“Yes, I do, Julia.” I told him about crashing my car and Luke coming along and getting me out and taking me to the fire station where he stitched me up and set the bone in my foot. And about deciding to stick together and finding a place to stay for the winter. About how we got new beds and a fridge and brought them back and of me falling through the step while we were getting the second old, stinky fridge out of the farm house. How he had to set the bone again and stitch up my arm. How he wanted to put a cast on my foot and I wouldn’t let him. And finally, of how I woke up from a nap bound to the bed with an enema nozzle in my butt. How he made me take a second enema on my knees at the edge of the bed and how he slapped me a few times on the ass. And then of how I got the knock out drug from his bag and jabbed him, then did the same to him with the enema before leaving.
When I was finished recounting the events, I said “He tried to tell me it was a joke, but I could never trust him again, even if it was.”
“It was not a joke”, Jude said with a bit of anger in his voice. “I don’t know how someone can treat a lady like that.” I blushed at being called a lady. “That is inexcusable and if he were here, I’d be very tempted to flatten him.” I think he saw something in my face, as he then said “Oh, don’t worry, Julia, I’d never hurt you. My anger is toward him for doing that to you. I’m usually a pretty docile person. I don’t like violence.”
“I believe you, Jude.”
“Why wouldn’t you let him put a cast on your foot?”
“I hate casts, you can’t scratch if you get an itch and that saw-type thing they use to get them off is scary. Besides, you can’t walk on one.”
“If you have a walking cast, you can walk on it. I’d like you to consider letting me cast that foot. It would help the bone stay in place. After a few weeks, I could put a walking cast on.”
“Jude, I can’t spare a few weeks to be off my feet. I have a lot to do to get ready for winter.”
“I’ll do as much as I can, Julia.”
“I know you will, but it will take both of us working at it to get it done.”
“If you get through that without re-breaking it, will you consider a cast?”
“I’ll consider it. But no promises.”
“We should be getting to bed if we want to head out early tomorrow morning.”
“Good idea, Jude. We only have a couple more days of actual driving to get there. I’m considering only stopping for one night instead of two from here on out, but we’ll see how it goes. I don’t want to over-stress the animals.”
Once again, Jude insisted on sleeping upstairs. He was being such a gentleman. I hoped it wasn’t a façade, as Luke’s initial demeanour had been.
The next morning, we were up at dawn. After feeding the livestock and dogs, we had coffee and some crackers before loading everything up and getting on our way. I was really looking forward to having bread again. Since money wasn’t an object anymore, I was going to go to a department store and find the fanciest bread maker they had. One with all the bells and whistles.
We chatted and got to know each other better as we drove. Jude insisted on driving some of the time, even though he’d never driven a trailer before, let alone hauled a 1200 lb animal and her calf. So I found a very large parking lot and unloaded Mama and Baby and tied her up to a lamp post, then had him drive the empty trailer around, getting used to the feel and turning around. I loaded the bovines up again and had him drive around some more before letting him go onto the highway. While there wasn’t traffic to worry about, there were still turns in the road and I didn’t want him to end up in the ditch. Not to mention the occasional wild animal standing on the road, as I well knew.
It really helped having a co-driver. I had found that driving 8 hours or so a day to be very tiring. The more I got to know Jude, the more at ease I felt with him. I sensed that I had nothing to worry about with him, and I wasn’t hesitant at all to take him home to my farm.
That night, we couldn’t find a house with no bodies in it, so we had to settle for sleeping in a barn. Ever the gentleman, Jude insisted on separate stalls, which we bedded down with a thick layer of straw. He woke me up in the middle of the night. “Julia, I don’t want to alarm you”, he whispered, “but I hear something. Do you have your gun with you?”
I bolted upright. “It’s right here.” I reached for my rifle in the corner of the stall where it was propped up. Something had told me to keep it near me this night. I listened intently and heard a rustling sound outside so I got up and quietly walked to the barn door. Fortunately, it was a clear night and the sun reflecting off the moon was shining bright. You didn’t expect me to say the moon was shining, did you? I opened the door and saw a big bear trying to get into the back of the truck. Probably smelled chicken and figured he’d score a free meal. Wrong! I aimed at a nearby tree, took the safety off and fired. The bear ran off. I doubted we’d hear him again tonight.
“He’s gone”, I said to Jude, who was standing behind me.
“Did you kill it?”
“No, just scared it off. No point killing it, he’s just looking for food. The chickens are in the barn, not in the truck bed, but I don‘t want him to do any damage to it or the trailer.”
We went back to our “beds” for the rest of the night. Both of us woke up very early. Our beds weren’t the most comfortable. I’d been thinking about getting back on the road without a day’s break since our destination was only a few hours away. I made my decision as I went outside to find a place to relieve myself.
I went back to the barn and Jude headed out to do his business. He had waited for me to finish to give me privacy. While I waited for him, I rubbed sanitizer into my hands. Thank God for this invention, I thought. It was really handy - pardon the pun - when there was no water around. Then I set up the Coleman Stove I’d scooped from the camping section of a WalMart a few days ago. I got out the old coffee percolator that I’d found in a house and got it prepped. While I waited for it to perk, I fed Mama and checked on the chickens. Their feeders held more feed than they needed for an overnight layover so I didn’t need to refill them.
Jude and I had a couple cups of coffee, sitting on the tailgate of the truck. I told him that I felt it best to continue our journey instead of staying an extra day. “We can be at my farm by supper time, and then they can get settled in their new home. The animals can handle a few more hours on the road. And provided everything is still working, we can have a good meal tonight - and a shower! I know I need one.”
“I do, too”, he replied.
A few hours later, we crossed the Canadian border at Detroit. I stopped at the Duty Free store. “What are you doing?” Jude asked.
“Getting some booze, it’s duty free”, I winked at him. “Just as a silly joke. And I’m getting a big bottle of the most expensive wine they have! No more buying cheap wine for me!”
He laughed, then got serious. “Julia, you have a heart condition, you shouldn’t be drinking.”
“I need to celebrate arriving home!” By then, we were out of the truck and walking toward the building.
Jude grabbed my arm and stopped me. He stepped in front of me and looked into my eyes. “Julia, you’re an adult and can make your own decisions. But, as a cardiologist, and hopefully your friend, I have a duty to tell you that people with heart conditions and who are on medications such as the ones you are on, should not drink alcohol. If you get into medical distress, I will treat you the best I can given the situation, but I won’t have access to the equipment and drugs I would need. That‘s all I’m going to say. It‘s your choice. ”
I could see the caring in his eyes and hear it in his voice, which was not harsh at all. In fact, it was very soft. “What about just one glass, Dr Kelley?”
“You can have one, but no more. Deal?”
I got my bottle of wine and Jude chose an expensive bottle of whiskey. Out of habit, I put them in the box that spanned the width of the bed of the truck. Driving laws said that you can’t have open liquor in the front of your vehicle. This wasn’t open, but I’d always put wine in the trunk of my car to be safe. There were no laws anymore but old habits die hard. Not that I was tempted to drink and drive, that’s always been a huge no-no for me. The apocalypse didn’t change that.
As I’d predicted, we reached the farm by supper time. I backed the trailer up to the horse barn and got a foaling stall - which is basically two stalls with no divider between them - ready for Mama and Baby. I still needed to officially name her. Once I had them settled in for the night, I got the hen house ready and put the chickens in it. Both the horse barn and hen house had solar panels on the roof. To my relief, they were working and so were the automatic waterers in each building. The hen house was insulated so the chickens would be fine through the winter. In really cold weather, I would put a heat lamp on for them.
When the livestock was taken care of, Jude and I went in the house. He insisted I use the crutches and stay off my feet now that the animals were settled. I gave him the key and he unlocked the back door. We went in and through the porch to the kitchen. I flipped a switch and the light came on. Good, the solar panels were working. I turned on the stove. It worked. Excellent. Jude had found the downstairs bathroom and I heard the toilet flush, so I knew that was working. I heard him run water to wash his hands.
I ran the water a bit to get any rust from the pipes out, then got a glass and drank it in almost one whole gulp. It tasted so good compared to the stale bottled water I’d been drinking most of the last 6+ months.
I went into the pantry and opened the deep freeze. Everything looked good, the food looked like it had not been thawed. You can especially tell with bags of peas. Jude came in, looking for me. “What do you want for supper? We have meat - chicken, beef, pork, deer.”
“Do you have chicken breasts?”
“I can make a really nice sauce for them, but I’d need milk. We can just bake them, though.”
“I have condensed milk.”
“It needs regular milk.”
“Just add water.”
“Ok, I’ll make that. And you said there’s frozen vegetables?”
“I need a shower first, though. But you go first, I’ll wait.”
“No, you shower first, Jude, then I can have mine while you’re cooking supper. I‘ll start a fire in the living room while I wait.”
Jude made a really nice meal with chicken breasts, vegetables and instant rice. I can’t cook long cooking rice for the life of me. He said he can and he’d get some in town.
After supper, we sat in front of the fire. I had a glass of wine and he had whiskey. “How are you feeling, Julia?” he asked.
“I’m okay, Jude.”
“Really? I know you’re excited about being home, but you’ve been on the road a long time. Please let me know if you have any heart palpitations, fluttering, dizziness, headache etc., okay?”
“I will, Jude.”
“I’d like to get an EKG and an echocardiogram on you, if I could get the equipment out here. It needs power, of course. Would you let me do that?”
“Yes, I would.”
“Good. Let’s try and figure out a way to get them.”
“It shouldn’t be hard. I presume you know how to use them?”
“I’ll clean out the cattle trailer and we can use that to haul them. We’ll just wheel them up the ramp.”
“You mean *I* will wheel them up. You will be sitting down.”
“If you feel up to it, I’d like to go tomorrow. I need you to show me where the hospital is.”
“Sure, I should be okay to do that after a good night’s sleep.”
“Speaking of sleep, I think it’s time to turn in.”
“Let me take you upstairs and show you the guest rooms. You can pick which one you’d like.” I got up and headed for the stairs.
“Aren’t you going to put the fire out?”
“Oh, I’m coming back down here. I just want to show you around.”
“You should go to bed early, Julia. You need your rest.”
“I will.” I headed up the stairs. He followed. When we got to the top, I showed him the guest rooms. “Are you okay with me taking the one closest to your room?”
“You can take any of them, it’s fine. I’m not sleeping up here.”
“I haven’t slept up here since Ben died. I can’t bring myself to.”
“I’m sorry, Julia. I know it’s probably hard, but you’d be much more comfortable on a good bed than on the sofa.”
“I can’t sleep on our bed, the mattress needs to be replaced. Ben died on it and I tried to get it downstairs but it was too cumbersome. That’s why the door is shut.”
“We’ll get another one and I’ll help you with both, okay?”
“We have other more important things to do.”
“This is important, too. In the meantime, why not sleep in one of your guest rooms?”
“I’ll see. I have to go back downstairs and let the dogs out.”
I showed Jude where the washroom is and got him a clean towel and face cloth, then bid him good night and went back downstairs. I let the dogs out and poured myself another glass of wine while I waited for them. When they came back inside, I turned out the kitchen light and took my wine to the living room. I sat down on the sofa and immersed myself in a book.
I was so into the book that I didn’t hear Jude come downstairs. I didn’t know he was there until he spoke to me. “Is that wine the reason you wanted to come back down, Julia?” He startled the daylights out of me.
“Jude! You scared the crap out of me!”
“I’m sorry, Julia. I didn’t mean to. About the wine…. ?”
“If I’m going to sleep upstairs, I need it.”
“You do not need it. You just think you do. Come here.” He sat down beside me and reached his arms out. I hesitated, then leaned into him and he hugged me tight. I couldn’t help it, I started crying. “It’s okay to cry, Julia. When was the last time you did?”
“A few weeks ago”, I replied through the tears. “I was too busy trying to survive.”
“Well, you’re comfortable tonight, so get it out. You’ll feel better for it.”
It felt strange being held by a man I’d just met a few days ago and crying over the death of my husband. I felt at ease with Jude. If I didn’t, I’d not have let loose with the waterworks. After a while, I got up and went to the bathroom. When I came back to the living room, my glass of wine was gone and the fire was out. Jude came out of the kitchen. “Where’s my wine?” I asked him.
“I poured it out. You don’t need it.”
“Is that your professional opinion?”
“As a matter of fact, it is. I’m a cardiologist, remember? And you have a heart condition.”
How could I argue? I let him guide me upstairs. He carried my suitcase and his bag. “Which room do you want?” he asked when we got to the top of the stairs. “I’d like you to sleep in the room beside mine, just in case you need me. But that’s up to you.”
“That’s fine”, I said without emotion.
“I’ll let you get undressed and then I’ll be back to say goodnight”, he said as he closed the door behind him. I took my clothes off and put them in the laundry basket in the closet. After finding a clean nightshirt in my suitcase, I put it on and sat on the bed. In a few minutes, there was a knock on the door. I pulled the afghan at the foot of the bed up over my legs and said “Come in.”
Jude entered with a tray. On it, was a teacup and his blood pressure cuff. His stethoscope was around his neck. He set the tray down on the dresser. The dogs jumped up on the bed. “Julia, may I take your blood pressure? I’d like to see what it is, I haven’t checked it since that first night.” I nodded my permission. He wrapped the cuff around my arm and inflated it, then slowly deflated it while listening with the stethoscope. When he was finished, he said “It’s a bit high 160/110. I don’t know if that’s from you being upset tonight or if it’s been that way. I’m going to check again tomorrow and see how it is. May I listen to your chest and lungs?”
“Yes, you may.”
He listened carefully to my heart and breathing. “I really need to get that EKG and cardiogram, Julia.”
“Just being cautious. You have an arrhythmia and I want to make sure all is well.”
“Oh, I’ve had that for a while.”
“From what I read in your chart, it was very mild, almost non-discernable. I can hear it clearly. I’m not trying to scare you, it’s most likely from stress but I want to make sure. I’m torn between wanting to take you with me tomorrow and wanting you to stay home and rest.” He went to the dresser, picked up the tray and brought it to the bed and sat it on my knees. “Here’s some decaf tea. I found it in your cupboard. It should be cooled down by now. It will help you sleep. I don’t know what you take in it, but there’s no milk, obviously, and you shouldn’t have sugar.
“I don’t take anything in it. Thank you, Jude.”
He sat on the bed beside me. “Drink up.” We talked some more while I drank my tea, then he tucked me into bed and kissed me on the forehead, before leaving the bedroom. He took the tray with him and I heard him going down the stairs.
I didn’t think I’d sleep well, but I nodded off almost immediately and slept through the night. When I woke up, it was daylight out. I looked at my watch. 8:14 am. The dogs weren’t in the room, even though the door was shut. I threw off my covers and made my way to the bathroom on my crutches.
When I’d cleaned up and dressed, I went downstairs. I could smell fresh coffee. Jude wasn’t there. There was a note on the table. “Julia, have gone out to do chores. Have some coffee, I’ll make breakfast when I get back in. I have the dogs with me.”
He had moved the coffee maker to the table and plugged it in to that wall. He’d also left a clean cup in front of it. I was sure this was so I wouldn’t have to try to carry a cup of coffee from the counter to the table on crutches or put my foot down to walk over. I sat down and poured a cup.
While I waited, I thought about recent events. Jude was turning out to be such a good friend. It was so sweet of him to make me tea last night and that kiss on the forehead was sweet, too. It didn’t make me uneasy at all or question his motives. I knew that eventually, I should be open to a relationship with another man, but at the time I was still not over losing Ben. Before he died, my husband told me to find other survivors and to find someone else. He did not want me mourning him forever. I wasn’t against getting involved again, but it had to be at my own pace. I got the impression that if Jude were even the slightest bit interested, he wouldn’t rush me.
I wasn’t mad at him for dumping my wine out last night. He knew what he was doing. I’ve never been a heavy drinker, I just have an occasional glass of wine or liqueur but lately, I’d had the urge to have it more often. I knew it wasn’t good for my heart, and Jude was just looking out for me. It must have been hard for him to watch me have it when he’d said I shouldn’t.
My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the back door opening and the dogs running in. Jude followed them, a basket in his hand. He set it on the table. “We have some eggs!” he exclaimed. “How about boiled eggs and toast for breakfast? I found some bread in the freezer.” I had frozen some before setting out on my journey almost seven months ago.
“Sounds good. There’s some butter in the freezer, too.”
“I found it, it’s on the counter thawing. I found bacon, too, but you do not need that. Too greasy.” I started to say something, but he cut me short. “You haven’t been eating well for a long time now. Bacon is fine now and then IF you are eating properly. But you need to get back on a heart healthy diet for a bit before having that.”
“Okay, Jude”, I acquiesced.
“Thank you, Julia. I do know what I’m talking about.” He winked at me.
“I know. I’m just not the best patient.”
“I realize that it’s hard adjusting to having a heart condition and having to alter your habits. And I haven’t been eating good either, so I need to get back on track, too. Let‘s do it together, okay?”
After breakfast, Jude cleaned out the cattle trailer and opened all the windows in it. I told him where to find a roll of heavy plastic wrap in the basement and he brought it up and put it in the truck bed. I also got him to put some bricks in with it. We would use it to cover the machines we were bringing back.
Jude insisted on driving. It would be about a twenty minute drive each way. He pulled out of the quarter mile laneway and on to the highway. He’d really gotten the hang of hauling a trailer. He’s a quick learner, I thought.
“Julia, I’d like you to just tag along, and let me do all the work on this trip”, he said to me. “You need to stay off that foot as much as possible.” I sighed. “I know it isn’t easy, but you don’t want a permanent limp because you didn’t stay off it and it kept breaking over and over.”
“You are right, Jude.”
“Thank you. You can trust me, Julia.”
“I do trust you.” He looked over at me and I smiled.