Part 63

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I waited a moment, calling her name softly, but I got no response. Even when I stroked her hair, she didn't move. I stretched Caitlin out on her side on the sofa, checking her breathing and all those things you do for first aid on an unconscious person. As I touched her legs, she whimpered slightly, so I moved away. I dug out her pain medication and placed it on the coffee table beside her with a glass of water.

Not sure how long it had been since she'd eaten, I washed and sliced up some strawberries for her. I left them on the coffee table, too.

It'd been a long time since my initial first aid training, but I was pretty sure I had one more step to follow. I pulled out my phone to call for help from an expert more qualified than I was.

"Why'd you put her to sleep on the couch? Wouldn't she be more comfortable in her own bed?" Navid asked, without so much as a hello.

"She's unconscious, not asleep," I replied, annoyed. "Look, I need to know what happened to scare her before I arrived. I'm trying to work out whether I should call an ambulance or if she'll be better off staying home where I can let her wake up normally."

"Nothing, mate," Navid drawled. I could imagine him leaning back and stretching out in his seat as he said it. "She was sitting pretty much where she is now, watching TV, before she noticed something outside. She used the remote control to turn the TV off and went to the window. She stood there for maybe a split-second, then went out the front door. Whatever scared her wasn't in the house – it was outside with you. So, whatever it was, you must have seen it, too."

I racked my brains but came up with nothing. The neighbours hadn't been in sight until I started following Caitlin as she sprinted down the street. I shook my head. "I saw nothing dangerous outside. I don't know."

Navid laughed. "Maybe she's afraid of you, mate."

I joined in his laughter. "Yeah, right. Caitlin's not scared of me. Maybe I'll ask her again when she's awake. You keep an eye out, right? Make sure we have outside cameras, too, just in case." I ended the call. It felt weird not saying goodbye, but I could wave at the cameras if I wanted to.

I checked Caitlin's breathing and pulse again. Her breathing was even and her pulse was fine. It was like she was asleep instead of unconscious, worn out from walking and running too far. I wouldn't let her do it again – I'd lift her up and carry her, no matter what she said. For the first time, I noticed she was wearing lipstick, a deep, moist red that was the same colour as the strawberries I'd sliced.

I stared at her strawberries, magnified by the glass of water to an obscene size. I wanted a taste – just one – to see if they really were as amazing as I'd hoped, but I didn't dare. Not without asking Caitlin first.

I sat in the armchair beside Caitlin, wondering if I could turn the TV on without disturbing her. I decided it didn't matter – even if she did wake up, there was no way I'd let her do anything but rest.

My mind wandered as some inane TV show played in the background, the voices a vague buzz behind my busier thoughts, wondering what Caitlin had seen that I hadn't.

"Nathan?" Caitlin asked softly.

I sat up, suddenly alert. Reaching for the bowl of strawberries, I held them out to her. "Here, eat something, so you can take pain medication to help you."

She took the bowl with both hands and a smile. "Thank you." She popped a strawberry into her mouth.

I watched, mesmerised by the red on red. Don't. Don't even think it.

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