Chapter Eight-7 Days AgoA Chapter by Vanessa Rico
The flu--virus--finally hits home
7 Days Ago-Friday June 10th
All night long, I tossed and turned in my bed, trying to find a comfortable position so I could rest my weary mind; alas, I found no relief. Pictures of Drake assaulting my brother flashed through my mind, along with his look of…satisfaction? His face had been unreadable, but his eyes told another story that he enjoyed what he was doing. That scared me. My brothers had finally come home last night and shut themselves in Jared’s room. Of course, my parents were suspicious and curious about what was going on with their three children, but they gave us space, allowing us to come to them if we needed. But none of us did. This was one of those things that teenagers did not like to talk about: boy/girl dramas and a*s-kicking beat downs.
Betrayal and guilt plagued my mind all night. As much as Drake’s betrayal hurt, what was really on my mind was Jared’s look of betrayal, when I had tried to help him up. Guilt seared my soul and heart, because…I am still attracted to Drake. I know how horrible that sounds, but my body yearned for him like a meth addiction. How could I care so much about him? It was not normal, and I decided I would go cold turkey to get over my Drake addiction.
Not only had guilt and betrayal whirred through my mind, but the mysterious text message that was eerily similar to what my dream boy had told me was also in the forefront of my mind. How was that possible? When did dream boys have phones to text ominous warnings? It seems I always have more questions than answers, which is a complete and utter nuisance! Is there some place where I can get cliff notes to find out the end of this whole mess?
Sleep and unconsciousness never came. At five in the morning, I found myself staring up at the pink silken canopy that hung over my bed. It was so girlish that Greg had complained about it, telling me to have an interior decorator give my room a makeover. Nonetheless, I could not part with the canopy, because I did not want to give up my childhood just yet. Everything was so much easier, when I was a little girl, running around in pigtails and drawing in coloring books; sadly, those days are long gone.
I sighed. There was absolutely no point to try to rest for another hour or so until I had to wake up and go to school, so I got ready. I took extra care in my appearance today, covering all traces of my exhausting night. Normally, I do not add too much makeup, but today, I applied eyeliner, eye shadow, and a clear lip balm to keep my lips soft. Using my flat iron, I straightened my hair so I would look sleek and classy, which would work perfectly with my outfit I picked out: a form-fitted, short sleeved collar shirt, dark washed denim (skinny jeans are a must), and ultra cute gladiator stilettos. Adding one of those waist cinching belts, I checked myself in my full length mirror for anything out of place. Satisfied with my polished exterior appearance, I pranced out of my room with my book bag and purse, which I dropped at the front door, where it would wait until I was ready to leave for school.
My stomach rumbled, announcing to the empty foyer that I was in need of some yummy nourishment, so I went to the kitchen. Unlike the other day, there were no tantalizing aromas for my nose to follow. Odd. My mother was an early bird, so it was rather unusual to not hear her bustling around in the kitchen with clanging pans and sizzling food. Darkness enveloped the kitchen. A flick of the switch and the kitchen was bathed in a soft, fluorescent glow. No mom, no food. Knowing that my mother had been overexerting herself the past several days, I started cooking breakfast. Two large packets of sausage seared in the cast iron frying pan, while I toasted several pieces of bread in the toaster. My stilettos click-clacked on the floor as I switched back and forth between the stove and the toaster; so absorbed in my cooking, I did not hear Jared come into the kitchen. When I turned to the island, I almost dropped the whole plate of sausage, which only caused Jared’s lips to twitch in amusement.
“How graceful you are!” Jared teased me, and I stuck my tongue out at him. Childish, I know, but I was ecstatic that he was not mad at me anymore. In our sibling language, teasing was a sign that basically stated that you were forgiven for any previous transgressions.
Placing the plate of sausage in front of him, I removed the potholders from my hands, settling them beside me. For a moment, I stood there uncertainly, but that moment ended and I apologized. “Jared, I’m so sorry about what happened yesterday. I had no idea that Drake was like that…”
“I know. I saw shock written all over your face…” Jared paused, wrinkling his nose in distaste at the words that were about to follow. “I’m sorry too that I pushed you away…all right now that we are done with the mushy stuff, which I’ll completely deny that I ever said, let’s eat.” He proclaimed as Caleb walked in, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and yawning with his arms high over his head.
“Where are our parental units?” Caleb asked as he plopped onto the stool, accepting the plate of sausage, eggs, and toast from me.
“Yeah, this is not like them to not be up…unless Dad forgot to set the alarm,” remarked Jared between mouthfuls of sausage and eggs.
“I don’t know, but I’ll go wake them up…Hey, Caleb, pass me the serving tray in the cubby hole by your knees.” Caleb passed me the gleaming silver tray, which I piled with plates laden with food. Balancing the tray as I maneuvered up the stairs was quite an amazing feat and accomplishment for me that is, considering how clumsy I tend to be. How many times have I tripped over air in front of a hot guy and fallen flat on my face? Too many times, and I diligently try to forget my utter embarrassment. Sighing at my misfortunes, I readjusted my grip on the tray, because my hands were getting awfully sweaty. What was I nervous about?
My parents’ bedroom door was handcrafted from a fine mahogany, and was heavy to push open one handed. I knocked. Never again would I enter my parents’ room without knocking; I learned my lesson the hard way, and never again wanted to see my parents scramble for robes to cover themselves. I shuddered at the memory. There was no answer, so I knocked again louder and harder. Still, no answer. I waited a few minutes, listening to see if I heard any noises from inside the room. No noise and no answer. They must still be sleeping, so I covered my eyes and entered the room, announcing my arrival, “Sorry, for barging in, but I knocked. Dad must have…” Stopping mid-sentence, I had opened my eyes and saw… I dropped the tray of food and screamed in silent horror. Again, my instincts took over and I backed up out of the room. My hand went to my mouth as I tried to process what I had just witnessed.
Feet pounded up the stairs as Jared and Caleb ran towards me, looking a bit anxious at what caused the noise. They were both about to enter our parents’ room, but I cried out, “NO!” Both of them turned to me, giving me glances as if I was a crazy person, which I felt like I might be. “No, Caleb, go call Dr. Hamlin and ask him to come right away…it’s an emergency.” Caleb was hesitant to do what I asked, but Jared shoved him in direction of the stairs.
As soon as Caleb was out of earshot, Jared ignored my horrified looks and entered our parents’ bedroom. I heard Jared’s strangled cry, along with soft murmuring that could only be my mother’s voice. Here I was again in a crisis, and what was I doing? I froze, yet again. These people were my parents and they needed my help…I could not, would not deny them like I denied the dying woman. Slowly, cautiously I put one foot in front of the other, and I entered the room, bracing myself for my worst nightmare that lay inside.
Dr. Hamlin exited my parents’ room to see the three of us standing there for any information on what the hell was going on. Fatigue was plastered all over Dr. Hamlin’s face. He beckoned me with his index finger, and I stepped into an alcove with this grandfather-like doctor, who had delivered me into this world. “Alexia,” he stopped and took off his thick-framed glasses. Wiping his lenses, he sighed as he put them back on. “Alexia, your parents are very sick. Do you watch the news?” I shook my head. “You ought to from here on out. School is still cancelled.”
“What?!” I blurted out in shock.
“Yes, the government has had to close a lot of public venues in hopes of stopping this virus from spreading.”
“What virus? My dad has pneumonia, and probably gave it to my mom…” My mind tried to reason with Dr. Hamlin; even though, I knew it was not pneumonia. The rash and blisters that covered my parents’ skin I had seen twice before; neither of those two times ended well.
“No, it’s not the pneumonia. Your mother just told you that so you would not be scared. Alexia, I am only going to tell you this if you promise me you are strong enough to handle it.” My mouth opened and words only sputtered out lost in translation. Dr. Hamlin’s stern voice broke through my feeble protests, “Alexia, you need to be strong not just for your brothers and your parents, but for yourself, when the time comes to…” His eyes misted over, which snapped me to attention to the situation that had been thrust upon me.
“When the time comes to what, Dr. Hamlin?”
Dr. Hamlin turned to the window, not wanting to face me with the information he was about to unload. “This virus--or flu is what the experts are calling it--is deadly. All week, I have been making house calls, including your friend, Heather Johnson.” This was a shock to me, since Heather never mentioned her parents being sick. “Everyone has the same symptoms: rash, blistered skin, coughing, fever, and some vomiting. I have been in touch with my colleagues from all over the world and they are all reporting the same diagnosis for their patients. If you had been watching the news, you would have seen that this is widespread, not just across the US, but around the world.”
“How could this just pop up and happen? We had no warning,” I pleaded like a little girl who did not want to take her medicine.
Another weary sigh escaped Dr. Hamlin. “I don’t know. I saw a few cases several months ago, all with the same result.” His eyes did not meet mine, but he continued, “I was told by the CDC to keep it quiet. I did. I never should have…maybe--maybe I could have stopped it.” Then Dr. Hamlin, shocking me, broke down into anguished sobs. Unsure of what to do, I had never witnessed the stoic Dr. Hamlin ever breakdown. Several minutes past, allowing him time to pull himself together. Clearing his throat, his eyes shone with a steely determination. “Alexia, promise you will not fall apart.”
“PROMISE ME!” He bellowed.
“Good. Here is what you need to know. In all my years as a practicing physician, I have never seen anything like this flu, or virus, or whatever you want to call it. It is lethal and deadly to whoever contracts it. There is no cure, or that is what the government is declaring. All of the cases that I have been presiding over are adults. Normally, the young and the old are the first ones to be infected; however with this sickness, only the old--the adults--have contracted it. The youngest person that I have seen with this--this--flu was only 23. No one younger than that has been known to be infected. What I am about to tell you will either make or break you, are ready?” A slight nod of my head was all that was needed. “No one survives, when they are infected. No one! The government is trying to stop the spread, but I believe that it is too late. The sickness affects everyone differently, meaning someone could be infected and within a few hours, they are gone. Others have been known to suffer in agony for days until succumbing to this virus. Alexia, the only thing that I can do for your parents is to make them comfortable, do you understand?” My world fell out from under me. All of a sudden, my feet felt like they could not hold me up anymore. I tried to suck in a breath, but I found it hard to breathe. Part of me knew that it was only a matter of time until my parents were dead like Mr. Fowler and the woman. However, the other part of me refused to believe that this could happen to my parents--my parents who are strong and healthy and robust. “ALEXIA!” Dr. Hamlin’s gruff voice broke through my self-pity and despair. “You promised you would be strong, so do it. Here,” Dr. Hamlin handed me a bottle of white pills, “These are for the pain. Try to make them comfortable. Give them plenty of fluids. Enjoy the time that you have left with them.”
He turned to leave, but I grabbed the sleeve of his coat, stopping him in his tracks. “There must be something you can do…please!” Tears streamed down my face as I sank to my knees.
He bent down to pick me up, and I unsteadily stood on my feet. “I wish I could Alexia, but I can’t. Look at me!” My eyes focused on Dr. Hamlin for the first time, and I noticed the slick sheen on his skin as well as the beginning signs of the rash. “I can’t even help myself, Alexia. Please stay strong, be the woman that your parents raised you to be.” With that Dr. Hamlin left, I just stood there crying unable to cope with what was going on. Jared and Caleb, who had been sitting up against the wall, got to their feet and waited for me to explain. I just could not bring myself to tell my brothers that our parents were dying, so I threw the bottle of pills at them and ran and ran, not looking back.
At some point in my running away, I stopped and fell asleep, because I found myself dreaming. Not on a cliff top or balcony, I stood in an empty street in the middle of the city. Newspapers fluttered around me in the slight wind. There were tons of cars around me; most were empty, but there were a few that held occupants no longer living. I heard a lone crow or raven caw far above me, chilling me to the bone. I was alone. My worst fear had come true.
Of their own accord, my feet shuffled forward, weaving in and out of cars. Farther down the street, it cleared and there were fewer cars. In the middle of the street, my heart--or was it lust--leaped in response to the lean muscled, dark figure…Drake. I did not let my feet control me anymore; I stopped several yards away from him. With a lock of hair in his eyes, he looked devastatingly handsome, and I truly wanted to wrap myself up in his strong arms. But I did not. Drake smirked at me and crossed the distance between us in a few long confident strides. My breathing was heavy as I strained not to look at him
His hand lifted up my chin, so our eyes would meet. “Oh, Lexxie, why deny what you want? Who cares what others think?”
I jerked away from him, even though my body protested at the loss of his touch. “No! You’re not who I thought you were.”
“I think you knew exactly who I am. Don’t you understand that we connect? No one--no guy, for that matter--could ever be good enough for you. How could they, when they didn’t really see you?”
“What the hell are you talking about, Drake? Stop talking in riddles and nonsense. I really don’t need all of the crap that you brought to my life.” For some reason, I was acting as if my dream Drake was the actual Drake, which was causing me to have vertigo. I turned to leave and find a way out of this nightmare, maybe there was a door like I had seen in Alice in Wonderland movies.
“Did you ever think that maybe they deserve it?” Drake’s voice cut the bleak silence, making me stop in my pursuit of an exit.
“Who are you talking about? And what do they deserve?” At this point, I was exasperated with Drake and I just wanted to wake up from this place.
“The adults…the virus…” His words taunted me. I looked back to see his face plastered with an amusing--evil?--smirk.
“How could you say something like that?” My words came out in a fierce shout, which startled Drake. I stomped back to Drake and slapped his face. I thought he would strike me, because his eyes darkened with anger, but he kept his hands at his side. “No one deserves a death sentence like that. What kind of person are you?”
In a swirling mass of confusion, the dream broke up, but not before Drake’s soft whisper made me tremble, “I’m just like you.” I awoke with a start, gasping for breath. It took me a minute to realize where I was: Hope’s Garden. I exhaled in relief that I was not in that city, and especially not with Drake Bradley; although, my body called me a liar.
Birds sang in joyous harmony; obviously, they did not know that the whole world was about to fall apart. Butterflies in array of vibrant colors flapped their wings, turning the garden into a circus of color. Water trickled from Demeter’s vase, which helped to soothe my overworked nerves. Sweet scents of jasmine and lavender filled my nostrils, which helped the magic of Hope’s Garden to work on me. Determination began to blossom in the pit of my stomach, and I knew what I had to do. Rising from the chaise lounge, I squared my shoulders, readying them for the responsibility of caring for my parents and my brothers. A steady foot at a time brought me back to my home; I knew it was time for me to not freeze or flee, but to fight.
The entire day I had spent by my parents’ side, giving them plenty of fluids, including orange juice and chicken broth. It was hard. Caleb could not stay in the room for five minutes, and he holed up in his room, not wanting to come out. Jared tried reasoning with him, but none of the reasons sounded good enough, not even to my ears. Jared was not much better off than Caleb; he could not even look our parents in the eyes, so I sent him off to do errands: cleaning clothes, preparing meals, and keeping the house in order.
My mother, who had been perfectly healthy the day before, looked so ill and weak; she could not sit up for more than a few minutes at a time. Father, on the other hand, did not seem as bad off as my mother. Yes, both of them had fevers that were off the chart, along with the sickly red rash and the telltale emergence of the soon to be filled pustules. And, yes, they both had a horrible wrecking cough; yet, no blood had appeared which I was extremely grateful for. I tried to lift their spirits with old family photographs and stories, but they knew what was happening to themselves. Still, I did not let them linger in their morbid thoughts; I was unnaturally upbeat and perky. They smiled weakly at my antics, which made my heart hurt.
After lunch, I gave them the pain medication Dr. Hamlin prescribed, so they could sleep without worrying about us. While they slept, I took mental pictures of my parents, telling myself that I would not forget them. Tears welled up, but I refused to cry--not now. I was tempted to turn the news on, as Dr. Hamlin suggested, but I did not want the world to invade on this time of loving respite with my parents. Reality could wait.
A few hours later, Jared came in to take over; he basically said that I looked like s**t and to get something to eat. So, I followed his orders. Returning to the kitchen, I went about to make twice baked potato casserole--Dad’s favorite--when the doorbell rang. I dropped the sack of potatoes on the marble countertop, and went to answer the door. Opening the door, there stood Jocelyn, who--obviously--had been crying. Before I could take her in my arms and hug her, she barged in, with arms folded and whined like a petulant child. “Can you believe it? They cancelled prom!”
All right, I knew Jocelyn had always swum in the shallow end of the pool, but this was ridiculous. My mouth was open in shock and disbelief at her callousness. “Seriously, Jocelyn, you came all the way over here to tell me that prom was cancelled?”
Jocelyn’s dark brown eyes clouded in puzzlement. “Um, yeah…I mean this is BIG news!”
Resisting the urge to smack her and my forehead in vexation, I bluntly told her, “Jocelyn, you need to leave. This is really not a good time...” I fumbled my words as I fought back emotion, but I persevered, “I will call you later.”
“Oh, I know everyone’s parents are sick. It’s no biggie. The government will find a cure soon, and everything will be fine.” Jocelyn stated as she checked herself out in one of the foyer’s mirrors. I realized that she was in denial, so I was planning on rationalizing to her, when she spoke up, “By the way, lookie here, who I brought with me.” Jocelyn disappeared outside for a moment, before reappearing clutching his arm. Drake. “Now that little fight yesterday is over, so you two should kiss and makeup. Go on, I will be outside!”
Neither Drake nor I glanced at Jocelyn as she slammed the door behind her. Drake was looking down as if he were a repentant schoolboy. “Lex, I’m sorry about the way I reacted yesterday. It was dumb and uncalled for, so I hope that you can forgive me.”
“Drake, you should be apologizing to Jared for what you did, not to me.” I told Drake, and I swear his eyes narrowed in anger, before returning to the liquid-y, chocolate orbs that I was mad about.
“Yeah, I will…” He stopped, and gave me one of his once over appraisals. The lusty haze that I felt the other night returned, and I found myself pinned up against the wall. Drake’s arms pinioned me, not allowing me any escape from him. My mind and the reasons of Drake leaving quickly vanished, and were replaced by my urge to kiss those sweet, soft lips of his. “Alexia, do you know how hard it was for me to be away from you…to have you upset with me?” Still lost to lust, I shook my head dumbly in response. He leaned into my ear; his hot breath warmed my ear, giving me delightful tickles that raced up and down my body. “You know, it was Darwin that stated that the fittest should be together and…well, you know…reproduce.” His words were like sweet honey to a famished bear, and I melted into him, forgetting everything and everyone. One of Drake’s hands had made its way up my shirt, only to be interrupted by Jared.
“What the f**k are you doing here?” Jared stormed down the stairs. The thunder of his feet woke me up from the haze of Drake’s touch. Immediately, I ducked under Drake’s arms and ran to my brother’s side. Jared did not look at me, but he put his body in front of mine, protecting me from more of Drake’s sweet talking.
“Don’t worry, Jared, I was just leaving.” Drake held his hands up in surrender; although, he wore a wicked smile. “Oh, and Alexia, you might want to remember what I said about you being just like me.”
Opening my mouth in a retort, Jared beat me to the verbal punch, “She is nothing like you! Get out!” Drake, amazingly, did what he was told and left. Jared asked if I was okay and I replied that I was; yet, I really wasn’t. Now that I was not in some lust filled stupor, I realized that something Drake had said reminded me of what Luke had said on the beach outing. Something about Darwin and reproducing. That was not the only thing that bothered me. Somehow, impossible as it may be, Drake mentioned something from my dream that I had earlier…but like I said that was impossible, right?
© 2011 Vanessa Rico
Surviving the Apocalypse, Boys, and Teenage Angst
Fall River, MA
AboutHey there all my fellow writers! All right you want to know a little about me? Hmmm...where to start? My name is Vanessa, most people call me Vanessa (a few special people call me Ness or Vannie), and.. more..
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