Bill draped his arm around Kim and gave her a friendly squeeze.
“You looked like you could use a hug, my friend.” He said. “And for what it’s worth, I’m here to help. You don’t have to do this all on your own, okay?”
“Thank you,” she whispered.
“Don’t give it another thought. Look, I know you and Phillip have a lot of work to do so … I’m going to head over to your place to check on Angela and Gillian. Cool?”
Kim hugged him again and repeated her thanks but in typical Bill style, he gave her a playful poke in the ribs and laughed.
“Don’t thank me yet; Phillip is going to talk your ears off. I’m simply saving myself.” he murmured before announcing his departure for Dr. Tynesdale’s benefit. “I’ll be back around lunchtime.”
With a wink to Kim and wave to Phillip, he was out the door.
On the other side of town, Gillian and Angela huddled over a pot of coffee and nibbled at honeyed toast. Though Angela had made no mention of it, Gillian’s awkward behavior the night before left her apprehensive. Puffy, red eyes proved what her friends expected; Gillian did not sleep again that night. Instead, she downed another cup of coffee in three gulps and poured some more.
Golden sunlight streamed through the windows sending a stab through Gillian’s retinas and into her brain. She raised a hand to shield her raw orbs and from her peripheral vision caught sight of it again. Someone was lurking in the shadows, watching and waiting. When she glanced back again, the shadowy form was gone; much like it had done the night before. You’re losing, girl. Have more coffee. She reached for the pot again only hear a voice behind her say, “Hey, save some of that for me.” With a squeal, Gillian jumped back, sending her coffee mug and Angela’s crashing to the ground. Shattered stoneware and coffee dregs swirled on the floor like a Jackson Pollock in brown.
“Geez, Billy! You scared the crap out of me!” She exclaimed. “What are you trying to do; give me heart attack?”
“You’re the second person to say that to me this morning.” Bill laughed, hoping a little levity would soothe her ragged nerves. “Here, I thought I was rather dashing but I seem to be traumatizing beautiful women. Hmm, I’m starting to develop a complex.”
Gillian threw a playful punch at his shoulder before pulling him into a bear hug. Angela finished cleaning up the spill before throwing her arms around her friends and giving them both a squeeze. She was relieved to see Bill, more than he would ever know.
After a few more mugs of coffee, Gillian finally shuffled off to shower. Bill waited until he heard the water running to ply Angela with questions.
“Kim said something happened last night and our Jilly was afraid ... like too afraid to turn off the lights. I found that hard to believe until I saw her for myself. Did she tell you what happened? There has to be more that she’s not telling us.”
“So far, she hasn’t told me anything. Maybe with you here, she’ll feel safer. I think she really believed I was trying to mess with her last night. She was talking as if I was in the room with her. I’ve never seen her like this and it’s freaking me out!”
Upstairs, steamy water from the showerhead caressed Gillian’s aching muscles. The heat soothed physically but inside, her nerves were raw and jagged. She allowed the water to pound into her flesh until a chill settled over her. Damn! I used all the hot water. Angela is going to kill me, she thought. A chuckle escaped her lips, just like old times. Still smiling she threw back the shower curtain and let loose a blood-curdling scream.