Fourteen-year-old Craig Manning woke covered in sweat. It wouldn't be the first time this week or this year. Even though he was now living at Joey's and there was no more abuse, the nightmares raged on. Every night they were the same, a combination of memory and dream. And every night they had the same effect, Craig waking up, heart racing and covered it sweat.
But this morning was a little different Craig felt different. His limbs felt heavy and his body felt hot. His head felt like it was stuffed with cotton and there was a dull pain in the back of his skull. Great though Craig, I can't get sick now.
Craig didn't trust Joey yet, and he certainly didn't want Joey to worry about him. Sure Joey had been nothing but nice to Craig, but well Craig didn't want to cause him any trouble.
So Craig decided to deal with the new installment in his health by himself. His eyes looked over at his clock 5:15 a.m. read the numbers. Craig sighed he still had another half an hour before he really had to be up. Craig slowly got up from his bed and shivered and he emerged from the blankets. He quickly ran to the shower hoping that the hot water would warm him up. He exited the shower into the steam filled bathroom and wrapped a towel around his waist. He brushed his hand against the mirror to clear the steam and he took a look at his reflection.
He looked bad. Probably the worst he had looked in a while. His face was pale white and pasty, his eyes had dark circles around them, and he felt like he was going to pass out. He sat down on the lid of the toilet for a moment to rest, he raised a palm to his forehead, and he lowered it. Who am I kidding he thought. Of course I have a fever. He shuddered at the thought of Joey coming in and seeing him like this. What would Joey do? Would he throw him out or just send him to school as if he wasn't sick? Or would he just ignore him? Craig pushed all of these thoughts to the back of his mind as he opened the door of the bathroom into the hall.
The chilliness of the hall attacked Craig's weak body; he started to shiver and ran into his room. Still shivering from the fever Craig pulled a pair of sweatpants and a shirt out of his dresser and put them on. Then he pulled his comforter around himself and lay back down on the bed and closed his eyes hoping for a few more minutes of sleep before he had to get up for school. He wracked his brain for ways to keep his condition from Joey, but he came up short as his eyes closed and he drifted back to sleep. The nightmares came again.
"Craig! Craig! Get up. You're out the door in five!"
Craig groaned as he lifted his head from the pillow for the second time that morning. He felt even worse.
"Coming" He yelled, grabbing his jacket and bag from the floor and ran down the stairs.
When he reached the bottom of the stairs he paused for a moment, out of breath. He took a few shallow breaths and closed his eyes, willing away the sudden dizziness. He raised a hand to his forehead and brushed away the sweat that had formed on it while he was sleeping. He then ran his hand through his hair shaking out the sweat.
He felt unusually warm.
"There you are" said Joey as he noticed Craig standing at the bottom of the stairs. Craig tried his best to look as well as possible, and he prayed that Joey's mind would be preoccupied with work.
"You okay?" Joey asked as Craig tried to hide a cough.
"Yeah I'm fine. I just had something caught in my throat." Craig silently prayed that Joey wouldn't notice.
"Oh Ok" Joey replied.
Craig let a breath out, if he had been Angela Joey would have felt his head and found out the truth. But, Craig knew that Joey wasn't comfortable with him yet and didn't want to do anything that might upset him.
Craig walked out the door of the house with out looking back not wanting Joey to have a second chance to realize he was actually sick. Craig walked slowly urging away the dizziness that was already beginning to set in. He made it to school halfway through first period due to his slow walking and he slipped into Mr. Simpson's class hoping not to get noticed.
Within fifteen minutes the dizziness had heightened and Craig began to shiver, he knew that his fever was rising. He laid his head on his arms and closed his eyes; he couldn't stay awake any longer. He was asleep in ten minutes.
"Craig. Craig." Mr. Simpson was shaking his arm. Craig's eyes fluttered open and he began to quickly apologize to Mr. Simpson for falling asleep in his class. He felt even worse, he was cold and hot at the same time, he was shivering and sweating, and the dizziness was at an extreme. Mr. Simpson's head seemed to be spinning back and forth.
"I'm really sorry Mr. Simpson. I didn't mean to fall asleep; I just haven't been sleeping well…"
"It's okay Craig. But, I have to ask, are you feeling alright. You seem a little pale."
"Yeah. Yeah. I'm fine."
"Okay well you probably should go to second period, Craig."
"Yeah…" Craig said as he walked away. He could feel Mr. Simpson's eyes boring into his back. Simpson knew something was wrong and he would probably tell Joey. Craig tried to take a deep breath but it came out like a shallow cough.
The rest of the day passed in the same way. Craig fell asleep in every class. Throughout the day the chills got wore. His body kept switching from swelteringly hot to frigid and he was sure that his fever had risen. His throat was sore and his head felt like lead. He knew that he really should have stayed home from school, but he just couldn't let Joey worry about him.
"Oh hey Emma" Craig responded distracted.
"You want to walk home with me?"
"You okay?" Emma asked the usually nosiness in her eyes.
"Yeah. Yeah. I'm fine don't worry about me." He said trying to convince her that he was okay. He knew that she could see through it. Emma just nodded hoping that Craig would get the help that he needed. She stopped at her house and said goodbye to Craig, telling him to call if he needed anything. Craig nodded, vaguely acknowledging anything that she had said. He was too busy concentrating on trying not to pass out.
Miraculously Craig made it to his house without passing out and he made his way up to his room to lie down. On his way up he stopped in the bathroom to see if there was any medicine to help him feel better, there was none. He must keep them in his room so Angie can't get to them, Craig mused. He then finally entered his room and dropped his jacket and bag on the ground next to his bed.
Within five minutes Craig was asleep.
"Craig! Craig!" came Joey's cry from down the stairs, waking Craig from his fitful slumber. Craig noticed that he hadn't acknowledged Joey on his way in, Joey must not even know I'm home.
"I'm in my room" Craig yelled down the stairs in what he hoped was a normal voice. When Joey didn't respond Craig sighed and laid back down in his bed hoping that a little more rest would help relieve him from whatever illness he had caught.
Downstairs Joey wondered why Craig hadn't come down for dinner, it was already eight o'clock and Craig was always down for dinner before seven. Wow, I've barely seen him at all today he thought.
Joey sat down to look through some paperwork from the dealership, but he couldn't stop thinking about Craig, he had this weird feeling that something was wrong. He vaguely remembered Craig coughing this morning and then his sleepy sounding voice when he had called up the stairs earlier. Joey made the connection that Craig was probably sick.
But what to do… He wasn't comfortable with Craig yet and he knew that Craig was not used to anyone taking care of him. But, Craig needed someone he couldn't just take care of himself like he had been, he was only fourteen. So Joey made the decision that he needed to check on Craig.
"Craig…Craig…" he called once again up the stairs, and there was no response.
Joey climbed the stairs and opened the door to Craig's room, it was dark and Craig was draped across the bed. Joey noticed beads of sweat on Craig's forehead and he reached forward to feel his head, but he stopped his hand about an inch from Craig's face. Joey looked down, he was nervous he had never really touched Craig before and he was sure that if Craig was awake he would never let him feel his head. But, his fatherly instinct took over.
Joey brushed the sweat off of Craig's forehead and was surprised at the fever that he felt there. He let his hand rest there almost trying to soak up the heat and was radiating from his stepson's forehead. Went into his bathroom and grabbed a bottle of Tylenol, a paper cup with water, and a washcloth which he ran under water.
Craig was still asleep when Joey got back to his room. Joey laid the washcloth on Craig's forehead and shook two Tylenol tablets into his hand. He put the two tablets and the cup of water on Craig's nightstand, hoping that when Craig woke up he would have something to help him feel better. Then he reached over and turned off Craig's alarm for the morning because he wouldn't need to go to school.
Joey then walked down the hall to go to sleep.
Craig woke up feeling even sicker than the day before, but he felt something on his forehead and he reached up finding a wet washcloth that was no longer cold. He pulled the washcloth off of his forehead and wiped his faced. He then looked over at his nightstand and saw the Tylenol and water. "Joey" he whispered. He took the pills and drank the water, only then did he look over at the clock to see that it was ten o'clock in the morning; Joey must have turned off his alarm he thought.
He swung is legs off of the bed and ran a hand through his hair that was wet with his sweat. He then walked out of his room and clutching the walks for support made his way to the kitchen for something to drink.
When he got to the kitchen he saw Joey, "Why aren't you at work?" he questioned.
Joey looked down he didn't know if he really wanted Craig to think that he had stayed home to make sure he was ok.
"Well I didn't think to should be home alone" he said nervously, pouring a glass of orange juice for Craig.
"Thank you" Craig said, and it wasn't just for the juice. His eyes said it all and Joey could see that Craig really was just a fourteen year old boy who needed him to take care of him.
"You're welcome" Joey responded and Craig looked over and gave him a smile.
The first real smile he had given in years.