The Love We Choose

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Chapter 18

I’m sinking into the ocean. Huan’s body felt heavy and moving his limbs was an arduous task. His body was ablaze, causing his scrubs to stick to his sweat-soaked skin. In his haze he could barely make out the images of varying colors that were passing in front of his face.

Somewhere in the distance he could hear a repeating pattern of three thuds. Was someone bouncing a ball somewhere? He slowly turned his head in the direction of the sound to focus onto it better. The sound repeated two more times before a disembodied voice spoke to him.

“Huan, open up, it’s me.”

I know that voice. That voice is a cool balm to the fire of my soul.

The voice drifted back to him at a higher volume before he could pinpoint who it was, “Princess Pistachio Zhang, if you do not open this door by the time I count to ten, I am either going to kick it down or use my spare key to come in on my own! You better not be dead! I’ll never forgive you. 1...2...3...4...this is your last chance, buddy!”

Ok, maybe not a soothing balm all the time. Right now, it is gasoline poured over a forest fire. Thanks, Lynne. Wait. Lynne. Why is she here? Snapping his eyes open, Huan struggled to shake off the grogginess of sleep to get himself off of the couch and answer the door.

“5...6...7...I’m either reaching for the key or raising my foot, the gamble is yours to take...8!”

Shit. Shit. Shit. What is she, crazy? “Lynne, stop, I’m coming!” He replied, cotton-mouthed, in the direction of the voice with all his strength as he quickly stumbled his way to his door. Throwing it open, after momentarily fumbling with the lock, he was shocked to not only see Lynne standing in his doorway, but that she was wearing a surgical mask and rubber gloves. She held a plastic grocery bag in the crook of one arm and her orange backpack was over her shoulders. “You haven’t called me Princess Pistachio in years.”

“Well, I had to come up with the most efficient way to get you to answer your door. And the most effective way was through shameless teasing since someone has been ignoring my calls and text messages for the past hour. I’m glad you answered the door. I planned on kicking it with all my might. Don’t think your neighbors would have appreciated that at eleven at night.” Taking a quick glance at his appearance she tutted. “You would get sick this close to the holiday season. I guess it’s better that it happened to you now and not later,” she mused. “Get it out of the way so they could use you when it counts at the hospital.”

“What are you doing here, Lynd?” He said through his stuffy nose, pulling a crumpled tissue out of his pocket, intent on using it in the next few seconds.

“You sounded like absolute Hell over the phone. Then when I didn’t get a text back or a phone-call I thought, why not check up on you and your little cold. It’s not like I’m really doing anything else on a Friday night since I got knocked up by someone, who shall remain nameless.” She told him with a chuckle. Looking at him she took in his deathlike pallor. “It seems I was too right though; you look like Hell. Now let me in.” Not waiting for him, she pushed him back into his apartment, kicking her shoes off, and blowing past him to the living room where she deposited the backpack she was wearing onto the empty chair.

Flustered, Huan followed behind her, “I’m probably contagiouth. It’s not safe for you and the baby. What if you catch what I hab?” To emphasize his point, he took a deep inhale, letting the mucus rattle in his sinuses.

“Don’t try and scare me off, mister! Thanks to work, I got my flu shot and prior to that all of my immunizations and boosters were up to date, so I should be pretty protected. Plus I have the constitution of an ox thanks to my genetics. I think that’s the one thing I can thank the history of slavery in my heritage for, breeding superior field-hands and such.” She paused at the wry look he shot her. “Ok, ok. Bad joke. Bad joke. Just trying to lighten the mood a bit,” she raised her hands apologetically.

“All that aside, I’m wearing a mask, and I have one to put on you to cut down on possible airborne germ transmission.” Opening a zippered pocket on her bookbag, she pulled a teal, disposable surgical mask, matching her own, out of a plastic Ziploc bag and handed it to him. “Put this on, lay down, and relax,” she instructed him as she pointed in the direction of the couch with the crumpled green and white striped blanket on it that he had been previously lying under. Dazedly, he sat down and placed the mask on his face. “Good boy. As for catching what you’ve got, it’s not like we are swapping bodily fluids or anything. I have several pairs of disposable gloves to wear if I have to clean up your snot-laden tissues that have missed the wastepaper basket. And as long as your temperature doesn’t go too haywire, I won’t really have to touch you. I’ve got disinfecting supplies, flu-symptom alleviation medications, and my humidifier in my bookbag. I know how miserable you get when you’re congested, so let’s nip that in the bud. What symptoms are you feeling? Have you puked? Are you dehydrated? Does your body ache? How’s your throat feel? Where’s your penlight? Let me look. Are you hacking up yellow or clear phlegm? Tell me.” The onslaught of questions made his head spin.

“Lynne, you need to go homb. I can take care of myself!” He weakly protested from his spot on the couch. Seriously, which one of us is the doctor here?

“I need to go homb?” She mimicked him. “Really, try demanding that of me when you can speak like a normal human again, please.” She looked around the living room and observed the pile of crusty tissues next to the empty water bottle on the coffee table. His messenger bag was haphazardly thrown on the floor from when he collapsed on the couch when he got home. Ignoring Huan’s statement, she proceeded to silently walk into the kitchen and rifle through the cabinets looking, but not saying anything. When she finished there, she walked into his bathroom, opened his medicine cabinet, had a peek around, closed it, and returned to the living room. With a triumphant smile on her face, hidden by the mask, she turned around and smugly asked him, “with what items do you plan to fight the flu with? A quick look in your cabinets and fridge have yielded a couple bottles of water, wilted lettuce, and take-out containers of questionable age. Your medicine cabinet has shaving cream, bandaids, antiseptic ointment, an empty bottle of Tylenol, and expired acne medication that belonged to “she-who-must-not-be-named.” Please explain to me how you plan to utilize these items to get better? I’d love to hear how you plan to play some version of “Doogie Howser” inspired medical “Chopped” with those ingredients.”

Turning his aching body in Lynne’s direction, Huan tried to defend himself, “when I was feeling a little bit better after a nap, I had planned on going down to the bodega and picking up some Theraflu and food. I am more than ca-” His statement was halted by the presence of his hacking, wet cough.

Rolling her eyes at his attempt to be strong on his own, Lynne lit into him. “The rumors really are true, doctors make the absolute worst patients. Give up; resistance is futile. In your weakened state, I can most likely kick your ass. And it isn’t nice to pick on an invalid. Now lie down on the couch. Shut the hell up. And let me make you some bone-broth soup. Now is your phlegm yellow or clear?”

A beat passed before he finally grumbled out, “yellow.”

“Peppermint tea then. Let me take care of you Huan. If not, I’ll call in the big gun, your mom. She will rain down on you with the aunts and a truck-load of herbal remedies, plus a couple hundred lectures on you not taking proper care of your body.”

“You do not fight fair.”

“At this moment, my strategy has absolutely nothing to do with fighting fair and everything to do with winning. If I have to throw down my ace-in-the-hole from the gitgo, I will. Don’t tempt me.” Grabbing her non-contact thermometer out of her bag, she scanned it in front of his forehead. Clucking her tongue at the number she flashed him an ashamed look. “103.9F. Really Huan?! I’m not a medical professional, but even I know that’s approaching hallucination and brain cell death levels.”

“Only if it maintains that level for several days.”

“Uhuh. And how long have you been sick and did not admit it?”

“Irrelevant.” He said before sneezing into the crook of his arm and subsequently blowing his nose into a tissue.

“Irrelevant, my left tit! Knowing your ‘I don’t want to inconvenience anyone else’-attitude, you’ve probably been walking around, hiding your symptoms, and growing your germs in that petri dish of a body. Who knows how long you’ve had a fever? How can I trust you with our fetus by yourself, if I have to worry about you as well? You can’t walk around being the superhero, impervious to all ailments, all the time. It’s irresponsible!“”

Huan kept his mouth shut, because she wasn’t too far off from the truth. He had been feeling a little under the weather in the days after he accompanied her for her first pre-natal visit two weeks ago. However, he was not going to tell Lynne that. Yielding to her insistence, despite all of his instincts telling him to protect her by forcing her to leave him in his sickness, he laid down on the couch, curling up on his side. Turning on the news, he felt his eyelids grow heavy.

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A/N: Hope you enjoyed the chapter. See you at the next. Please like, comment, and share with your friends!

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