I had a restless night, even with Jude in bed with me. Finally, around 2 am, I asked him to unhook me from the monitor so I could get out of the bed. “Where are you going, luv?” he asked.
“Just out to the living room to read or something. There's no point laying here tossing and turning.”
He came out with me and got the fire going again. “I'm going to warm up some milk for you. That will help you get to sleep.”
“Oh, no, it's okay”, I told him. “I don't like warm milk.”
“Choke it down. I don't want to give you a sedative unnecessarily.”
I drank my milk without argument. This man had saved my life for the second time in recent weeks. I wasn't going to give him a hard time about anything if it could be helped.
“Jude how are you doing?” I asked him as I drank the milk.
“I am okay, luv”, he replied.
“Are you sure? You killed a man today. You're trained to save lives, not take them. It has to have affected you.”
“He would have killed you, Julia. Yes, I'm trained to save lives, but I was acting as someone who saw another's life in peril, not as a physician. There was no time to try to shoot to disable him. Had it failed, he'd have taken another stab at you with the poker before I could fire again, and that time could have been fatal for you. I had no choice.”
“I know, Jude. I'm just concerned that you are still going to feel guilty.”
“I can't say it won't happen as I don't know the future, but right now, I don't. I see you are finished your milk. Let's get back to bed.”
Jude was right. The warm milk put me right to sleep. The next day after breakfast, when I was back in bed – I was allowed up to have meals in the kitchen - I asked Jude if he minded going upstairs and into the master bedroom to get my jewellery box for me. I knew he would not let me go up there to get it. When he handed it to me, I set it on my lap, then took my wedding rings off my ring finger. I kissed them, put them in the box and closed the lid. I asked Jude to put it in the drawer of my nightstand. He did, then gave me a big hug.
“I know that's a big step for you, luv.”
“It is, Jude, but it's time. I need to stop mourning and move on.”
“Let me know how I can help, luv.”
“You have helped a lot, Jude – just by being here with and for me. Your hugs are really comforting, too. And those kisses last night – oh, wow.”
“There are lots more of those, luv – when you recover and are sure you want them.”
I smiled. “I'm sure, but I get that we both need to deal with what happened yesterday.”
“Okay, luv – I want you to rest for a bit. After lunch, you can stay up for a bit if you feel like it.”
“I think we are low on butter, I can make that. It doesn't involve being on my feet. I also need to make more apple sauce to preserve for winter.”
“You are not to be on your feet, luv. You can peel and cut them up, but I will make the sauce.”
Over the next few weeks, I regained my strength. Jude saw to it that I took it easy and did not do anything heavy. I had to cancel my plans to get a wild turkey for Thanksgiving so he roasted a chicken from the freezer. I was hoping that a rooster would wander in to the yard looking for some hens. They wouldn't lay forever, so I would need to replace them eventually. I was also hoping to come across some meat chickens. You can eat laying hens, and they are good for soups etc, but meat chickens are better for roasting. However, in this new world I found myself in, I couldn't be picky.
He didn't make any moves on me, keeping his kisses to my forehead or cheek. I was confused. He had seemed to want something with me, but when I kissed him that day, he pulled back. I know he said he didn't want our first time to be a frenzied thing after a tragedy and that my heart needed to get stronger but that was weeks ago. We had talked about what happened with Luke some more, then agreed to put that subject to rest. I didn't know how to feel now. Was he still interested or had he changed his mind?
If he had changed his mind, why was he still sleeping in my bed most nights? He had said that I slept better with him in the bed and I did – but, still.... Pre-apocalypse, men had said that women were hard to understand. Well, they were hard to understand, too! I decided to not say another word about 'us' and just live as good friends and room mates.
One day, Jude and I made a trip to the city, which was farther than the town we lived closest to. We were mostly looking for winter clothes for him, as he came from a warm climate. He had picked up a few sweaters before he met me, but he didn't have much. He didn't want to wear Ben's clothes, though he had been wearing his jackets and overalls.
Being that the apocalypse happened in spring when stores were selling summer wear, we had to look for sale racks for the remains of their winter stock. Fortunately, we managed to find a few sweaters for him and he picked up some shirts and pants, including working pants. He didn't like wearing jeans around the farm as he found them too restrictive in movement.
I took the opportunity to get things I had never had the luxury of before – some nice lingerie, “expensive” dress clothes and even a bit of makeup since mine was getting old. I didn't wear it often, but once in a while I would, on the odd occasion when Ben and I went out. Now I was wanting it to look nice for Jude.
We also went to a grocery store to get some odds and ends that we hadn't thought of. Jude wandered off on his own as we each had a high powered flashlight to get around. I came across the beer/wine section. As I looked at the selections, I contemplated getting a bottle – or two.
“Julia!” I almost jumped out of my skin. Jude was at my side. I hadn't heard him approach.
“Geez, Jude! You almost gave me a heart attack!”
“Sorry, luv. You don't need that”, he said, indicating the wine.
“You're right, Jude. I don't. Are you finished 'shopping'?”
“Yes, are you?”
“I am. Let's go.”
Outside, as we put our things in the truck, Jude said “I'm proud of you, luv.”
“For leaving the wine. Do you realize it's way past those two weeks that you had agreed to give it up?”
“Yes, that's why I was looking at it.”
“Were you really going to get some?”
“I don't know. I just came across the aisle, I wasn't looking for it.”
“Well, you didn't get any and that's what counts.” He gave me a hug.
We drove by a survival store and decided to stop and take a look. We picked up some LED battery operated lanterns in case we needed them. With solar power, you never know when you might not have enough, especially in winter when the sun can disappear for days or even weeks. We also got a couple long distance two way radios and grabbed a bunch of batteries.
On the way back, just before we got to the town closest to the farm, we came across some chickens on the road. Some were pecking in the grass, others were wandering on the paved portion. Jude stopped and I tried to see how many there were. There looked to be about eight or nine and that included a rooster! “Jude, we have to get them!”
“How are we going to catch them and what are we going to put them in?”
I thought a moment. “You stay here with them, I'll go to the feed mill and get some feed and then I'll go to the pet store and get a couple small pet carriers.”
“Why do you want me to stay?”
“In case they wander off. You can let me know where they went.”
“How? Cell phones don't exactly work anymore, remember?”
“No, but two way battery powered radios do.” I put batteries in the radios, found a frequency, and handed one to Jude. “These are supposed to have a range of 50 kilometres, I won't be nearly that far away. If they wander off the road, follow them.”
“I'm not following chickens through fields and god knows where, Julia.”
“Do you want to continue to have eggs and chicken to eat? This may be our only chance to continuously be able to replace non producing hens. We may not come across another rooster.” He reluctantly agreed to watch them while I was gone.
I wasn't gone long. When I got back, they were not much farther down the road than when I'd left them. I enticed them into the carriers, which I put in the bed of the truck, under the tarp. I got back in the truck on the driver's side. “I'll drive”, Jude said. “You have had a long day.” The sun was setting. We'd left around 9 am. The dogs would be going frantic as we hadn't taken them with us.
“I'm okay, Jude.”
“Julia”, he said with a trace of exasperation in his voice. “Doctor's orders.”
“All right!” I slid over to the passenger side and he got in.
“Thank you, luv.”
“You're lucky I like you”, I said with a teasing tone as I did up my seat belt. Even with no laws anymore, I insisted on wearing it. “If I didn't, I'd have made you walk home.”
Jude laughed. “I guess it's a good thing you like me!”
When we got home, I headed to the horse barn with one of the carriers. “Where are you going?”
“I'm putting them in a stall. I don't want to integrate them with our flock yet. Can you bring the other carrier?”
In the barn, I got a stall at the end of the row ready. I had some extra feeders and waterers – the automatic waterer in the stall was too high for the chickens – set up for them. They didn't have perches or nests, but I would see what I could come up with in the coming days. To keep the few cats that we had hanging around from getting them, I secured chicken wire to the top of the stall. I'd check the barn before leaving to try to get any felines I saw out.
While I was doing this, Jude had let the dogs out and was feeding our chickens and Mama Cow. He'd milked her in the morning, so he didn't need to now as we had plenty of milk and cream.
Finally, we were finished. We headed for the house, taking what we could from the truck with us. “I want you to lay down, Julia. You've had a big day. I'll make supper and bring it into our bedroom.”
“I need to shower first. I'm filthy.”
“Okay, but then you get into bed.”
“You'll get no argument from me, Jude. I'm beat.” I went to the bathroom, dropped my dirty clothes on the floor and got into the shower. The hot water felt so good. I washed my hair and soaped myself down, then just stood under the water and let it rinse the soap off. I sat down in the tub and put my knees up and rested my head on them while I let the water run over my back. And then I did something I'd never done before – I fell asleep right there in the tub.
Jude found me when he got worried about me taking so long. I felt him gently shaking me. He'd turned off the water. “Julia, wake up, luv.”
I had fallen against the side of the tub. He helped me sit up. “So tired”, I mumbled.
“I know, luv. I'll get you to bed.” He got a towel and rubbed my hair, then towelled me dry as best as he could with me sitting in the tub. He helped me to my feet and lifted me out, setting me down on the toilet lid. He finished towelling me off.
“Just let me go to bed, Jude. I don't need to be dry.”
“You'll catch your death of pneumonia. I'm almost finished.” He wouldn't let me walk, insisting on carrying me to the bedroom. After I put my nightshirt on, he used the hair dryer to partially dry my hair. Partially, because he'd have been there all night trying to get it fully dry. “Okay, luv. You hang tight while I get your supper. Don't fall asleep on me again, you need to eat.”
He ate with me in the bedroom, sitting beside my bed with a TV tray. “After supper, I'm going to shower, then if you want, we can watch a movie in here, luv.” We had picked up a TV for the bedroom on one of our previous forays into town. “I got a bunch today.”
I layed back and closed my eyes while Jude was in the bathroom. I must have fallen asleep again. I felt his hand on my arm. “Julia, luv, I'm going to listen to your heart and take your blood pressure. Can you lay on your back for me?”
“I'm fine, Jude. Just let me sleep.”
“I want to make sure of that. It's not like you to fall asleep in the shower.” I didn't budge. “Okay, luv. We'll do it this way.” I felt him reach up under my nightshirt and place the diaphragm of his stethoscope under my left breast. Even though I was dead tired, I felt that same spark I'd felt weeks ago upstairs. I gasped. “Are you okay, luv?”
“Yes. That's …. cold...it surprised me.”
After taking my blood pressure, he said “You seem okay medically, Julia. I guess you are just over tired. I probably should not have let you go with me today. You go back to sleep. It won't hurt me to go to bed either. I'll let the dogs out one more time.”
I woke up again when he got into bed behind me. “Goodnight, luv”, he said as he snuggled up to me. I began to fall asleep again. Almost in a whisper, he said “I know you felt that spark again. Not yet, luv. You need to build your strength up again and your heart needs to rest. But when the time is right, I'm going to make love to you.”