Corey could not feel worse.
The chills hit her within 48 hours, followed by a crushing headache, followed by an onslaught of congestion. Almost as if her body was going through withdrawals, she thought.
She imagined Kyle coming up to take care of her, to nurse her, and there were times she was so achy, so unable to sleep or rest, that it was the only image that soothed her and allowed her to sleep. Then she would wake up after a fitful nap and the reality of what she had done came rushing back at her. Like careening into a brick wall. But she remembered a quote.
If you’re going through hell, keep going.
Someone important had said it once. Someone British. Probably Joe Strummer.
She lost time. She spent days in bed, too weak to go farther than the bathroom. At a certain point, she texted Josh. She needed juice. It was a ravenous craving and the only sustenance she thought she could keep down beyond water. Sometime later, he appeared, tentative, in the door of her bedroom, as if he were approaching the den of a hibernating bear.
“Core? Here’s a glass of juice. Just putting it here. There’s saltines, medicine, anything you need. I’m off to work. I’ll check on you when I get back.”
She mumbled her thanks and propped herself onto her elbow to take two big gulps. She immediately sank back into the pillows. Her eyes brimmed with tears.
“I ruined everything.”
“What do you mean?”
She shook her head, too tired and exhausted to get into it.
“Should I call Kyle?”
“Do not,” she said. “Do. Not.”
“I’ll have Kincaid stop by when he gets home.”
They took shifts. Corey wondered if they had drafted some sort of schedule, because one after the other, one would stick their head into her bedroom, letting her know they were there, then retreating back into the living room. Sometimes she heard the television. Sometimes she heard someone tidy up. She was only truly alone late at night. This was how she marked the days while she was in bed. She couldn’t remember when was the last time she’d had a flu shot. She damn sure wouldn’t forget next year, she told herself.
If there was only a way to vaccinate her heart.
After what she presumed was a week, she decided to make a concerted effort to leave the bed. She stripped her sweaty, foul-smelling pajamas off and went into the shower. The droplets of water pounded her head, but the warmth felt wonderful on the rest of her body. She washed her greasy hair, and scrubbed away the clamminess and dried sweat. Finally, with the bathroom nearly impenetrable with steam, she exited the shower and almost wiped out on the tile floor. The exertion was too much and it was all she could do to make it back to the bed, where she fell into a deep, dreamless sleep for another few hours.
Progress, she told herself when she woke.
This time, Corey left the bed, determined not to return to it, at least for a little while. She shuffled to a chair in the living room and sat there for a long time. Her body was weak and she was sluggish, but she wasn’t sleepy. She’d slept for a week. She wasn’t hungry. She had a vague curiosity about what was going on in the world, but the news was a bright orange dumpster fire and it would probably only make her angry. She considered listening to music—music was always a comfort—but the cruel irony was that with any other heartbreak, she would lose herself in sad songs, but the flu made it so that even the most hushed, bereft vocals played at the most intimate of volumes made her head throb. She was listless, but the thought of doing anything to snap out of it seemed like too much effort. There was nothing to do but sit there.
Sit here and marinade in it, she thought.
She leaned her head back against the chair and let tears stream down her face. She hoped her phone might ring, but it didn’t, and she was too embarrassed to call him. And she knew she didn’t deserve to. It had been a week—over a week—and he hadn’t bothered. He was kind and beautiful, and could have had anyone. Only he hadn’t realized it. She had found a hidden gem, and if she had done anything for him, it was probably to help him realize what a catch he truly was. Like a gender-swapped fairytale, where she kisses a frog and the frog turns into a prince. Except she was the toad, and all her kiss did was make the prince realize he was gorgeous royalty all along and now that he’s snapped out of it he was probably out fucking a string of non-amphibian princesses in Norfolk right now.
So she wrapped herself in an afghan and did nothing. Nothing but wallow.
Eventually, she dozed. She awoke in the chair to red light coming through the windows. It was a striking dawn, with the sun coming up over the Charles River. It wasn’t often she was up at this hour. She repositioned herself in her chair and watched it come up, softening the clouds from angry red to hot pink and turning the Charles River the color of mercury.
What was it Kyle had said once? They were strolling somewhere during one of his visits, and the sun was going down.
Red sky at night, sailors delight.
Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.
You’re too late, she thought. I already fucked it all up.
A moment later, she sat bolt upright.
“Whoa,” she said.