Giving up, I scooted my chair back from the table where I had been trying to focus on my notes. I put all of it back into the old school folder that I had been collecting my thoughts and plans in and then took that back to my bedroom and shoved it in my top dresser drawer. Through the wall I heard Jude puttering around in his room getting ready for bed. I knew he was tired from going out early hunting with Butch and then working the rest of the day for Uncle Roe. I didn’t blame him, I was tired myself.
I stepped out of my room and knocked on his door. “Jude? I’m going to try and get to bed early. You mind?”
“Mind?” he said in a voice that was muffled until he opened his door. “Of course not. I was wondering when your engine was going to start winding down.” His grin was infectious but I just didn’t have much in me so all I could respond with was a small, tired grin. He noticed but didn’t say anything except to look at me closer. “You OK?”
“I’m fine … just tired. I feel like I’ve been going nonstop for a long, long time.”
“Uh … don’t take this the wrong way but you look it. You sure you’re OK?”
A single nod and then I told him, “Sleep is what I need.”
“OK, but we agreed that you’d talk to me if …”
“Oh, I’m … I don’t have the sweats Jude. Stressed? Yeah. Sweats? No.”
“Well ok … just remember our agreement.” At my nod he said, “I have to leave out early in the morning again. If you don’t mind I’ll grab a few of them extra biscuits on my way out.”
“That’s what I made them for,” I told him. “Well, goodnight.”
“Night Granny.” I laughed lightly because I knew he expected me to and then turned to go to bed.
It didn’t seem like I was in bed all that long before I was waking up hot. I knew I shouldn’t be hot which told me I wasn’t just feeling tired and puny; I was honestly sick. “Great. This is all I need. I manage to not get a doggone thing in all the time since the T-virus hits, not even the sniffles, and a stupid little dip in the stream does me in. I swear if I didn’t have bad luck I wouldn’t have any.”
I forced myself out from under the quilt and blankets and hadn’t even put my feet on the floor before I was shivering like someone had put ice cubes down my pants. Being as quiet as I could I opened my door and then slunk to the kitchen and then almost cursed when I remembered that all of the first aid stuff was down in the basement. I opened the basement door and then carefully felt my way down the stairs. I had left the little wind up flashlight at the bottom of the steps instead of at the top like I was supposed to but I knew it was hanging on the rail post by its string.
Sure enough, I hadn’t completely lost my mind, and it was hanging exactly where I had remembered having it last. I gave it a couple of winds and turned it on. Once my eyes adjusted and I got my bearings I headed straight for the old cabinet that had a catch on it too high for the youngest to open and sighed in relief when I spotted the acetaminophen. As if the fever had reduced my brain to mush it took me a minute to remember how to open a childproof bottle. Unfortunately I was shaking so bad that I could barely hold the bottle much less grasp it in one hand and push and turn the lid with the other.
An involuntary whimper came out and I nearly threw the bottle across the basement. “I knew it.”
Jude scared me so bad I would have jumped a mile had I had any coordination left. Instead I fell over … or almost. Jude caught me and then almost jerked his hand away. “Dang Dovie,” he muttered. “You’re burning up.”
At any other time I would likely have snapped a pithy comment about stating the obvious but I was in such a state by that point that all I could do was hold the bottle out to him and ask pitifully, “Please open it for me Jude.”
When he shook his head I thought he was saying he wouldn’t. Instead he picked me up and carried me up the stairs mumbling under his breath. “No slippers. No house coat. Wandering around in a dark, cold house. Coulda thought she was a burglar. And geez, don’t weigh enough to make me even a little out of breath climbing the stairs. Bones poking out at all angles. Better hope I don’t go get Ro …”
“Don’t,” I begged. “I swear Jude I’ll do anything but don’t go get Rochelle. I feel bad now, she’ll make me wish I was dead by the time she’s done.”
He snorted and told me, “Would serve you right if I did. Were you feeling like this earlier?”
“No,” I said on a hard shiver. “I think I’d rather be hot again.”
“Yeah, and you’re making sense all right. Here, lean against the counter and I’ll get you some water.” He handed me a glass from the pitcher I keep to start the morning with. “It’s gonna taste stale.”
“Don’t care. It’s wet.”
“Anything besides a fever?”
“Huh?” I asked after taking the pills and the water he handed me.
“Besides the fever … anything else.”
“Uh uh. Should have listened to you and taken your jacket instead of having a royal snit fit. My own fault. Can you believe that? I’m not sick forever and ever and a little bit of wet and a bad attitude and look where I am at now. I can’t get sick Jude, I don’t have the time for it.”
I started shivering hard again and turned to go to my room only I didn’t get a step before Jude was picking me up again like a sack of potatoes.”
“I ain’t dying; I can walk you know.” His only response was a snort.
I had to close my eyes because the flashlight swinging crazily where I still had it on my wrist was making me woozy. I jumped when I realized he was putting me down on my bed.
“Whoa, hey … easy there. You really are out of it.”
“No … no I was just getting warm and … I don’t know.” Embarrassed yet too tired to really care I tried to crawl under my covers but wasn’t having much luck and almost conked myself in the head with the flashlight.”
“Here now before you do some serious damage. Just lay still and I’ll drag your covers up.” I sighed in relief though I was almost immediate too warm. “Better?”
“Yeah. Just need to sleep it off.”
To himself he mumbled, “Don’t them words sound familiar.”
“Nothing. I’ve just said those words a few times myself only for less good reason than what you’ve got.”
“I’m sorry I woke you up.”
“You didn’t. I was up to get ready to go meet Butch when I heard you leave your room. I’m just going to go up and tell him I can’t …”
“Don’t,” I moaned. “Please don’t tell. Just go hunting. I don’t need a babysitter and if you don’t call down death by Rochelle on me Butch just might. Just leave my bedroom slipper on my door knob and Paulie will come in here when they wake up.”
“Leave your …? What on earth for?”
“It’s kinda our signal … he’ll understand.”
“Whatever you say; still sounds silly.”
“That’s the whole point. He’ll know though.”
“OK … now just get some sleep. We’ll be done no later than mid-morning because we need to finish piling that grass up now that the frost has dried it out.”
I didn’t even hear him leave.