Jane Oliver threw her covers back, she was sweating and couldn’t manage to bring the room around her into focus. She ran her hands through her hair, sweaty and a little greasy from lying in bed for two days. The GP had said she only needed to rest, drink lots of fluids and wait for the fever to break. Only, she couldn’t bring herself to sit up to have a drink as she felt terribly nauseous. Touching her forehead, she wondered just how high her fever was. She felt like she was boiling. No matter how much she tried, she couldn’t get comfortable. One moment she was too hot, the next she started trembling. All she wanted was to go to sleep and wake up refreshed and feeling better, feeling more like herself. The longer she stayed awake, the more frustrated she got. Lying here, unable to do anything, she had a lot of time to think. Not just about how much she disliked being sick but about how much she disliked being here by herself. She wished she had someone here, with her, who would look after her. She was lonely.
“Come now, Reverend, things aren’t all that bad, are they?“ A voice hummed, a featherlight touch on her shoulder, brushing down the length of her arm.
“Sergeant Cawood?“ Jane recognised the voice, despite her delirious state, or was it because of it? Catherine Cawood couldn’t really be here, could she? Jane had only met the police sergeant a few times so far. She hadn’t been in Sowerby Bridge long, but the blonde police woman had clearly left an impression on her.
“No need to be so formal,“ Catherine hummed, her voice thick with her distinctive Northern accent. The sensation of an arm wrapping around Jane’s middle made her jump.
“What are you…“ She whispered, disoriented.
“You’re in a bad way, I think you could do with looking after…“ The policewoman replied.
Jane gasped at the feeling of lips on her neck and a hand tracing her waistline.
“What? No! I…“ She stammered, confused.
“It's alright Jane, I know what you want,“ Catherine mumbled.
“This is just a dream, I’m hallucinating…“ Jane sobbed, burying her face in her hands, sweat and tears mixing as she rubbed her eyes.
“I’ll help you feel better.“ Catherine’s promise was too much to bear.
Jane pushed herself up, looking around, her eyes wide with panic and all she found was an empty room, an empty house, her otherwise empty bed. Her head continued to spin, she couldn’t keep herself upright, she collapsed back into the pillows and pulled her duvet up and over her head, hiding from the world. She sobbed into the cotton sheets.
“Why can’t I have this for real? Why…“ Her pent up frustration sought an outlet, she threw the covers off herself again, discomfort turning to desperation, to anger. “Why can’t I have anything I truly desire?“ It was a question for the Almighty and for herself. Why couldn’t she find happiness? Why was she so alone?
“You’d be fine if you liked men,“ a cruel part of her mind answered, taking the sound of Catherine’s voice again.
“Shut up!“ Jane whimpered, covering her face with her hands again. She tried to block everything out but there was no way of protecting herself from her own thoughts, given shape and voice at the height of delirium.
“You’re delirious, you’re talking to yourself.“ Catherine retorted with a pitiful laugh at her attempt to silence her.
“I know, I… know…“ Jane sobbed. “I just… don’t want to be alone anymore. I want to have someone, be with someone, someone like her, who…“ She knew she was alone, she knew she was talking to herself, there was no need to try and pull herself together. She might as well be honest with herself. “Someone who doesn’t just see the dog collar and…“ There were times like these when she wondered whether she had made the right choice all those years ago. She liked being a priest, she was good at it, she was helping people… but sometimes, in her most selfish moments, she wondered what sort of life she could have had if she had taken another route. It didn’t diminish her faith, she knew her beliefs in her heart, but she wondered whether the Church was the right place for someone like her. All she wanted was to be happy. Was that so selfish? In her delirious state she wasn’t sure. All she knew was that she wanted to see a certain fair-haired police sergeant again. Maybe, if she lived through this fever, she could ask her out for a drink…