Issues this week in not being able to write for various reasons again … As such, there really isn’t all that much added to Storm Clouds this time. Maybe a little, but not all that much—I think, anyway.
Storm Clouds 203
The calendar hung from the wall by a single red thumbtack. A series of red slashes were drawn through several of the dates on it, but not all of them. There were still many more to go.
Jane stood there looking at it and then began counting the days left, turning the calendar over as she did so, finally coming to the date marked with a blue circle. She noted that there were still two and a half months to go before the dance. One way or the other, she was going to see to it that John made it there.
She turned away from the calendar and looked at John as he hobbled into the room. She knew he was making progress—slow, but steady. He didn’t see it that way. That had to change.
“I’m thinking about going to the dress maker tomorrow and getting something special made.”
He shook his head: “I’m not going to make it. Docs say that they won’t let me out for another six months, and it’ll be another year of therapy before they know …”
Jane stalked towards him, her heels clicking on the tile floor: “By the end of this week, you’re going to be walking better. By the end of next week, you’re not going to be walking with that cane. The end of next month? You’re going to be running on a treadmill.”
John shifted, putting more weight on the cane as he did so: “So, if you’re right, then by the end of this week, you’re going to be slow dancing like a pro. By the end of next week, you’re going to be ballroom dancing. And next month? I expect the cha-cha and some tango.”
Jane stopped just in front of him: “Deal.”
John shot a look at her: “What?”
“It’s going to happen. I’ve taken time off from my job. I don’t have to go back for three months. I’ve gotten permission to be with you every day and get your ass in gear, John. You aren’t getting out of the date.”
“Who says so?”
“Jane, I’m not. I’ll take you wherever you want: any place in town, it’s yours; just say. But we aren’t going to that dance.”
She poked a slim finger into his chest: “Why? Is this some kind of macho man thing that you firemen do? Can’t be seen as anything less than perfect?”
John didn’t answer, which told Jane all she needed to know. She moved her finger underneath his chin, making John look at her: “Tell me what you are thinking, John. You’ve been fighting me every step of the way. Why?”
He moved his free hand to take Jane’s and lower it from his chin: “Truth is, I don’t understand why you are sticking around. You’re … damn it … a dream. You probably could have a dozen men wrapped around your finger, doing whatever you want. And you’re here. Why?”
Jane didn’t look away; her eyes held on John’s: “There’s a difference between lust and love, John. I know the difference. I know who’s real and who’s a fraud. I know … things. I know you aren’t sure that I’ll be here every day. I know that. I understand that. Thing is, as frustrating as you are …”
The pause was a long one, Jane trying to put her truth out in the open, but John interrupted: “If you tell me you love me … be sure. You can’t take that back.”
Jane nodded: “Someone special once told me about the first time she met her Eternal.”
John arched an eyebrow. He could hear the capitalization in that word, hear how Jane put so much emotion into it.
“She told him to be careful who he gave his soul to; he would never get it back.”
John nodded: “Sounds right … seems right.”
Jane sighed: “I know what I know, John, but I won’t say the words right now. Still, I promise you this: at that dance, on that dance floor, when the floor is ours and ours alone … I am going to be sure, and you are too.”
John looked at his cane: “How long?”
“Two and a half months.”
“A lot can happen in that time.”
“I hope so.”
He looked at her again: “Me too.”
She smiled: “Let’s go. The exercise room is open. We’ve got a lot to do today.”
He had thought that Jane would be just watching and encouraging him as he had done for the past week and a half, but today … today was different. When they entered, there was no one else there. Jane closed the door behind them, and then picked up a nurse’s cap that was sitting on a table by the door.
“Where’s the help?”
“Not going to be here today. It’s the weekend: they’re all off, but we’re not. So, I’m going to be the one pushing you. I’ll be back in a sec.”
With that, Jane walked away from John and entered a back room. She emerged a few minutes later in a t-shirt and shorts, the cap in her hair and running shoes on her toes.
John couldn’t help thinking about what she would look like in a nurse’s uniform and had to turn away, the embarrassment on his face quite clear.
“Out with it.”
“No, tell me what you’re thinking, John. I want to know.”
John looked at her: “You’ll just walk out on me.”
“I said I’m not leaving.”
He sighed: “I had … an image of you looking like a nurse just now.”
She smirked: “And?”
He looked away: “You know, I keep thinking about you in that black dress, and now I have a fantasy about you looking like a nurse. You really are trouble, aren’t you?”
Jane walked up to him, pressing her chest against his back, wrapping her arms around his waist. There was a purr in her voice that reached down deeply inside of John: “I’ll keep that fantasy in mind. It’ll be worth your while.”
“God. You are evil, aren’t you?”
She kissed the back of his neck: “Not evil … mischievous.”
Six hours later, John was aching all over as the weights came down for the final time.
“You are a slave driver. I haven’t hurt this much since the academy.”
Jane was looking at a clipboard: “No pain, no gain. You managed about ten percent more today. You’re getting better John.”
“Can’t keep going like this every day.”
She put the clipboard down: “Oh … I think I can find an incentive for you.”
“Do I really want to know?”
Jane didn’t say anything; instead she helped John to stand, then walked with him over towards the showers: “Go; take a shower; come out when you’re done.”
Throughout the shower, John worried. He worried that Jane was going to do something stupid when he came out that would embarrass them both. The thing was—and he found himself not wanting to admit it—he had flashes of fantasies about Jane that got to him … badly.
He didn’t get out of the shower until the water turned very cold. When he did come out, Jane was standing there, tapping her foot: “It’s about …”
John had only wrapped a towel around his waist and Jane got a really good look at him. He looked away, embarrassed that he didn’t use the robes that were there.
Jane ran her tongue over her lips: “Oh … it’s … fine. Just … fine.”
She pointed at a small stack of clothes and then moved towards the shower: “I’m going to use that shower Go get changed. I won’t be as long as you were.”
John had the distinct feeling that Jane knew exactly why it took him so long in the shower. “It’s … the water is freezing.”
She snorted, grabbing a small bag as she marched past him: “That’s why I won’t be long.”
She wasn’t, and, when she came out, her hair was in a ponytail, a fuzzy orange sweater was hugging her curves, and … to be honest, the rest of what she was wearing didn’t register to John.
She smiled: “Cat got your tongue?”
He picked up his cane: “Cat’s got nothing on Jane.”
She slipped her arm around his and they walked from the exercise room back to his room.
“So, no black dress for your dance lessons tonight?”
“Not going to be dancing tonight John.”
“What are you planning?”
“You and I are going to have dinner in your room, and then we’re going to talk. If we’re both lucky, we’re going to be spending the night together.”
John didn’t know what to say about that … but found himself thinking that Jane was wrong: she wasn’t mischievous. And that little spark within him, that one that he’d kept locked away where no one would be able to get to it … glowed a little brighter.
It matched a spark within Jane herself.
On the way back to his room, John wondered what the mystery meat was for dinner this time. Hospital food wasn’t the greatest. He wondered what Jane was going to have. He wondered what she wanted to talk about.
When they approached the room at least the first two questions were answered. The answer was that they weren’t having hospital food. Somehow Jane had gotten delivery: pizza. It smelled like really good pizza, too.
He definitely would have to keep her.
“Tell me there aren’t any anchovies.”
The look of disgust was good enough for John. So was the pizza.
It was about the time when they were each on their second slice when she asked him: “Tell me what you think about me.”
John chewed on the slice, then: “You’re a pain in the ass, you’re driven, you set yourself to doing something and you don’t let go of it. You can be grating, irritating, and a slave driver. You push others until you get your way.”
Jane’s expression was unreadable to him, but then most women were. Before she could say anything, he pressed on: “You give a damn about others more than yourself. I saw you helping the nurses out. I saw you spending time with those two kids across the ward. I know at least one nurse you helped out when she couldn’t pay her rent this month.”
“How do you know that?”
“I was told by her that my girlfriend was wonderful and that she owes you a favour. She, and honestly everyone else you have met here, thinks you’re wonderful. But then, that’s obvious. You are … better than wonderful. But that brings up a question.”
“And that is?”
“What secret are you hiding, Jane?”
Jane took another slice and chewed on it for a time, considering what her answer should be. She couldn’t tell John that she was one of the Succubi. At least not yet. Then it struck her and she told him a different secret: “I have a sister. We’re identical twins.”
“Okay, I know that’s not a real secret. The secret is that my sister has a family: two adopted kids and a husband. And I … I’m jealous of that.”
John took a slice to occupy his hands and to keep from saying anything more. He’d made an ass of himself by asking the question. He didn’t want to make it worse.
Jane poked a finger through the bacon bits that were scattered in the pizza box: “I don’t, haven’t had a relationship. Part of that is my job, a lot of it is that I have guys that throw themselves at me and I don’t want any part of it. I’m jealous of her having a place to go home to, someone that she wants to go home to and not just a cat waiting at home.”
Then she looked very deeply into his eyes: “You believe in love at first sight?”
He swallowed: “Never felt it before. Lust, maybe.”
She nodded: “Exactly. Lust is obvious, it pokes you in the eyes. Love isn’t. It sneaks up behind you and then slaps you upside the head.”
John reached across the table and tapped Jane’s forehead with a finger, then sat down again without a word.
Jane looked at him for the longest time. She then grabbed the last slice and looked at it before tearing it in half and offering part to John: “It’s sneaking up on me. What about you?”
He took the slice from her hand: “The same. Course, there are some questions that have to be answered before I’m sure.”
“How much closet space you need, whether you hog the entire couch, how lousy a driver you are, whether you like breakfast in bed or not. You know … important stuff.”
Jane had that smirk as she bit into her slice: “Half the closet, I share the couch, I’m a better driver than dancer and yes … I do like breakfast in bed … with the right one there with me.”
John smiled as he finished his part of the pizza: “So … where are you planning to spend the night?”
Jane pointed at the empty bed on the other side of the room: “Over there. I’ll warn you right now: if you snore, I will throw things at you.”
“I’m a heavy sleeper.”
Jane had that smirk again: “Oh, I hope so.”
While Jane gathered up their dinner and put things away, John went through his evening routine. There was an odd moment when he was brushing his teeth and he noticed Jane at the door watching him.
His arched eyebrow, his mouth was full of toothpaste after all, was met with her commenting: “That’s one point for you. Good dental hygiene.”
After washing out the toothpaste he replied: “That’s important? Really?”
She had that smirk again: “Damn right. Makes kissing a lot more pleasant.”
John didn’t quite know how to answer that. He did spend a lot more time brushing than he usually did, though. When he came out, he found Jane wearing an oversized shirt and not a lot else. At first, he was going to tell her that she was evil again.
But instead he asked: “You’re sure you want to be here?”
Jane didn’t say a word. Instead she helped him to his bed, gave his right hand a light squeeze and then walked over to the far side of the room where the light switch was.
After she turned the lights out and settled in for the night across from him, Jane finally replied: “Only way if I’m going to find out if you’re Mister Right for sure.”
He lay in bed pondering that until sleep overtook him, and then John … started to snore.
But then, Jane’s snoring wasn’t any better than his.