The thermometer swayed back and forth under my tongue. I couldn't keep it steady; I couldn't keep myself steady. The room seemed to be spinning around me, and the hazy morning light was blinding. This whole thing was ridiculous. No other eighteen-year-old was forced to lie down in bed all morning while their father waited on them hand and foot. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I appreciated Charlie's concern. After all, it was part of his fatherly duties to tend to his sick daughter. If only there was someway I could tell him that the only person that I wanted to see right now was hiding in my closet.
"Hey, Dad," I managed to whisper, as Charlie came lumbering through the doorway. The thermometer had fallen onto the pillow, and Charlie was holding a tray laden with chicken noodle soup. How cliché, yet I was slightly overwhelmed by him taking care of me. "I think I'm going to try to fall back a sleep. You can leave the soup here." I weakly shoved an old photo album off of my night stand, making room for Charlie to put the tray.
"If you want," Charlie muttered, furrowing his brow. "Yell if you need me. I'll be watching the Mariners." I rolled over onto my stomach.
"You can go into work, Dad," I reminded him. "It'll be boring here, and I won't need any help. It's a 24-hour thing." Charlie cleared his throat, hesitating in the doorway.
"I don't know about that, Bells," he replied, leaning over to read the thermometer that lay on my pillow. I could see his Adam's Apple bob as he saw the number. "101˚. It looks like the flu." I gazed up at Charlie, widening my eyes innocently.
"That's not that bad," I pointed out. Charlie scoffed, shaking his head.
"It's not the worst you've had," he corrected me. He was staring out the window, clearly debating something. "What time does Edward normally come around?" I blinked, taken aback by the question.
"Right after school, I guess," I answered, averting Charlie's glare. He knew this; Edward came at the same time everyday, as if the world would stop spinning on its axis if he was a minute late. In a way, it would.
"So you think you'll be alright until then?" Charlie persisted, his voice slightly strained. I frowned, confused.
"You mean you're going to work?" I demanded, completely bewildered. Charlie set his jaw and nodded stiffly.
"Only if that's okay with you," he muttered, his dark eyes shifting towards the closet. "Ed- He'll be around later, I presume." I narrowed my eyes. There was no way that he could possibly know that my boyfriend was hiding in my closet, right? Of course not. If he did, then he would have his gun out and his pepper spray in his back pocket for good measure. Then again, he probably should have told me to tell Edward not to come today. In his eyes, Edward was perfectly vulnerable to my contagious illness.
"So I'll see you for dinner," I replied, amazed with my luck. Charlie nodded briskly, leaned down to kiss my forehead and left the room. In a quick procession, I heard his heavy footsteps on the stairs, the slamming door, and the police cruiser flying down the street. In an even quicker procession, the closet door flew open and Edward was standing at the foot of the bed.
"How are you feeling?" he demanded, his onyx eyes heavy with dread. For his sake, I put on a small smile.
"I'm fine," I replied. "101˚ isn't that bad." Edward snorted, picking up the glass thermometer and snapping it into two pieces. I watched warily as the shards of glass fell to the floor at his feet.
"This thing should be illegal," he muttered, mostly to himself. I gasped as the liquid mercury seeped into my carpet.
"That's poisonous!" I blurted out, worried for Edward's health. My boyfriend shook his head.
"It's surrogate mercury," he informed me bitterly. I watched with trepidation as he crouched down and ran his hand over the carpet, then brought the vermillion substance up to his mouth. "It's too acidic." In a motion too fast for human eyes, he was sitting on the back of my bed frame, resting his cold hand on my forehead. I exhaled; the chill felt good on my clammy skin.
"What's the verdict, Doctor?" I muttered, nestling into his chest and letting my eyelids droop. I heard a strange noise in the back of his throat as he analyzed my temperature.
"102.89˚," he murmured, his voice pungent in the silent room. "That's rounding down from the nearest thousandth of a degree." I grimaced, though it was only for show. I didn't mind being 4˚ above normal body temperature. Edward managed to exist at 47˚, and Jake was approaching 109˚. Why should it matter if I was slightly off?
"That means that you should go to school," I reminded him, though I couldn't hide the reluctance in my voice. Edward frowned, pulling his hand back. I barely restrained myself from grabbing it and putting it back on my face.
"You want me to go?" he inquired, furrowing his brow. The words sounded all wrong in that order. I didn't answer his question; he knew that I wanted him here. I always did.
"I'll go if you want me to," Edward persisted, his dark eyes chary. I shook my head with as much fervor as I could muster up.
"No, I want you here," I corrected him. "But you're thirsty. I can tell." Edward frowned.
"That's not important," he countered, "Nothing is important when you're sick." I sat up too quickly, feeling light-headed.
"People get sick all of the time!" I reminded him, my voice raising an octave. "It's just you who acts like it's some big deal. I haven't even thrown up." Edward took a slight step back towards the window, causing my heart to flutter with fear.
"No, wait," I blurted out, unable to stop myself. To my slight humiliation, I realized that I had even reached out to stop him. Edward eyed my position, seeming pleased with my reaction.
"You want me to stay?" he queried. I nodded zealously.
"Yes," I managed to whisper, moving over slightly in my bed to give him a place to sit.
"You'll let me make you tea and soup?" he continued, narrowing his eyes. I glanced over at Charlie's feeble attempt at the later. It certainly didn't look… edible.
"Yes," I repeated, turning back to Edward.
"You'll sleep with me here?" he persisted, eyeing me dubiously. I rolled my eyes, gesturing for him to join me.
"I'm not tired. But I'll try," I added hastily, throwing in a contrived yawn to convince him. Though not entirely persuaded, Edward sat down on the bed. I smiled, resting my head on his chest. I could feel phlegm building up in my throat, and my voice vanished faster than Edward could.
Thirsty. Water. This was one of those times I wished he could read my mind, since I couldn't seem to make myself speak. I swallowed dry. That seemed to make something click.
"You're thirsty," Edward said, his velvet voice breaking the silence. It wasn't a question; it was a statement. I nodded slowly, trying to meet his eyes. They were somewhere else, and I had no idea where that somewhere was.
"Wait," I hissed, stopping Edward as he started to get up.
"I'll be back before the door swings shut behind me," Edward reminded me, raising an eyebrow. I shook my head, pulling a stray lock of hair behind my ear.
"No, that's – that's not it," I muttered, shaking my head at his misconception. "I have to ask you something." Edward sat back down again, his eyes wary.
"I'm not letting you go to school, my Bella," he pointed out. I rolled my eyes, surprised at how much effort that little motion took.
"That's not it either," I replied. "It's… Why is this bothering you so much? I had strep last year, and that didn't worry you too much. Did Alice see something this time?" Edward set his mouth into a straight line.
"No," he replied shortly. "And I was worried when you had strep." I blinked, confused.
"The flu isn't anything to worry about, really," I said earnestly, wrapping my arm around his torso. Something wasn't right; suddenly, he was quite tense.
"You're wrong, Bella," he muttered, a slight acidic tone to his voice. I glanced up at him, realizing everything at once.
"No, no, Edward!" I cried, taking his face between my hands. My heart rate picked up and my stomach ached when I tried to sit up, but I had to assure Edward that I was going to get better. "It's not like that anymore! That was- that was 1918! Nobody- people like me don't just die from the flu!" Edward shook his head, running his hand through his beautiful bronze hair.
"Then what do people like you die from, my Bella?" he questioned, his voice curious. "Falling off of cliffs? Vampire attacks? Hit by out-of-control vans? Tell me, Bella. If people don't die from the influenza, then what do they die from?"
His question loomed in the dark room, waiting to be answer. I shivered involuntarily, pulling my knees up to my chest and shaking my head. My sinuses filled up with that achy feeling that I always get right before the tears bubble over. Edward sensed this, pulling me closer.
"I didn't mean to upset you," he whispered, kissed my forehead. I shivered again, though this time it felt good.
"I was tactless," I replied hoarsely, "I didn't realize… I didn't realize that it still upset you." Edward shrugged, seeming to rethink things.
"You're one of the most tactful people that I've ever met, on the contrary," he corrected me. "And the Spanish Influenza is one of the worst- and best- things that ever happened to me." I shifted my head, meeting his black eyes. Even though they were darker than normal, slight golden specks seemed to wink at me.
"Best?" I repeated, bewildered. He had lost everything to that disease. Edward nodded firmly.
"Of course," he replied. "If I had never gotten the Spanish Influenza, then I reckon that my funeral would have been around the time of your birth." Though this was a heartbreaking comment, I had to smile. I had always thought of the influenza as the darkest part of Edward's past, but he did have a way with twisting tragedies around.
"You lost everything," I reminded him, shaking my head forlornly. Edward nodded.
"Yes, Bella," he agreed. "And I do remember. I remember the shouting, and the crying. Sometimes I'm not sure what was worse; hearing people cry for help or not hearing them at all. They all died, Bella, but it wasn't my time. As long as you're here, it will never be my time." I wanted nothing more than to press my lips to his, but mine most likely tasted like a bizarre combination of blood, phlegm and saliva. I settled for merely turning over and letting one tear fall down my cheek.
"I'm so sorry," I whispered, in a voice too quiet for anybody but him to hear. Edward shook his head.
"Don't be, my Bella," he murmured, resting his cold hand on my cheek. I closed my eyes, relishing the contrast between our skin. "My mother is with my father now. They would have loved you." I glanced up at him, meeting his sparkling eyes.
"I hope so," I managed to whisper. Edward laughed, kissing my forehead.
"Oh," he said, remembering something. "The verdict is very good." I grinned wider, closing the space between our lips. My fever never felt better.