Jules rushed into the kitchen and gasped for breath. "Kevin, he's not waking up! He's breathing, and he has a pulse, but he's not waking up. Should I call 911?"
"Yes! Yes. Or would it be faster for us to take him to the hospital ourselves?"
"I don't know--no. I'll call." She ran to the living room for her phone and began to dial with shaking hands. "Can you please go sit with him? Yell for me if anything, and I mean ANYTHING changes. Yes, hello? I think my grandpa passed out a few minutes ago. Yes, he's breathing, but it's labored, and he has a steady pulse. He's not waking up..."
Jules's voice faded out of Kevin's hearing while he sat with his father. "Oh God," he cried out, shaking with intensity. "Please let us keep him for a little while longer. Please give me a chance to make things right. Your will be done, Lord."
"Amen." Jules stood in the doorway, phone in hand. Tears were streaming down her face. She walked slowly over to the love seat where Kevin was sitting, and sunk down next to him. She opened her arms in a silent invitation, and Kevin willingly returned her hug. They sat still, Jules whispering her own shaky prayer. She suddenly sat up. "I need to pack up a few things. Who knows how long we'll be in the hospital. And I need to call our pastor and let him know so the church can be praying. Will you be okay in here without me?"
"Yes. You go ahead and do what you need to do. I'll be okay."
Jules gave him another quick hug before going down the hall to Duncan's room.
Kevin moved to his knees, clasping his hands and resting his forehead on them. "Please, God. Please."
After what felt like hours of sitting still on his knees, he heard a knock on the door. "Jules?" His voice faltered with uncertainty.
Jules heard her name called, and rushed back down the stairs, bags in hand. "What is it, Dad? Any changes?"
"No, but there was a knock at the door."
Her face relaxed, and her tone held relief. "Oh, I'll get it. You sit tight." She opened the front door and saw Martin standing there. "Martin? What are you doing here?"
"Pastor Dave called and told me what's going on. Is there anything I can do? Are you okay?"
"Wow. Thanks for coming over. Come on in." Jules opened the door up and turned around. She was pouring the soup into a jar and rearing the fridge to make room. She talked to Martin while she worked. "The EMTs should be here any moment. I've packed bags for Grandad and I, and my dad is sitting with him now. I really don't know what else I can do besides follow the ambulance to the hospital once it gets here. I'm thinking maybe it was a stroke, Martin."
He walked over to wear she was struggling with a container and snug lid. He gently took the container from her and set it down on the counter. "Hey," Martin put his hands on each of her shoulders and looked her in the eye. "Are you okay, Jules?"
She met his gaze reluctantly, her hands hanging at her sides. "Honestly, I'm a little scared, but I know Who is in control. I'm just going to rest in that right now."
He gently squeezed her shoulders before releasing her. "Mama and I are praying. Here, let me carry those bags out for you. You want them in your car, right?"
"Yes. Thank you very much. I guess, if you wouldn't mind; it would probably be a good idea to put all of my dad's suitcases in there, too. Just in case. They're all sitting in the guest bedroom. And then would you mind moving the car so the EMTs can get in without a problem? Here," she tossed him the keys. "Just pull up next to the fence and leave the keys in the front seat."
Martin threw her a salute. "Aye aye, Captain."
Within minutes the ambulance was roaring up the driveway. For Jules, the next few hours passed by in a blur of flashing lights, rushing paramedics, and hushed prayers from behind the wheel of her car as she sped along the highway behind the ambulance.
Jules sat quietly in the waiting room with Kevin. He was leaning forword, his elbows resting in his knees and his head cradled in his hands. He suddenly spoke, his voice quiet and broken.
"Hmm?" Jules shifted in her seat, tilting her head towards him.
"You called me dad earlier."
"Oh. Yes I guess I did."
"I haven't earned the right to be called dad by you."
"Who said anything about earning the right? You're here now. Here. In my life. In the middle of my problems, sitting in a hospital waiting room with me. You didn't leave when things first got rough."
"Things have barely just started to get rough, though. I mean, we barely even know what's going on. All we know is that it was a stroke and that he still isn't conscious."
"I know. But it still means a lot to me that you're here with me. We've been in this waiting room for over three hours now."
Jules settled deeper into her chair. "Yeah. It's been a day."
"What time is it?"
Jules tipped her wrist up. "Five o'clock according to my watch. Are you hungry? We never ate lunch."
"I don't feel like I could eat anything right now, but I'd sure go for a cup of coffee."
"There's a good shop a couple of blocks from here. I'll run and get you a cup. What do you like?"
"Tall and black. Lots of caffeine."
"Sure thing. Oh hey, Pastor Dave should be here any minute. He's tall, in his forties or so, and has curly black hair and brown eyes. Please flag him down so he won't leave before I get back."
"Got it. Will do."
"I'll be back soon." She gathered up her purse and brown leather jacket and headed towards the exit. She crawled behind the wheel of her car and then sat quite still, staring straight ahead of her. Her eyes were wide and glassy, looking through the concrete wall of the parking garage and into the future. She shuddered, hugging herself weakly. "God, I don't know what I'll do without him. Please, please help me to hold on to You. Don't let me turn away. Hold me. Hold me." Her breath came in gasps. Her eyes started streaming with pent up tears, all of her fears layed bare as she poured herself out before the throne of God. "I need You, Lord. I can't live through this without You. Thank You for sending my dad, and for giving all three of us some time together before--before we came here today. Please give me clarity and strength of mind. Help me to serve willingly, keeping my eyes on You. And please help me to drive safely, without being weighed down by my earthly cares. I leave it all in Your hands, Father. In Jesus' name, amen." She squared her shoulders, dried her eyes, and placed her hands firmly on the wheel. She knew she was ready for the road laid before her.
Jules walked back into the waiting room, coffee in hand. She gave one of the warm cups to her dad before turning to shake her pastor's hand. "Thank you so much for coming, Pastor Dave."
"Of course. Miles came along, too. I was having lunch with him when I got the call, and he said he'd like to ride along with me when I told him I was coming. He just stepped out into the hall a moment ago."
Jules sunk down into a chair. "Oh, that was kind of him to come along."
"The whole church has been praying since I called everyone. How are you holding up?"
"I'm trying to rest in the Lord. But, I'm human. So I'm struggling. Honestly, I'm really scared. He's been really tired this last week. I'm just--I'm praying."
Kevin sat down next to her and put his arm around her shoulders. "The nurse said it shouldn't be too long before we can go in and see him. For now we'll just keep praying."
Miles walked in, giving Jules a quiet smile before he moved to sit on the other side of Dave. Jules suddenly gave a little wail and jumped out of her seat. She ran to put her arms around Greta, who had just arrived. "Oh, thank you so much for being here. All of you," she peeked over Greta's shoulder. "It means so much to me that you're all here."
Greta rubbed her back, holding onto her tightly until she started to let go. "Thank you," Jules breathed, smiling shakily. "I needed that. Now come and sit next to me." She took Greta's hand and started leading her towards a cobalt blue sofa in the corner.
Greta stopped in her tracks when she noticed Kevin. "Who's this?"
"Oh, this is my dad, Kevin. Dad, meet my best friend, Greta. We've known each other since I was seven or eight years old."
Kevin held out his hand. "It's nice to meet you, Greta. Thank you for being here with us today."
"Of course," Greta said, taking his offered hand. "Jules is the friend who would be the first to do the same for me."
After the girls had sat down, Greta turned to Jules and whispered. "Okay, when did he get here?"
"Yesterday evening, out of the blue. He said that he came to know the Lord five years ago, and he only just felt like he could forgive himself enough to come and meet me for the first time."
"Wow." Greta patted her arm sympathetically. "How are you feeling about all of that? Does he seem legit?"
"So far so good. I mean, I was really sketchy and afraid at first, but he seems to be genuinely sorry. I called him "dad" earlier, which is so new and strange. But it's good, Greta. It's good that he's here now. In fact, I don't know what I would have done without him these last several hours."
"I'm happy for you, then. And I'm glad he's here. How long is he staying?"
"Until Monday morning. He has to get back and help his family finish up packing. He wants to move down here, Greta, and be near Grandad and me."
"Hold up. You said he's got a family?"
Jules laughed at her friend's shocked expression. "Yes, he has a wife and a little girl."
"How old is the kid?"
"If I remember correctly, Tabitha will turn three in June."
"Aww. Are you excited to meet them? Wait a second, is his wife your birth mom?"
"No! No, she's not. Her name is Grace, and from her picture she looks like a really kind and sweet person. I think I'll like her."
"I hope you will."
"Please, don't be so optimistic." Jules laughed. "I'm sure I'll like her just fine. I-" She heard someone clear their throat, and looked up to see Miles standing in front of her. He looked a bit apologetic.
"Hey, sorry. Didn't mean to interrupt."
"It's okay. What's up?"
"I was just wondering if you've had anything to eat in the last several hours."
"Oh, no, I haven't. Just this coffee." She held her cup up for him to see. "But that doesn't really count as food. Honestly, I didn't feel like I could eat anything earlier."
"I know, I understand. Do you feel up to eating now?"
"I think so. Yeah."
"Awesome. How does pizza sound? I was thinking about making an order."
"That sounds great. Thank you, Miles."
"Ooh," Greta chimed in. "I'll chip in if you're taking donations. Can we get those garlic and Parmesan bread bites?"
Miles grinned. "You read my mind. I'll make an order right now. Cheese and pepperoni sound okay? I thought we'd just be basic."
"Yeah, that sounds great. Thanks for thinking of it, Miles."
"No problem, Jules. I'm happy to help out in any way I can, and right now my calling is to order pizza." He smiled. "On a more serious note, my grandpa said to tell you that he is praying right now. I know we haven't known you and your grandpa very long, but several people at church had told us about y'all, and we feel like y'all are our friends already."
"Thank you so much." Jules blinked back a tear. "That really means a lot. We are very blessed."
Miles smiled and nodded, stepping back a little. "I'd better go order the pizza now." He turned away, mumbling to himself. Jules wasn't quite sure, but she thought she heard him say "I don't know how to deal with crying besides hugging."
She looked over at Greta and raised an eyebrow. "Did he just say-"
"He most likely did. Miles is a great guy, but he can have his awkward moments. He's real like that."
"How long have you known him?"
"He joined our church about right after you moved away. So about three years. It's not like we've talked a whole bunch, but I've been around him long enough to trust his character."
"I know Grandad was really impressed with him after they talked on Sunday."
They lapsed into a thoughtful silence. Jules took notice of the noises of life around her; the droning of the nurses voice on the phone behind the counter, the bustle of the staff as they walked to and fro, the hushed whispers of others in the waiting room. She smiled, joyfully aware of how many people in the waiting room where there for Angus. There for her. She wiped away a stray tear and yet another prayer. "Thank you, Lord."