made the hairs on his arm stand up. That laugh. Hadn’t he heard that this afternoon under the warm June sun? No, he was hearing things. He closed his eyes as he recalled Mary’s laughter earlier that day. The two women definitely laughed in a similar manner, but there was no way Mary could be a radio host. She was much too shy to be DJing a call-in radio show.
“I’m merely suggesting you might want to think long term instead of short term. Right now, you’re hurting and I’ll bet he is, too. You’re angry and you want to be the person who’s in the right. But what about two weeks or even two days from now? Is being right and alone better than admitting your part in the fight and making up?”
“I don’t know, Layla.”
“You also need to evaluate the flip side of this, and think about whether this is a pattern with him. Does he always shout when he gets mad? Being alone isn’t the worst thing, and shouldn’t be a reason for you to stay in a bad relationship.”
More sniffles from the caller. “He’s really a great guy most of the time.”
“Spend some time thinking about your relationship. Just don’t wait too long. Making things right—whether it’s getting back together or moving on—is harder the more distance we put between us.”
“Thanks. I’ll think about what you said. Will you play a song for me?”
“Of course. Here’s ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow?’ by Carole King to help you think. Good luck, Maysona.”
Jared pushed aside the plate and reorganized the papers from the case folder. He had begun reading the chat transcripts right before he had fallen asleep. Something niggled at the back of his mind, something he should know or recognize about the dialogues. Maybe reading them again with a clearer head would jog his memory.
He stretched out his leg, wishing the pain meds would kick in quickly. He had been cutting back on taking the tablets because he didn’t want to become too dependent on them. Besides, he had seen enough addicts to prescription drugs to realize the potential dangers in that little bottle. But weaning himself off pain pills wasn’t easy, especially with the workout he had been giving his leg lately. Focusing on his work would engage his mind.
He settled back on the couch and picked up the chat transcripts. If he had been a praying man, he would have asked for guidance in figuring this out. But he had stopped talking to God around the time a bullet had shattered his life.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Phantom Love is copyrighted and cannot be used in any form without permission from Sarah Hamaker.