I haven’t got time to be ill!
What did I eat last night?
Microwave job. No cause for concern there.
I slump onto the floor, reaching for a baby wipe to clean my mouth. I’m about to clean my teeth when a second wave hits, and I’m doubled over the toilet again.
Some kind of bug then.
Sliding my phone out of my pocket, I realise I have twenty minutes to make it to the parcel drop off before I miss today’s collection. I have fourteen parcels to go, and today is the last day I can send them within my promised time frame.
Taking a deep breath, I hoist myself up to clean my mouth. The nausea is still there, but I know there’s nothing else left in my stomach. I’ll just be retching.
After gargling mouthwash for as long as I can, I finish up the final parcel and head to the parcel shop.
Avi, the woman who works at the shop taps her watch when she sees me lugging the parcels towards her. She has a baby on her hip, and a toddler clinging to her legs. All three stare up at me with wide brown eyes, and I can’t help but smile.
“I’ll get Raj. Raj!” Avi calls out, as a mop of midnight hair pops up from the back of the shop. “Can you help Jolie? She has many parcels today and the man will be here in five minutes,” she tuts as he complains, but he nods at her regardless. “You look pale.”
I realise she is talking to me.
“What? Oh, I’m okay,” I force a smile, keeping my distance from her and the kids. I’m emptying parcels out of my giant bag with Raj, when I feel sick again.
“I just feel a little off today,” I confess, as Raj eyes me suspiciously.
“Off?” Avi presses, peering at me.
“Yeah. I think maybe I ate something funny,” I lie, not wanting the mother of two to worry I’m passing illnesses onto her kids.
“Ah. Sickness? We have ginger biscuits?” Avi suggests, nodding at Raj again.
He rolls his eyes before trudging back to grab me a packet.
“They’ll help,” Avi announces.
I’d been dropping my parcels off here for the past two years, and Avi & Raj have become more friends than shopkeepers, with Avi insisting Raj helps me with my parcels, offering me freebies along the way.
“The new Dairy Milk has arrived. Do you like gingerbread? I’ll give you one, if you like it, come back. Buy more.”
She pushes the purple wrapped bar towards me and my stomach churns.
“Thanks, Avi. I’m going to go home and rest I think,” I smile, as Raj finally pipes up.
“No wine,” I agree, waving at the children who are still staring at me silently.
The toddler turns to her mother under my gaze, burying her head in her clothes as Avi sighs, stroking the child’s curls.
When I get back home, I peel off my clothes and shower, allowing the warm water to create a curtain around me as I stare at the plug hole.
I’ll go to bed.
I wash myself before wrapping myself in a towel. I pad back into the bedroom, dressing in my favourite flannel pyjamas.
When I was younger, my Aunt Lillian bought me a pair of these. My own mother was never around to care about what I wore to bed, but my Aunt never left me without.
Don’t go there, Jolie.
I crawl into bed, clutching my stomach which is still doing the Riverdance.
I’m just nodding off when the phone rings beside me.
I don’t have to answer it. No one is dependent on me- and no one has any reason to be concerned about me.
I ignore it.
It rings again.
“Hello?” I mumble into the phone.
“I was worried about you,” Lauren trills. “Avi said you looked ill.”
Lauren was not only my best friend, she was my neighbour. Give or take a couple of streets. Which means we both go to the same ship to drop our parcels off. Lauren bought and sold things in her spare time, unlike me.
“I just feel sick, nothing exciting.”
“Have you been sick?”
“Yes, and I don’t want to talk about it or I’ll be sick again.”
Lauren pauses before running through a checklist. She should have been a nurse.
“Body aches? Diarrhea? Head pain?”
I purse my lips.
“Loz. Nothing. Just the sickness. It’s probably a bug. I just want to sleep.”
“Fine,” Lauren sighs, but I know it’s anything but. “Call me in the morning. I take it you aren’t coming hunting?”
Hunting for bargains. Not animals.
“No, not if I feel like this.”
“More bargains for me. Rest up, call if you need me.”
I’m half asleep by the time we end the call, and I can’t help but wonder where this tiredness has come from.
It’s five in the afternoon.
The next day, I’m woken by the same crippling nausea.
It’s still dark, but I don’t have time to check my phone. It must be four a.m., or thereabouts.
I threw up again, the only thing in my stomach was the ginger biscuits that I ate before bed, not the best sight.
It’s at times like these that I wonder what it must be like to miss your mother. Luckily I wasn’t a sickly child, and I must’ve been the only one who didn’t miss a day of school.
My childhood left a lot to be desired.
I spend the day in bed, watching Netflix on my phone and snoozing, when I wake up around ten p.m. ravenous.
I make a giant bowl of cornflakes and stick them in the microwave, covering them with sugar before sinking down to the kitchen table. I’m munching away, gazing at the calendar on the wall when I notice the tiny red dot that hasn't yet been crossed out.
I frown, pushing another spoonful of yum into my mouth, peering at the wall calendar.
What’s the date now?
My phone is in the pocket of my dressing down, and I swipe at the screen to see that it’s the third. I look back up to the red dot, noticing it highlighted the second.
That explains that then.
I finish my bowl, giving it a quick rinse in the sink. I feel sleepy again, and make my way towards the bedroom.
Eating is a good sign, all I need is a decent night's sleep and I’ll be back to normal tomorrow.
Tomorrow turns into today, and despite feeling a little ropey, I’m showered and dressed by nine am. I’m just polishing off my third slice of toast when the doorbell rings.
“It’s me!” Calls Lauren, and I unlock the door to see her grinning at me.
“Oh, you look like shit. Still ill then?”
Lauren makes a face at me, before striding in, pursing her glossy lips at me.
“Thanks, Loz,” I yawn. “I’m tired. No more sickness though.”
Lauren walks into the kitchen, making us both a coffee. She knows where everything is, the beauty of a true best friend.
“So, I’ve got a favour to ask. Nicole has asked me to pick Grace up on Friday afternoon, but I’ve already promised to help Jorge move his stuff. Is there any chance you could pick Grace up for me?”
Grace is Lauren’s super cute nine year old niece, and I adore her. Jorge is Lauren’s colleague, and more if they’d just admit their feelings for one another.
“It’s not like I have anything on,” I shrug, before looking up at Lauren.
“Thanks mate, I appreciate it.”
“Do you want me to drop her at Nicole’s?”
Lauren places a mug in front of me, before walking over to the wall with a frown.
“If you don’t mind? Or I can pick her up after I’ve finished helping Jorge, if that’s okay?”
The flapping of paper makes me twist around in my seat, watching as she flips over my calendar.
“For someone who runs a business, you’d think you’d change your calendar,” Lauren huffs.
I still, the coffee cup halfway to my mouth.
“Your calendar,” Lauren nods at the wall. “It had September up.”
“It’s October,” I say slowly, the colour draining from my face.
Lauren rolls her eyes, taking a sip of her coffee before she catches my gaze.
“Okay, Jole, what’s that look for?”
My brain is refusing to cooperate, but my lungs are having deep breaths.
“Loz, when did we go out? When I—”
“Bunked off with the sexiest man in town? Let me check my messages.”
Lauren peers at her phone, sweeping away until she stops.
“29th August,” she declares triumphantly.
“But it was freezing,” I say stupidly.
“Yeah, well, we didn’t have much of a summer, Good old England,” Lauren’s playful expression disappears as she studies me, her eyes wide. “Okay, you’re turning grey, what the hell is wrong?”
“I—didn’t get my period in September…” I mumble.
“Oh don’t worry, I miss mine all of the time. What date were you due?”
“Well my next one is due today,” I say carefully, licking my lips.
Lauren sits back in her chair, whistling as she exhales.
“You’ve missed two then? And you’ve been being sick…”
I try to swallow, but it’s like my throat is a desert.
“We used protection,” I point out, as Lauren raises an eyebrow at me in disbelief.
“Accidents happen, Jolie,” she smiles gently, reaching forward to stroke my hands.
“I’m not pregnant,” I laugh harshly, pulling my hand back. “I’m not even late for my second period yet; not really. I’ll give it another week before I worry.”
“But the nausea—” Lauren protests, and I hold my hands up.
“I told you, I ate something funny.”
Lauren nods, chewing on her lip as I force a smile.
“Come on then, let’s get hunting. These bills aren’t going to pay themselves.”
Lauren still doesn’t look convinced, but she didn’t press the issue. Instead she spends the day offering to stop off for coffee breaks, giving me curious looks when I get waves of nausea that I try to disguise.
I can’t be pregnant from a one night stand. I don’t even know his name.
In typical Jolie style, I ignore it, hoping it will go away and my period will turn up like an old friend.
It has to.