Socially Distant: Part 5
Kat breathed in. And out. And in again. Everything burned and ached, but she was breathing on her own for the first time in two weeks. She didn’t remember her first days in the hospital, but she had seen enough people put on ventilators to know that it was for the best.
The monitors around her beeped and hummed in her darkened room. She would not miss the ever-present din of the machines keeping her alive. Especially now that she was relatively convinced, she didn’t need them anymore. She wanted nothing more than to be home on her own couch.
The phone on her bedside table buzzed, and she checked another message from her mother. Now that she was awake and able to respond, the messages kept rolling in. She sent off a quick reply and scrolled through the rest of her texts.
The message she was looking for was sent a few days after she had been admitted. Owen kept it short and sweet.
Still here if you need me.
The text was an echo of the last thing he had said to her through their shared wall. All you have to do is knock.
Kat ran a hand down her chest, where it still hurt to breathe. Maybe letting Owen in wasn’t the scariest thing. She didn’t know if she needed him, but she was starting to think she wanted him. She sent her response before she could overthink it.
Kat stood in his doorway, alive and beautiful, and he couldn’t pull her into his arms. He kept his arms crossed over his chest and stepped back, maintaining the distance between them. The mask stuck to his mouth as he breathed in too deep at the sight of her. He missed her smirk—her mouth was covered too.
“Hey,” she said casually, as though she hadn’t just come back from the dead.
Now what? They had texted back and forth while she was in the hospital, but no mention had been made about where they stood with each other or what happened next. He shifted uncomfortably.
“Am I supposed to invite you in?”
She laughed a little. The sound muffled behind the fabric. “No. I’m not staying long.”
“How are you feeling?”
“Like shit, actually. But thanks for asking.”
He could hear the smirk in her voice, and he smiled.
They started talking at the same time, but it was Kat that kept going.
“I can’t do this to you. This thing sucks. And when I go back to work, I’ll be exposed again. I can’t risk giving it to you…” she trailed off, and he couldn’t help but feel like he was being broken up with again without ever having held her hand. Unacceptable.
“You’ll what?” Kat’s eyes snapped up to his, all her skepticism clear on her half-obscured face.
“I’ll wait, or wear a mask, or talk to you through the wall, or text you or whatever you want to do.” He nearly stepped toward her but then remembered. This fucking virus. He took a deep breath.
“I want to be with you, Kat. In whatever way you’re comfortable.”
She stood studying him for a moment longer, and he watched as the emotion flickered through her eyes.
“Okay,” she said at last, and he was pretty sure she was smiling. “We’ll have a long-distance relationship in the same building. Just for now. I mean until…”
Neither of them knew how to fill in the until piece of their deal. But it didn’t matter. She had said yes.
“Let me see it.”
Owen lifted his sleeve and proudly revealed his small round band-aide. He flexed his muscles, and she laughed.
“Okay, no need to show off.”
Owen wiggled his eyebrows. “That’s all for you, baby.”
Kat scoffed but couldn’t help the grin that broke out across her face. They were in her apartment on the same side of the wall for the first time. She stood with her back against the door she had just closed behind him, but Owen stood across the room from her, still keeping his distance.
She had imagined this moment for months, but now that it was here, her heart raced in her chest, and her palms were sweaty. His face was uncovered, and he gave her a lopsided smile she had loved since the day she first saw him.
He took a step toward her.
“They closed the tent last week.”
“I know you told me.” Another step toward her and her pulse sped up.
“We haven’t had a positive case in over a month.” She didn’t know who she was trying to convince him or herself. Owen’s long strides had eliminated the space in between them.
“You mentioned that too.” He was so close to her now she could see the gold flecks in his brown eyes and the dusting of freckles across his nose. His chest rose and fell so close to hers—they were nearly touching.
“So, I guess things are pretty much back to normal,” she breathed.
“I’m going to kiss you now.”
And he did, his lips soft and questioning at first, but then deeper and sweeter, until she wrapped her arms around his neck and knew things were not back to normal. They were much better.