|Rowena's Page, Rowena Gets a Life.||Rowena Deals With Life, Part 5|
Rowena sat with her head on her desk. It had been a while since she had moved. “Tell Eloise I'm going home sick,” she said. A hand pressed itself against her forehead.
“Youch!” said Molly's voice. “You better go to the doctor.”
Rowena didn't even open her eyes. “He'd just tell me to stay home,” she said.
“What's going on here?” asked Lorraine.
“Rowena won't go to the doctor.” Another hand materialized on her head.
“H'mmm,” said Lorraine. “Macky had a fever like that once. Apparently when a baby—”
“Rowena's not a baby.”
“Do you have a thermometer?”
“What, in my desk?”
“What's going on here?” asked Berna.
“Rowena's sick,” said Lorraine. “Feel her forehead.”
“Lorraine—” said Rowena. Berna's hand came after her too.
“Wow!” said Berna. “I mean, uh, you seem to have a fever.”
“Thank you, Dr. Kildare,” said Molly.
“What's all the fuss?” asked Leslie Campbell.
“Get him out of here,” said Rowena.
“She can't be too sick,” said Berna.
“Scat, Leslie,” Molly said. “Shoo.”
“Oh, come on,” said Leslie.
“If you don't leave right now,” said Berna, “I'm telling Eloise you're the one who ate her brownies.”
“Shit.” Silence. Then Lorraine asked, “Was he the one?”
“I wouldn't be surprised.”
There was a brief pause. Rowena listened to her blood crashing around. Maybe if it calmed down a little, the room would stop rocking. She shivered violently. She would never be warm again.
“I suppose everybody's had lunch,” said Molly. “Who's going to take her home?”
“Just sign out. Whoever.”
“Eloise would never approve such a frill.” Berna was doing her Eloise imitation.
“Employees are not frills.”
“I could name a few,” said Berna.
Rowena had meant to go home herself without bothering anybody, if at all possible. But now she wanted Sammy.
“She looks like she couldn't even give directions.”
Somebody picked something off her desk. “Is her mother in here?” asked Lorraine. Rowena managed to rouse herself. She picked up the phone and dialed Sammy's office.
“You see?” Lorraine waxed sentimental. “The mere mention of her mother and she feels better.”
Sammy tucked her into the jacket he'd brought and zipped her up. There were still a few other people around, but Rowena didn't pay much attention to them. “Your keys are in here, right?” he asked, picking up her purse. “Mind if I dig them out?”
“Fine,” said Rowena. She didn't ask why. Sammy pawed around a while, and brought the keys up with a jingle. “Okay,” he said. “Are you ready?”
“I hope so.”
“Come on. Careful, now.” He helped her stand, helped her walk, supporting her with a strong, comforting arm. Some of the bustle seemed to be coming with them; she let Sammy take care of that, too. They went out the door; there was a final volley and things went quiet.
“Okay,” said Sammy. “Here we go.” He got the car door open—the door to her car, the passenger's door—and helped her inside. He tilted her seat back for her, carefully. “Is that going to be all right?”
“What about your car?” she mumbled. He put her purse on her lap and she clutched at it.
“I'll take a cab back here and drive home. Don't worry, Sweetheart; everything's going to be taken care of.”
She sat with her eyes closed, spinning, just beginning to shiver again, her stomach sullen. She felt his hand on her face. In another minute she would cry.
“Get back, Linus! Linus!” Finally Sammy picked her up and carried her so she wouldn't be stumbling over her dog. He got her to the bed and set her down, not quite on top of her pet. The room tipped and swung; Rowena wished she could just fall and get it over with. But she was lying down; she was lying down, and she was home at last.
“Should I leave him here?” Sammy asked. “Or lock him out?”
“Leave him.” Linus settled himself down and Rowena put her hand on him. He looked at her with big worried eyes. “Oh, Linus,” said Rowena. “Linus.”
“Do you have any flannel pajamas or long johns or anything?” Sammy asked.
“The bottom drawer there.” The chills came back and Rowena's grip on Linus tightened. He squirmed loose and poked at her with his nose. She wiggled her fingers at him and he came to be petted.
“Here we go,” said Sammy. Rowena winced, seeing what he held: the old greyish pair with the great big menstrual-blood stain on the bottoms. “Nice and toasty,” Sammy said. They were; it was the only reason she hadn't thrown them out. He changed her bottom half first and slid it into bed; then changed her top half and tucked her in properly. He fetched a couple of extra blankets and turned up the furnace. He found her thermometer and stuck it into her mouth. He checked her cupboards and fridge for fruit juice and soft foods, and her bathroom for cold-and-flu remedies. He pronounced her temperature to be 104.2, brought her some juice and toast, propped her carefully up, and sat by her as she ate.
“How do you feel?” he asked. He managed not to make the question sound stupid; he sounded concerned and very sweet.
“A little better,” Rowena said. “Thank you.” She meant it.
“You just relax and eat what you can. I'll get you more if you want.” He smiled at her. “Am I supposed to remind you to drink up your juice?”
“If you like.” Rowena stared at her toast and tried not to go to pieces.
“Anything special you'd like from the store?”
“Oh, I don't know. I'm just . . .” She let it trail off. She had no strength.
He kissed her temple. “Let me fix up your thermometer for next time. Just relax.” He left; she could hear him moving about in her bathroom. There was something comforting in this, and something comforting in the muffled roar of the furnace, and in Linus' small soft body and the bright strawberry jam on her toast. The room still had a tendency to spin around her from time to time, but she tried to hold onto these things, to the warmth and the snugness of them. She closed her eyes.
“I'll set your thermometer here,” said Sammy. “And here's a refill on the juice.”
“So . . . I guess I'm going to the store now.” It was a question. “Try and get some sleep.”
“Okay.” He helped her settle herself. “Sammy?”
“There's a locksmith about two blocks down from the store. Could you get my keys copied, please? So you can have a set to keep?”
She opened her eyes and looked at him. He bent and gave her a sort of modified hug and kissed her.
“Will do,” he said.
“Thank you.” He squeezed her hand, put it on top of her stomach, and gave it a few pats. “Now stop expressing gratitude and get some rest. I'll be back soon.”
Rowena watched, smiling, as he told Linus to take care of her and produced a biscuit as a bribe. He waved to her as he left.
Rowena lay in bed waiting for him to come back. Under all those blankets she was finally warming up a bit, and the juice seemed to be calming her stomach and keeping the dizziness under control. Linus lay watchfully beside her. She hoped dogs couldn't catch what she had.
Perhaps she could even get some sleep.
She stroked Linus a few times, looked over at Sammy's jacket on the back of her chair, and closed her eyes.
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