“Hey, Mom. We’re sick,” I said in a voice that sounded a lot more pathetic than I’d expected. My throat was raw and burned when I swallowed.
“Oh, no!” Mom said, “Both of you? What kind of sick?”
“I think it’s food poisoning,” I groaned. "We had a combination of nachos, beer, and Jell-O shots, so take your pick. We haven’t slept yet.”
It was 9:30 am. I’d used up one of my precious vacation days for what was about to turn into a very, very sick day.
“Were you up throwing up all night?”
“You better believe it. I think we’re dying.” OK, so I was being a little dramatic. But you don’t know how badly a chili pepper out the nose hurts.
“Why don’t you come home and I’ll take care of you. I can set you up in my room in the king-sized bed with the Tivo, and, you know, there’s a bathroom attached.”
It was exactly what I was hoping she’d say. I couldn’t wait to go home, bundle up with my favorite blankets and cuddle up with Cayden and my puppies while catching up on my favorite recorded shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Glee, and Brothers and Sisters.
One problem. How were we going to get there? It would take at least 40 minutes to drive there, and I wasn’t sure either of us could make it that long without throwing up. How gross would that be if we both puked in my tiny car? This shit does NOT happen in fairytales.
“OK, we’ll probably lay here a little longer, maybe take a shower to see if that makes us feel better, then head over there.”
We still had the chills. We walked with our backs hunched, holding onto walls and each other for support. Even the warm water in the shower didn’t stop us from shaking internally. I’d never heard of food poisoning causing full-body chills, but then again the last time I’d had food poisoning was when I was 12 and I ate a whole box of chocolate coins from the Five and Dime store.
“So, you won’t puke in my car, right?” I asked Cayden, as we shuffled our feet to the front door.
He thought about it for a moment, rested his hand on his stomach, and said, “I think I’ll be OK. What about you?”
I tried to imagine what it would be like driving 70 miles an hour on the highway and having to throw up. Would I have time to pull over? Would I roll down the window and scream “Grab the wheel!” while I puked all over the side of my car? Would I crash into a concrete barrier or swerve into oncoming traffic while I spewed all down the front of my shirt? The thought of it sparked my gag reflex and I almost threw up right there.
“One thing’s for sure,” I said. “If you throw up, I’ll throw up.”
I went into the kitchen and grabbed two trash bags, just in case.
We made it to the car and Cayden slumped down in the seat, his knees touching my dashboard and his head against the head rest. I was envious. I could barely hold my arms up to the wheel, much less concentrate on turning lanes and merging and highway exits.
Forty minutes later we were greeted by four bouncing puppies and my mom, ready to play nurse for the day.
“Oh my God, you look terrible!” she said, her worried eyes on Cayden.
I looked over at him to study him myself. I hadn’t really realized how bad he looked, because I felt just as awful. He was pale, very pale. Dark circles under his eyes. His face looked lifeless.
Either I felt worse than I looked, or I usually looked like crap and it wasn’t a surprise.
“Do you want my room? Or the living room? I can set you up wherever,” Mom said.
I went over the options in my head. Mom and Dad’s room with the attached bathroom and king-sized bed? Or the living room with the leather couches and the 54-inch flatscreen HDTV?
I looked over at Cayden to see if he cared either way, but he was gone. I guess he’d remembered where the bathroom was.
I bundled up on the couch and Mom threw blankets over me, but it seemed like nothing would warm me up.
Cayden flopped down on the other end of the couch and pulled the lever on the side to turn it into a recliner. I tucked my feet underneath his leg because my toes were numb. He turned to me and gave me a half smile, which seemed to take every ounce of his energy.
Mom came around the corner with ibuprofen, Pepto, Gatorade, and toast. We washed the medicine down with the Gatorade and eyeballed the toast, both of us wondering how long we could keep it down. We went for it anyway, and let's just say mine stayed down a little longer than his.
The thermometer confirmed what I was dreading: Those body aches and chills were a fever, a 102.7-degree fever at that. Cayden's was 101.7. Not good.
"I hate to break this to you, but I'm pretty sure food poisoning doesn't cause fevers," Mom said. "You both might have the flu."
"No!" I croaked. "We can't spend his last three days here hovering over the toilet. I refuse. If anything, it's a 24-hour bug and we'll be just fine in the morning."
Cayden gave me a sluggish nod that said, "I'm with you."
Unfortunately, that was easier said than done.