Not Exactly Ferris Buhler
I didn't go to school the next day.
Because of my adventure in the rain the night before, I had woken up with a hideous headache and a runny nose in league with the Niagara Falls. Mother arrives home every weekday around the same time I wake up for school. She opens the door and struggles to her room, shrugs off her clothes, and slumps into bed. Some mornings I'll take her bag and hang it on the kitchen chair, or maybe I'll fix her a glass of water so she can take her medication, but other mornings we don't even see each other. This pattern has been the same for as long as I can remember. This morning I didn't bother asking her to feel my forehead. I didn't bother getting out of bed. I could feel the pressure in my head building like air in a balloon. Today, I decided, tucked miserably between my cotton sheets, is a sick day.
Last night when I stumbled over the threshold two hours late, mother was sitting at the table waiting for me. We always eat dinner together. We eat dinner and then I do the dishes while she gets ready for work as the night shift nurse at the hospital. The local hospital is dreadfully understaffed and she works ten hours a day. She gets paid for overtime, sure, but that's still a long time for little old me to be alone in the dark. Today she looked tired. I mean, she always looks tired, but now there was a weary frustration about her. A kind that had made me want to see if maybe I could go back to Azazel and Hayden's place.
"How was the meet?" Mother asked. She kept her voice even, though I could tell she was struggling.
"It was, uh good," I replied, sitting down across from her at the table.
"Why are you limping?"
"Um, I, uh, had another mishap," I chuckled nervously. Not telling the whole truth isn't exactly lying, is it?
She paused, "Why are you so late, Katrin?"
Well, Mom, I kind of got ran over by a Chevy,I wanted to say. Also, I think I'm in love.
Instead, "It was raining so hard, I wanted to wait for it to let up. But after it didn't show any signs of stopping, I just decided to go for it. I managed to get a ride by our new neighbors, actually, and you know how the saying goes, right?"
Mother didn't seem completely satisfied, "Time flies."
"Do you mean those new neighbors that moved in upstairs? The three men?" she sighed, "They didn't really look like the kind of people I want you hanging around with, Katrin. I mean, that one boy, with the two-toned hair? Did you see all that metal in his face? How do people like that get through the airport?"
I laughed at the mental picture in my head, "I dunno mom, maybe I could get that many and we could try? It'd be a great chance to take that trip to Hawaii."
She laughed with me, and I was glad to be rid of the previous tension, "Sure. And then I'll disown you. Now eat some of this casserole, before I get offended."
That night I had dreamed about Azazel. I dreamed he climbed in my bedroom window like you hear boys do for girls in movies and books, but never in real life. In my dream he turned up his sentences like questions, just like he had when we talked during the day, except in the dream I found it charming, cute even. He told me about where he'd come from and he kissed me goodnight and when we spoke words spilled from our lips like bubbles and popped on each other's tongues and tickled. I've never had a dream like that before.
Now I am sitting curled up in a ball on the sofa, hopped up on pain medication for my leg, choosing between Guiding Light and The Jerry Springer Show. I mean, which would I prefer this fine morning, Alyssa and Roule's secret love affair, or the man who cheated on his wife with her brother? I let my cat choose.
"Glucose, baby, ignore me for Jerry, or come here and cuddle for drama island," I say across the room at my long-hair. He got his name from, obviously, his size. I tell my mother it's just all his fur, that he's fluffy, but she says even the vet agrees he needs to start on one of those special kitty-diets. I disagree. My Glu doesn't need any kind of silly Catkins.
He actually came for once, reached out his face to sniff my hand.
"Guiding Light it is!" I said, picking him up and setting him on my belly.
As soon as I got settled, however, with bon bons and Chunky Monkey Ben & Jerry's, my cold decided to give me a swift kick to the sinuses, which resulted in a record-breaking sneezing fit. It made me think about how the Egyptians used to take their king's brains out through their nose as part of the mummification process. Is it possible to do that via sneezing? I winced between sneezes at the terrible mental picture, suddenly uncharacteristically afraid for my vital organs. Meanwhile, Glucose lay on my shaking stomach purring and stretching out in all his feline majesty, like he was above even an earthquake.
When my mucus fireworks (that is disgusting, I am so so sorry.) finally starts winding down, I roll around Glucose, who is currently cleaning himself in a very nonchalant way, and limp to the bathroom where I take my temperature. I hate thermometers because I always feel like I'm choking, like when you get a piece of popcorn stuck under your tongue. Ugh. I wonder how Azazel can handle that tongue piercing.
The thermometer beeped, reading 102*.
Mother got up around noon, and joined me on the couch. When I was a kid, we'd always do stuff together like this; hang out and paint each other's nails and watch bad soap operas while we chowed on terrible terrible food that would probably take years off of our lives. I guess I used to have that kind of BFF relationship with my mother that you only seem to see on the silver screen.
"Sick day?" she asked, taking in my pajamas, mountain of crumpled up tissues, and Rudolph nose. She mussed my hair.
"How'd you guess?" I said, and my voice cracked so badly even mother winced.
"Oh kiddo, you want me to make you some soup?" she felt my forehead with the back her hand.
"Yes please," I smiled up at her gratefully.
Maybe an hour later, while I was still working on my bowl of soup (mother makes it from scratch, none of that 79c crap. Anyways, it took a while just to be made.), there was a knock on the door. Mother had gone out to the store to pick up groceries for the weekend, so I was forced to get up from the spot I had warmed up on the sofa. There was a dent from where I had been sitting for the past few hours. Either I'm a lot heavier than I thought (fridge-like?), or we really need to think about getting a new sofa. Our living room set consists of that blue beauty, which has cat-scratches on one end so that the stuffing is spilling out like it's got rabies, or maybe it's trying to eat itself, and a huge green corduroy recliner we got for fifteen dollars at a garage sale last spring.
I hobble over to the door, smoothing out my hair and straightening my shirt so I might look half-way respectable in my baby beluga pajamas.
But instead of the delivery man, or Aunt Sarah, or mom who forgot her keys, I swung the door open to greet a certain black hair boy who was bearing that killer smile that made my heart flutter all around like a trapped bird inside my cage of ribs. "Uh, hi? Katrin, right? I didn't think you'd be home?"
I felt my face flush. None of the guests I'd ever had over before were quite this…sexy, attractive, hunkalicious? I can't even think of a worthy adjective. But really, how's a girl supposed to act in a situation like this?
I composed myself, snapped my mouth shut, and looked straight at my feet, "Uh, yeah. After yesterday I kind of got really sick. So, I, uh, took the day off."
I dared to look back at him, not wanting my huge crush to be that apparent. Although I wasn't doing a very good job, I guess, because he replied, "'With all those 'um's and 'uh's, you sound like you're trying to weave a web of lies,'" I give him a questioning look, and he laughed at me, "That's something Hayden said to me once? Don't worry?" he smiled, "I think it's cute."
Oh fuck. I felt all the blood in my legs rushing to my face, making my knees weak. Would he also find it cute if I crumpled like one of those tissues? I reminded myself to have a chat with my hormones after this was all over.
"Oh, uh, come on inside, I guess," I managed, "there's no use just standing in the hall like that." I moved inside the apartment so he'd have room to pass by.
He was as gorgeous as ever, standing in my hallway with his hands shoved into the pockets of his skinny jeans casually. I wanted to get him to stay somehow, but also I couldn't think of any good reason, so we just kept standing there in the hall making small talk. I tried asking him where he'd moved from, but when I asked, he simply shrugged and said, "It doesn't matter."
"Oh," I replied, not sure how to respond to that, when it was clear he didn't want to talk about it.
"We move around a lot? Is all," he said. In response, I had another uncontrollable fit of coughing.
He frowned at me, but then his features lit up in the most adorably noticeable way, "Do you have any cough syrup?" he asked me.
I nodded and pointed at door to his right, "In the (cough) medicine (cough cough) cab- (cough) -inet."
He smiled sympathetically and got it for me, but I had already stopped coughing by the time he had it poured into the cap. I downed it anyways, and it cooled my raw throat in a ridiculously pleasing way. I hadn't had used cough syrup since I was a kid.
I wanted him to stay longer, even though I wasn't sure what we would do if he did. Usually Lucy and I talked about our ludicrous plans for the future (at this point it involved moving into a homosexual neighborhood in LA while writing about our experiences (just because)) and also boys and make-up, but I doubted any of those would be good conversation topics right now.
Before long, though, he said he had to go. I walked him to the door, and as he stepped out he gave a small wave a stunning smile. I watched until he disappeared up the steps.
When I went back to the bathroom to get some more of that cough syrup, I couldn't find it.