I stirred in the early morning light, shivering. The fire had gone out during the night. 

I stood, arching my back to relieve the ache that sleeping on the floor had left. Turning, I looked at Jared; he was in the same position on the couch that he had fallen asleep in last night. I lifted my blankets from the floor and placed them over him, just to be sure.

In the next room, I lit the propane stove to heat some water. If there was ever a morning during this god-forsaken winter that I needed coffee, it was this one.

I rummaged through my newspaper pile in the corner until I found a page with a blank Sudoku. Sitting at the table, I waited for Jared to wake, forcing the impatient questions from my mind until then.

It was nearly two hours later and I couldn't help myself any longer. I had to know who the stranger was, sleeping in my living room. I crept out and was about to sit in the chair across from him, but became concerned when I laid eyes upon his face.

His face was pale; even paler than when I dragged him in here last night. His lips were chapped and white. His eyes, although still closed, were crusted around the edges.

I lunged towards him and touched his face. I didn't understand; he wasn't cold. What could be wrong with him? 

"Jared? Wake up!" I patted his face, and then shook his shoulders.

There was a low groan from his mouth but it was hardly discernable. His breathing had become shallow and weak.

"Wake up, Jared!" I was becoming desperate. I felt alone and useless. I, at least, needed him to be awake so that I didn't feel so completely by myself.

He gave no response. I stood, my heart hammering in my chest. I started to panic. This man cannot die in my house, under my care. He can't.

I was starting to shiver again, now that I was away from the heat of the stove. I couldn't hear myself think as my teeth chattered mercilessly inside my head.

I glanced around, finding my old jacket slung on the chair behind me; the one I had worn out last night. I pulled it over myself and stuck my icy fingers into the oversized pockets, thinking quickly.

That's when I remembered it; felt it, actually. The small vial Jared had pushed into my hand last night was still there. I had forgotten all about it.

The End

32 comments about this story Feed