It was 5:30 in the evening by the time Greta left the hospital with Kevin. Jules took off her sweater and settled into her seat next to the cold, stiff hospital bed. She let her mind wander freely. She was deeply pursuing an idea for her next painting when she blinked, alert and present. "Did somebody say my name?" She looked up and caught Duncan's gaze. "Grandad? Was that you?"
"Jules..." his voice was labored, but it was clearly her name. He managed a weak smile.
"Oh, Grandad!" She rushed to sit on the edge of his bed, occupying both of his hands with her own. "Say my name again."
"Jules." His tones were clearer this time. He smiled again, sighing a little bit.
"This is so good, Grandad."
The nurse walked around the corner and tapped on the side of the open door. "Are we ready for our bath time?" He stopped short at the sight of Jules' flushed cheeks and beaming eyes.
"Carter! He said my name!"
"Oh my! Can you say your name for me, Mr. Stanley?"
"Du..." he swallowed thickly, blinking at Jules.
"Yes, Grandad. That's right. Can you say it for me?"
"Du... Duncan." He drew out the last syllable, and then smiled like a pleased child.
"Very good, Mr. Stanley."
"You said it's time for Grandad's bath?"
"Yes, Miss. Would you like to step out in the hall?"
"I think I'm going to go take a walk at that park nearby. That'll give me a quick chance to stretch my legs while it's still light outside. I'll be back in about forty-five minutes." She gave Duncan a quick kiss on the cheek and then waggled her finger at him. "Now you be good for Nurse Carter, okay?"
Duncan smiled at her while she snatched up her keys and phone and headed out the door. She tapped her foot in the elevator and then ran out the doors. She flew down the hall, nearly flattening Martin as he rounded the corner.
"Oh! I'm so sorry. I didn't see you there."
"It's okay," Martin laughed. "Where are you off to in such a hurry? I was just on my way to visit you and Duncan."
"That's so kind of you. I was just heading out to a park nearby. Grandad is getting his bath and a quick check-up, so he can't have visitors for at least half an hour."
"Oh, gotcha. Well I'll just take you to the park. My car is right outside."
"Oh, okay. Thanks."
"You look happy, Jules."
"I am." She grinned. "Grandad said my name a few minutes ago. Twice. And then we got him to say his own name."
Martin raised an eyebrow. "We? I didn't realize Miles was here today."
"Miles?" Jules twisted her eyebrows together. "No, why would he be here? I was talking about the nurse."
"Oh, sorry. Yeah, I don't know what I was thinking." Martin smiled brightly and walked around to the drivers' side of his car, unlocking his door. He climbed in and waited for Jules to get in. Once they were buckled up, he headed down the highway. They sat in silence during the short ride to the park.
Jules popped her knuckles absentmindedly, and stared out the window. It was still overcast outside, but the drizzling rain had stopped hours ago.
Martin parked the car. He got out and walked around to the path, pausing until Jules caught up. "Which way do you want to walk?" He asked.
"Over there." She pointed towards the path that lead around the large pond. "I like to watch the ducks."
"I see. Shall we?" He stuffed his hands into his pockets and started meandering along the path.
Jules was happy to enjoy the fresh air, so she matched her pace to his. The ducks let out an excited cackle as the two drew near, but quieted down once they realized they wouldn't be receiving any treats.
"I want to bring bread next time," Jules commented with a grin. "They always look so happy to see me that I hate to disappoint them."
Martin glanced down at her. "I hope you're always happy to see me, whether I bring you a treat or not."
Jules laughed. "Of course I'm always happy to see you. You're a dear friend." She tossed a small pebble into the pond, watching the clear water ripple and then settle back into its placid state. It was overcast and windy. They walked on in silence for several minutes before Jules sighed and settled into a small wooden bench near the path. Martin sat down next to her and draped his arm across the back.
She turned towards him and stopped, her heart fluttering as she noted how close his face was to hers. She blushed and looked down, drawing back a few inches. "I..."
Martin leaned in, bringing his hand to rest on her knee.
"What is it?" He looked hurt. He didn't lift his hand up. Thunder rumbled nearby and a few small droplets splattered on the arms of the bench. "I thought we--I thought you liked me."
Jules shivered slightly. Partly from the cold and partly from the warmth of Martin's hands on her knee and shoulder. She wiggled a little, trying to move away. "I do like you, Martin. I just--"
He leaned in again, even closer this time. Jules barely felt his nose brush against her face before she recoiled and punched him in the stomach. She hit him as hard as she could. Jules clutched her phone against her chest and took off running. She flew as fast as she could down the path, dodging between the trees and shrubbery until she found a thick cluster of bushes near an outhouse. She crawled in between the prickly branches and huddled behind their coverage, panting for breath.
Jules listened intently for a moment, praying that Martin hadn't followed her. After a few moments of silence, she hurriedly dialed Greta.
"Greta! Thank God you answered. How far away are you from Kerry Park?"
"I'm about forty-five minutes out. What's wrong? Are you okay? You sound like you've been crying. Or running."
Jules drew in a shaky breath. "Please come get me. I came to the park with Martin in his car, and then--oh Greta, he tried to kiss me. I punched him in the stomach and ran away, but I can't get back to the hospital, and I don't have my purse with me."
"Oh girly, we're turning around right now. Hold on," she paused, and Jules heard Kevin's voice in the background. "Your dad wants to know if he hurt you, and if he's still there."
"He didn't hurt me, and I don't know where he is. I don't think he followed me. I'm hiding behind some shrubs next to a little brick building. It just started pouring rain."
"Okay. We'll get there as soon as we can." Greta glanced over at her popped good and sighed. "I love you, girl."
"I love you, too."
Jules leaned her back against the edge of the building and hugged her arms around her knees. Her tears were falling down, mingling with the heavy rain drops. She tried to look at her phone to see what time it was. "Shoot." She grimaced as her phone powered off. She remembered that she hadn't charged it since she got out of bed.
Jules glanced up at the sky, squinting through the raindrops. It was getting dark. She huddled closer to the wall and buried her face in her arms. Her shoulders heaved while she gasped and sobbed. It was no use to try and be quiet. Her head was throbbing and her thoughts kept turning over what had happened. The way Martin's hand had felt played on repeat, and she shuddered. She realized that she could have prevented it if she hadn't let him take her to the park. She cried more intensely, but the rain and thunder hid her sobs from listening ears.
Miles was sitting in the hospital waiting room thumbing absently through a magazine. He had started to read an article about the new Bass Pro shop when his phone started ringing insistently. "Sorry," he mouthed to a few disgruntled people who were sitting on the sofa across from him. They looked back down at their various books and iPads, choosing to ignore his apology. He stepped outside onto the covered sidewalk and answered the call.
"Miles! I have a huge favor to ask of you. Jules is in trouble, but I'm with Greta and we just broke down. We're three quarters of an hour away from where she is."
"I'm at the hospital now. Gramps had a last minute check-up, so I've been in the waiting room. Where is Jules?"
"She's at Kerry Park. Do you know where that is?"
"Yes, I do. You said trouble; what kind of trouble is she in?"
"Well," Kevin hesitated. "Martin drove her over there so she could take a walk, and apparently he tried to, uh, well, to kiss her. She punched him and ran off, and she said she's hiding in the bushes next to a little brick building. It's dark and raining, and I'm really scared for her."
"I'm on it. I'll let you know when I find her."
"Thank you so much, Miles."
"Don't mention it."
Miles sprinted out to his car and turned the key in the ignition. He tossed his phone into the passenger seat and gritted his teeth while he pulled out into the street. His tires squealed on the wet pavement.
"Dear God, help me find her."
Miles pulled up into the parking lot and turned his car off. He stuffed his keys and phone into his pockets and practically vaulted himself out of the car before sprinting down the nearest path. On second thought he turned around and went back to his car, retrieving a blanket and umbrella from his trunk. He zipped his jacket up over the blanket to keep it dry.
He was jogging down a path near the pond when he saw a lone figure huddled up on a small bench. He stopped short in his tracks.
Martin pulled his head out of his hands and squinted up at him. "Miles? Wh-what are you doing here?" His eyes were wide with panic.
"I came here to get Jules." There was a steely glint in his hazel eyes, and his fists were clinched at his sides.
Martin gulped. "I, I-" he groaned and rolled his head back down to his hands. "What are you going to do?" He mumbled.
Miles sat down next to him. He rolled his eyes when he saw Martin flinch. "I'm not going to beat you up, if that's what you're asking." He almost spit his words out, his tones laced with contempt. "What were you thinking, Martin? You're supposed to be a brother. A protector. A friend. And then you go and pull a jerk move on her like this." Miles sighed. "What were you thinking?" He repeated, his voice calm and almost gentle.
"I don't know, man. I don't know."
Miles sighed again. "As much as I hate to say it, you're probably right. You definitely weren't thinking. Thankfully Jules was, and she did the right thing; running away from you. Now you'd better go home to your mother. I have to find Jules and get her back to the hospital." He sighed. "And Martin, grow up. Don't go around treating women like you treated Jules today. Respect and protect them, like God created you to do."
Martin nodded stiffly and stood up. His face was pale and strained. "I think I'd better leave."
Miles sat still and watched him long enough to know that he was actually headed towards the parking lot. He stood up with a sigh and continued back down the path, calling Jules' name.
If any of you have a minute, I'd LOVE to hear your reactions to this chapter. :)