I blinked up at Naru through a film of pain and Midol. Sherlock played on the humble TV behind him, which I had been watching through cramps that could only be called contractions. Even if Aunt Flow couldn't give you a fever, I might as well have given myself one with how much heat I'd piled up around my abdomen.
'They're right about you. You're a bloody psychopath.'
'High-functioning sociopath... with your number.'
"You said you weren't sick."
"I'm not." The weedy sound of my miserable voice said otherwise. "It's just my period. I'll be back to normal in the morning."
He raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms. "I've never heard of menstruation being this painful without there being something wrong. Have you been to a doctor yet?"
I groaned. Any other man would have wilted out of existence at the word 'period.' "There's nothing wrong, and if you feel any mercy for me you'll turn that stupid light off and leave me to my misery."
"But I'm your boyfriend. Doesn't that mean I'm supposed to take care of you when you're not well?" But he turned off the living room light, plunging my tiny studio apartment back to my beautiful dark cave, with only the light of the TV and what little sunlight managed to bleed through my curtains.
"That's when you're married. 'In sickness or in health,' and all that," I said.
"Well, dating is preliminary to marriage, so I'll take it as a trial session." He unwound his arms and made his way towards the kitchen area. "Have you taken any painkillers yet?"
"Whatever could be done I've already done, so just go away."
"How much water have you drunk today?"
'Basically, it's a cute smile to the bride's side, a cute smile to the groom's side, and then the rings.'
The little boy Sherlock was talking to was having none of it either.
"I don't know," I hadn't really kept track after the throwing up—which, now that I was thinking about, Naru hadn't been there for. But, like the Sherlock I was watching on TV, I wouldn't put it past him to pick up the clues and guess from there.
Another 'contraction.' Another moment of buckling and moaning. I started not to care whether Naru was there or not. I could be freaking butt naked in the street without a care if it would just make the pain go away.
Whoever came up with 'survival of the fittest' as nature's golden rule obviously hadn't thought out how it applied to humans, because I would so be saber tooth meat right now. Just how did mind-numbing cramps help me reproduce anyways? It just didn't make any sense! Maybe Naru was right and something was wrong, but if my mother and her mother could writhe like this and still have kids—though mother did have a hard time conceiving…
But if I agreed to go to the doctor, I'd have to force my brain to work in order to figure out how to pay for it, or worse, get up from the couch.
The seat cushion sank to one side as Naru sat next to me. Even such a small change in the level of my seating sent little muscles in my lower back into painful spasms.
Naru handed me a glass of water. I thanked him and took a sip from it just so he wouldn't bug me about it. After a minute or so, in which I let myself fall back into my TV watching stupor, Naru's hand felt my forehead. I didn't flinch as his fingers then trailed between my eyebrows and the corner of my mouth. Despite the pain, his touch sent my heart into breath snatching palpitations. It had been so long since he had touched me like this. Throughout the first month of our dating life, his touches and kisses had been growing steadily less, and if it hadn't been for his moments of overbearing concern for me (like now), I would have thought he'd stopped caring at all about me.
I knew I could come clean and just ask him why he rarely kissed or touched me anymore, and I knew he would answer. At the same time, I was afraid of that. What would I do if he told me he found me unattractive? Or that he simply didn't like kissing me? Or that he wanted a romantic relationship without all that disgusting spit-swapping, body grinding mess?
At that last thought, I flushed. Naru's already thin mouth frowned.
"I think I'm going to grab some stuff." He pulled back in order to pull off a manila folder I hadn't noticed before from off the coffee table. "Read through this while I'm gone, will you? And mind you don't skip anything. I want your impressions on it."
Half-way up, he hesitated, then swept down to peck a kiss on my brow. Tingles were still shooting down to my fingertips by the time he closed my apartment door behind him. I didn't know how much time passed before I switched off Sherlock and opened up the folder he had left on my lap.
A picture of an old brick hospital, one that could have been built sometime between 1940 and 1960, met me on the front page. The windows had been boarded up, but underneath was a newspaper clipping about a company buying it out from the people who had been using it as a 'haunted hospital' attraction since it had been closed down thirty years previously. Apparently, they planned on renovating it into a psychiatric facility and school for nursing internships.
Beneath this was the letter from our next client, beseeching Naru to debunk the long-held reputation of haunting from the building, as no family would want to entrust their already troubled loved ones into the care of a haunted psychiatric hospital.
Another cramp attack wove through me and I bent over the folder with a whimper.
When Naru return, he set to work on boiling water in my kitchen without a word. I was half asleep with the last few pages of the case in my hands.
He came round to hand me a box of Pocky. "I read somewhere that girl's crave chocolate during these times."
I had to smile at that. "I love you."
He rocked to his other foot and sort of cocked his head so his bangs fell in front of his eyes, as I had recently found that he did when pleased that he had done something right. "So, you're thoughts on the case?"
"It's creepy as hell?"
"Impressions, Mai. Did you get anything from the picture or the building's history?"
I flipped back to the picture and squinted at it, as though that could help.
"Use to be a hospital, closed down when the new one opened up, plans to reuse but it never got funding-sorry, no. Were you expecting anything?"
He shrugged and got back up, as the pot on the stove was whistling. When he came back to my side he had a cup of tea that sent little sighs from each of my cramped muscles with its musky, thick scent.
"This should help with the pain," he said, slipping out the folder from my grasp. "Mind you, it will make you drowsy."
Understatement of the century. By the time the last drop slipped down my throat, I was out. I only woke up enough when Naru shifted to register that I had accidentally commandeered his lap for my pillow.
Yet through the limbo between consciousness and dreams, I thought I could feel his fingers caressing the lines of my face.