When I awoke my front was drenched in sweat. Mia was burning up. She had detached from me and rid the bed of its blankets. The withdrawal process was like a roller coaster that won’t let you off. “Make it stop! Please make it stop!” She was more moaning the talking. God, I wanted to make it stop. It was beginning to hurt me to look at her. It was hard watching her suffer. I jumped out of bed and grabbed the bucket. I refilled it with cool water and snatched another towel.
“I’m so sorry Mia.” I don’t know why I was sorry, but I was. I began wiping her down with the cool water. Her whole body was on fire, so this time I didn’t stop at her belly and I continued down her thighs and calves. “I wish you didn’t have to go through this.” I realized that I truly meant what I said. No one should suffer like this. I moved back to her forehead and applied the end of the damp towel as a compress. As an afterthought, I lightly blew on her newly wet chest and belly which caused a shiver to run down her body. Some of those adorable goose bumps reappeared for a moment. She was still hot.
I ran to the kitchen, grabbed a small hand towel, and filled it with ice. I almost headed back before I remembered my grandmother wetting the towel before putting the ice pack on my head when I was sick. I duplicated her system and quickly headed back to the bedroom. Mia was moaning when I sat next to her and replaced the wet towel with the new ice pack. “Shhh, the doctor says it will all be over soon.” I stroked her hair even though it was now heavily knotted and still had remnants of the early bout of vomiting. I didn’t care, I just wanted her to feel better.
I lightly caressed her face and hair until the ice melted. I debated getting more since she seemed to be cooling down. “Oh! Oh!” she moaned and slowly raised herself to a sitting position holding her stomach. I braced for another round of vomit. She continued to carefully raise herself off the bed and brushed off my help. Half bent over, she slowly worked her way to the bathroom and closed the door before I could follow. The sounds that followed were obviously not associated with throwing up. I remembered the doctor’s statement about dehydration, and I left to get some ice water. I returned, and Mia wasn’t done yet. Poor girl! I felt so bad for her.
The sheets were soaked with sweat and water. I guessed it would be a good time to change them. I set the water down on the nightstand and stripped the bed. I remade the bed with fresh sheets, then sat and waited. It wasn’t long before I heard the toilet flush. It was followed a moment later by the shower starting. I waited. After twenty minutes I knocked on the door and didn’t receive an answer. The door wasn’t locked so I opened it, calling her name. When she didn’t respond, I entered and saw her sitting on the floor of the shower hugging her knees.
“Mia, the doctor said I need to keep you hydrated.” I brought my volume up above the waterfall.
“Get the fuck out!” she screamed at me. It didn’t leave room for debate. I left quickly and quietly closed the door. Memories of high school flashed through my mind. I really hate other people. I left the bedroom and ran down to the beach. I would have to find a replacement for Monica. I couldn’t deal with this anymore.
I sat on the lounger and listened to the ocean. It was calm and repetitive, and it washed away the world. I could think more clearly. I had many lawyers who had other wealthy clients. They must know of people who knew how to handle things. I could call them and they could find the next Monica. I felt I had a solid plan of action. If I just sit here long enough, Mia would just leave, and I would find a replacement for Monica. Then everything would be back to normal. I lay back with a smile on my face and let the waves drone on. After a while, the sun forced me to shift the umbrella. Why hadn’t I researched that automatic umbrella yet?
“I’m sorry.” The voice was weak. I turned to see a pale Mia with wet hair. She was wrapped in my robe. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“What makes you think I’m hurt?” My defenses were up. I wasn’t going to ever admit that she got to me. If you admit it, they just pile it on. She sat on the sand next to the lounger.
“You didn’t come back.” She was looking up at me. I wasn’t biting, so I looked back at the ocean and she continued, “I was thinking of things I didn’t want to remember. They wouldn’t leave my head, and I kind of lashed out at you.” She looked out at the ocean with me. “I not very good with people these days.” I wasn’t expecting that. I felt a little out-of-place and didn’t know how to respond, so I resorted to something I rarely did. I told the truth.
“I have never been good with people.” My eyes never left the ocean. I was ready for her to recognize my weakness and beat me over the head with it. It was the biggest risk I had ever taken with someone other than my Grandma. I felt naked. She leaned over and gently laid her head along my thigh.
“We are two fucked-up individuals.” Her eyes never left the ocean. I moved my hand to her long black hair and began untangling it gently with my fingers. I couldn’t believe the truth was the right thing to say. We sat that way for a long time. “This is really nice… so peaceful.” She was still looking out and listening to the waves.
“I come here to hide away from the world.” She might as well know it all. She turned her body around and faced me.
“I can’t think of nicer place to hide away.” She cocked her elbow across my knee and used it as pillow. “You would’ve made a hell of a nurse. Not many people could have handled today.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t come back.” I realized I was very sorry I made that mistake. I didn’t want her to think less of me. I was feeling a bit wimpy and I wanted to be stronger.
“We are two sorry fucked-up individuals.” She smiled. I smiled back. “If my memory serves me correctly, this is just the calm before another storm. I better get something in my stomach so it doesn’t hurt to bad.” I stood up out of the chair and helped Mia up.
“You’ve done this before?” She was still looking a bit weak. I kept her hand once she was standing.
“Seen it before. I was an RN in another life.” She gripped my hand a little tighter and used me to steady her walking a bit. My survival now made a bit more sense. I had a strong desire to know more, but I didn’t think it was the right time. She leaned against me as we walked back up to the house. It felt nice, sort of like the waves only a bit better.
“What would you like to eat?” I asked as we entered the kitchen.
“Truthfully? Nothing,” she said as she sat on the counter stool. “But I better try to get something down. Bread, maybe?” She didn’t look too excited about the proposition. I began rummaging through the cabinets and pantry looking for bread-like items. I found crackers, pancake mix, corn bread mix, and various muffin mixes. No bread.
“Pancakes okay?” It looked like they would be least invasive of the choices.
“Sure!, No syrup for me, though. Don’t think I could handle the sugar.” She was developing circles under her eyes. I wondered if she had slept at all last night. I grabbed the pancake mix and spent a few minutes trying to find a measuring cup and mixing spoon to go with a bowl. “You don’t cook much do you?” She had been studying my assembly.
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