Jedidiah sat in the chair beside the hospital bed and watched as Janna began to move around.
He’d spent most of the night dozing in the chair, waiting for her to wake up. The doctor had come and gone, and still she slept. The child had awakened sometime in the night and he’d apparently cried for her because they’d wheeled him into her room in a metal crib and locked the wheels down tight right beside her bed.
He’d spent a few minutes staring at him, too. It was weird how life changed so quickly sometimes. Last week at this time he’d been carefree and happy. He hadn’t met a beautiful woman he yearned to protect or a small orphan boy who needed someone to love him.
How was she going to manage to take care of the child when she was so emotionally broken and bent herself? The urge to pray again came over him and he bent his head and gave thanks to God for keeping her alive and well. Physically, anyway. “Dear Lord, please allow this all to work out. I know it’s all in your plan, I just don’t know what that is.”
He kept his head bent for several minutes, dozing in and out of sleep. Every time he allowed himself the luxury of napping, the disjointed dreams would start. Wispy figures running toward him only in shadow. Who was it? It was a woman and child. Was it Janna and Jessie? It had to be. He jerked awake, sitting up straight. He ran his hand through his tangled hair and sighed. She was moving again.
“Janna, are you awake?”
Her eye lashes moved, as if she was trying to open her eyes. She moaned in pain.
Jedidiah’s heart lurched in his chest. What’s up with that?
“Jessie?” She said weakly.
Jed’s eyes switched to the child in the crib. He lay on his back, one leg propped up by a metal bar running between his legs. A cast covered his right leg to the hip and the other wrapped around his left ankle. He supposed that was the way the Dr. had decided to keep it stable. Poor kid. At least he was alive though.
He’d called Janna’s brother right after they’d arrived at the hospital but he hadn’t answered. Jedidiah left a message for him to call as soon as possible. That hadn’t happened yet.
His eyes fell back on Janna’s face and he jerked to attention. She was quietly staring at him, as if she couldn’t figure out who he was. “You’re awake.” Jed scooted to the edge of his chair. “How do you feel?”
“Like I’ve been run over by a Mack truck.” She pursed her lips and made a squeaky noise. “I’m thirsty.”
Jed hurried to her bedside and poured some water from the pitcher sitting there into a cup and handed it to her. “How is the pain in your arm? You were crying when they brought you out of the recovery room.”
She gave him a confused look.
“They had to do surgery on your arm. It was broke in three places.”
She looked surprised. “Is that so?”
“Yes it is.”
She sat up, taking notice of her surroundings. “How is Jessie?”
“He’s sleeping. The Dr. said he’ll keep him sedated for a couple days. He was frantic in his desire to see his mother.”
Jenna tried to sit up but Jed rushed to her side. “Don’t get yourself in an uproar. There’s nothing you can do right now.” He laid his hand lightly oh her arm. “He’s okay, Janna. They did surgery on his leg and put a cast on it. He’s young. He’ll come right through this like a champ.”
She tried to focus on his face but her eyes were drooping. “But his mom…”
Before Jedidiah could help himself he laid his finger gently on her lips. “Sh…it’ll be ok. We’ll deal with it when he wakes up.”
She opened her eyes all the way, her lips pursing in disbelief. “We? I barely know you.”
He didn’t say anything for a moment, just pulled his finger away from her lips and sat back down in his chair. “I know that. But we’ve been through a lot together.” His response was quiet and he was surprised by the hurt that rushed through him. He felt rejected.
She stared at him, her eyes drooping once more. “I can’t think straight right now. We’ll discuss it when I wake-up.” And she slept.
He watched her for a few minutes, not knowing what to think. He was over-tired.
He pulled his phone out and dialed her brother’s number once more. “Hey man, there’s an emergency here. I need you to call me asap.” He ended the call after leaving the message and slipped the phone in his pocket. He couldn’t sit here anymore. He jumped up and went out the door and down the hall. It felt good to stretch his legs. He went outside and Hairy sat there, patiently waiting on him, his leash hanging from his mouth. He laughed and called the loyal pet to him. “I thought I told you to stay in the car?”
Hairy barked and Jed ruffled his ears. “Yeah I know. It’s hard to take orders.”
He grabbed the end of the leash and walked the dog back to the car. He got in and they pulled out of the parking lot. It took him over an hour to get three blocks away. The damage from the twister was extensive.
His home was gone. Was Janna’s still standing? Should he hope?
He turned right after reaching the third block and held his breath as he went around a huge tree that almost reached all the way across the road. At the end of the road Janna’s home stood like a sentinel. “It’s still there!”
He rubbed the dog’s ears with one hand while steering around the trees in the road. “This is the worst devastation I’ve ever seen from a tornado, Hairy. God is definitely watching over her or her house wouldn’t still be standing.” He pulled into the driveway and used the remote Wilson had given him to open the garage door. He drove the car inside and he and the dog went in the side door. He was in the kitchen. He looked around in awe at how clean the place was. There wasn’t a thing out of place. Silver pans hung from the ceiling and several shelves were full of different kitchen gadgets. “Does she use all this stuff?”
Hairy barked, as if answering.
“I know that’s right, buddy.”
He walked through each room, acclimating himself to her surroundings. He would love to get her some clean clothes and some toiletries but he couldn’t let her know he had a key to her home. She was already somewhat hostile. He could just imagine how she would feel if she knew the truth. “I don’t want to be around when she finds out her brother hired me to protect her. Do you Hairy?”
“I thought not.” He went up the steps and went into each room. It was just as clean up here. It was a little unsettling. “How can someone live and not make a mess?”
He turned, leaving what looked like a guest bedroom and walked to the end of the hallway and the last door. It stood there like a ghostly apparition. Her bedroom.
He looked down at the dog. “Shall we?”
He gave the dog a rueful look and grimaced. “That’s what I thought. Chicken.”
He left the dog sitting in the middle of the hall and advanced toward that forbidden doorway. He’d never been so intimidated by someone before. It was a new experience for him.
“Are you coming Hairy Chicken?”
The dog cocked his head and stayed silent.
“Wow.” Jedidiah twisted the knob and the door opened. He gasped in surprise. It was nothing like he’d imagined, compared to the rest of the house. Several pairs of slacks lay on the floor next to a huge four-poster bed that was graced with the biggest long-haired white cat he’d ever seen. He hated cats. He vaguely remembered seeing a small square opening at the bottom of the bedroom door…and one at the back door, too. She’d been so perfect. Why did she have to have a cat?
It noticed him at that moment and stood up on the bed, that massive back bent and huge fangs hanging from its frowning mouth.
“Nice kitty, kitty.” Jed held his hands out, trying to ward off the ornery-looking beast.
It growled at him.
Cats growled? He started backing away slowly, trying not to be too obvious.
“You’re part tiger, aren’t ya?”
“Hairy?” Jed’s voice was weak, the uncertainty he felt plainly obvious to the dog, who stood in the doorway watching his sad comeuppance with apparent glee.
“You sure turned out to be loyal,” Jedidiah said with derision. “You couldn’t just chase the beast until I got away from it, could you?”
The dog cocked its head once more. The cat moved like a streak of lightning and jumped onto Jedidiah’s chest. His claws sunk into the sides of his face and Jed did what any red-blooded American soldier would do in a like situation. He yelled and fell to the floor, trying to wrestle the beast off his face.