My Brother's Keeper
Jeremy Dumas ran a supporting hand over the warm, four year old body that was sprawled trustingly against his shoulder. Even in the midst of the non-smells of the hospital, he could identify the animal cracker and baby shampoo smell of his nephew. It was a good smell, and a good feeling. It always made him smile.
The smile broadened as he moved into the dimly lit private room and approached his brother, Joshua. Josh rose from the chair at his sleeping wife's bedside. Sporting a five o'clock shadow, he shot his brother a ridiculously happy grin.
"Thanks," Joshua spoke softly as he carefully transferred his son from Jerry's arms. The little boy barely roused as his arms wrapped about the new set of shoulders that held him safe.
"No problem, bro," Jerry replied. "Me and the rug rat get along great." He glanced toward Jasmine Dumas, Joshua's wife of 6 years. "'Bout time she got some sleep."
"Yeah," Josh nodded, sobering. Every tired line of his face was visible. "It was a tough labor," he added, running a gentle hand over her hair. "But not as bad as Joey."
Jerry remembered. He also remembered how frightened and guilty Joshua had been when he'd learned that they were going to have a second child. But everything was fine. There were none of the previous complications with the delivery of the new baby girl who was now a part of the family.
"But just think of the bragging rights it'll give her," Jerry said, determined to not allow old worries to linger.
Jasmine stirred. "I'll give you bragging rights, buddy," she spoke drowsily without opening her eyes. "The day you pop out the allotted 2.2."
Jerry's grin broadened. He loved teasing his sister-n-law. "Seems to me that you've got another point two to go before you've fulfilled your domestic contribution."
Jasmine opened her eyes and reached out and clasped her husband's fingers. "We will when you do," she said. She looked up toward Joshua. They lingered in one another's gazes for several moments, a look of happy, uncomplicated love passing between the two of them.
I will when I find someone who looks at me the way you look at him, Jerry thought. "I don't know that the world is ready for an offspring of mine," he said aloud. "Besides, I don't know of a woman who'll have me."
"Don't you mean, you don't know of a woman who can get you to settle down?" Joshua chimed in.
"Well, yeah. That too." Jerry grinned unrepentantly. They'd had similar conversations before, with Jerry always playing the part of the confirmed bachelor. But in truth he was searching. He wanted a love like Joshua and Jasmine shared. He simply wasn't sure where to find it, and it wasn't for a lack of trying.
Glancing at his watch, he congratulated the pair, told them again how beautiful their wrinkled daughter was and left the room. He promised to stop by in a few days to rescue Joey away for some 'little guy' time.
As he moved out into the corridor, his thoughts returned to his single status. There was a time when he actively searched for someone to share his life with. In the process, he'd developed an impressive number of female friends. Most of his relationships seemed to end amicably. But more recently he wasn't as heavy into the dating scene. At twenty-nine, he was beginning to wonder if the girl who was out there for him had run off and married someone else.
Joan, Joshua's housekeeper and close family friend, had long since told Jerry that he was trying too hard. Maybe Joan was right. Maybe if he simply sat back and waited, the girl of his dreams would fall into his lap.
He was moving along the tiled corridor toward the exit, utterly lost in thought when something compact and plastic slid from an open doorway and smashed into his toe. It took him several moments to realize that it was a cellular phone. Small and dark, it was decorated with a wood grained finish.
He stooped to pick it up, wondering who might have tossed a phone at him. Turning toward the open doorway, his eyes settled on a young woman seated in a cushioned chair that sat at a right angle to the door of what appeared to be one of the smaller waiting rooms.
She wore a dark business suit, her skirt having ridden half up a pair of very shapely thighs which were slightly parted in an unladylike manner. Her arms lay limply on her lap, while her head drooped sideways against the chair, half obscuring her face beneath a wave of silky black hair. Jerry could just make out the shadow of dark lashes against a soft cheek, and a pair of full lips, gently parted.
He froze completely. A feeling he couldn't put a name to shot through him, sending an unexpected shiver up his spine, and then he was suffused with a feeling of warmth. Shaking it off, he moved to his feet and approached. The phone had to be hers as there was no one else in the small room.
He came to a halt in front of her. If he had to guess, he would say that she was Chinese-American, her features only seeming partly Oriental. Either way, she was heart-stoppingly beautiful. He wanted her to open her eyes and look at him so that he could get a complete picture.
He moved forward, hesitant to wake her. But then she stirred slightly, causing the wave of hair to fall back from her face, revealing an ugly darkening bruise on her left cheek bone.
"What do you think you're doing?" A masculine voice demanded.
Jerry started. The cell-phone slipped from his fingers and hit the floor. It hit just right and the flip portion broke off from the body of the phone, clattering again out into the corridor.
The woman's eyes flew open. Jerry was surprised to find that they were an enchanting hazel. She immediately winced, squinting in obvious pain.
Jerry found himself wincing along with her. "It was a random act of kindness," he attempted to explain. "Until I broke her phone." Deciding that he felt a bit protective toward this woman that he didn't even know, he continued. "Who are you?"
The woman made a disgusted sound and tried to roll her eyes. Jerry ignored it, determined to hold the gaze of the man who's eyes had narrowed slightly.
"I'm her friend," the man gestured toward the woman before adding an ominous, "And a cop."
"Oh," Joshua nodded, duly informed. "That's nice." Cops didn't scare him -- too much. Considering the bruise along the woman's face, a cop friend wasn't a bad thing. He hoped he wasn't much more than a friend. He hadn't noticed an engagement ring on her finger.
"Haven't we met before?" the officer asked. "What's your name?"
Jerry didn't see any harm in sharing that bit of information considering it could look to the casual bystander as if he were engaging in a little petty larceny. Again retrieving the phone, he supplied his name and his cover story.
"I'm Jeremy Dumas. My brother and sister-n-law just had a new baby in the maternity wing. I was on my way home when this cell phone attacked my Timberlands." He placed the remnants of the phone into the woman's hand.
"Sorry about your phone," he told her, looking into those eyes. He wondered what the possibilities were of her ever looking at him with longing rather than quiet dismissal. His hand brushed hers and his skin actually tingled. "I'm in the book. I'd like to replace your phone."
"It's no problem," she finally spoke, gathering her damaged electronics in her lap. Her voice was smooth and melodic. He wanted to keep her talking, but if she was already spoken for. . .
Jerry felt a heavy hand slap against his shoulder. Images of police brutality shot through his mind as he turned.
"I remember where I know you from!"