The thunder rumbled on, and still Jules cried uncontrollably. It was all too much.
She lifted her head, panting. It was a man's voice calling out to her above the sound of the rain. She listened intently, praying that it wasn't Martin. Maybe it was her dad? She couldn't be sure. She heard her name again, a little closer this time. It definitely wasn't her dad.
"Jules, where are you?"
She stood up and began to frantically push through the shrubbery. "Miles! I'm over here!" Her dress caught on the prickly branches and tore. She tugged on it, trying to free herself. Her arms felt weak, and she was beginning to see streaks of white and gray in her vision. "I can't... I'm here. Over here!" She panted more, and started to whirl towards the ground. She felt warm arms around her.
"I've got you," Miles comforted her. "Let's get you out of the rain." He supported her with his arm while she stumbled along the path and then sunk down on the floor in the middle of the small, wooden gazebo. There were lights along the inside of it, and Miles almost gasped when he got a good look at Jules. Her face was pale and drawn, and there was makeup smudged down her cheeks. Her arms and legs were scraped and bleeding, and her dress was torn. She was sobbing quietly.
"Here," Miles knelt down next to her and wrapped the warm blanket around her. He put his arm across her shoulders and let her lean against him while she cried. "You're safe now. I've got you. Thank God you're okay."
Jules shuddered slightly and pulled the blanket more firmly around her. She gradually calmed down, exhausted and relieved. "Where are Greta and Dad?"
"Greta's car broke down, so your dad called me."
"How--how did you get here so fast?"
"I was at the hospital with Gramps."
Jules' head shot up.
"He's okay," Miles rushed to add. "He just came in for a check up. It was either this evening or early Saturday morning, so we chose tonight. I'm so glad we did."
"Me too," Jules murmured. "Miles, I-I--" she sighed. "I was wondering, did Dad tell you what, what happened?"
"Yes." Miles glanced away, trying to hide the rage in his eyes. "I saw Martin when I got here."
"Oh my." Jules shuddered again. "Is he still out here?" She glanced around apprehensively.
"No, he left after I talked to him for a few minutes."
Jules looked him in the eye. "After you--after you talked to him?"
He met her gaze evenly. "Jules, I wanted to hit him so bad, knowing what he did. What he did to you. But I knew that wouldn't fix anything. I'm just glad he didn't do more."
They sat quietly together, watching the rain cascade down beyond the roof of the gazebo. Once it had slowed down, Miles stood up. "Do you feel up to walking back to my car now?"
"I think so."
He offered her his hand, and she held on to it with a grateful smile while he lifted her up. She swayed a little bit on her feet.
"I've got you," Miles said. He put his arm firmly around her waist and waited for her to take the first step when she was ready. "There are water bottles in my car, and I think I'll stop at that little café nearby and get you some soup to eat. You're probably dehydrated and chilled right now."
"Thank you," Jules nodded weakly. "Soup sounds wonderful. I'm freezing."
"Here," Miles shrugged out of his jacket and draped it over her shoulders. "The car isn't too far from here. I won't let you go," he said, seeing the look of panic in Jules' eyes when he turned to retrieve the umbrella. He put his arm back around her shoulders and led her gently down the path towards his car.
Once he had tucked Jules safely into the passenger seat and shut the door for her, he walked back around to the trunk. He tossed the dripping umbrella in and grabbed a few water bottles before getting in behind the wheel. He handed Jules a bottle and a box of tissues and then pulled out onto the access road.
"Thank you. You're so kind."
"Don't worry about it. I'm glad I was able to help out."
Jules took a sip of her water. "It means the world to me. I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't been able to help."
Miles smiled over at her and then brought his eyes back to the road. He looked over again when he heard Jules sigh deeply. "You okay?"
"I'm just, uh, well I was thinking about how none of that would have happened if I hadn't agreed to go to the park with him."
"You couldn't have known that would happen. I mean, you grew up with him, didn't you?"
"Yes. I thought he looked at me as a sister. I had no idea he... that he'd... oh, I don't know. I wish I could just forget all about it."
"I'm so sorry, Jules. Would it help if I play some music?"
"As long as it's something quiet," she murmured. "My head is throbbing."
Miles turned on some quiet piano music. He noticed that Jules was still shivering, so he reached over to turn the heat up the rest of the way.
"We're almost to the café. Do you know what kind of soup you want?"
"Umm, anything that doesn't have tomatoes in it would be okay. I'm feeling a little bit nauseous right now."
"Alrighty." He pulled into the narrow parking space and put the car in park. "I'll be right back."
Miles walked into the tiny café and smiled at the waitress. She was a sweet lady in her mid to late fifties, and had a warm smile for everyone.
"How can I help you this evening?"
"Hi, do you have any soups that don't have tomato products in them?"
"Yes sir! We have a chicken noodle soup, cream of potato, and a broccoli cheese soup."
"I think I'll take a bowl of the cream of potato soup, and a hot biscuit."
"Alrighty then. Will that be for here, or to go?"
"To go please."
"Awesome. I'll have that right out for ya."
"Thanks!" He handed her a few bills. "Keep the change."
"Aww thanks, Hon."
Miles nodded and smiled and then wandered over to a small table and sat down. He had been running on one huge adrenaline rush for the last half hour, and now he was exhausted. He rested his head in his hands for a few moments.
"Here you go!" The waitress's cheery voice cut into his thoughts. "You have a good night, sir."
"Thanks! You too." He headed out the door.
When he climbed into his seat, he looked over at Jules. Miles saw that she had fallen asleep with her hands tucked under her cheek. She was still very pale, and her breathing seemed a little shallow. He set the bag of food carefully in the back floorboard and tucked Jules' blanket around her shoulders. He sighed. He got back out of the car, carefully shutting his door behind him so he wouldn't wake her up. He dialed Kevin's number and waited.
"Hey, I'm so sorry I forgot to let you know when I found Jules. She's here in my car. We stopped at that little café--what's it called? Annie's? Anyways, I stopped to get her some soup and then she fell asleep."
"Oh, good. She must be exhausted. We finally got the car running again, so we should be there in about forty-five minutes. I'm going to have Greta take Jules back home."
"I think that's a good idea. If you want, I could stay with Duncan and you could drive Gramps home for me. That way you get a break."
"Don't you have to be at the gym early tomorrow?"
"Shoot, I forgot about that."
"It's fine. I'll be fine at the hospital tonight as long as I know Jules is safe with Greta."
"Okay. If Greta's able to, she should stay the night with Jules."
"She already informed me that she would be."
"Great. Listen, I'm just going to park at the hospital and stay in the car while Jules sleeps. She's really pale and she said she was nauseous earlier, so I think I should stay with her until y'all get here."
"Sounds good. I guess I'll see you soon."
"Okay." Miles put his phone in his pocket and got back into the car. Jules was still sleeping soundly. Good. He pulled back out onto the highway and drove the last three minutes to the hospital. Once he had put the car in park, he leaned back in his seat, relaxing fully for the first time since Kevin had called him in the waiting room. He closed his eyes and sighed. "Thank You, Lord" he whispered. "Thank You." His eyes suddenly popped open. "Gramps!" He slipped out of the car one more time and walked around to lean on the back bumper. He dialed the front desk and left a message with Darlene. Miles sighed a little while he got back into the front seat. He was very tired.
It felt like hours had dragged by before Greta and Kevin pulled up and parked next to him. He got out and shook Kevin's hand. "Hey."
"Thank you so much, Miles."
"You're welcome. I'm just glad I was here and able to help."
"Where is she?" Greta's violet eyes were clouded over with worry.
"She's asleep in the front seat. I think I should carry her to your car; she was so weak she could barely walk earlier."
"I think that's a good idea. I'll clear the back seat real quick."
Miles walked around and carefully opened Jules' door. He lifted her effortlessly and carried her over to the back seat of Greta's mini SUV. Greta gasped.
"She looks terrible. Poor babe."
Jules stirred lightly but never woke up.
"Here," Miles handed Greta the paper bag from Annie's. "She'll probably be starving when she wakes up. Do you have any blankets in your car?"
"I have one in the trunk. I'll get it."
Kevin walked up with Jules' backpack and purse from inside the hospital. "Here these are." He set them in Greta's trunk. "Let me know if she--if anything happens, okay?"
"Will do, Kevin."
"Thank you Greta. I really appreciate it."
"Any time. Oh, Miles?"
"Yes?" Miles looked up from where he was leaning against his car.
"Do you think you could follow me home? I may be a strong, independent woman, but I think I will need help getting Jules inside and upstairs to her room."
"Sure, I can do that. I'll need a few minutes to get Gramps loaded up. He doesn't walk very fast."
"Take your time. You look exhausted."
"I'm a little tired. Will you walk inside with me, Kevin? I'll be right back."
"Okay." Greta watched the two men disappear inside the hospital. She glanced at Jules's pale face in the backseat and groaned. "It's been too much for her, Lord. Please give her strength. She's gone through so much, and she's handled it so gracefully. Please help her to grow and to not become weary. Help me to know how to comfort and help her best. Thank You for her sweet, godly influence in my life. I love her, Lord, and I love You. Amen."
Miles and Angus walked up right after Greta prayed, and soon they were all on their way home. The drive felt very long to both Miles and Greta, and they collectively breathed a sigh of relief when they pulled up into Jules's driveway.
Greta opened the back door of her car and carefully unbuckled Jules. She stirred and opened her eyes. "Where am I? Where's Miles?"
"I'm right here," he said from behind Greta. "And you're home. Let me help you get inside."
"I don't feel like I can walk much. My legs are so tired." She held out her arms like a little child and let Miles half support, half carry her into the house. Once they were inside, he took one look at her stairway. He picked her up without a word and carried her up the stairs to her room, setting her gently on the edge of her bed.
"I feel like such a baby," she murmured.
"It's alright. You need your rest. Please feel free to call me if you have any trouble or anything, okay?"
"We will, Miles." Greta smiled. "Now you go home and get some rest yourself."
"I'll see you ladies later on."
The thunder rumbled on, and still Jules cried uncontrollably. It was all too much.