Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Jason smacked the alarm clock with the back of his hand and rubbed his eyes. The sun streamed in through the curtains as he sat up, yawning and stretching.
He glanced at the other side of the bed, where Alexia was sleeping. She rolled over and faced him, her eyes only slightly open. "Is it time already?"
"Yes," he answered quietly. "Did you sleep alright?"
Alexia yawned. "Not really. The baby kept me up all night." She placed her hands on her stomach. "I think he's coming sooner than the doctor told us."
Jason nodded, smiling to himself at the thought of being a father. He and Alexia had been married for only two months when she discovered she was pregnant. And now, nearly eight months later, the thought of being a father had begun to surface in his mind so much more often than before. Emily had almost been like a daughter to him...but she hadn't been in his life for very long before she died. It didn't lessen the pain of losing her to leukemia, but at least he had her mother, Alexia.
He gazed out the window, thinking of what Emily would say if she was still alive. He grinned as he realized that she'd probably make some kind of sarcastic remark, if she was still with them.
Jason got off the bed and went into the bathroom. He showered and dressed himself, then sat down on Alexia's side of the bed. He couldn't tell if she was really asleep, or if she was pretending. He touched her cheek with his fingertips, thinking about how beautiful she was--inside and out. He leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on her lips, then whispered into her ear, "I love you."
The house in which they lived was huge--due to the large inheritance Jason had received from his grandfather. But alot had changed in Jason in the past two years. And alot had changed for Alexia too. The stability that a committed relationship provided was something she'd never had before. And he knew that she appreciated it.
Jason left the room and grabbed his keys on his way out the door. Alexia had left a bagel on the counter for him to take; he smiled as he saw that it was his favorite: blueberry with strawberry cream cheese. She's the best, he thought to himself.
His phone rang as he took a large bite of the bagel. Muttering to himself, he managed to untangle the phone from the mass of cords and electronic devices in his briefcase. "Hello?"
"Jason, this is Miss Hastings."
Jason looked at the number on the phone--she was calling from Hamilton's office.
"Miss Hastings," he said thickly, struggling to swallow the bit of bagel. "What's up?"
There was silence on the other end. "It's--Mr. Hamilton." Her voice was shaky, and she sounded as though she was on the verge of tears.
"He's--he's--Jason, he's gone."
Jason dropped his briefcase, spilling the contents everywhere. Mr. Hamilton? Dead? It couldn't be.
"Tell me," he demanded, bending down to pick up the papers he had dropped.
"He had a heart attack about an hour ago."
"Why didn't I hear about this when it happened?" Jason asked her, trying to keep the anger out of his voice.
"I called you, but no one answered your phone."
Jason swore under his breath. He'd been in the shower, of course he hadn't heard the phone...and Alexia had been asleep.
"Alright," he said finally, feeling like his heart was being ripped apart. He hadn't expected this, he had taken for granted the fact that Mr. Hamilton had several years left to live.
"I'm sorry, Jason. Is there anything I can do for you?" By the quavering of her voice, Jason guessed that she was in more need of comfort than he was.
"Jason?" Alexia came into the kitchen behind him. Her condition made it difficult to walk, but she tried to stand up straight as she looked at all the contents of his briefcase on the floor. "What happened?"
"I'm fine, Miss Hastings," Jason replied, trying to relay the message to his wife through facial expressions. "Are you going to be alright?"
There was a sniffle on the other end, but her voice was steady. "I'll be fine, Jason. I'll make the arrangements for the funeral, if you'd like me to."
"Whenever you're ready. Would it be alright if I came to see him now?"
"Who?" Alexia mouthed silently.
"Yes, Jason, that will be fine. The hospital will be moving him in about half an hour, so you'd better hurry."
Jason hung up the phone and ran to hug Alexia. "It's Mr. Hamilton," he told her, his voice breaking.
There was a small gasp from Alexia, and she rubbed his back as he let his tears fall onto her bathrobe.
* * * * * *
The doctor smiled grimly as Jason made his way into Mr. Hamilton's hospital room. "His secretary told me you'd be coming," he said quietly. "After the initial heart attack, he was relatively peaceful. He didn't suffer for very long."
Tears came to Jason's eyes as he looked at his friend for the last time. It was true, Mr. Hamilton did look very peaceful. He was gone, just as Jason's grandfather was gone, just as Emily was gone. Perhaps Red and Emily were helping Mr. Hamilton through the gateway to heaven at this very moment. Maybe the three of them were smiling down at him right now.
Miss Hastings appeared in the doorway; she was clutching a tissue as if it was her lifeline. "Jason," she said shakily, glancing from him to Mr. Hamilton and back again. "I'm sorry."
"So am I," Jason responded. He pulled her into a hug and heard her whisper softly, "He left something for you."
At that moment, Jason didn't really care what Mr. Hamilton had left for him. He hadn't been able to say goodbye to the man who had been his trusted friend and colleague for the past year.
He waved goodbye to Miss Hastings and left for Emily's Home, the children's hospital he had established for families like Emily and her mother. The final construction details had been finalized only a week ago, and Jason had been called to take care of some paperwork.
When he pulled up in front of the marble-white building, one of his colleagues stopped him. "Jason, why don't you take the day off? I heard about what happened. I'm really sorry," the man said, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand.
"Unfortunately that's not your decision," Jason told him gently, giving him a sad smile.
"I've already taken care of it. I called the guys over at Hinddale, and they said they'd be happy to come by tomorrow."
Jason smiled again, but it wasn't a sad smile. "Thanks, Peter."
"It's the least I can do. Let me know when the funeral is, 'cause I'd like to go and pay my respects."
Jason nodded and told his driver that they would be leaving. "What about Sandra and Mark?" he asked Peter, thinking of the two people who had organized the grand opening of Emily's Home.
"They said that given the circumstances, they'd be willing to postpone it for a day or two."
"Alright. Is everything else ready for the opening?"
"Yes. We've even got the decorations up in the building where we'll be celebrating."
"Excellent. You're the best, Pete."
Jason waved to his friend as they pulled out of the parking lot of Emily's home. He smiled as he realized he would be able to spend some time with Alexia this afternoon--and he thought it might be a good idea to invite Miss Hastings over for dinner.
The limousine pulled up in front of Jason's house, and the first thing he saw when he opened the front door was a blue suitcase next to the kitchen counter.
He set his house key down on the kitchen table and listened--there was no reply.