Cold Comfort »

If there was one thing Jenny hated, it was being sick. It was a ridiculous thing to say, because really, who liked being sick anyway? Maybe some people liked being able to take the day off from work, lie in bed all day watching TV and napping… But the sinus pressure, the coughing, sneezing, stomach viruses, whatever it was the kept them out of work to start with – there was nothing fun about that.

Jenny pressed a cool cloth to her head, the damp square of terry cloth immediately relieving the worst of her fever. She hated being sick, and worse, she hated being sick alone. She admitted she was a really big baby when under the weather. It didn't matter if she was almost thirty; she needed coddling and care when she got the sniffles.

Curled up around a teddy bear, Jenny rolled to one side, her eyes falling on the half-eaten bowl of soup on the nightstand. God, what she wouldn't give for some good old-fashioned chicken noodle soup, not that Campbell's crap that was all she had in the house.

Her phone rang, a sad, mewling pathetic sound that perfectly mirrored her physical state. It was next to the bowl of soup, inches that seemed an endless stretch of linen and faux-wood away. Jenny managed to grab it without sending the soup tumbling and as she picked up, she knew her almost timid, "Hello?" sounded every bit as weak as her ring tone had.

"Christ, Jenny you sound awful. That is you, isn't it? I have rung the right number?"

A baritone voice came thought the tiny cellular phone, one tinged with a hint of an English accent. The voice belong to her on-again-off-again boyfriend Everett, and she knew that accent deepened and thickened when he was drinking, angry, and making love. She'd heard it happen often enough in all three circumstances.

"Yeah, it's me. I'm sick." Obviously. "What's up, Evie?"

Jenny could practically hear him roll his eyes. He hated when she called him that, but only so much as it earned her a roll of green eyes and a carefully worded set of Britain-only swears. "Had a bit of a surprise for you, Jens." He paused. "Are you in bed?"

Jenny sniffled, not intending to sound so pitiful. "Yeah. Why?"

"Well, I'm sorry I'll have to ask you to get up, love, because I'm downstairs and I really would like to come on up."

Jenny stared stupidly at the small floral print bedspread, not at all comprehending Everett's words – really what was he doing here? – for a moment, not until he added, "Of course if you'd rather be alone to rest…"

"No! God, no, I need company. Hang on, I'm coming." It took her longer than she expected to climb out of bed, her legs feeling like cooked pasta. She didn't stop to look at herself in the mirror – she knew she looked awful and there was no fixing that, not while she pretty much felt like ass. She knew her face was pale, her hair stringy. Her giant oversized T-shirt hung to her knees, the faded print once proclaiming love for the Big Apple. She tugged the door open, half hiding behind it.

"Well don't you look a frightful mess," Everett said cheerfully, handing her a bouquet of yellow daffodils.

Jenny wasn't one for roses, and it made her smile that Everett remembered, and the wan little thing bloomed on her face until she heard his comment. It was replaced by a scowl and she stood back, brown eyes fixed on him. "It's pretty unfair to be making fun of someone who's sick, don't you think?"

Everett pursed his lips as he came inside. "Don't know about that really, especially not if I've brought homemade soup. I know you must be eating that god-awful canned thing. Honestly, it isn't soup; it's water they've bathed a chicken in."

Jenny laughed, the sound turning to a cough, but gratitude shone in her eyes. "You don't mind being here while I'm sick?"

Everett's eyes turned serious. "Jens, you know I don't. You're the only reason I come to this town, right?"

Jenny looked away. Too much gravity in Everett's tone always mad her pull back. She knew she was the reason they weren't a steady thing. If he had his way, they'd be married by now. And he could take her away from this town, from everything she ever knew…

She climbed back into bed, brown hair drooping down around her shoulders. She knew next week Everett would be the one sick, probably still in her bed, and she'd be taking care of him. Maybe that wasn't such a bad thing.

She'd think about it, after soup, after sleep. The last thing she saw before she fell into a deep restful slumber was Everett's face, and his smile and his eyes danced in her dreams.