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SCARLET FEVER

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Jason:

Two days of misery
Not counting the weekend
So I guess that makes four...

She wasn't here Wednesday morning
My heart sank
But I saw her at lunch
So I knew she was okay
She seemed extremely happy,
Especially when she saw me
Her mood could have radiated across the whole cafeteria
If moods worked that way…

At the end of lunch,
I caught up with her
I pulled on her ponytail
She looked up at me, delighted

“I RAN INTO A WALL TODAY!”
She said as if it were the best thing in the world
She said it as if she had won a million dollars
I loved that about her
She thought everything was funny

I smiled back at her
“Run into the wall, run into the wall.”
I chanted happily
She stopped walking
I didn’t want us to run into each other
So I moved a little to the left…
And I ran into the wall…

She smiled up at me
As if to tease me
I smiled down at her
Waiting to hear her joke

But we never heard it
Michael pushed her
So that her hand was against my chest
I looked down at her,
Waiting for her reaction
She didn’t seem to notice
She looked at the Longhorn picture on my sweatshirt

Then she looked up at me
Did I see a trace of a smile?
Did it go away when she saw the expression on my face?
I must have looked angry to her
Or unhappy about the situation
But what she didn’t know was that I wanted this moment for so long

She turned around to yell at Michael
I wasn’t sure if it was real or an act
But I think she was acting
If she didn’t like it,
That was a shock
Especially with the way she acts around me
And me only

I wanted to reach out and hold her again
But stopped when she said NO
I was oblivious to everything else

She came by my locker afterwards
Poking me nonstop,
Like she always does to her friends,
She had a huge smile as if nothing had happened
Or as if she was really happy about what had happened

Today, Thursday, she wasn’t here
And I didn’t see her at lunch
I could have asked her friends
But there was a new face there
Sitting with them
He looked just as glum as I felt

Casually walking by,
I heard him say:
Taylor called me this morning.
She said she wasn’t coming in
because she was really sick.
Here’s her phone number.
She wanted you guys to call her.

He knew her
The way he talked about her
It was like she was his girlfriend
But if she was taken, why did she flirt so much?

The next day she wasn’t there
Her boyfriend knew what was wrong with her
He whispered it to her friends
But I overheard
SCARLET FEVER…

Some of her other friends that sat by me at lunch
They knew
Because when I announced it to them,
They nodded their heads mournfully

“What?”
I asked
“don’t you know what scarlet fever is?”
They asked me
I guess that means I was supposed to know
But I didn’t so they told me
“Jason,”
They said quietly
“if she’s not treated, she can DIE.”

“She can DIE”
Those were the only words that stuck in my head
“GIVE ME HER NUMBER!”
They didn’t know it by memory
I doubt anyone did

A weekend of misery
Not knowing if she was alive
Or dead

Monday morning
She wasn’t there
Oh how I should have told her I loved her…

***********

Taylor:

I feel terrible
So terrible
My body aches
My eyes burn
My grandmother touches my forehead
She recoils from the heat
I recoil from her cold touch
She was only making me colder than I already was

Started on Tuesday
Continued on Wednesday
And on Thursday, medicine didn’t help my fever

I was getting ready for school
Wore a sweater that revealed my chest
Wore a sweater cause I was freezing
Went to my mom to ask her to take my temp
She saw red all over my chest
Prescribed hives
But I wasn’t itchy!
Asked me if I wanted to stay home
Thought about it
Hadn’t even started on my homework from last night
Now I could catch up on everything!

As the day went on
I kept feeling worse and worse
Took out my contacts cause my eyes burned so bad
Didn’t know what was wrong with me
But I know I had one person on my mind the whole time:
JASON…

Would he be worried?
I hope my friends told him about me
If he asked

Then another name:
Kyle
But I brushed his name away
I had his number
I could call or text him

My uncle came
He’s a doctor
He was upset no one told him sooner
Told me I had scarlet fever…

SCARLET FEVER!?!
First I thought it funny that I could die
And that I would have a disease from so long ago
But as the news sank in,
I began to cry about it

A normally positive person
Now I was quite negative…
I might never see my friends again
I might never go to school again
School was the only place I could be myself
and not care what people thought of me
or what they thought of my appearance

never see ANY of my friends again
One will be in India for a month
she’s seeing her dying grandparents…

Friday
Home again
Looks like I might be out for a while
When I come back I don’t know

…or if I’ll come back…

**********

Kyle:

She called me Thursday morning
Said she wasn’t coming to school
Said to tell her friends she was sick
And give them her number
Told her to take care of herself
Like I did that one day she skipped lunch
To finish her homework

She sounded so worried
Like there was someone else she wanted to tell
But she didn’t tell me who
Probably a guy
Didn’t want me to get jealous
Even though we’re not boyfriend and girlfriend anymore

I had told her a while back I was over her
She was upset because she wanted to get back together
Texted me an angry message
But texted back about a second later
Said she was sorry
Lost her control for a second
She was over it
Think she was happy that she could crush freely
Without knowing my heart was breaking

But secretly,
I still loved her
From the first moment I saw her
Love at first sight

I just told her I didn’t like her anymore so she could be happy
But that’s my secret
Everyday I see her with some guy
The same one every day
He sits there a while

She hugged him once
but that was after she practically screeched in name in delight
she must like him now…
I heard his name…
It was JASON

By the way he hugged her back that day
He must like her too

Wednesday, before she got sick and missed school,
I was leaving the cafeteria
Saw her looking up at him like she was looking up at the ceiling
Only cause he was behind her
And pulling her pony tail

“I RAN INTO A WALL TODAY!!!”
She laughed excitedly
I couldn’t hear what this Jason person said
But he started trying to get her to run into the wall in front of them
Then he ended up in front of her
And he ran into the wall
She stopped walking and looked up at him
She must have been smiling because he was too

Then a boy behind them pushed her into Jason
They stayed like that for one or two seconds
Neither trying to move away
She wasn’t looking up at him anymore
Her hand was pressed against his chest,
As if trying to feel it heartbeat
She was staring at the big Texas Longhorns picture
On his orange sweatshirt

They might have stayed like that out of shock
Or it could have been because they liked it

She was the first to move
“MICHEAL!”
She yelled trying to hide her delight
She did like it
I knew her well enough to tell when she was acting
Jason looked like he was about to reach out to her
So he could have her close again

But a strange look from Cory,
The boy who got me and Taylor together last year,
And a comment he gave,
It sounded like “Oooh!”
Kind of like the way people sound when they see P.D.A.,
Made Jason pull back his hand

I could still hear Taylor yelling at that Michael guy
Saying, “NO, NO, AND NO!!!”
But I could tell she really meant,
“YES, YES, YES!!! TRY AND GET US TOGETHER PLEASE!!!”
I could hear him say,
“y’all look like a good couple.”
I couldn’t hear Taylor anymore
so she either stopped talking out of embarrassment
Or was now talking quietly

Next day, she called me
Said she’d be out
And all that stuff you already know

That afternoon, got a text
“Kyle, I have some really bad news…”
Responded to it
Of course I would have called her
But I didn’t want to hear it
I wanted to read it

…SCARLET FEVER…
…I COULD DIE…
Those were the only things I saw in the text
I panicked
Her dying?
What could be worse than your true love dying?!

I reread it
…I could die if I’m not treated.
Relief
Her uncle was a doctor
He would take care of her
She would live
Even if she had to fight for her life,
She would live


**********
Monday Morning
**********

Taylor:

I had a doctor’s note from my uncle
So I wouldn’t have to participate in P.E.
I was so happy!
No P.E. until winter break!
I sucked in that class…

I wasn’t sure who I should give the note to
So I went to the nurse
Besides, I had some medicine I needed to give her
That I needed to take at about 12 o’clock everyday
My lunch time…ugh…

She told me to give the note to my P.E. teacher
But she took the medicine
She said she’d send passes down to my fourth period class,
The class I had right before lunch,
To remind me to come and take my medicine

We heard the bell ring
I hadn’t even unpacked my backpack yet
She smiled and gave me a pass
I grinned at her gratefully and ran upstairs,
Shoving both pass and note in my pocket

Entered the classroom about five minutes late
I saw Jason looking down at his paper
He seemed so glum
Everyone else seemed happy to see me
But they didn’t say anything…
They must have been taking a test…

Went up to my teacher to give him my pass
He smiled and said,
“Welcome back, Taylor.
We missed you.”

“I missed everyone, too.”
I turned and saw Jason looking up at me
I gave a huge smile and a short wave
And took my seat

The teacher gave me the quiz
And even though we were working on a quiz,
I was so happy to be back

**********

Jason:

I looked up when Mr. Z said her name
She was there
Being deprived of her
It made her look even more beautiful than ever
If that’s even possible
She was back to wearing that black sweatshirt
With the bulldog of her old school
Her hair astray, even in her ponytail
She had glasses on
A look I had never seen on her before

She gave a huge smile and a little wave
And sat down next to one of her friends
She got to work on the quiz we had just started
She didn’t seem to have any trouble at all

But I was just happy she was back



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