It was Wednesday, three more days till opening. The market was just about ready, it was looking fantastic. Jonathan had hired two more employees. All of the major renovations were completed. The only thing more to do was to price everything and make a few aisle signs. I was actually working on that project. I was making them out of chalkboards! Ginger was glued to Jonathan’s side and followed him around the shop all day. I had posted the opening everywhere online and in the local papers and bulletin boards around town. He was nervous, but would be ready. We even called on Rachael to help, like we had talked about. I could tell she was glad to be involved and now she wants a puppy too!
My condo was just about finalized, I would be closing on it Monday morning. I had made a nice profit off of it. I’d looked at a few homes in the area but was still unsure. There weren’t many condos for sale in the area. I wanted to stay close to Main Street still. I might change my strategy and just rent for a while.
I’d agreed to take Ginger home for the night. Jonathan had last minute things he wanted to get done. I was happy to have the house to myself again. I’d picked up a pizza, slipped off my shoes, and put the TV on to relax with Ginger. After an hour or so, I saw the headlights of Jonathan’s truck pulling into the driveway. I’d thought he was going to be gone much longer. I quickly sat up and began cleaning up the mess from dinner.
“Hey!” I called out to him, when I heard the door open. “I didn’t know you’d be back…” I stopped myself. I could see something was wrong. Jonathan hung his head down and brushed passed me quickly. Ginger started barking and jumping up at him. He bent over to pet her but didn’t speak. I said, “Jonathan?”
He pushed his baseball hat a bit lower over his face and said, “Jenny, I’m going to go upstairs and shower,” his voice cracked a bit.
“Wait, Jonathan.” I grabbed his elbow , turning him towards me, so I could see his face. He had been crying for sure. ”What happened?” I said. “Tell me.” I put my arms around his neck and hugged him tight. I could feel him break down. He grabbed me and held on to me tight burying his face in my shoulder. He sobbed.
“Its’ ok,” I told him. I felt myself tearing up too, not knowing still why he was so upset.
After a long while, he took his hat off and wiped his face with his sleeve, not looking at me still. He said, “It’s Linda, she died tonight.” Then he gasped and the tears fell again as he made eye contact with me.
“Oh God! Oh Johnathan! Come here.” I brought him over to the couch and put my arms around him. “I’m so sorry Jonathan.” I didn’t know what else to say to him. I didn’t know how to make it better. I couldn’t. I just held him tight. Ginger jumped up and whined upset that he was upset. He pet her and calmed her down.
“Finally, he said, “I know she’s been gone for a long time now, but...it’s just for real now.”
“Yeah. Did you go to the Center and see her?”
“Ok, that’s good.”
He shook his head in agreement.
He was starting to calm down but I still didn’t let go of him.
A few minutes later he said, “I’m going to shower,” he let go of me and stood up.
“Ok, I...I can let myself out. I..”
“No, don’t go,” he said as he walked away and then up the stairs.
I sat on the floor, holding Ginger. I was sad for Jonathan. I didn’t know the right thing to do or say. I felt helpless. I watched him come back down shortly afterwards. His hair was wet and he had a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt on. He barely looked at me. I quickly put Ginger down and sat up on the couch.
He sat close to me, grabbed my hand and said, “Thanks for staying.”
“Of course,” I said softly.
He leaned forward and grabbed the remote control putting the TV on. He grabbed the blanket that was folded up behind us on the couch and covered himself and me. He slouched down and focused on the TV. I put my hand on his head and urged him to put his head on my shoulder. He did so easily. I stroked his hair softly as he had done to me before. It was calming to me and was the only thing that relaxed me. So, I tried to do the same for him. Eventually, he did relax. He rested his head on me as we watched TV.
“Would you like me to fix you something to eat?” I said softly.
He just shook his head no.
“Ok.” I didn’t say anything else the rest of the night. I stroked his head and watched as he eventually drifted off to sleep. I didn’t want to move, afraid of waking him. I tried to get comfortable too.
The next time I opened my eyes, Jonathan was staring up at me. “Hi,” I smiled.
“Hi,” he smiled back.
“What time is it?” I asked.
“Are you ok?” I said and knew right away I shouldn’t have. “Sorry, I know, it’s a dumb question you don’t want to answer.”
“I’m ok Jenny. Thank you for staying with me.”
“You don’t have to thank me, I didn’t even do anything.”
“You did, just by being here.”
I shook my head knowing exactly what he meant. I grabbed his hand and held it tight. I kissed it and said, “You will tell me if you need me to do something?”
“I will,” he smiled and sat up. “You want to go out, Huh?” Ginger got all excited. I got up too and went to the bathroom. I was exhausted. I felt like I could sleep the whole day away.
When I came out Johnathan was in the kitchen making coffee. He said, “I put the tea kettle on for you.”
“Thanks, I will take a cup to go, unless…”
“I will be ok, you can go.”
“Are you sure, cause I can stay. I could even make you breakfast!” I started looking in the refrigerator.
“No, you should go Jenny. I have a lot of phone calls to make today.”
“Yeah, I’m sure there’s a lot that needs to be done. Umm...If you need my help?”
“I will tell you, promise.”
The kettle whistle blew. He grabbed a mug for me. He leaned in and hugged me tight. “Thank you Jenny.” I felt him kiss the top of my head.
I said goodbye to Ginger and headed off to climb back in bed for the day. My day did not go as planned. When I climbed under the blankets my mind raced. I wondered if Jonathan would want to postpone the grand opening? Maybe they would have the funeral this weekend? Maybe he’d be too upset to do it? If so, I needed to get that information changed quickly! I didn’t want to call and bother him, I know he has a lot to deal with already. I tossed and turned. What could I do to help him through this?
I waited and waited to hear from him. Finally, I just sent a simple text, “Hi.”
“Hi,” he texted back.
“I’m just thinking about you.”
He sent a smiley face in return.
I got up and called Rachael to see if she wanted to meet me for lunch, I couldn’t sleep. I needed to talk. We had decided on Olive Garden, it was her favorite. We met in the parking lot and as soon as she saw me she said, “You look like shit! What’s wrong?”
She was worried.
“No, nothing with me, I’m fine. It’s Jonathan.”
She hugged me tight, “You scared me!”
I hugged her back and said, “Rachael, thank you for being a great sister. I mean it. I know I don’t tell you often, but you know how much I love you, right.”
“Yeah, I know...you sure you’re alright?” she said cautiously.
“I’m sure, I just want you to know that I appreciate you.”
“Ok...what’s wrong with Jonathan?”
We walked into the restaurant, I asked for a seat in the back, I knew we’d be here awhile. I told her about Linda and then surprisingly about how I felt about Jonathan. I can’t keep denying my feelings for him. I think...I know, “I love him.” There, I said it outloud, finally.
“I knew it!” She shouted. “I like him alot Jenny. He’s a good guy.”
“Yeah, who just lost his wife! I feel awful. The timing is all off. I can’t tell him! I’m sure he doesn’t feel the same way anyhow. He is always saying what a great friend I am. He loved his wife.”
“Yes, he did, and he is going to need a little time maybe. But, they haven’t been together for a long time Jenny, he’s told you that it’s been a year or so since she’s been homebound and now she’s been in the nursing home for several months. That’s a long time that they haven’t had a relationship, Jenny.” “I know, it just seems wrong still. I feel guilty.”
“Just give it a little time, see what happens. How lucky are you to fall in love with your best friend!” she giggled. “I’m glad you have finally admitted it to yourself. I agree though, don’t tell him just yet.”
“No, I couldn’t.” I agreed.
“Want to go puppy shopping!” Rachael said excitedly.
“Yup, let’s do it!”
“It’s a lot of work Rachael. What are you going to do all day when you’re at work?”
“I could get one of those crates?”
“No! Don’t do it, that’s not fair to the puppy. You have no idea how much energy they have. They need to run in a yard.”
“Fine! We can just go Christmas shopping then.” she pouted.
I decided then and there that I was going to get Rachael one of those Beta fish for Christmas! That was about all she had time for right now!
We walked around the mall the rest of the afternoon in and out of the busy stores. For the first time I thought, “What do I get Jonathan?” That was going to be hard. I found a hundred things to get Ginger for Christmas!