Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Wanderlust part 50 (!) "It’s just you two."
Part fifty! Holy crow! Can't believe it. We have well surpassed 65K and I have a feeling that this, boys and girls, could end up being the longest thing I've ever written. When all is said and done, that is.
It is pouring, boy child is still sick, I slept better and I have to drag the healthy kid to the dentist to get clean shiny chompers. There you go, you're up to speed ;)
p.s. those of you on Twitter who sent good vibes and nice juju and happy mojo to the man the other day for his interview thingy, thank you! It went well. Yesterday was the last step in the process and now all is done with but the waiting. We just need that fat lady to sing a happy little ditty and it's all good...
p.p.s. Seeing all the comments yesterday about future installments tickled me pink lemonade because of this particular chunk! heh. you guys rock. :)
p.p.p.s. Stay tuned for a chunk of the new cover to my upcoming paranormal. Have I mentione that Willsin Rowe is a genius?
by Sommer Marsden
You can tell how you feel about someone by how you treat them when they are sick. My mother told me that once.
Right around the time he broke her arm—not long before, in fact—my father had been stricken with a nasty case of diverticulitis. Infection set in and he was hospitalized for days. His fever had raged, his body had run hot and pale and he’d lost an enormous amount of weight. I think almost a week passed before they let him return home in my mother’s care.
Personally, I thought my mother should smother him in his sleep for the way he treated her, but she didn’t. Of course. She doted on him and she waited on him and eventually nursed him back to health.
But it was then that she said to me, “This is how you judge your feelings about another person. Good, bad or indifferent, Aurelia. When someone is sick.”
And Johnny was sick. When I touched his face as we barreled down the highway toward the next state, heat radiated off him. He was dry like sun baked sand and he coughed like a dying man.
I was driving. That alone unnerved me.
“We need to get you a doctor,” I said, hands shaking and voice matching.
He laughed. “Aurelia. Don’t panic. It’s fine.”
“Fine? You’re like a human Easy-Bake oven! I could cook a little cake on your head.”
He took the bottle of water from between us and guzzled half of it in a single gulp, his Adam’s apple bobbing violently. “I’m fine.”
“You are sick.”
“Yes, I am sick. I don’t know if you are aware, but us human folk get sick sometimes. No need to panic.”
“I am panicking,” I sighed.
“I can tell.”
“What is it?” My mind, not comfortable with illness ran through every wild scenario. Lung cancer, Ebola Virus, Whooping Cough, Tuberculosis, the Plague.
“I think it’s the flu,” he said.
I blinked. Duh. It was November, almost holiday time, we were traveling, sleeping poorly, fucking our way cross country and eating for shit. We didn’t’ take vitamins or drink juice or any of that stuff we should.
“So, I need pain relievers, fluids and sleep. That’s all, Snowflake. No need to call the Calvary.”
“Are you sure I’ll take you to the hospital right this moment, if you need to go.” I immediately started looking for the roadside signs that broadcast HOSPITAL.
He laughed, it was weak but genuine. “Oh, Really, the hospital requires money.”
“Well, they have to give you minimal care!” I blurted.
“How do you know that?”
“Well, I never held a paying job, but I have volunteered my ass off over the years. My mother thought it was important. I have been a candy striper in some of the finest Baltimore medical institutions. And minimal care is required.”
I rushed on. “And even if you needed more, I’d pay. I do have a credit card.”
“That you don’t want to use.” He smiled. Somehow he looked half his size to me at the moment. And it scared me.
“Don’t care. If you need it…” I sucked in a breath and hit the windshield wiper button to clear the glass. “I will use it.”
He stared at me, silent. His eyes, even in the crazy highway light shiny with fever. He said nothing but I sensed the confusion...or was it awe?...in his gaze.
This is how you judge your feelings about another person. Good, bad or indifferent, Aurelia. When someone is sick...
I was screwed.
“Just find us a hotel. I need to not be in motion. I need a shower and a bed and water and twenty hours of sleep and I’ll be fine.”
“Are you sure?”
“You’re not going to die are you?” The words—half way up—got lodged in my throat. But I coughed them out because I had no choice.
“God, no, Really, honey. No,” he said. “I promise you, it will be okay. Do you believe me?”
Strangely, I did.
This time I was the one to saunter into the motel lobby and ask for a room alone. I put Johnny and Really Q Public on the roster. The guy at the desk gave me a look and then laughed, handing me a key. We were in room 169. How places with twenty units had triple digit room numbers always boggled my mind. But that was fine.
I drove the Chevy around, unlocked the door to a truly hideous room done in some pseudo log-cabin meets eight-year-old-boy’s bedroom and took the bags in. I turned down the sheets and made sure they were clean.
Then I helped two hundred some odd pounds of feverish sick man into the room.
“Thank you,” he said.
Something in the tone and not the words made my gut ache and my eyes sting. I hushed him and shut the door, locking it. I unbuckled his belt and had a brief moment of fierce arousal when I tugged it from the belt loops, remembering what he’d said. Then I got him out of his jeans and covered him up. I left him in his flannel shirt and tee because the chills and sweats were alternating.
There was no true comfort for poor Johnny.
“I’m going to get you a juice or something from the vending machine,” I whispered, kneeling by the bed.
I was terrified. It was a blind kind of fear—with big teeth and huge claws, eating me up. Why? I had always preferred to be alone. Why was I so goddamned scared?
“Thank you,” he said again, eyes closed.
“Stop thanking me,” I hissed.
He cracked one bleary eye. “Really?”
“Sorry.” I stood on weak legs and ran a hand through my hair. “I’ll be right back.”
As I turned he threw an arm out to me. “Really, I need you—“ And then he was asleep. Mid-sentence.
My heart crimped. I stared at him.
Really, I need you—
And it filled my head with a blinding crack. When had anyone needed me? Since my mother? Or ever, to be honest?
He needed me. The end of that sentence was probably: to get me a bucket or to get me a drink or to stop talking…
I laughed and it was a high and shaky sound.
But he’d said he needed me and something in me had hummed to life. Still terrified, but somehow honored. Soothed? Better.
I went to the bathroom and got a washcloth, trying to remember if I had ever taken care of anyone in my life but myself and sometimes helping my mother’s nurse toward the end of her life.
I met my own eyes in the mirror.
“Never,” I told myself. “It’s just you two. And he needs you. He needs you to be the strong one for a few days. So…” I wrung out the rag and then finished. “Don’t fuck it up, Aurelia.”
Softly, I put the washcloth on his forehead and winced when he woke up. “Sorry,” I said. “But I will be right back. With a drink. Are you hungry?”
“God, no,” he laughed. “But I feel like I got hit by a truck. I could do with six or seven hundred aspirin.”
“How’s two extra strength pain relievers sound instead?”
“Sold,” he said. Then his eyes slammed shut again and he was breathing raspy but evenly.
I bent to press my lips to his hot, hot forehead and laid a kiss there. This was too bizarre. And very surreal. And mildly horrifying—me being captain of the ship. But it would be okay. It would.
I tiptoed out and found the vending machines. Feeding the hungry metal and glass beast a good chunk of our silver. Then I hurried back to take care of Johnny. Who needed me.