Day One, Part One
March 13, 2018
So. I guess my parents are going to Italy for spring break to see a comedy show - one that Kenzie isn’t old enough for. They say that they need a vacation. Guess who’s staying home to babysit?
Me. I’m missing out on the Italy trip. Goodbye, pasta and croissants. Goodbye, Eiffel Tower. Goodbye, baguettes.
Hello, uneventful two weeks at home doing nothing.
present day (second day of spring break)
“Hey, Lex!” I exclaim, throwing open the door for my middle school best friend.
“Adalia!” she says cheerfully. Lex wraps me in a hug. “Oh my god, it’s been so long!” Grinning, Lex looks towards the kitchen. “Hey, do you have any food?”
“Food?” I ask sarcastically. “What’s that?” But I laugh, and she does too soon afterwards. We walk into the kitchen, her a few paces ahead of me. I flip on the light switch and the small room is instantly bathed in warm light. I swing open the cabinet, gesturing to its contents like Vanna White.
“Can I buy a vowel?” Lex mutters, closely examining my stores of food. “Adalia, do you want anything?”
My stomach clenches. Maybe seven Pop-Tarts wasn’t such a great idea after all. Kenzie did warn me...and I guess it means something to have your nine-year-old sister advise you on your eating habits. “I’m good,” I answer.
“Suit yourself!” Lex exclaims. She looks at each and every package and container before turning back to me. “Ah, right. Your parents suck at food.”
True enough, my parents discouraged - and didn’t buy - any non-organic foods. No candy, no high fructose corn syrup, etcetera. Our cabinets are full of foods like Annie’s Snack Mix, raisins, cereal bars, and pita chips. So Lex settles on an apple. She tosses it to me. “Hey Adalia, can you wash this for me?”
“Really, Lex?” I ask, rolling my eyes and laughing simultaneously. “Fine. But only because you’re a guest.” I throw the apple into the air and catch it once, like I always do. But when it lands in my palm, I notice a small hole in the skin. “Hey Lex?”
“There’s a hole in the apple...it looks like it goes pretty deep...” Truth be told, I wouldn’t eat it. But I’m not one to judge, being the person that’s always on edge about what she’s eating. Specifically, the cook on meat, and the quality of fruits. I guess I’m weird.
“Girl.” Lex puts her hands on my shoulders. “Does it look,” she waves her hand at herself, “like I care?” She snatches the apple out of my hand and takes a huge bite. I wince when a drop of apple juice lands on my shirt, but I ignore it for both of our sakes.
“Alia?” I hear a faint voice call out from the foot of the stairs. Only one person calls me that.
“Kenzie, what is it?” My sister enters the room, much to my annoyance. Her head is cocked and she’s still wearing pajamas, even though it’s almost four o’clock. Plus, her nose is all red and raw, probably from wiping it too much. She must be sick. Poor kiddo. “Can’t you see I’m in the middle of a conversa-”
“KENZIE!” Lex exclaims. “HOW’S MY FAVORITE LITTLE GIRL?” Squealing, Kenzie is lifted into the air. She giggles, outstretching her arms as if she is in flight. Lex gently puts my sister back on her own two feet on the recently-cleaned linoleum floors.
“Lexi!” Forgetting her ailment, Kenzie wraps her arms around my friend, grinning ear-to-ear in delight. It’s funny how sometimes, my sister gets along with my peers better than I do.
“What’s up, kiddo?” Lex asks, shooting me a look as if to say Be nicer to this smol bean, she’s awesome. Lex has a younger brother...I think he’s six? Nevertheless, I get where this is coming from. If you’re raised used to having a brother in the house, a nine-year-old girl is a significant upgrade. And looking at Kenzie from another’s point of view, she’s absolutely adorable. The kid has wavy, often unruly brown hair with red highlights, hazel eyes, and a spattering of freckles across her nose. She can’t fake a grin for the life of her, but her real smile is something else.
“Lexi are you sleeping over?” She reaches up and wipes her nose.
“I dunno...am I allowed to?”
“YES!” Kenzie shouts. Then she looks to me. “Adalia, please? Can she?”
“Sure,” I say, shrugging. I don’t mind Lex sleeping over, as long as it convinces my parents that I have friends. I actually do - plenty of them. I just don’t know them in real life. Typically, I meet my peers online. My parental units will be pleased when Kenzie recounts that I had a friend over - although she’ll probably say that SHE had a friend over. Same thing. I guess that Lex is more here for Kenzie’s sake than mine.
I zone out Kenzie’s reaction to my approval as I sit down at my desk, daydreaming about the lives of my characters. I’m a writer. I prefer other worlds to our own - specifically, I enjoy engineering them. Tweaking each member of a universe so he or she fits just right, so that every good guy gets their happily ever after and every bad guy gets their consequences. There’s something so satisfying about writing that I can almost never stop, never be pulled away from my computer and out of my fantasy, into the real world-
“A. Da. Li. A. Wake up wake UP!” Kenzie shakes my shoulders, and I realize that I’ve been staring into space for a while. “What’s for dinner?”
Dinner. Shoot. “Uh, Kenz...whaddaya want?”
“Pizza!” Kenzie shrieks.
“God, kid, keep it down!” Lex groans, uncharacteristically grouchy. Just now, I notice that she’s slumped across the dinner table, her head down and her hair covering her eyes. The parts of her that I can see look wilted and grey, and her voice is husky. Strange.
“Lex? You okay?” I ask, walking up to her. She doesn’t respond. I feel her forehead. Hot. Way too hot. “Hold on, I’m gonna grab a thermometer.” I race upstairs, suddenly very worried about my friend. I enter the tiled bathroom and reach into the uppermost drawer on the sink. The thermometer is buried under a pile of pills, drops, and Band-Aids, but I locate it easily and run back to Lex’s side.
“Alia? Alia? What’s going on?” Kenzie inquires. Her face is ashen and nervous. I don’t think that my sister understands the reality of the situation, but I can tell that she does know that something is wrong.
I run the thermometer across Lex’s forehead. The screen reads 106 degrees F. 106? 106? I scan it again, but the reading is the same time and time again. How is that possible?? I feel sweat run down my forehead, out of nerves and also proximity to Lex’s burning body.
I dial 9-1-1. Line busy. 9-1-1. Line busy. 9-1-1. Line busy. How are all the 9-1-1 lines busy? Of all the days to NOT be able to get help...
I slam my phone down on the tabletop. Brushing Lex’s hair out of her eyes, I see that no air is passing between her lips. In horror, I glance at her chest, which isn’t heaving, convulsing, moving at all.
Lex isn’t breathing.