The Sequel to ‘Love’
I remember how much better I felt the next day when I took her call. Kelly was always so sweet to me. I couldn’t believe what a horrible, frightening, Hellish time I’d put her through; and yet, she had actually called, just as she said she would. She wasn’t just sweet— she was an angel. I had been hesitant to ask her out for another camping trip, but I had to devise some way to repay her.
"An amusement park? Really?"
"Two weeks from now we have a teacher workday. Luckily, that excludes me. Art teachers get all the breaks, huh?"
"How’d you swing that one?"
"I arranged to get the grades in early. The teachers have to review them anyway, and they have the final say. I can have them debated and in stone by that Thursday, no problem. Leaving the Friday just for you. And this time," I slowed, making sure my point was completely clear, "I will not be sick."
"Alright. I’ll ask for that day off. And I’ll look forward to it."
"Great," I said, my mind spinning with countless plans. I would more than make up for all I’d put her through. I would coddle her, pamper her, meet each and every of her desires, and show her exactly how much she meant to me.
Boy, had I been wrong, let me tell you. Wrong, wrong, wrong- there has never been a person as wrong as I… but it has a happy ending, I assure you. And yet, I get ahead of myself. That morning is as good a place any to start. You see, I’d counted on the flu to keep me down a few days, which it had. I was back to work in no time. That, perhaps, had been my first mistake. It was late spring, I should probably mention, and while completely out of the reaches of dreaded cold and flu season, there was a factor I had forgotten about. Spring rains. Normally, I’ll confess, I adore the rain. I will go out in it, standing with my face up towards the clouds, being pelted with the drops, soothing me, cooling me. However, when you work in an elementary school, rain suddenly transforms into this dreaded beast that darkens little children’s hearts. Day after day they stay inside, becoming rowdy, restless little beings. They become rather free—jumping onto tables, yelling at quiet time, fighting over just about anything. And if, by some miracle, the rains let up during recess, they come in afterwards soaked from splashing each other, or falling into the mud, depositing wet boots, hats, and jackets all over. It was times like those I did not envy their regular teachers in the least. Yes, the spring rains brought trouble, as well as dampness, which seemed embedded in everything. Now as anyone even slightly intelligent could tell you, a wild bunch of children with free spirit caught together for days on end in a dank, musty little place is a breeding ground for contagion. And, as luck would have it, I was once again far from immune. Could it have waited even a day past my Friday off? One would hope so. Then again ‘one’ does not have my luck.
"Ehssshhhh!" I blew my nose loudly and drummed my fingers on the rim of the bathtub.
"Patrick!" came a muffled yell from the hallway.
‘Come on and beep!’ I pleaded with the thermometer.
"Patrick!? Hurry up! We’ve got to be out!"
I rolled my eyes, wishing I could yell back.
"BEEP… BEEP… BE—" I glanced at the temperature, pushed the device out of my sight, and jumped up.
"Ninty-nine point two," I repeated to myself to make me feel better. Of course it didn’t but it was worth a try.
"Patrick? You in there still?" I grabbed my bags and flung the door open.
"Here-Ready-Gone," I panted, slamming and locking the door behind me. "Thanks for the call, Melissa."
The snappy, perky redhead patted me on the shoulder and tilted her head. "Can you believe they’re kicking us out on a weekend? I mean, hel-LO! Some of us have lives!"
Even annoyed and sick, her nature made me smile, if but for the shallow, stupidity with which she always spoke. "Some of us have jobs on the weekdays," I told her, practicing how not to sound sick.
"Oh yeah… I guess you’re right… Still, Mr.Fluffims is not going to like spending the weekend in a hotel, are you Mr.Fluffims?" she asked, roughly pulling the cat carrier she had up to her view. A white, Persian kitty stared back at her with tired blue eyes. Mr.Fluffims looked to be a victim of too much pampering and too many cat naps. My hunch was that Mr.Fluffims would disappear under the bed for a few days and come out to the can opener when he felt like it. As if the poor thing had given some sort of response, she made a rather unattractive smoochy-face at the cage. "Dats Mommy’s widdle baby! Idn’t dat wight? Yes it is! Yes it is!"
That alone was enough to make me sick.
I wished her good luck and hurried down the stairs and out the building. Our landlady was there, looking awfully annoyed; I figured telling her about the faulty air conditioning in my place could certainly wait until we were back in and settled.
"hheehh… he-Ehsshhh!" I sneezed, while passing her.
"Bless you Mr. Morris."
I smiled sheepishly at her and rubbed my tickley nose on my shoulder, my arms weighted down with bags. "Thanks."
I wasted no more time in stowing my gear in the back of the car(yes, I’m the only one in the world who calls his SUV a car) and headed over to Kelly’s house. With a fresh handkerchief in my back pocket, some learned skill, and luck, I’d get through the day without her noticing the cold developing in my nose.
Relying on my luck, I see now, was my downfall.
* * *
"Man, can you believe this line?" Kelly complained, hopping up to sit on the rail marked, ‘Do Not Sit’. "We’ve been here for ages and haven’t even budged!"
I couldn’t blame her for getting restless. I felt like a pinned-up bull myself. It was two in the afternoon, and we’d only just finished lunch. Our morning had been wonderful—few lines, it being a Friday, and few hassles, not to mention few sneezes from me. My only fit had been released in a restroom, safe out of her earshot. My cold was growing a little worse as the day progressed, but I could tell both she and I were simply run down after a hard week of work and tired from the excitement. But now the sun was beating down on us, and we were stuck in a long line for the first time. It being a water ride, and with the temperature rising, it seemed the entire park had the same idea. "I know, Kel. Just a little longer. I’m sure we’ll make it there soon."
She spotted a park guard and quickly jumped down from the railing. "That’s what you said twenty minutes ago when we were over there." She pointed to a spot a few inches from where her shoes rested.
I smiled. "No, Kel. You always dramatize. We were there." And I pointed to a spot only an inch from her shoe.
Wonderfully, it made her laugh. I sighed. And the tickle took me off guard. "eehihhshhh!" I sneezed, quickly covering my nose with my hand. I sniffed powerfully and then wiped discretely against the leg of my jeans. Kelly didn’t question it; she was too busy being an adorable impatient. She wore dark blue jeans, which fit her tightly from waist to tennis shoes. She wore a T-shirt on the top, which fell loosely over her perfect form. It was a Washington Capitals shirt I’d gotten at the game I’d taken her to when we started dating. She had taken to sleeping in it a few times, so I told her to keep it. And I must admit that she looked incredible in it. On her head, she had sunglasses. She rarely wore them down, but kept them there just in case, blending into her tossed, brown hair.
"Finally!" she said, as the line moved forward a few good yards. "To think I left the rush of a court room for this waiting…"
I couldn’t help doing it just then; I hugged her. Tightly. I wanted to kiss her so badly, but I was sick, as much as I was trying to hide it. She hugged me back, kissing my cheek.
"I’m sorry," she whispered.
"Nothing to be sorry for. I’m just as annoyed at this wait as you are, just better at keeping my mouth shut."
And the line began to go a little faster. We were led from the hot, blistering sun to a small overhang filled with rows of metal posts to keep us in a nicely coiled line. While I was glad to be out of the sun for a while, I soon found being under there to feel rather cold. We could feel light spray from the ride’s ‘splash down’ and the shade made it feel all the colder on my bare skin. The hairs on my arms stood on end, and little goose bumps popped up all over my arms, so I crossed them in front of my chest. ‘Almost over,’ I told myself. Of course my nose tickled again, though I managed to retrieve my handkerchief in time, cupping it over my nose and pinching my nose shut under its folds to contain the sensation. It worked for a minute or so, but after that, if I held it back longer, it would arouse considerable suspicion; and the tickle was not going away as I’d hoped. So I closed my eyes and muffled it into the handkerchief completely. "hhumppphhh!"
"Bless you!" she said kindly, this time.
"Thanks," I replied, before she could ask any questions. "I broke routine today," I said, rubbing at my nose, then folding the square of white and shoving it back into my pocket.
"Yeah. Waking up at a different time and all. I forgot to take my allergy pill." My first lie of the day.
"Ooohhh…" she said, understanding. "I’m sorry." She leaned forward and gently kissed my nose. "I’m thinking we should head out after this one anyway. I’m getting tired, and this way we can beat all that Friday rush hour traffic. Sound good?"
That was music to my ears. "Sounds sniff great… eehhh…" I grabbed for the handkerchief. "eehhhhhIHHHSHhhhhh…"
Though I’m sure she looked at me suspiciously, all she said to it was "Bless you."
Kelly was so sweet to me; it made me feel all the worse for lying to her. But after that guarantee I had made her, I was simply not about to let our day be ruined by some cold in my nose.
"Hey, looks like we’re next!" She looked so happy about it, too. I wish I could have been. Not only was my nose running now, but I was busy covering shivers, and clenching my teeth so they would not chatter.
We waited a little longer, the filed into a large, flat boat which was out in the sun at last (lovely warmth!) but filled with puddles and drenched from previous tumbles(not so much fun!). We went through the motions, ooohing and ahhhing at the turns and bumps. There were no restraints, as the ride was pretty tame, but there was a bar on the seat in front of us, which Kelly was hanging onto as if her life depended on it. She insisted that it made it feel more dangerous to have to hold on, but I doubted that one. So I put one arm around her, and held on with mine free one. We rounded the last corner, turned and kissed gently as we glided over the edge. And she tried to pull back and scream- I could see the startled fear coming through with a laugh. So I drew her closer, kissing her as passionately as possible as it threw us straight down for a second, making us land with such a splash that it covered us both almost completely. The boat had been heavy, as they were really packing us all in to speed up the line, and as the boat was halted and we were directed off, she and I were both completely soaked from head to foot. The sun warmed us, beating down hard to dry us out a bit. But our wet clothes clung to us, especially our jeans. She wanted to visit the bathroom before we left, so I gave her a soft kiss and quickly made my way over to the photo stand for the ride. I picked out ours quite easily, and paid an outrageous sum for it. But it was worth it. The photo of our kiss looked entirely as wonderfully passionate as it had felt. The mob surrounding the booth had been thick, and it took a while to push my way out. I found a quiet place to wait for her, and crossed my arms in front of my chest. I was feeling chilled again.
"EehhhhSHHHhhh!" I suddenly realized why: my nice quiet waiting place had been in the shade. That, coupled with my dampness had not been a very wise decision. "Just my eehh… my-iiihhssshhhh! Eehhhchishhh! eehhh… eehhhshhhh! Sniff! Just my luck," I muttered to myself, sneezing freely as I knew my hanky must be completely soaked through by now. I pulled it out as I relocated to a fence in a sunny spot right beside the restrooms. I rang it out, grumbling, then stuck it back in halfway; with luck it would dry in no time.
And yes, stupidly, I had used those words when reasoning it to myself. Apparently I had not yet learned.
She joined me soon thereafter, her hair still dripping, looking like it did after she showered, straight, falling about her face rather than puffing up to frame it beautifully. I had to resist the urge to kiss her right then and there. Wait, no I didn’t. I pulled her close, laying my lips upon hers gently; I was reluctant to open my mouth, but tender, sweet kisses were just as wonderful. Unfortunately, this one was not. I jerked back, turning, cupping my hand over my mouth. "EhhIHHshhhhhh! eeehhhCHISHHH! Eeehhh… Eeeehhh…EHHSHHHH!" I sniffed and blinked, making them appear to be from my allergies. I wiped my hand on already soaked pants with another grumble.
"Bless you," she said sweetly. "Come on, let’s head home."
But first the picture. I held her hand in mine, squeezed, and put the cardboard-covered picture I’d bought into her other hand. She opened it, laughing. "You’re such a romantic, Patrick."
"Now let’s go?"
I nodded, and we headed out to my car in row quadruple Q seven million and one.
This time I let her drive, partially because she asked, and partially because I was afraid another bout of sneezes might creep up and make me plow the car off the road. So I sat, fidgeting until I got comfortable; I considered taking off my jeans all together, but dismissed that thought rather quickly. "Can we turn the heat on?" I asked, trying not to look as chilled as I felt.
She nodded. "I’m still a little damp, too. Go for it."
At least something had gone right. Gladly, I did, and was hit in the face with a blast of cold air. Not only did it make me shudder with chill, but it luckily made my nose run. Out of instinct, I grabbed for my handkerchief, finding it’s damp, soggy nature once I had it up to my nose. I might have grumbled yet again, if not for the tickle developing in my nose.
"Patrick, you all right?" Her voice seemed far away; my whole body felt packed in ice.
Somehow I managed a nod, before heaving forward with a mighty "hehSSSHHHUUUSHHHH!" which at least seemed to clear my head a bit, though triggered a few more sneezes. It threw me forward. I attempted to pinch my nose shut for the next. "hutch! heh-hettchh!" While I was bent over, nose buried deep in the sodden handkerchief, trying to hold back any more, she put her hand to my forehead.
"You," she said with mock accusation, "Are running a light fever."
Both in reply and to get lose her hand, I shook my head. "Do I’b dot."
"Yes, you are." Then with sudden realization came the exclamation I had been dreading, "You’re sick!"
"Do, id’s by aller—" I should not have sounded so quick to defend myself.
She turned away from me coldly to look back at the road. "You’re lying to me. I hate when you lie to me."
I sighed. This was not the turnout I’d been hoping for. "Kel, I—"
"I really don’t care to hear anything from you. Thank you very much!"
So I paused a moment. I stuffed the handkerchief in my back pocket, gave a light sigh, and stared out the window, trying to think of what I could possibly say to salvage what little was left of her sweetness. "I feel guilty."
She eyed me. "You should be. Lying—"
"Not just about that." I looked back at her now.
"Oh?" she raised her right eyebrow in dark inquiry. "Then what?"
"Coming sniff down with the flu on our camping trip." I had hoped that that weekend be forgotten completely forever, but it was the only thing I could think of that explained.
Softly, "Oh, Honey… it wasn’t your fault…"
"I just…" now my eyes went down to my feet. "I just wanted to make today perfect to make up for it. I promised myself I wouldn’t get sick, and sniff then I did. I’m…" it was hard to say the word, but I was sure as Hell going to try, "I’m sorry… for getting sick. I’m sorry for lying. I just didn’t want to ruin the day again." I wouldn’t let myself cry, as much as I felt like doing so.
She shook her head, though I wasn’t quite sure why, and then pulled the car over to the side of the highway.
I still couldn’t look straight at her. She was either going to do quite a bit of yelling or toss me out and make me walk home. And while I was hardly up for either, I couldn’t blame her one bit.
"Patrick," she said softly. "Today was perfect."
Biting my lip, I ventured a look up to see her eyes shining with happiness. "Really?"
She nodded, bending forward, hugging me tightly. "Yes, really. I had a wonderful day."
Her smile was so bright that it made me do the same. "I did tahhh… I-hhehh-TUSHhhhhhh!" I sprayed towards the unfurled handkerchief. "sniff, too, sniff." I finished up. "Excebt baybe fer de sdeezig."
I heard her giggle softly. "So you really are sick?"
I nodded, rubbing at my nose, which had begun to run again. "I’b beed cobig dowd wid a code sidce I woke dis bordig," I said, wishing I’d blown my nose first.
She patted my leg. Her touch felt so wonderful.
"I’m sorry for being angry before."
He shook his head. "I’b sorry I lied. I just—"
She leaned forward, kissing me to quiet me. Her precious lips were warm, sweet, and perhaps the only thing that could draw me out of the pit of self-pity and discomfort I was sinking into with each sneeze.
"There," she said softly, pulling back. "Feeling better?"
I nodded, letting my mouth turn up at the corners with a smile. Then I swore.
"Sorry…" I fell back into the seat, eyes closed. "You kissed me open mouth."
I opened my eyes. "I have a cold, remember? I’ve been avoiding that all day, trying not to get you sick." I was already sinking back into the dark pit.
But she put her arms around me, hugging me tightly. "Don’t feel bad. You catch cold every... what… week? If I played it safe I’d never get to see you." It was meant as a joke, but it certainly had not made me feel any better.
My head went down and I mumbled another "Sorry…"
She shook her head, hugging tighter. "Not your fault at all. You know I… care… for you just as much, sick or not."
‘I love you.’ Was that really so difficult to say? I sighed without meaning to, but covered it with a returned hug. "Thanks, Kelly." Thanks for nothing…’ but I knew that wasn’t true. Even if she couldn't say it, I knew she loved me. I could feel that she loved me.
We broke away with matching smiles. Hen she started the car and we were back on our way.
* * *
I really don’t recall closing my eyes, but before I knew it, we were home and she was waking me.
"Hey, Sleepyhead." Her voice was light, sweet, and angelically sympathetic. "Want an escort up to your apartment?"
What I wanted was another kiss. But I nodded, rubbing at my nose. "Sure, let me get… oh no."
I pointed to the backseat where my bags sat, packed. "Remember why those are sniff there?"
She shook her head.
"They’re spraying my sniff building, remember?"
"OH! Yes!" She smacked her hand against her forehead. "Now I do. Sorry!"
"No sniff, sniff problem."
She turned the key and backed up.
"Good thing I cleaned my apartment last night," she joked; she wasn’t what I would call a neat freak, but came rather close by definition.
I smiled, this time consciously closing my eyes. But of course I was not allowed to rest. The tickle in my nose came at me strong. My handkerchief still in hand, was lifted up halfway in preparation. The feeling brooded in the tips of my nose, making it almost itch. Though only gaining in strength, it grabbed hold of each breath, making them shallow, unsteady. I managed to keep them quiet for a minute or two. But sneezing it out was an inevitability. The tickle grew until "Hehh…" I pinched my nose shut through the folds of the cloth. It wasn’t so much that I minded sneezing, I just didn’t want to seem so badly off. After all, now I felt like an imposing houseguest. And the only thing worse than an imposing houseguest was an incredibly sick invalid. It was one thing to have her kiss me goodnight and tuck me into bed as she did whenever I had a cold, but entirely another to invade her home and keep her up with the sounds of sniffling and sneezing all night long. At least this time it was only a cold. "eehhhhiiishhhh!"
"Bless you," she said, this time with her usual sweetness, but with soft, sympathetic undertones.
I snuffled a thank you into the hanky, glad to find the tickle in my nose mildly backing down.
By the time we arrived at her place, my nose was really running, and it was all I could do to contain the strong, wet sneezes in the handkerchief. I’d packed quite a few in one of my bags, but wouldn’t be able to get to them until I had room to unpack a bit. I grabbed a few of the bags, as did she, and kept the hanky pressed up to my nostrils as we made our way in and up in the freezing cold elevator.
"eeehhhSHHHH! Eeehhh.. eehh-hehh…heehhhSHHHH!"
"Bless you. The air conditioning isn’t helping any is it?" she asked, crossing her arms and rubbing her hands up and down them. "I’ll turn on the heat as soon as we get in."
I nodded a thank you, blowing my nose.
Her apartment wasn’t much better, cold and drafty, though she assured me it would be better soon and cranked up the heat. I deposited my things beside her couch, figuring that’s where I’d be sleeping anyway. I crouched down, shuffling through them to pull out sweat pants, a hooded sweatshirt, underwear, socks, and of course a clean handkerchief. "I’m sniff going to go change for bed." I looked at my watch. 5:45. Boy, I was the life of the party.
She came out of the kitchen nodding. "Ok, Honey. That sounds like a good idea. I think I’ll go change, too."
So she took her room and I the bathroom, emerging to feel much more comfortable and warmer.
I sat down on the couch to wait for her. I heard the hair dryer blowing, and I ran my hand through my own hair; it wasn’t nearly as wet as it could have been. At least I’d had a little luck there.
"uhhhhTSHHHH!" I could have kicked myself for sneezing freely. I was inclined to do so at home all the time. Not that I wasn’t polite… but it was my house, and I didn’t care. But here, I’d already slipped up enough. I wasn’t about to get Kelly sick; not if I could help it.
The hair dryer turned off and I rubbed at my nose a few times, then turned my attention towards her. Kelly came out, looking radiant, wearing a pair of gray sweat pants and a tight-fitting, black tank top, and bare feet. "Mmmmmm… you look great," I told her, trying to keep my mind off other things.
She ran a hand through her hair. "Thanks. You look pretty cute, yourself."
I shook my head. "No I don’t sniff! But it’s nice of you to say."
She sat down beside me, bringing her legs up on the couch, cuddling up against me with her head on my shoulder. "You’re like a cuddly teddy bear like this," she said as she wrapped her arms around me and hugged tightly.
And of course, yes you guessed it, I felt like I needed to sneeze again. This time I pulled out the fresh handkerchief. My body tightened, making her pull back a little to give me room. I felt myself lean back, as my eyes closed and I breathed in deeply, "HUHHH—" and it stuck. I hated that. My mouth was open, breathing in deep pants, just waiting for it to hit. I bent forward a little with each, body rocking. Then I shuddered, the sensation in my nose hitting at me with a sharp fierceness. "hehhh…huhhh…HUHHH—" and again nothing. It backed off, and I sighed, relaxing against the couch with my eyes still closed. I rubbed the palm of my hand roughly against my nose, trying to get the light tickle out, but it wouldn’t budge. It just sat there, deep in my nose. "UH!" I grumbled, sniffing, lowering the handkerchief and wishing Kelly hadn’t been witness to it all. I was very much used to sneezing in front of her when my allergies acted up. But colds… they were so much different. Perhaps because the sneezes were stronger, wetter. Perhaps because I felt absolutely helpless against them—there were no pills I could take to tone down the symptoms. Or perhaps because I felt bad doing something that could make her become sick, as well. That was the absolute last thing I wanted.
She gently leaned up against me again, rubbing her hand up and down the front of my chest. "It’s ok, Honey."
I shrugged my shoulders. "This is not what I wanted our day to be like."
Nodding, "I know. But it’s not your fault." On a down stroke, she went down further and patted my stomach. "I’m absolutely starving. You wouldn’t happen to want to order pizza or anything?"
"Yeah, that sounds good. Not the five-star restaurant I’d hoped for but… but…" my voice raised in desperation as I snatched up the handkerchief again. "HEEEESHHAHHH!" Finally. "Sniff! Sniff!"
Bless you, she said, rummaging through some papers in a large box by her shelves. "I think I have a coupon in here for a large… Here it is! Dominos all right with you?"
Still sniffing, "Whatever you want sniff is sniff fine with me sniff."
"Mmm… sausage, onion and mushroom. Is that all right?"
So she called, and I sniffed, and closed my eyes until she returned.
"Tired?" She handed me a cup of tea. "Sugar and honey."
I wrinkled up my face. "I hate tea."
"Just try it, ok? It’s my special blend. Guaranteed to make you feel better."
So I tried a sip, and had to admit it was much better than I’d been expecting. "Wow…"
"Warms you up inside, doesn’t it?"
I nodded, drinking a bit more. "This is delicious. Thanks, Kel."
"You looked so tired, and you were snoring. I wasn’t going to wake you, but when I sat down you opened your eyes."
"I was asleep?" When had this happened? And for how long?
I opened my mouth to inquire further when the doorbell rang. She sprang up to get it, and came back with a steaming hot pizza. We ate out of the box on the plates she’d brought out. Kelly sat indian-style on the couch, leaned up against the back and side, while I kept my distance on the other side. It was but a few feet away, but I sure as heck was not about to risk breathing on her food.
"So what was you favorite ride?" she asked, starting her second piece.
After thinking that one over a bit, I answered, "The last one."
She smiled, and softly answered, "Mine, too. And thanks for the picture!"
I grinned. "Glad you like it."
We finished dinner in no time, and flipped through the channels in hope for something trashless to be on. Of course on a Friday night, that was not going to happen. So we were stuck with wondering what to do. I had been feeling tired since we got there, and wasn’t sure I felt up to much of anything, but she seemed rather alert and bored, so we had to do something. But what?
"ehhh… ehhhHEHSHHOO! EeehhhhSHHHHHH!"
"Bless you, Patrick."
"Thanks, SNIFF!" I blew my nose a few times, closing my eyes.
Then I felt her hand against my forehead, then her lips taking its place. "Poor thing. You must be exhausted. Why don’t we just call it a night? I’ll help you over to bed and tuck you in like always, ok?"
Bed? "Whoa… wait a second… I’m not sleeping in your bed tonight."
"It’s fine," she insisted. "This is a fold-out couch, I’ll be fine."
Shaking my head. "I’ll sleep here, then. I’m not putting you out of your own bed, Kelly. I’d feel absolutely horrible. I’d just as soon sleep here, anyway. Closer to the kitchen and the bathroom." I’d been through three cups of tea already that night, and consequently…
She looked displeased a moment, but then gave in. "OK. Help me pull it out. Then I’ll get some sheets and blankets and pillows for you."
I gave her a smile, hoping for one in return. "And tuck me in?"
She smiled back. "Of course, Honey."
The bed was bigger than I’d expected, so much so that I probably would have preferred to sleep on the couch regularly. But since she was already fitting the sheets on it, I figured I could stand it a night or two. Though I still felt like I was invading. Maybe I should have taken the bedroom, then I could have just stayed out of the way the whole day while she did whatever she felt like.
"hhhehhhTCHOO! Sniff… hehh… heh-EHHSHhhhhh!"
"Bless you. Don’t worry- ungh!- almost done here."
I was certainly not worried about that. "’Sokay," I said, rubbing a finger against my nose as it started tickling again. "Sorry to be such a bother."
She shook her head, slipping the pillowcase on the last of four pillows and piling it on with a plumped patting. "Not a bother in the least. There we go!"
It was awkward a moment as I hesitated to get into the nicely-made bed. I suddenly wasn’t feeling all that tired anymore. "Um…"
Kelly smiled, getting up on the bed and leaning up against two of the pillows. She pulled back the blankets and patted the spot beside her. "We can just sit and watch a movie if you’d like. I’m not tired enough to fall asleep, anyway."
So I got in, and she pulled the covers up to my waist and snuggled up against me as we sat.
"What do you feel like watching?"
I shook my head. "I don’t sniff know."
"I have just about everything and anything…" Kelly got down, opening the cabinet and pulling out videos, reading out the titles to me. By the time we had decided on the first Back to the Future movie, I was feeling a bit more tired. Not to mention sneezey. I’d been successful in rubbing the tickles away for a while, but wasn’t too sure how long that would last. "hhehhh…"
She jumped onto the couch-bed with me and noticed what was probably a rather fallen expression on my face. "You ok, Honey?"
I nodded, rubbing at my nose. "Think... eehhhh… think so…"
"Want a tissue?"
I shook my head no, but the sneeze started in too fast for me to do anything. "eehhhIHHSHHH! EehhhSHHOO! EeehhhCHOO! SNIFF!"
Kelly was really too sweet for her own good sometimes. Even after my answer, which she probably hadn’t even seen, she had brought me a whole box of tissues, and had kindly held one up to my nose for me at the last sneeze. After all, I hadn’t told her, and there’s no way she could have possibly known. "Oh do," I snuffled, pushing away her hand and crawling out from beneath the covers, then backing up a few feet. This time, I pulled out the handkerchief, burying my nose right in it to try to muffle the power and impact of what was coming next. "eeeeeeshhhhhh! eehhhhhchhhh! eehhhhSHISHhhhh! eehhhhTISHhhhhh! eehhhhIHSHHH! eeehhhCHhhhh! uhshhh! uuhhhchhhhh! eeehhhIHHSHHH! Shhhh! Shhhhooo! eehhhCHHH!"
"Patrick!" concerned, she leapt up to help, but I was in no need. I just needed to sneeze it through. Fits like these always worked themselves through after a while.
"ihshhhhh! eehhhshhhh! eeeeeehhhhSHHH! eehhhhSHISHhhhh! eeehhhCHhhhhh! hetchhh! uuhhshhh! UhhhCHISHH! SNIFF! SNIFF! huh-EHHSHOO! UHSHOO! EHHHHHCHISHHHH! EHHHSHHH! Sniff…" I pulled back, blinking watery eyes.
"God bless you!"
I nodded, putting my nose back into the handkerchief and blowing strongly, over and over. Folding the handkerchief every which way for clean spots. Blowing until I could, again, somewhat breathe without the tickle building in my nose. "Sorry." I figured I owed her at least that much after such a show. "I dever dold you. I’b horribly allergig do dissues."
Her mouth dropped open. "Oh my… I am so sorry, Patrick!" She got the tissue box and threw it across the room. "Are you all right?"
I nodded, wearily returning to the bed, by way of digging out another handkerchief from my bag. "Fide," I blew again. "Dod your fauld. I should have dold you. You were beig so sweed."
She rubbed my arm. "I’m so sorry. You poor thing."
I shook my head. "I’b ok dow sniff, sniff! Sduffy, bud dad’s all." Rudely, I yawned, then slapped my hand over my mouth. "Ug, I’b sorry."
She kissed my cheek. "You look so cute when you yawn. I think it would be a good idea for you to get some sleep. Do you have everything you need?"
I nodded. "Yeah. Dacks, Kel."
I snuggled under the covers as she tucked the blankets up around me tightly. Then, with a warm hug through the covers and a soft kiss on my forehead, she whispered a soft, soothing, "Goodnight, Patrick."
I waited until my yawn had finished before echoing. "Goodighd, Sniff!"
* * *
I woke sometime that night, stuffy, congested. I went to stack a third pillow on the two I had been using, when I found it was in use. Kelly slept beside me above the covers, curled against the lump of blankets that was my body. Her dark brown hair fell about her solemn face, the streaks of light brown in a few pieces curved around her face. Her mouth was half open, yet she breathed in through her nose deeply, slowly. I folded one of the blankets around her, and oddly enough, it woke Kelly, the sounded sleeper I had ever known. I bit my lip. Darn my luck.
Her dark, beautiful eyes opened, looked at me. "You ok?"
I nodded, and bent over to kiss her cheek gently. "Just woderful."
She smiled, and draped one bare arm over my middle. "Mmmm, good."
"Goodighd, Kelly," I said, closing my eyes.
To which she echoed, "I love you, Patrick."
She never mentioned it again even months after, nor did I ever bring it up. But there was something about the way she said it that night, as if it were the easiest thing for her to say in the world. It had been an instant reaction from someone half-asleep, I knew that. But to hear those words… after so long doubting I would ever hear them. It touched me so deeply, in a spot I never even known existed. And I knew then that no matter what happened, I was the luckiest man in the world.