The Present

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Unfortunately, that meant I had to peel my cheek off of the cold hardwood the next morning. Rising up, I gave my sore back a stretch and I wiped the sleep from my eyes. After a few minutes of realigning my spine and getting proper blood flow back into my numb legs, I looked over to the clock on the wall. It was nine in the morning...we served breakfast at eight.

I jumped to me feet, which still felt a bit like walking on pins and needles, and threw open the door. At least I still had my clothes on from yesterday. Of course I had to hope no one noticed that they were in fact the same clothes...

However, before I went bolting down the hall, I noticed a tray of food sitting on the opposite wall, where it sat safely out of reach should I come storming out in a panic. Stepping over to it, I saw a note sitting next to a plate of toast, jelly, scrambled eggs, and bacon.

Have breakfast in bed today. I'll take care of the guests this morning. You just rest.

-- Jordan

For a moment, I thought of casting Jordan's gift aside and proving myself capable of tackling the day, but I figured I'd played the fool long enough now and it was time to listen to reason. I picked up my tray and sent a sideways glance down the hall, looking past the door to where Jordan was somewhere attending to our guests. I then went in, sat down at my desk and enjoyed the now cool cup of coffee that had been included and the savory, sweet scents wafting up from the delightful breakfast that Jordan had prepared for me.

Once I had my food and took a shower, I headed out my door, ready to face the challenges ahead. And by challenges I meant cleaning rooms and preparing the ornament decoration table. So long as I kept my hands busy I could push the rest away. It was a method I knew was no longer as effective as I thought it to be, but at that time, it's what I needed. I knew I couldn't keep compartmentalizing my emotions, but I also needed to get a job done.

Jordan didn't protest when I found him tidying up one of the rooms. He simply asked if I was okay and then handed me fresh sheets to put over the mattress. We proceeded through the rooms in silence, but unlike the days before, I felt a concerned whisper hanging in the air instead of repressed resentment. It was something in the curve of his brow as he handed me a broom or a wash cloth. It was something in the way he looked at me when he thought I didn't see him. It was something in the touch of his hands whenever he brushed past me.

We were so efficient in our silent progress that we managed to gain ourselves a few hours of freedom before we'd have to set up the ornament table activity. I could have used that time to take a really long lunch to work out how exactly I was going to fix this disaster I created, but I was still full from my late breakfast and I wasn't particularly ready to face that beast so early in the day. That left me with a few options to keep my hands busy and the inner demons silent, but I was soon reminded that I was not standing there alone.

"Hey," said Jordan, pulling me from my thoughts, "I'm going to grab a quick bite for lunch, but if you want to join me..."

"I'm not hungry," I muttered, my eyes looking between him and the floor. "I woke up pretty late and I had a very wonderful breakfast not too long ago." I managed a fragile smile and I saw another layer of ice melt away from his face.

"That's okay, I understand," he said, rubbing the back of his neck and sharing a lopsided smile, "but you know, I'll just grab a sandwich on my own and then I was thinking, maybe we could work on decorating the trees. I went ahead and strung up the lights yesterday after you left, but I didn't want to do more than that. I thought that might be something you wanted to do yourself and I didn't want to take that from you."

He looked on at me with a hopeful grin, but his words only reopened that wound that had only just barely begun to heal. Uncertain of the cause of my silence, he continued on with a struggling, but cheery voice, "I also looked over your ornaments. They're really great!" His smile grew and I felt myself shrinking. "No, I'm serious. I think they're just wonderful. I knew you were creative!" He tried to meet my ever lowering gaze, his words doing all they could to pull me back. "Gina would have loved them!"

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