A Changed Lock Chapter 18: Guy Troubles

Fiction By Damaris Ann // 2/23/2018

Jules dragged herself into bed sometime after 10pm. She grinned in the dark while her mind ran back over her evening with Angus and Miles. Angus had obviously had something mischievous up his sleeve, and kept trying to covertly give Miles a certain humorous look. Jules laughed out loud when she remembered how many times Miles looked distressed. At one point he actually ran out of the room while she tried not to laugh. Angus was such a tease.
Jules sighed and snuggled deeper into her covers. There was a light patter of rain against her window, and the wind was whistling through the tree branches outside. It had been a very drizzly winter, so she hoped that was a sign that it would be an extra colorful spring. There were already small buds dotting the grass strips along the roads, and her own back yard looked as if it would be covered in Bluebonnets soon. Jules couldn't wait for them to spring up. She drifted off to sleep with a peaceful smile on her face, dreaming of fields full of spring flowers and joyful laughter.
Jules woke up with a frown and rubbed her head. What time was it? She groaned and rubbed her eyes lazily. Then it happened again. Yes, that was definitely a knock at the front door. She groped around for her phone and then stumbled out of bed. After turning on the light, she rushed into her denim skirt and a clean, red plaid blouse before running downstairs. She turned on lights as she went, and pulled her hair into a messy bun on top of her head.
The front door swung open to reveal Martin, looking slightly impatient and a little awkward. His face lit up when he saw her. "Jules! You look nice."
"Uh, thanks." She shuffled uncomfortably in her bare feet, running a quick hand over her hair. "What are you doing here? I mean, Good morning. What brings you here?" She bit her tongue. He had never just showed up on her doorstep out of the blue like this before.
"I thought I'd bring back your casserole dish and check in on you."
"Oh. That's very nice of you. Would you like to come in?"
"Yes, thank you."
Jules reached out to take the casserole dish, but Martin ignored her and walked straight into the kitchen. He set the dish down and then leaned comfortably against the counter. She tentatively leaned against the island across from him, noting how his eyes held concern when he looked at her. "How have you been holding up?"
"I've been... holding up." Jules smiled and tucked a renegade curl behind her ear. "I've had a lot of days that felt like too much, but I'm learning to grow and be joyful." She paused, looking down at the floor. She frowned at a stray dried noodle and made a mental note to sweep and mop the floors. "Anyways, Miles has--well, everyone at church has been so helpful. I'm blessed."
Martin nodded. "I'm glad you have so much support. Is there anything I can do to help?"
Jules thought about all of Miles' trips to the hospital and back, and wondered if he'd like a break. She looked up at Martin. "Well, if you could--" she bit her lip and looked down again, frowning slightly.
Martin stepped towards her and spoke gently. "If I could what?"
"I--" Jules hesitated again. "Just keep praying." She smiled again. "It means so much to me." For some reason she couldn't bring herself to ask him to help with all of the driving to and fro. She knew she was more at ease with Miles in the car for so long. Just the thought of spending so much time one-on-one with Martin made her stomach dance. Then a thought hit her. But no, she would pursue that thought after Martin had left and she had had her coffee.
She was drawn back into reality by suddenly noticing that Martin had lain his hand gently on her arm. Her face grew warm and she heard him sigh. He looked disappointed. "Of course I'll keep praying for you, Jules. Just let me know if I can do anything else."
"I will. And Martin?"
"Don't forget to pray for Grandad, too."
Martin bit his lip and looked a little silly. "Oh, yes, Mama and I have been praying for him. Of course."
"How is Margaret doing?"
"She is doing alright. Still very tired. She can do small chores around the house, but that's about it at this point."
"I'm sorry she's so tired still. I'll keep praying for her."
"Thank you, Jules. We appreciate you so much. We lo--"
There was another knock at the door, cutting him off. Jules rushed to the front door, a feeling of relief washing over her. She could feel the warm spot on her arm where Martin's hand had rested, and it made her feel almost dizzy. She opened the door with a warm smile and saw Miles turning on his heel to leave. "Miles! Hey. What brings you here?" She smiled again.
"Oh, hey. You left your shoes in my car last night so I thought I'd bring them by. I was afraid you were still asleep."
"Thank you so much! No, I--" she was cut off by Martin standing close behind her, clearing his throat.
Martin and Miles had a stare-down for five seconds. Martin won.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize you had company. I'll just be going."
"Miles, my shoes."
"Oh, sorry. Here you go. I guess I'll talk to you later."
"Oh, okay. Goodbye."
"'Bye. Goodbye, Martin."
Martin nodded and watched Miles drive away. As soon as he had disappeared down the road, Martin turned back to Jules. "I guess I should be going, too. I have classes soon, and I need to get a few things down before then."
"Okay. Thanks for dropping by."
"Any time. I'll see you later, Jules."
Jules went directly inside, not pausing to watch Martin drive off. She put on a pot of coffee and texted Greta. After a few minutes of stress cleaning her phone rang, and she hopped up to sit on the counter before answering.
"Hey Greta."
"Okay, what's going on? Your text was a little confusing and you sound distressed. I'd run over, but I'm still on the road."
"It's okay. How close are you?"
Greta sighed into the phone. "I've only got one hour to go. I'm making better time than I thought I would, but I'm not super fond of long, lonely road trips. Anyways, this isn't about me. What's going on with you?"
It was Jules's turn to sigh. "So, I'm really confused..." she trailed off and bit her lip, trying to collect her thoughts.
"I caught that. Is it about Miles?" She gently prodded.
"Yes and no." Jules sighed again. "It's Miles and Martin."
"Wait, both of them? What are they doing?"
"It's not so much what they're doing, but what I'm feeling. And what they're doing, I guess. Like, Miles has been driving Dad and I back and forth to the hospital nearly every day. That's five hours of driving, and lots of alone time with both Dad and me."
"Uh-huh. And what is Martin doing?"
Jules scratched her head and frowned, wrinkling up her forehead in thought. "Martin has been dropping by randomly to bring me coffee and check on me. Well, he brought me coffee once and then came by at..." she glanced at the clock. "At 7:30 this morning to bring back my casserole dish and see how I'm doing."
"Aww, that was nice of him. So...you said this is also about your feelings? How are you feeling about all of this?"
"Confused. I mean, I get all nervous and stuff with both of them. Actually, I'm not really nervous around Miles much anymore. I'm really comfortable talking to him after the first few minutes, and he's becoming a good friend. With Martin I feel more... well, it's almost like I get butterflies around him. Or something. But that's so weird!"
"What's weird about it?"
"Well, like, ugh. I mean I grew up with him. He's like a brother to me! And I'd kinda like to keep it that way. And I think that's what he wants, too. I mean he's been very brotherly towards me. He brought me a book when he got me coffee yesterday, and he just, I don't know, I don't want to be anymore than just friends. I think."
"Okay, okay. How can I help make sure that happens?"
"Umm, come with me tomorrow when I bring him and Margaret a meal? That way I'm not alone with him for even a moment. Oh, would you be up to taking me to the hospital once you get home? I could drive. That way I don't have to be alone with Miles again if I can help it. I mean I don't feel uncomfortable or anything, it's just a good policy to not be alone. Like if I can help it... not that he's been weird or anything!"
"Okay, I get it. Yeah, I can take you. You're being all confusing again, just so you know."
"Ugh, I know. I haven't had my coffee yet, and Martin woke me up a couple hours earlier than I would have otherwise gotten up."
"The meanie. He definitely is like a brother if he did that. If he had a deeper interest in you, he would have been more considerate of your sleep."
Jules laughed. "True. Anyways, I'll let you get back to your driving. I need my coffee."
"Okay. See you soon, Hon."
"See ya. Thanks for letting me hash out all of my guy troubles with you." Jules grinned.
"Any time." Greta laughed. "I'm guessing you'll be taking me up on that pretty often after this."
"Oh goodness, I hope not."
They said their goodbyes, and Jules slid off the counter to run over to where the coffee pot sat. She filled her favorite mug, and topped off her steaming cup with a healthy dollop of Vanilla creamer. She took a careful sip. "Mm, warm and creamy, just how I like it."
After consuming one cup of coffee and a granola bar, she felt ready to begin the day. Once she had finished cleaning the kitchen floors, made a fresh batch of chicken salad.
Jules carried her second cup of coffee upstairs and made her bed. She plugged in her speakers and played some music, dancing around and singing while she worked. Time passed by quickly, and she had just finished wiping down her bathroom counter when she heard Greta pull up. She texted her and told her to come in.
"Hey Jules! Where are you?"
Jules shouted down the stairs. "I'm in my room!"
Greta took the stairs two at a time and breezed into Jules' room. "I don't see you anywhere..."
She popped her head around the doorway of the bathroom. "Here I am. I've been cleaning the mirrors. Almost done." She received Greta's hug, careful not to touch her with her hands. "Sorry, I'm a bit sweaty. Do you wanna rest a bit while I take a ten minute shower?"
"That would be amazing, actually. I'll crash on the couch in the library since you just made the bed." Greta winked and headed back downstairs.
"I'll be out before you know it."
"Sure ya will," Greta threw over her shoulder with a smirk. "I'll try not to fall asleep while waiting."
Jules grinned and washed her hands. She walked over to her closet and starting pulling clothes off their hangers. It was a chilly day, so she picked out an old-fashioned paisley cotton dress and a pale yellow cardigan to match.
When she walked downstairs with her newly-packed backpack, she found Greta sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee.
"You ready?"
"Yep! Glad you made yourself at home. There are granola bars and pop tarts in the pantry if you're hungry."
Greta pointed to the empty wrapper sitting on the table in front of her. "I was hungry, but I'm not anymore."
Jules laughed. "Crazy girl."