The ringing telephone startled her awake. She sat straight up on the couch, disoriented. The telephone was on the coffee table directly in front of her with a hand-written note taped to it: “Make an appointment with the doctor. I’ll call later and check up on you. Love, Me.”
She threw off the blanket that covered her and reached for the telephone, noting that she was still fully dressed.
“Hello,” she said groggily.
“Good morning, sweetheart,” Dennis replied tenderly. “I didn’t want to call too early and wake you up, but it sounds like I did just that. How are you feeling? Any better?”
“What time is it?” she asked.
“It’s a little after nine o’clock,” Dennis responded. “Did you get a good night’s sleep?”
“Actually, yes,” she said truthfully. “I did. I slept very soundly, in fact.”
Then she remembered. After dinner, they had returned to her apartment. Waves of nausea and light-headedness had washed over her periodically throughout the evening, so they had spent a couple of hours sitting on the couch talking. Unlike New Year’s Eve — much to her disappointment — there had been no torrid physical expression of her love for him. Instead, they had both dozed off, snuggled together on the couch while watching a movie. At some point, he had obviously covered her with a blanket and slipped out without waking her, leaving only the note.
“Well, do you feel better today?” Dennis pressed. “If not, I really think you should see a doctor. Would you like me to drive you?”
“I’m going to make an appointment,” she confirmed. Just then, the room began spinning and the nausea resumed.
“Dennis, I have to take care of something. I’ll call you back in a few minutes.” With that, she threw the telephone on the couch as she dashed toward the bathroom. After several minutes, she stumbled back out to the couch, flopped down on it and dialed her best friend’s number.
“Will you go with me to the doctor?” she asked, her voice weak. “I’m not feeling any better. In fact, I feel worse. I’m been vomiting and the room is spinning. My head is throbbing.”
“Absolutely,” her friend replied. “Do you have an appointment yet or would you like me to call for you?”
“No, I haven’t called yet,” she whispered, shutting her eyes tightly as she attempted to restore her equilibrium.
A few moments later, the telephone rang again. “Yeah,” she mumbled into the receiver.
“O.K., I talked to the nurse practitioner. She’s a friend. She worked you into the schedule late this afternoon — four o’clock,” her friend informed her. “And she wants you to go to the lab first and have some tests. Have you eaten anything this morning?”
“Are you joking? I can’t even think about eating. My stomach is too upset,” she replied.
“Good. If you haven’t eaten, they can run more lab tests, so don’t eat anything. I’ll be over in a few minutes. Get dressed!” her friend urged just before hanging up.
“Oh, jeez . . . I forgot to call Dennis back!” she suddenly remembered. “He called me this morning and woke me up. I knew I was going to be sick, so I told him I would call back. Then we talked and . . . ”
“We’ll call him as soon as we’re finished here,” her friend assured her.
They had just ordered lunch at a sidewalk cafe. After visiting the lab, they went to their favorite park for a little while, watching the children playing as they sat on the grass and chatted. The fresh air definitely helped, so she suggested a light meal at a restaurant where they could remain outdoors a while longer.
Her friend had seemed tense all morning. She sensed that there was something she wanted to talk about and had waited patiently for her to broach whatever subject was on her mind, but her curiosity finally overtook her.
“Look, I know something’s up with you. I’ve had the sense all morning that there’s something you want to talk about,” she finally told her just after the waiter delivered their food. “So come on . . . out with it.”
Her friend drew in a long, considered breath and stared at the food on the plate in front of her.
“Look,” she continued, “you know that you can tell me anything. Don’t hold back just because I’m not feeling well. It’s just a flu bug or something. I’m sure the doctor will give me an antibiotic and I’ll be fine in a few days.”
After a few more long moments of silence, her friend finally began, “Have you heard from your mother within the past few days?”
“No, I haven’t spoken to either of my parents for about a week,” she replied. “I’ve been sort of avoiding them because I don’t want to worry them. They would hear in my voice that I still don’t feel well. It would be just like my mother to show up on my doorstep, demanding to take me to the doctor. But you’re doing that for me, so I decided to hold off and call them tonight after I hear what the doctor says. Why do you ask?”
“My mother called me a couple of days ago about something they she read in the newspaper. On the society page. I thought maybe your mother would have called you about it, too,” her friend explained.
“Nope, not a word so far,” she answered. “So what is it? Is someone we know getting married?”
Her friend watched in silence as she pushed her food around her plate. Finally, just as she was about to put the first bite of food into her mouth, their eyes met. She paused when she saw the look of concern on her friend’s face.
“They’re engaged,” her friend said softly. “The announcement was published in the newspaper a few days ago.”
The fork fell out of her hand and landed on her plate, splashing bits of food onto the table and her blouse, but she didn’t notice because she was too busy trying to suppress a scream.
Click here to read Chapter Nineteen