A Changed Lock Chapter 16: Super Cryptic

Fiction By Damaris Ann // 2/17/2018

Miles and Jules walked along the hallway together inside the hospital. He held her backpack for her, as usual.
"I could get used to this," Jules muttered to herself.
"Hmm? I didn't catch what you said."
"Oh," Jules blushed, realizing she had said that out loud. "I was just saying I'm not sure if I'll ever get used to this." She looked down at her feet.
Miles hit the elevator button. "I hope you won't have to get used to it. You'll be taking him home before you know it."
"On boy." Jules smacked her forehead.
"What? What is it?" Miles looked concerned.
"I need to trade my car in for one that's wheelchair accessible."
"In due time. Let's not stress about things that aren't necessary quite yet."
"Yeah, let's not." Jules grinned.
"Ugh." It was Miles' turn to smack his forehead. "I told you I was awkward. I have no social skills."
"Eh, you've got social skills. You're just more real and personally hospitable than most other people are."
"Well that's one way to put it. Thank you."
"You're welcome."
Miles stepped into the elevator. He glanced at Jules, and noticed her still standing out in the hallway. "You coming?"
"Oh, yeah. Sorry." She stepped in just before the doors slid shut. "Guess I was lost in my own little world."
"Guess so." Miles shifted Jules' bag to his other shoulder. "You want me to wait in the hall for a few minutes so you can talk to your dad?"
"That would actually be really nice. Thank you."
"Sure thing."
Miles walked Jules to the door of her grandfather's room. He said goodbye and handed her her bag. After he had walked back down the hall a ways, he sat down on a bench and leaned his elbows on his knees. His phone screen lit up with an incoming call.
"Hey Gramps. What's up?"
"I was just wondering how your ride with you-know-who went."
Miles rolled his eyes. "It was fine. I'm taking Kevin home in a bit."
"It was fine? What did you talk about?"
"I told her about Charlie, we talked about her dad. About faith a little bit, and--"
"Wait, you told her about Charlie? Why would you do that? Are you trying to ru--"
"Relax, Gramps. She's going to talk to him about remodeling Duncan's bathroom. And make things wheelchair accessible. I told her Charlie's my best friend."
"Okay. I'm sure you know what you're doing."
"I'm not doing anything, Gramps."
"But you might do something someday. Hopefully sooner rather than later."
"Okay, now who's Batman? You're being super cryptic. Ah, here comes Kevin. I'll talk to you later Gramps. Bye."
Miles stuffed his phone into his back pocket and stood up to shake Kevin's hand.
"Hello Miles."
"Hi Kevin. How are you doing today?"
"Tired." Kevin chuckled. He ran his fingers through his hair. "Look, I feel like I sort of manipulated you into picking up Jules today. I apologize."
"I forgive you." Miles smiled. He gestured in front of them, and they began the walk back to the parking garage. "I am curious, though, about your motives."
Kevin grinned. "Well, about that..."

***

Jules stretched her legs out and looked at her phone. 5:30. She glanced at Duncan and noticed his peaceful expression and easy breathing. The car keys were sitting on the rolling table, so she snatched those up along with her purse and headed out the door. "Excuse me," she flagged a nurse down. "I'll be stepping out for a bit to eat dinner and stretch my legs. I left my phone number on the whiteboard in Grandad's room, so just let me know if there are any problems."
"Alrighty, Ma'am. You enjoy your break."
"Thank you." Jules smiled. "I will."
She drove to a Subway and ordered a sandwich, chips, and a drink. Once she had her food she headed to a small park nearby, and walked out to a wooden bench near the small, clear pond. She said a silent prayer over her food before eating. The wind was soft and cool. She felt refreshed while watching the sun chase the clouds, leaving a blaze of violet and burnt sienna in its path as it set behind the cityscape. Jules breathed in a contented sigh before gathering her trash and walking back to her car. Her phone rang just as she was climbing behind the wheel.
"Hey Dad."
"Hey there. I just wanted to check in with you and see how things are going."
"They're okay. I was just now eating supper here at a small park. I'm about to head back to the hospital, though. I was thinking--" Jules frowned. "Is that Miles' voice?"
"Yes, it is. I had Miles and Angus over for dinner. I hope that's okay."
Jules let out a long sigh. "It's fine, Dad. I just--" she paused and took a deep breath. "Dad, I'm glad you're making friends with Miles and Angus; I really am. I just wish you had double-checked with me before you had them over, instead of after. It is my house, after all, and it's a bit messier than I normally leave it."
"I'm sorry, Jules. I keep taking it for granted that you're an adult and that I'm staying at your house. Again, I'm sorry."
"It's okay. I know it's hard to adjust. I'm having a hard time, too. I just need you to be patient with me."
"I'll try. And I'll try to be more considerate in the future, too. I love you."
Jules sat in silence for a few seconds. "I love you, too, Dad. I'll talk to you later." She hung up.

***

The next morning, Jules was up bright and early. She looked over at Duncan and noticed that his eyes were open.
"Good morning, Grandad." She held his hand in both of hers. "I love you," she said. "Would you like for me to sing to you?"
Duncan squeezed her hand twice. She smiled.
"Would you like a hymn," she asked, or something else? One squeeze for a hymn and two squeezes for something else."
He carefully squeezed her hand two more times, a hint of a smile shining in his eyes.
Jules laughed. "Don't tell me you want me to sing Sunny Day, Grandad."
He painstakingly squeezed her hand twice, again. This time his mouth pointed upwards at one side.
"You're such a joy, Grandad. I hope you know that. Okay," she took a deep breath. "I'll sing for you now."
While Jules sang her song, several of the nurses and patients nearby craned their necks to hear.
Once her song was over, the Duncan's regular nurse walked in and cleared his throat. "Excuse me, Miss. There's a little girl down the hall who heard you singing. She asked if you would be willing to come and sing something for her."
"Of course," Jules smiled. "I'm sure Grandad can spare me for a few minutes."
Duncan tried to smile again, and almost imperceptibly nodded his head.
"I'll be back in a few minutes, Grandad."
Jules followed the nurse down the hall to a room filled with pink flowers and lined with many, many cards and signs.
"Here is the lady with the pretty voice, Ma'am." The nurse smiled and left the room.
A young woman with tired eyes and a sweet smile stood up and gave Jules a warm hug. "Thank you so much for coming! I'm Joanna, and Lydia here was hoping you could sing a Disney song for her. Which song was it again, Sweetheart?"
Jules smiled over at Lydia and noticed that she had a tube down her throat. She was signing something to her mother.
"Her little brother is deaf," Joanna explained. "So we all know sign language. Lydia would like to hear you sing Bless the Broken Road if you wouldn't mind."
Jules smiled brightly. "That's one of my favorites! Of course I'd love to sing it for you."
Jules closed her eyes and sang from her heart. When she ended the last note she looked up and saw Joanna wiping tears away.
"Thank you, Miss--"
"Jules. Please call me Jules."
"Thank you so much, Jules. That was lovely. And Lydia thanks you, too."
Jules walked around the bed to give the little girl a tender hug. "Well Lydia is very welcome." She kissed her on the cheek and then stood up to receive Joanna's hug.
"You're so kind."
"It was my pleasure. I'd love to come again and visit some more. Maybe in the evening?"
"That would be lovely! Lydia has a hard time sleeping and it would help so much if you could sing to her again." Joanna laughed. "I can't sing worth a fig."
"Then it's settled! I'll come back in the evening. I'll see you both soon."
She stepped back out into the hall and stopped in her tracks. "Martin? What are you doing here?"
"I came to bring you this," he held up a large coffee, "and this book." He pointed to the paper bag hanging from his wrist. "It's a bit of a thank-you for the lasagna (which was amazing, by the way). And I wanted to see how you are doing." He handed her the cup of coffee cup and fell into step beside her.
Jules looked down at her feet while they walked.
"So...how are you doing?"
"I'm fine. Yesterday was a little rough, but I'm really okay."
"I'm glad you're doing alright. If there's ever anything I can do to help, just let me know."
"Thank you, Martin. I really appreciate it."
"Any time, Jules."
They stopped outside the door to Duncan's room. "Would you like to come in and say hello to Grandad?"
"I actually need to get going. Take it easy, Jules."
"Oh, okay. 'Bye."
Martin handed her the paper bag and walked down the hall, throwing one last smile over his shoulder.
Duncan was asleep when she walked back into his room, so Jules settled into her chair with the book and her coffee. When she opened The Lost Clue, she saw that Martin had written on the fly leaf. She read the inscription aloud. "'To Jules with love. Marjorie reminded me of you. I hope you enjoy it. -Martin' Hmm, it'll be interesting to see what Marjorie is like."
Jules read uninterrupted for four hours. She closed the book, and then flipped back to the fly leaf with a wrinkle across her forehead. She read it again. "Odd. Very odd. I guess he really does see me as a sister? Hmm." She looked at her phone. "Oh my! It's 2:00. I should go get something to eat."
She let a nurse know she was headed out and left for a nearby McDonalds. After she went through the drive through, she drove back to the hospital and parked. "I'm just going to eat in the car. It's so quiet in here." As if on cue, her phone rang.
"Hello?"
"Hey Jules. Will you be ready to switch out in a couple of hours?"
"Mm, yeah, I will be."
"Okay. Umm, would you, uh, do you know..." he trailed off.
"Are you asking who we should ask to drive us back and forth?"
"Yes."
"About that. It would be just as much driving if I drive home and then you take the car back to the hospital."
"Huh. True. But then we'll be leaving Dad alone for several hours."
"Ugh. There's just no easy way to do this, is there?"
"No, there really isn't."
"Hmmm. I can see if Greta is free. Or you could check with Miles."
"Why don't you check with Greta, and if she's not free I'll check with Miles."
"Okay. I'll let you know as soon as I hear back from her."
"Sounds good. Goodbye."
"'Bye, Dad."
A few minutes later Jules texted her dad. "Greta isn't free."
She walked back into the hospital and made her way to Duncan's room. Her Grandad was in the middle of a checkup so she moved towards the back of the room to pack her bag and fold her blanket. Her phone pinged and she looked at the screen. "Miles and I are headed your way. Love you."
Once the checkup was over Jules sat down next to Duncan, and read to him from the Psalms until he fell asleep.

CHAPTER 17: PIZZA AND POETRY

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