Chapter Twenty

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The clock on the mantle announced the arrival of midnight, drawing him out of a bizarre dream. Beads of sweat dotted his chest and neck and he struggled to catch his breath. His condo was dark and quiet and it took him a moment to identify his surroundings. He'd hardly spent any time there since the accident--and even less in the weeks since reconnecting with Claire. Though most every reminder of his life with Hope had been removed, leaving only his personal effects, the space felt foreign. He pulled himself to a seated position and ran his hands through his hair. On the coffee table before him sat the watered down remains of a scotch and soda alongside his cell phone. He'd made a solemn vow to not call her, but the lateness of the hour was beginning to challenge his resolve. She hadn't given him a time frame, only a promise to call when en route back to his place. It'd been hours since he'd left her at the airport though it felt more like days. Jet lag and lack of sleep created irrational thoughts and he fought to keep late night demons at bay. After several minutes of quiet contemplation, he reached for his phone and sighed heavily.

"Yeah?" Rob answered with a whisper.

"Did I wake you?"

"No, we're still up. Watching an old movie. Is everything okay?" Rob asked.

"She's still not back."

"It's only midnight. They haven't seen or talked to each other in a long time."

"I know. It's just that she's been gone all day."

"And she'll come back when she's ready."

"I know." Jay nodded. "You're absolutely right."

"Listen, I'm glad you called because I have a message for you. I thought about calling you earlier, but I didn't want to interrupt in case you two were together."

"A message from who?" Jay questioned.

"Hope's mom."

"Nang called you?"

"I didn't talk to her. She left a voicemail. Said she tried your cell but the call would never go through. She just kept getting some service recording. She wants you to call her as soon as you can but it didn't sound like an emergency or anything. She's staying at some fancy hotel. I can't remember the name but I wrote down the number."

"You don't think Claire's been trying to call me and got the same message, do you?"

"I doubt it."

"Maybe I should call her...or I could just drive over there?"

"Or you could just pour yourself a fresh drink and try to relax. She'll be there when she's said everything she needs to say. Just give her some time."

Jay nodded again, silently ingesting Rob's words. Words that always made sense, putting his mind at ease.

"I'll call you in the morning for Nang's number."

"I'll be here." Rob confirmed before hanging up.

Jay stood and stretched then polished off the last of his drink. Standing at the wall of windows in the living room, he gazed out at the city below for several minutes, trying to ignore the clock. He considered Rob's advice of mixing another high ball when he heard a soft knock. Images of police officers, sirens and harsh hospital light caused his mind to race as he walked with brisk, determined steps. He quickly opened the door and instantly his fears were calmed. Just one look into her eyes and he knew that everything in his world would be alright. Without a word, he wrapped his arms tightly around her and held her for a long time.

"Are you okay?" He asked, silently thanking God for her safe return.

"I'm better now that I'm here with you." She whispered in a tired voice.

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