Sunday, July 5th... 7 AM.
"What?" answered the yawning girl as she jogged up the last few steps of the two-storey brick house to the second floor landing. A full belly really was not helping her to wake up. "What's wrong this time?" she sighed as she leaned into the door.
"Do you have any tampons? Please!" whined the voice from the other side. "Apparently my period’s starting early this month. Fricken piece of..."
"Sarah Rose! Don't you dare use that language in this house. Do you hear me young lady?" hollered their mother from the open doorway across the hall. "Are you girls about ready? We need to be leaving soon if we’re going to make it in time."
Ignoring her mother’s drone, "Hang on Sar, they're in my bathroom." Repressing a yawn, the pyjama-clad girl sauntered down the hallway only to re-emerge moments later with a variety of items. "So," she started, leaning against the door once more, "do you need regular flow, heavy flow, or overnight mega nasty tampon? It's in purple, did you know they made your size in pur..." Letting out a yelp she fell backwards on her bottom as her older sister wrenched the door open and ripped the tampons out of her hand.
"Regular is just fine you lit..."
"Girls!" Demanding attention, they both stopped and stared up at their stepmom, an impressive figure in her Sunday best. "We are leaving in…" glancing at her watch, "...just over seven minutes. You are both in your pyjamas, your hair is not done, nor your make-up on. Might I suggest you get a move on!"
* * *
Dressed and hair curled, they sat side-by-side, nearly bored to tears, writing notes to one another on the back of the Sunday bulletin, printed on cream parchment.
Tell me! Were there any hotties?!
Hahaha... yes! Yes, there were.
Oh I wish I could have gone with you. How were grandma and grandpa?
Not too bad, old. Hehe So odd! Thirty-six hours ago, South America... now, church. Weird! And you wouldn't have liked America anyway. Too much sun! hehe
Bah! The sun is scared of me! But yeah... that wouldn't have been too good. Haha... mom keeps looking at us. Hates it when we do this. I don't know how Sean can sit so still.
Hehehe, he told me once he writes stories in his head. How long till mom starts elbowing us do you think? Church is so boring!
Hey! Look at the third guy on the left, second row... hottie!
* * *
Warm washcloth in hand, "Honey, how is your head ache?", she asked, leaning over the pale girl sprawled on the bed, eyes clenched tight against the light from the hallway pouring into the darkened room.
"It hurts mom," she gasped, trying her best not to cry. Adults, she felt, didn't cry, and she was an adult. "It hurts bad. Really bad," she whispered.
Placing the cloth on her daughter's forehead, she sat gently on the bed, smoothing the girls dishevelled hair away from the cloth. "It's just jetlag. I’m sure of it honey, don’t worry. You’ll be feeling much better soon. You just need to rest. Your body is exhausted what with your flight, the jetlag and the onset of your period; honey I’m surprised you’re still awake." Smiling encouragement, she leant down and kissed the girls cheek, "I have soup cooking upstairs. Homemade chicken noodle, your favourite. I'll have Sam bring some down in a bit, all right?"
"Mom," came the quiet voice from under the covers, "can I have a 7-UP too, please?"
Chuckling softly, she knew how much her daughter wanted to grow up and be treated as an adult, however the little girl in her still needed cuddling. "Sure thing honey. I sent your dad out to pick some up. As soon as he's back we'll get you some down here, all right?"
"Thank you," whispered the soft pain-filled voice.
Positive that all her daughter needed was sleep and time, she added an "I love you" and shut the bedroom door behind her.
* * *
"Um, mom? Dad?" she asked. Leaning against the door frame, she peered into the family room.
"Yeah, Sam? How's your sister feeling?" her father asked, leaning his head back over the couch where her little brother was sound asleep, head in his lap.
Standing in her t-shirt and shorts, she suddenly felt very young. "I don't really know. She won't really wake up. I tried shaking her.” With a tear running down her scared face, she added, “She looks really pale, dad."
Glancing at her husband as he flexed and started gathering the small boy in his arms, Sandra stood and pushed her husband back down onto the couch. "Sit down hun. I'll go check on her."
"Nah, that’s all right. I’ll go.” Smiling, he looked down at the sleeping six-year-old asleep on his lap. “I’ll put Sean down for the night then take a peak at her." Scooting out from under the boy's weight, he crouched down and lifted him up and onto his shoulder. Patting his middle child on the head as he walked past her, he headed down the hallway towards the boy’s room all the while thinking back to several years to when Sarah and Sam where this age. Just eighteen months apart, they’d always seemed more like twins than anything else. It felt so odd to him, having to imagine either of his daughters as women getting ready to leave home, rather than the girls in princess nightgowns and tiaras that they used to be.
Pulling the blankets up to Sean’s chin and kissing his forehead, after ensuring the night light was on, he pulled the door shut and headed down to the basement to check on Sarah.
Poor kid, he thought. She’s never going to want to travel again.
He hated having his kids experience pain that he couldn’t fix. Shaking his head, he walked into her room and turned on the lamp next to her bed.
Moments later he could be heard sprinting up the stairs, bellowing at the top of his lungs: “Ambulance! Call an ambulance!”
* * *
Monday July 6th, 8 AM.
Sandra spoke slowly, in deathly quiet words, "I am not understanding what you are saying." Staring at the ground, sitting next to her silent husband whose arm she clutched in a harsh grip, she continued, voice almost gasping in it’s harshness, "What you are telling me is that you know she is ill. You know she is unresponsive, that she has lost a lot of blood. And that, that is all you know?” Looking up at the doctor, she fixed him with a hard stare she hissed, “I know that! That’s why we brought her here!"
"Ma-am, I know this is hard. I know how frustrated you must be, but if you will please just calm down and listen, I’ll do my best to explain what it is that we do and do not know. All right?"
Looking closely at the tense couple in front of him, he grabbed his coffee cup and collected his thoughts before continuing. "What we have done is to take several different samples from your daughter. We have drawn blood, spinal fluid and have taken several swabs for culture. We are examining her for both bacterial and viral infections. She is scheduled to have a CAT scan this afternoon. We have her on IV's to keep her hydrated as well as medicated. She is currently as comfortable as we can make her. We have also given her one unit of O negative blood. Now, you have mentioned that she recently travelled abroad. Yes?" With their nods, he continued, "You mentioned South America?"
Looking him calmly in the eye, she continued on, all the while the tapping of her right foot gave away her tension. "Yes, she went to stay with my in-laws, David's parents. They live in Venezuela, a country in South America. That's where he grew up."
Looking at her husband, she watched as surprise and suspicion crossed his face. "Malaria?" he asked. "You don’t think she has Malaria do you? There’s a cure for it isn’t there? I mean people don’t die from that anymore do they?" Jumping up, he looked down at his wife and grinned expectantly. "I bet that’s it! It all fits!" Glancing at the doctor, "It does, doesn’t it?"
"Please sit down Mr Aldone. In all honesty, that’s what we believe we are dealing with. We’ve already started Sarah on a treatment of anti-malaria medicine, chloroquine, as well as a few other things. Malaria is very treatable, so if we are dealing with it, this would be good news. However, I still need you to think of everything that Sarah could have been exposed to. Can you think of anything else? This is very important."
Sitting down once more, head in his hands, he sighed as he thought hard. Reaching over, Sandra grasped one of his hands, holding on tight and forcing him to look at the doctor.
"My parents like to explore,” he started. “You already know our other two kids have albinism right? Well, because of that they rarely get to visit them and Sarah is the only one that really gets to go down there. They basically spoil her rotten taking her all over the place."
Glancing at his wife who had tears streaking down her cheeks, "I don’t think either of us know every where they went... though I can call them and get a list of all the places that they took her. They like to travel a lot and “treasure hunt” as they call it. They really do go everywhere."
* * *
Grabbing the chart off the foot of the patients bed, the doctor examining it glanced up to ensure his pupil’s were all paying attention before reading off the more pertinent facts. "The patient in bed one, when looking through her records we can see that she is currently on a strong dose of anti-malaria medication as well as levofloxacin and interferon to help counteract any bacterial or viral agents. At this point in time, what information is known is that she just returned from South America where she was visiting relatives for the past two months and that she is in stable condition. However, she is and has been unresponsive since admittance to the ER early this morning. According to her mother, the patient is also having a heavier than normal menstrual flow. Her records also indicate that she has had a steady low grade fever and has been complaining of a severe headache since ten yesterday morning."
Placing the chart back in its holder, he moved on to the patient in bed two…
* * *
The screams could be heard from down the hall; in fact that was what alerted the nurses that there was a problem in the first place. Simultaneously it seemed, alarms began going off at the nurse’s station. It seemed that the patient in bed one of room 487 was going into cardiac arrest.
* * *
Little attention was paid to the Aldone Family as they laid Sarah Rose to rest that summer day. Buried in a local cemetery, no one outside the small bubble of mourners cared that the world was now missing a young life. It wouldn’t be until months after the funeral that doctors and officials would track down Sarah Rose. By then the viral agent had spread. Spread to all continents… planes are wonderful like that. It appeared she was the epicentre of an outbreak. An outbreak that led to a pandemic, one that could not, would not, be easily fixed by science. Mother Nature had decided to wreak havoc with the human race. This viral agent was deadly to no other vertebrate… monkeys, guinea pigs, rabbits… they all survived contamination. Mother Nature was taking her planet back.
I need to give a very special thanks to my editor Rob. He’s the only one I trust to untangle my grammatical mishaps. I also need to give a special thanks to Greg (Myk) for allowing me to delve into his medical expertise.
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