The walk from the bus stop to the apartment building took all of what was left of Dorthea’s energy levels after a week of pulling double shifts at the factory and it didn’t help that she thought she might have a fever. She was looking forward to a long soak in a hot bath as she slowly made her way up the building’s steps.
“Hey,” Kimberly said, opening the apartment door. “I saw you dragging your butt across the courtyard,” she explained when her roommate looked at her quizzically, unaccustomed to being greeted in the hallway leading to their apartment. “Are you okay?”
“I think I’m getting sick,” Dorthea muttered continuing into the apartment without stopping.
Kim followed her inside and shut the door. Then she followed her into her bedroom. “You’ve been working too much.”
Dorthea dropped onto her bed and flopped onto her back. She closed her eyes when the room seemed to spin around her. “I know. But I need the extra money for my trip.” She felt a hand pressed against her forehead.
“You’re burning up. I’ll get some aspirin.”
Too tired to protest, Dorthea groaned instead. “Be a pal and turn on the tub while you’re in there,” she called out hoping Kim hadn’t already left the room. She sighed contently when she heard a rush of water a few moments later.
It wasn’t long before Kimberly returned to the bedroom with a glass of orange juice and bottle of aspirin. She noted that Dorthea hadn’t moved. “Sit up so you can take a couple of these,” she instructed then waited for her to comply. She handed her the glass of juice and, when Dorthea held out her other hand, shook a couple of the tablets into it. “I’ll make you some soup while you’re taking your bath. Then it’ll be off to bed with you.”
“Ugh,” Dorthea grumbled as her throat protested the tart juice. “I think I’m getting a sore throat, too.”
“Oh, honey,” Kimberly sympathized. “Go on, get undressed and into the tub. I’ll make you some tea; it’ll make it feel better.”
Dorthea pushed herself up from the bed then shuffled toward the closet.
Kimberly watched her for a moment then turned and left the room.
Dorthea awakened after sleeping through the night and most of Saturday. She groggily opened her eyes to see Kim tiptoeing into the room. “What time is it?” she asked, rolling onto her side and curling into a ball.
“A little after three. How do you feel?”
“Want me to make you some more tea?”
“You do know I hate the stuff.”
Kim sat on the edge of the bed. She pulled the blanket up to cover her friend’s exposed shoulder. “I know but it’s good for your throat. Is it still sore?”
Dorthea forced herself to swallow. “A little.”
“How about your fever?” Kim asked, placing her hand against her forehead. “You don’t feel as warm. Let me get the thermometer to make sure. Are you hungry?” she asked as she stood.
“I’ll get you some juice. Be right back.”
Dorthea watched Kim leave then reluctantly threw off her blankets and swung her legs over the side of the bed. She pushed up to a sitting position and remained like that while she regained her equilibrium. When the room stopped spinning, she rose to her feet and shuffled toward the bathroom. When she returned a few minutes later, Kim was waiting for her.
“You’re not as pale as last night,” Kim said as she held the blankets while Dorthea crawled back under them.
“I hate being sick,” Dorthea grumbled then opened her mouth for the thermometer Kim was holding over her head.
Kim noted the time on the alarm clock sitting on the night stand. “I know few people who like it. Keep you mouth shut,” she scolded when Dorthea stuck her tongue out at her. They waited in silence until Kim decided enough time had passed and pulled the thermometer free. She smiled. “Dropped two degrees.” She shook the mercury back down to the bulb at the bottom of the register then reached for the glass of juice on the night stand. “Drink this. You need to take another dose of aspirin.”
Dorthea propped herself up onto her elbow. Still chilled from being recently removed from the refrigerator, the cold juice felt good as it slid down her throat. She stopped drinking after emptying half of the glass to take the offered aspirin. Then she finished off the juice. “Thanks,” she said, handing the glass back to Kim. “Maybe you shouldn’t be doing all this.”
Kim snorted. “And why not?”
“You might catch whatever I’ve got.”
Kim laughed. “That’s okay. I could use a few days off.”
“I’m serious, Kim.”
“So am I. Besides, it would serve old lady Kapin right if I called in sick. She might actually have to work.”
Dorthea snuggled back under her blankets. “Why don’t you talk to your boss about her.”
Kim settled again on the edge of the bed and brushed the matted hair off Dorthea’s forehead. “What good would it do? I know Mr. Jackson doesn’t like her but she’s the President’s assistant so he has to put up with her just like I do. And, believe it or not, the extra work isn’t too bad.” Kim chuckled. “For all her bluster, she really doesn’t do very much. And the stuff she passes on to me is actually letting me learn a lot I wouldn’t have the opportunity to if she did it herself. So, in a way, she’s really helping me. One of these days, she’s going to retire and, when she does, I’ll be first in line.”
“Do you really think you have a chance for that?”
“You bet. And think what it would mean… I bet Kapin makes four times what I make.”
Dorthea frowned as her thoughts filled with different scenarios of the various opportunities that would be available to Kimberly should she ever be promoted to the executive position. She sighed then forced a smile. “That would be nice for you,” she said quietly then forced a yawn. “I think I need to sleep some more.”
“That’s the best thing you can do,” Kim agreed. She tucked the blankets tightly around Dorthea then stood, collecting the dirty glass before she walked out of the room unaware of the pair of somber eyes watching her.
“One cup of hot chocolate with miniature marshmallows,” Kim announced as she came out of the kitchen. She carefully carried the steaming cup across the room to where Dorthea was wrapped in a blanket on the couch. It was Sunday evening and though she had protested, her roommate insisted she had to get out of bed. “I’m so glad you’re feeling better,” she said, placing the cup into Dorthea’s waiting hands.
“So am I.” Dorthea raised the cup to her lips to blow on the hot liquid.
“I still think you should stay home tomorrow.”
Dorthea took a cautious sip then lowered the cup. “I can’t. I really need the money. But I’m not going to work any double shifts, just a couple of extra hours a day.”
“Good.” Kim walked back across the room to their television. “And you don’t have to do those, if you don’t want. My offer is still good,” she said, switching on the set then spun the dial to the proper channel.
“I told you before—”
“I know, I know.” Kim turned the sound up before returning to the couch. “I’m just saying…”
Dorthea waited for her to sit before responding. “I really appreciate your offer, Kim. But I would like to do this myself.”
Kim smiled. “I understand. Just promise me, if you think you’ll going to be short, let me know. We’ll call it a loan and you can repay me after you get back from Kalona. Okay?”
Dorthea nodded. “Deal.”
Kim stood and returned to the television to turn the sound up some more. “We really need a set with remote control,” she grumbled as she returned to the couch.
“But think of all the exercise we get with this one.”
“I’d rather have a remote control. Maybe I’ll start checking out the sales. How’s your chocolate.”
“Good. Thank you.”
Kim handed Dorthea a napkin. “Mustache.”
Dorthea wiped the back of her hand across her mouth, giggling when Kim scowled. “Show’s about to start,” she said before she could be scolded.
Kim slapped the napkin down on Dorthea’s leg then settled back. “I’m not sure how I feel about Captain Picard yet,” she muttered while the opening credits played.
“He just seems so stiff.”
Dorthea finished off her hot chocolate, this time using the napkin to wipe her mouth. “I like him,” she said, setting the empty cup on the coffee table. “It’s that Doctor Crusher I could do without. Doctor McCoy was better.”
“Think they’ll ever have a female captain?”
“Shhh, it’s starting.”
Paul Bingham looked around at the view surrounding him. The sky was a deep blue and free of any clouds except a band of fluffy white ones far in the distance. A wide expanse of green grass stretched from his lawn chair to the chain-linked fence at the edge of the yard. He tried to remember when he had had the fence erected. “Esther?”
“Mom’s in the house, Paul.” Peter Hartling, a lanky young man in his mid-twenties commented from where he was kneeling beside the barbeque. He twisted the knob on the container of propane until it stopped turning then pushed himself upright. Then placed his thumb on the red button on the control panel of the barbeque and pressed it. A loud click was followed by a whoosh as the propane caught the spark and flames came to life. He adjusted the dials to the level he wanted then pulled the lid closed, leaving the grills to heat. “What can I get you?” he asked turning his attention to the man sitting a few feet away.
Paul looked up at Peter. “Who are you?”
“Peter. Remember, you live with me and mom.”
Peter sighed then walked the few feet across the deck to the screen door leading into the kitchen. “Mom,” he called into the house, “he’s asking for you.”
“Talk to him.”
Peter frowned. “He doesn’t make any sense,” he grumbled. He looked through the screen door when he heard footsteps rapidly approaching. The door was pushed open and his mother stepped out onto the deck.
“Peter, we’ve talked about this.” Diane Hartling wrapped an arm around her son’s waist then softened her voice before she continued. “It’s called dementia. It causes him to have trouble remembering things. Just talk to him.”
“Honey, I know it can be frustrating. But remember, he can’t help what’s happening to him.” Diane nudged Peter toward the far end of the deck where Paul sat. “Go on.” When he hesitated, she nudged a little harder. “It’s like he’s going to bite.”
“Are you sure?” Paul asked as he eyed Paul suspiciously.
Diane laughed. “Yes, I’m sure. Talk to him about all the things the two of you used to do together. Go on,” she encouraged.
“Okay. I’ll give it a try.”
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