This story is by Deborah Richardson and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Anita’s nauseous feeling overwhelmed her as she finished cleaning her client’s wooden floor. Resting awhile, she distributes her weight to the mop and gradually slips down the handle.
Disoriented, she sits, wiping the sweat from her brow. Using the mop handle as a hoist to regain her balance, she falls hard, banging against the wall. She listens intently for concerns from the next room. She whispers, “Good, no one heard that.”
Promptly gathering her cleaning equipment and heading for the front door, she exits the house. Anita would usually end her shift by shouting, “Bye, see you in two weeks,” but now her major priority is the fresh air outside of the building. It felt so hard concentrating on driving with intense bouts of sickness dragged out by the journey to her condo. Finally, she arrives home.
Kicking off her shoes, and shuffling to the sofa, then grabbing a cushion, and tightly wrapping her quilted throw around her body, she laid down shivering.
Realizing that she may be in this position for a while, she began digging for the remote control, accidentally tuned it to the News channel.
Drifting in and out of consciousness while listening to the day’s headlines. “A severe pandemic, hitting many countries around the world.”,” The symptoms are like the flu.”
Anita rose her head to listen. The newsreader continues with the severe signs, the rising temperature and the respiratory distress, and to contact the hospital should they occur. Anita breathes in and out adequately, so she quarantines for 14 days.
Feeling beneath the sofa, searching for her diary, she records her isolation experience.
March 8th; I awoke, later than usual. My lower back is aching. That could be down to my job. I still suffer from dizziness, and I have chills with a fever.
Note to self: Must call my Mom, Dad, and buddy Lisa, to let them know I am self-isolating. I will also create an email to inform my clients that I will be unavailable for the next two weeks.
March 9th; I wrote a long email to my clients and Lisa, explaining my symptoms and that I will be in quarantine for two weeks. I have spoken to Mom; she and Dad are okay.
March 10th; A few email responses are showing, my clients are okay, and Lisa is well. Although I have not heard from Claire, the care-worker of Ida. It is too late to call now; I will do this in the morning. Elderly people are more likely to become infected. Oh, no, Ida, she is 73. I hope she is okay!
March 11th; I did not get any sleep worrying about Ida. I took 4 melatonin, and they did not work! I hope she is okay. What if I infected her, and she’s in the hospital now? What if she is dead?
I have called the home five times now! I need to speak to someone who knows what’s happened.
March 12th; I called the retirement home again today. Still, no answer! I am worrying about Ida, what can I do? I can’t just ‘pop’ around to see if she is okay, I’m in quarantine. It’s ringing! Why are they not answering? Maybe she is already in the hospital! And I am to blame! I will keep trying.
March 13th; I finally spoke to Claire at the retirement home concerning Ida. Who apologized assuring me that Ida is healthy. The staff decided to move the residents to a temporary shelter because of an outbreak inside the complex. At least I now know she is okay.
March 14th; Fed up feeling like this! How did I become ill?
Did Ida infect me? She made me a coffee, and I had a few of her hand-baked cookies. Can the virus contaminate food? No, that’s ridiculous, but it makes me wonder.
March 15th; I Awoke this morning with a headache, feeling like someone was smashing my head with a sledgehammer while I slept. Am I a hypochondriac? Do I really feel this bad, or am I making myself ill because of what the media have said? I called Mom again today; she told me to make some camomile tea and relax.
March 16th; I lay awake all night, thinking about the things I felt about Ida. I feel stupid and very selfish. You can’t catch the bug through drinking coffee. But you can through touch, oh no, she did that.
March 17th; I called Mom, and I cried again, feeling like I did when I went camping for the first time. I was eight and missing my Mom terribly. In fact, crying like I am now. One teacher had to drive me home. I hated it at camp.
March 18th; Feeling better. Although I’ve lost my sense of smell, and everything I eat tastes like cardboard. I don’t feel like eating. I miss my Mom’s cooking!
March 19th; The sun is beaming through my window. I am feeling the heat on my face; it looks and feels like summer, and I am stuck in here! A balcony outside of my bedroom would be a blessing.
March 20th; My window is slightly ajar. I can see there are fewer people around today. The government is putting the country in lockdown until things settle. How long will that be? I really need to see my Mom.
March 21st; The sun made everything outside my window look so bright and beautiful. Even though I am feeling better, it’s not wise to go outside. I checked my food supply, it is going down, I will do an online shop in the morning.
March 21st; On my laptop, I am ordering food to last me a week. This is so unusual. I would regularly pop to the nearest store, filling my trolley with too much food and toiletries. Now, I must ration.
March 22nd; My landlord pushed a note under my door, gently reminding me that the rent is due at the end of the week. I also have my electricity bill to pay, luckily, I have money put aside I can use. But what happens the month after? I guess asking my dad for a loan is an option. That will be awkward. After the ‘I don’t need your help’ performance, I gave when moving out. No! That’s the last resort. How would I pay it back if I cannot work? I am thinking way ahead of myself.
March 23rd; I have seen a few people wearing masks, which looks frightening. Still, Dr. Bonnie said, it is necessary. Mom said to wear one.
March 24th; Still alive! I am bored reading the same magazine for the umpteenth time! And fixing the same jigsaw puzzle over again. I need to go outside. Mom said that Dad wasn’t feeling too good, that’s worrying!
March 25th; I made a special call to see how Dad felt. Mom said Dad’s fine. I think he still remembers the argument of when I left home. At least his health is improving.
March 26th to April 5th; Every day I’m doing the same as before. My body clock is so wrong! I am going to bed at 5 am through binge-watching Netflix.
April 6th; Finally, Dr. Bonnie said, ” It is safe to go outside!” I can visit my Mom. I’m missing her terribly.
Anita had spoken to her parents about visiting, and then to her best friend, Lisa. Inviting her for coffee outside her building. Lisa arrives sitting on the wall, holding a checkered flask full of coffee. Sniffing deeply as she opens the door, Anita caught the smell of cut grass and the scent of flowers in the communal garden. She never really took notice before, but today it was so intoxicating. Spotting her friend, she began squealing.
Anita breathes in the aroma as Lisa opens the flask of coffee.
“Hmm that smells good, how have you been?”
Lisa began pouring.
“Me, I’m fine, but my parents had an awful time.” Anita gasps. Lisa sighs while replacing the flask lid.
“Yes, he was in the hospital before you for 2 weeks.”
“That must have been so traumatic for you?”
“If it wasn’t for the health workers supporting care, he would not be here now. How are you coping?”
“Much better now that I’m out of my condo.” Anita sighs, “Although how I will afford next month’s rent? All of my clients cancelled when the pandemic hit.”, “I will see how long this virus lasts before I go begging to my father for a loan.”
“Good luck with that.” Lisa states, smirking. Checking the time on her watch, she jumps down from the garden wall. “I better get back, I told Mom I was popping out for a breath of fresh air.”
“Give my love to your folks.” Lisa turns and waves. “I will.”
Anita watches as her best friend disappears from her view. Then opening her door, she had a disturbing thought,
‘Did I get the virus from Lisa’s father?’