His world had been quiet for a time, and the seconds had ticked by slowly as he had drifted off to sleep. It had been a long tedious day with the drawl of the workplace, and the constant nagging of his staff. He had longed for the day to end, to slip out of his drab clothing, into a hot steamy shower and drink the day away, long into the night.
And he had succeeded. Succeeded until now, when he turned his head, rolled over to pick up his alarm clock. Curse these retched eyes, he thought mercilessly. He blinked and squinted, until he could make out a two and some other numbers that followed.
It was late and there were noises, and talking, and Emily was out of bed.
So he inched himself grudgingly towards the end of the bed, and placed his feet on the floor, sauntered, staggered towards the door and flung it open. It made a noise as it hit the door stop with a thud, and he waited, but still the noise, the constant chatter below did not cease.
What she done now? he asked himself. Friends over at this hour.
His feet trudged one in front of the other, down the narrow staircase, and he had to reach out in front of him, palms open, to brace himself against the wall as he reached the turn in the stairs.
"What the bloody hell is going on here?" he muttered aloud and found the bottom stair, the cold kitchen tiled floor.
He had thought he would find Emily and a friend gallivanting over their latest crush, and the high school jock, but instead he found her talking with exactly who he wanted to see, always, standing in his kitchen.
"Gill?" he questioned and she looked up from Emily, her arms clutching her purse to her chest.
She was flushed and she held herself closely, kept a small distance from Emily.
"Cal," she remarked, the slightest bit of shock resonating in her voice. "I didn't mean to wake you."
"What's up?" he asked rubbing his eyes walking towards the pair. "It's late, love."
"I-I know," she stammered. "I was in the neighbourhood... I had to give you this." She held out a manila envelope. "Before I forgot."
"You were in the neighbourhood..." It was less a question, more like he had assumed. As if he had envisioned her running around this late at night.
She was looking for something, he thought quietly, looking away so she could not read his face. Something she didn't have at home.
He opened the envelope, pulled its contents out. He looked up at her and his head cocked to the side. "This could have waited, Gill. It could have waited until tomorrow."
"I know... but..."
"Tell him," Emily interjected urging Gillian on.
"Emily, it's nothing." There was an urgency in Gillian's voice, a warning of sorts for Emily. But Cal wasn't falling for it.
"What's nothing?" he asked.
"Just look at her," Emily urged. "Dad, she's not right."
Gillian looked up, her eyes growing wider as Cal approached her, squinted and cocked his head. "What's wrong, love?"
"Nothing, Cal. I'm fine."
He could see the paleness in her skin now that he was closer to her, and he reached out and placed a palm to her forehead. The sweat and heat greeted his hand immediately. "You're burning up," he said, letting his tone fall to concern.
"When did this come about?" he asked placing a hand to her cheek, letting his fingertips trace her neck quickly. She was even hotter where the cool October night's air could not touch her skin.
"A few hours ago."
"And you came here?"
"I had to give you..." She sighed as the words escaped her mouth, and she pulled from his hand. "I'll go," she said, lowering her voice.
"You're not going anywhere," he said reaching out for her shoulder. "You'll come with me. You'll lie down." He wrapped an arm over her shoulder gently, pushed her carefully towards the stairs.
"This is your fault, you know," Gillian said to Emily.
Emily reached out to touch Gillian's shoulder and taking her father's lead, continued to guide her towards the staircase. "And you'll thank me for it later. You really shouldn't drive."
Cal and Gill left Emily at the bottom of the stairs, and he lowered his hand from his friend as she climbed ahead of him. "She's a smart one that, Em."
Gillian reached the landing. "And nosy."
"Nah." Cal sighed as he moved Gillian down the hallway. "She's concerned. And she has every right to be. Gill, you look bloody awful."
Gillian turned slightly, and Cal could tell she was blinking away stars. "Thank you... for that."
She edged past his bedroom and he reached forward to drag her back toward him. "Nah, love. In here."
She paused, shook from his arm slightly. "Cal...," she warned with a glare.
He rolled his eyes and pulled her forward again. "I'll take the spare. That mattress is miserable. You'll be more comfortable in here."
The room was dark and he left her standing in the doorway as he blindly made his way to a lamp on his bedside table. He turned the tiny knob and it flicked on, filled the room with a comforting amber glow. He motioned towards the bed with a single finger. "You. Here. Now."
A part of him relished in the moment, the direction, the order in his tone, to force Gillian Foster into his bed. And she was willing, sauntered towards him still clutching her purse to her chest, arms still wrapped tightly around her body.
"Have you taken anything?" he asked.
She shook her head and he saw the shiver in her as she sat. He took her purse, took her coat from her as she removed it.
He left her to sit while he walked into his en-suite, returning instantly with a small white bottle and a tall glass of water.
She took them from him and nodded in thanks as she downed the pills quickly, and sipped the water. She shivered again, more noticeably this time, and he reached forward to lightly rub her shoulders. He fell to her feet, helped her out of her leather pumps.
"Where is he?" he asked looking up, wrapping his hand around her foot carefully.
She didn't look at him, merely looked at his fingers wrapped around her sole, fingers moving gently over her skin. "I don't know," she said sadly, but the hint of frustration was not as masked as she had wanted it to be.
"You want me to call him?" he asked, and he stood, pulled back the blankets further so she could curl up.
"He won't answer," she said as he pulled the heavy blankets over her. "He never does."
"I'll call him, Gill," Cal urged gently. "Where's your phone?"
She lifted her chin towards her purse. "There, in my bag," and she watched as he moved towards the armchair where he had placed her things, rummaged carefully through her belongings. "But he won't answer," she repeated. "He never does."
Cal moved towards the bed and he reached inside the lampshade to turn the knob. The room fell to darkness again, all but for the soft glow that came from the doorway.
"He won't answer," she muttered again as he walked into the hallway. He closed the door behind him.
He searched through her contacts. He would try her home first.
He waited and let the phone ring. Let it ring and ring, and heard the familiar click. "You've reached Alec,"Alec's happy voice beamed. "And Gillian!" Gillian interjected.
Cal let the voices play out for him and waited for the buzz of the answering machine before hanging up. He closed his eyes at the sound of Gillian's voice. The lightness in her giggle was intoxicating. It was a happier time, long ago.
Next he would try Alec's cell.
But Gillian was right, and Alec's phone beeped immediately, went directly to voice mail.
"You bastard," Cal muttered as he hung up the phone.
He opened the door slowly, looked in on her caught in the beam of dim light. She was curled, had surrendered to the fever, and was falling fast into a deep sleep. It was a side of the bed he would not dare sleep on; a side that had remained vacant since his marriage had fallen apart.
And now there was someone on that side again.
He wrestled with the turning in his gut, the longing in his arms, and he fell victim to it, tiptoed across the room leaving the door slightly ajar.
He would stay for a moment, he told himself. Stay until the heaviness in his chest, the aching in his arms had died away.
He stayed on top of the sheets, carefully placed himself beside her. He would stay here, be silent, only rest for a moment. It was his mantra, he thought, he reasoned.
That was until he felt her shake again, and he rolled instantly, wrapped an arm around her and pulled himself into her. He wondered if he had done it too quickly, if he had waken her from her feverish dream. But she remained as she was, so he relaxed, curled his chin, pressed his forehead to her neck.
She was warm, he remarked, hot even, but she felt glorious in his arms, and he would wait until her fever lifted before he would even think of leaving her side.
And it was in this time that Cal missed it, as he pressed himself tightly to her backside.
He missed her eyes as they fluttered open. He missed the silent tears that fell from them.