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A rainbow assortment of musty, overworked textbooks surrounded Everet Todd as she tapped her fingers against the scarred surface of the desk and willed her muddled brain to cooperate. There she had sat for several dragging hours, adding a word to her paper every once in a while, then deleted most of them immediately afterwards. Outside the sun had long since gone down over the city, tucked away behind buildings until it slipped from the sky entirely, leaving Evie to work by the dim glow of a table lamp and the unnaturally bright light of her laptop, which wore her eyes and reflected off her reading glasses.
Evie dragged her thin fingers through her dark hair and settled them on her cheeks as a yawn slipped from her and sleep settled into her soul.
No, she shook her head to clear the weighty feeling in her eyelids. This assignment had to be done tonight. She straightened her spine and readjusted her aching shoulders, staring resolutely at the blindingly white document and blinking black bar that marked her pitiful place. Only a few more papers, she reminded herself, then midterms. Just get through these last few papers. Stretching out her fingers over the keyboard, she forced herself to write.
With a guttural groan, Evie sat up, her back and sides aching from sleeping hunched over on her desk all night. Mind reaching through the thick fog of early awakening, she tried to determine where she was and why she wasn’t in her bed. She had been . . . working on . . . She looked around slowly at the books, several of which had slipped to the floor during the night, and the still-sleeping laptop in front of her.
The computer awoke with a little tune and her lock screen beamed out at her. With the flying fingers of a skilled spy hacking into secret files, she typed in her password and prayed. The treasured document was still open, and unsaved, but it was there. And she had finished her paper before sleep blanketed her thoughts. With a huff of relief, she saved the file and glanced up at the red LED clock that hung above the desk. Still had a few hours before her morning class, but she should grab a shower and change into fresh clothes.
But when she stood, her head started swimming and her legs felt weak and heavy, like she was wearing weighted shoes. Dropping back into the chair with a thump, it struck her that her whole body ached and shivered even though she was burning up. Please no, she thought. She tried standing more slowly, and while the swimmy feeling remained, she could at least stand without wanting to fall over. Taking slow steps, she made her way to the kitchen. Maybe I’m just hungry or dehydrated. But every breakfast dish she thought of made her stomach roil and writhe.
I’ll pass on breakfast.
She grabbed a quick shower, the heat soothing her shivers slightly, and headed out the door. It wasn’t until she stepped outside that she realized how stuffy the apartment complex had been, and how grateful she was for the crisp Fall air. Her black Converse scraped the pavement all the way to class, her body too tired and too aching to bother lifting them more than a couple inches. By the time she shuffled into the classroom, she was ready to collapse into her seat. The next day, she wouldn’t have been able to tell you what was taught that class.
Evie only realized the class was over when the students around her began to gather their notes and leave. She stood on unsteady legs and made her way towards the door before Mr. Aizawa stopped her. Aizawa was one of Evie’s favorite professors, and he looked out for all of his students. Every student of his can attest to his ability to sense when something is amiss.
“Evie, you alright?”
“I’m fine,” her returning shivers said otherwise. “I’m just tired.”
Evie could tell he didn’t believe her, and she hadn’t expected him to, she just hoped he’d leave it at that.
“Don’t push yourself too hard, alright? I know midterms are just around the corner, but your health is more important than your grades.”
“I’ll take it easy, Professor,” she said. But she couldn’t risk taking it easy until finals were over. Not until she could be sure she’d be able to earn another scholarship to pay for next year. She said goodbye and left the classroom, digging her hands into her pockets to keep them from shaking with the rest of her. The aching had gotten worse as the hours passed until it felt like every muscle in her body was tense to the point of locking up. A nap was sounding more and more appealing. Maybe she could squeeze one in before her night class.
Another shiver fit stole over Evie as she stepped outside the school building, the cold air caressing her cheeks with its frigid fingers. Her main goal was to get home as soon as humanly possible and bury herself in three layers of blankets until she had to leave for her night class. Head down, Evie marched along the sidewalk, bribing her body to move in spite of the aches with the promise of a warm bed. She was so focused on getting home, she nearly ran headfirst into Maggie Tyler.
“Hey, Eves!” the curly-headed blonde greeted her best friend in an obnoxiously cheerful voice that grinded on Evie’s nerves.
“Hey. . .”
A perfectly formed eyebrow went up. “Are you alright? You look terrible.”
“Absolutely perfect,” Evie began moving again. Maggie followed.
“Maybe you should get home, take a hot bath and get some sleep or something. I could come over later if you want, to bring you chicken noodle soup. I know you like it with the thicker noodles and I just happen to have some on hand.”
“I’m fine, Maggie. I don’t need soup, just a nap.”
“Evie, I’m bringing soup, and I will stand over you until you eat it if I have to.”
An annoyed mood was brewing in Evie’s soul, her shivers shaking her limbs. “I’m fine, Maggie. I’m going to go home and sleep, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Alright, but at least three hours.”
Maggie bade goodbye and jogged off, blonde curls bouncing from under her burgundy beanie. Evie stood for a moment and watched her go, then turned and continued down the sidewalk. Her apartment building was a welcome sight, and her door even more welcome. Her keys felt unusually heavy as she held them up to the doorknob and pushed the door open, so she tossed them unceremoniously on the side table that stood next to the door.
Dragged her feet to the kitchen, she pulled open the door of her old, beat-up fridge and looked inside, only to cringe as her stomach writhed to remind her of its fragile state. With a throaty groan of frustration, she shut the fridge door and made her way to her room. Sleep, she desperately needed sleep. As she went through the living room, she realized she had her coat on, and tried to wrestle it off when a knock came from the door.
Evie stifled another groan. Maggie was here, despite her adamant assurance that she didn’t need chicken soup, or company. She dropped her coat of the futon and trudged to the door. She was greeted by a smiling Maggie, tub of soup in hand as it dripped condensation on the gray pattern of the hallway carpet.
Before waiting to be invited, Maggie stepped inside, like she usually did.
“I know you said not to come, but I’m here, so suck it up,” she grinned, taking any maliciousness from the statement. She grabbed Evie’s hand, sending a sharp ache to the brunette’s shoulder, and hustled her to the white futon, where she was forcefully instructed to lay down and stay. Maggie pulled a plush blue blanket out of the basket next to the futon and threw it over Evie, making sure to tuck the edges against Evie’s sides.
“Maggie, I’ll be fine,” she sat up. “I don’t need you to baby me like this.”
“I’m not babying you,” Maggie said, on her way to the kitchen. “I’m just looking out for you, because that’s what best friends dooo.”
Evie rolled her eyes. There was a difference? But Maggie was already in the kitchen, heaping a generous portion of steaming soup into a bowl. She emerged like a servant in a king’s dining hall, holding the bowl of soup with great reverence and a smile. Evie pushed herself up on her elbows and took the bowl from Maggie’s hands as the blonde sat down on the couch’s edge.
“Now don’t burn your tongue like you did last time. Remember how you couldn’t taste for, like, three days?”
Evie sighed. “Yes, I remember. You don’t have to bring it up every time I eat soup.” She smiled slightly. Maggie smiled back.
“That’s what I’m here for. Anyway, I’ll come back later to check on you, but I need to get back home. Katsuki will tear up another pillow if I don’t feed him soon.”
Evie slurped a smooth noodle off the spoon, the taste of chicken and herbs embedded in it. “That cat is the embodiment of rage itself,” she said.
Maggie laughed. “Maybe, but he’s endearing once you get to know him.”
“If he gives you the time to do that.”
As Maggie pulled open the door, a thought came to Evie’s mind.
Evie held up her bowl slightly. “Thanks, for the soup.”
Maggie grinned. “No problem.”
“Is there anything I can do to make it up to you?”
A thoughtful expression crossed Maggie’s face before being replaced with a smile. “Get better quickly, and don’t get me sick.”
“I make no promises for either, but I’ll try,” Evie said.
The door clicked as it shut behind Maggie, leaving Evie to her meal. Guilt crept into her mind as she slurped another noodle. Maggie had taken the time to run home, make her soup, and bring it to her, after she’d adamantly told her not to. She was constantly doing things like that, both for her and everyone else who needed it. And as much as Evie appreciated it, she couldn’t help but feel like she was taking advantage of Maggie’s generosity.
Her grey eyes dropped to the steaming broth and the submerged noodles, the extra thick kind Evie loved. Just be grateful, she told herself, and be there for her when she needs it. All she could do was be grateful, and get better as quickly as possible. Once the soup was gone, Evie pulled the blanket around herself and curled into a ball, allowing her aching body to relax into the futon. Being taken care of wasn’t so bad.