I really wanted to let out a loud cheer when I finally opened the box of lanterns. However, I was feeling pretty low on energy and my victory was bittersweet. My hand scratched absentmindedly at the blood tinged bandage on my left wrist. It was only a matter of time that I injured myself on the job and I should just know better than to wield a knife. I had been attempting to open the Fort Knox of lanterns with Mike's pocket knife when I had a dizzy spell. I felt the puncture wound and then I smelled the sickening metallic odor. I thought I was going pass out, but thankfully Mike had been in the next aisle and he once again played medic to me. He took one look at my cut and wanted to rush me to the hospital, but my pride screamed no because I knew that Carlisle would be there. I was too embarrassed to bring him yet another wound. Besides, I was feeling pretty weary and the thought of the trip seemed overwhelming. Mike patched me up and made me promise not to slit my wrists again on his watch. I laughed and told him that I didn't have a death wish. Ironically, that was only partly true
I sighed as I looked up at the top shelf and realized that I needed to fill that empty space with these lanterns. I just did not have the energy for it and my dizzy spells came more frequently. The coughing was new though, starting only this morning. I was thinking that my dizziness came from not eating enough breakfast, but that might not be true because these dizzy spells have been going on for a while now. Perhaps it was stress. I mean, who could blame me for being stressed. I was dating a vampire, my best friend was a werewolf, a vengeful vampire wanted me dead, and a bunch of super vampires from Italy were going to visit me any day now. That is not even counting the 'normal' teenage angsts. I very rarely got sick and the thought of the inconvenience of getting ill was depressing. As I started climbing the step ladder to shelve the lanterns, I started coughing rather loudly. I saw Mike round the corner and say something to me, but I could not hear him over the thunder of my hacking. He folded his arms and waited for silence.
"You ok?" Mike asked again.
"Uh, yeah. I think so," I gasped. I had just finished hacking up a lung and was trying to catch my breath. I threw him a weak smile in an attempt to convince him that I was ok.
Mike furrowed his brows and shook his head slightly. The dubious look stayed on his face until I started coughing again. "Bella. Go home. You sound awful."
Well, I feel awful too, I thought. But, I shook my head. I still had another two hours to go and even though I was feeling worse by the minute, I felt obligated to stay as long as I was still standing. I had started feeling crummy when I woke up this morning, but I had attributed my lethargy to my late night with Edward and the fact that he was not there when I woke up. Waking up without him by my side always made me feel a little lonely, but I would never really admit that to him. I hadn't started coughing until just before coming into work, and the more I coughed, the weaker I felt.
Seeing that I was not wavering on my commitment, Mike placed his hands on my shoulders and turned me in the direction of the door.
"Bella. Please, go home. There is only one customer in the store and it is slow enough in here that, in actuality, you are losing me money by staying. Trust me. Go!"
I ducked out of his hands to get my bag as we passed the front counter. He was about to protest when I held my hands up in surrender.
"Fine! I'm going! See?"
I held up my backpack and smiled. In actuality, I was glad to be off the hook, but the thought of having less money in my paycheck this week made me even sadder than shirking my responsibility because I had promised Alice that I would finally go shopping with her before spring break.
As if he could read my mind, Mike added, "Don't worry, you can make up the hours later. Just go home and rest. You look awful. Believe it or not, but you are paler than your boyfriend!"
Before I could answer with one of my classic albino jokes, another coughing attack rattled my chest, so I just waved goodbye with my injured hand as I swung the door open and stepped outside. The cool breeze sent shivers running through my body and I rubbed my arms in vain trying to warm myself. Before getting into the truck, I pulled my cell phone out of my jeans. I hurried into the truck and cranked the heat to max. I leaned my head against the steering wheel and realized at that moment just how bad I felt. I flipped open my phone to dial Edward's number, but I found it difficult because my fingers were trembling. I was finally able to dial the right number on my second attempt, but when he didn't answer, I just hung up. I didn't even feel like leaving a message. My head was pounding and I felt as though my body had been hit by a mack truck. Several times. Knowing that I was getting worse by the minute, I decided to try to get home as fast as possible. With my hands clenched to the steering wheel, I started for home. Before long my shivering turned to sweats so I turned down the heat and cranked open the window a little. I had never felt this way before and with the sudden onset of symptoms, I was sure that I had the flu. I longed to crawl under my sheets and sleep. Within a couple of miles, I found it hard to focus on the road. I was about half way home when the front tire ran onto the soft shoulder and the truck shuddered on the uneven dirt as I eased it to a stop under a large oak tree. After shifting into park, I unfastened my seat belt and laid out on the front seat. I was getting cold again, but I was too weak to close my window. I gazed up through the windshield at the grey sky and wondered where Edward was. The light grew dim as I watched the branches of the giant oak tree sway gently back and forth. Though my brain was screaming at me to sit up and drive or at least call Edward again, my body refused to cooperate. My chest ached from coughing and breathing seemed to be more difficult. This sudden illness had me worried that perhaps I would not live to see immortality. My eyes slowly closed and all my worries melted away into a numb sleep.
Somewhere in my dreams a car door slammed followed by the sound of gravel crunching. I thought that it was kind of funny to be dreaming about such mundane things when I had such fantastical things like vampires and werewolves to delight in. But the sudden cool air stirred me from my rather ordinary dreams and I opened my eyes. My head throbbed still and my eyesight was blurry, but I could make out a dark shape peering in at me.