Socially Distant: Part 4
How are you feeling?
The text woke her up. Kat’s head was pounding. She wanted nothing more than to turn her phone off, but she could only imagine the panic it would cause if she did.
Pretty much the same
When do you get the test results back?
The reply from her sister was nearly immediate. Kat was tested for COVID yesterday and was still awaiting the results. It would be positive. She knew it but had been telling her family and friends otherwise. It was bad enough people wouldn’t stop calling and texting her. The last thing she needed was a crowd on her doorstep.
Not sure. It’s probably just the flu. I’m not even coughing.
The coughing part was true, but she had a fever and the worst headache of her life. Everything ached actually. She wanted nothing more than to sleep, but her family lived an hour away and apparently needed to text her constantly to make sure she was still alive. Her mother had threatened several times to come and leave food on her doorstep, but her friends had taken care of that. Her refrigerator was full. All she needed was sleep.
Okay. I’ll let you get some rest.
If only that were true. Kat thought as she sent one last heart emoji to her sister and then tossed her phone aside. She was laid out on the couch, thinking she would take advantage of all this time off to binge some TV, but her head hurt too much to focus. And now she was too tired to make it back to her bed. Kat pulled the blanket up to her chin but then tossed it off again, shivering and sweating at the same time. Comfort was impossible.
The knock on her wall was so soft she might not have heard it over the sound of her groaning, but there it was.
“Kat?” Owen’s voice through the vent elicited an even bigger groan. “Are you okay?”
Is he kidding right now? She hadn’t spoken to Owen in a week since their fight, and she certainly didn’t feel like talking to him right now.
“You haven’t gone to work in a few days,” he went on, his words rushed together. “Not that I’m paying attention or anything, I just happened to notice your car hasn’t gone anywhere for days. Are you sick?”
Kat ground her teeth and squeezed her eyes shut. If one more person asked her how she felt, she might lose her mind. She was fully aware of the fact that she made a better nurse than a patient.
“You don’t have to talk to me. Maybe just one knock, so I know your cat didn’t eat your face while you were asleep or anything like that.”
She suppressed a laugh. It physically hurt her that he was being so nice even after the way she treated him that night. Her heart added itself to the list of things that ached. She sighed. She knew she blew it that night, pushed him away first so she wouldn’t be the one to get hurt this time. But somehow, she still ended up hurting.
The effort to lift her hand and knock on the wall above her head was more than she would admit to anyone, but she managed a swift rap.
“Phew!” came the exaggerated response from the other side. “I can now at least assume you still have your face.”
He was quiet, and for a minute, Kat allowed herself to imagine what it would be like if he were on her side of the wall. If she didn’t have to worry about exposing him to this virus or exposing her heart to him. If he were here, bringing her soup and tucking the blanket around her feet. And in her fevered haze, she forgot all her reasons for thinking it was a bad idea.
“I’m here if you need me,” Owen said through the grate, still too far away from her. “All you have to do is knock.”
She almost knocked. She wanted to knock. But instead, she rolled over, pulled the blanket up again, and attempted to get some sleep in between phone calls.
Kat hadn’t been to work in over a week. It had been two days since Owen knocked on her wall, no longer able to contain his worry. And then last night she left. He had watched out his window as her friend helped her into the car. He saw how weak she was and wanted nothing more than to be the one holding her up.
And now he paced his apartment, listening to the voices next door, telling himself it wasn’t eavesdropping. He didn’t have to listen hard. The people, Kat’s parents, didn’t exactly speak softly. And so, he heard every terrifying word they said: fever, hospital, ventilator, COVID.
They weren’t allowed to visit her, and they were her parents. He was pretty sure random neighbor guys who happen to be in love with the patient, even though she has made it quite clear she doesn’t feel the same, did not make it onto the visitor list.
There was nothing he could do but wait. Wait and worry and pace. And plan. Plan for when she came back because she would. Because she had to. And when she did, he would tell her everything.
He would tell her he thought she was beautiful, even in her sweats, especially in her sweats. He would tell her she was smart and funny, and he loved every sarcastic comment that came out of her mouth. He would tell her that being with him did not mean she had to give up how fiercely independent she was, and he wouldn’t want her to.
He would tell her he didn’t care if he was scaring her because she needed to know. She needed to know how perfect she was. And if she came back, he would tell her that every day until she believed it.