Chapter Nine

Bridget

Five Days Earlier

The cold air crashes down on me like the monstrous tidal waves pounding against the beach outside. I shudder and pull the blankets closer to me as I think to myself, "It should not be this cold." And it shouldn't be; the forecaster had said, just hours before on the ten o'clock news, that it would be a "tepid 83 degrees" all night. And on top of that obvious fabrication, I can chalk this night up with all the other nights I couldn't get any sleep. What makes it worse is that I know tomorrow will be just as bad, the days becoming almost as unbearable as the nights.

Despite the fact I am covered by three heavy blankets, I am still shivering. Putting my hand up to my forehead, I instantly know what the problem is: a fever. Sure enough, as I move my hand under the pillow to push myself up, I notice the sheets are damp with sweat. Taking a deep breath and flipping the covers off of myself, I charge out of my room and down the hall to the bathroom that feels warmer than my bedroom, thankfully. I turn the lights on and squint, my eyes adjusting to the bright florescent lighting of the room. I reach for the cabinet door above the sink and open it, searching the contents for some Tylenol or Pepto Bismal, in order to alleviate not only my fever, but also a stomach ache that seems to be getting worse by the minute.

My hand shakes as I take each bottle down to stare at the labels. I can't see a damn thing without my contacts in, and that makes matters worse. The bubbling nausea in my stomach is getting worse, as more and more saliva forms in my mouth. I am having trouble breathing because of it, as I don't want to choke on all this excess saliva, and the room starts to spin. I sit down on the edge of the bath tub, grasping the edge firmly, as I stare down at the shaggy rug, trying to take back control of my body. I look down at the bottle I've grabbed in my hand, and I am relieved to see that it's the bright pink bottle I hoped it would be.

I've never been able to keep the liquid form of Pepto Bismal down, which is why I decided on buying it in tablet form. My hand starts to shake even more as I pour two pills out of the bottle. I take in one deep breath before the room starts to spin more wildly before everything is painted black.

--

It only feels like I have been blacked out for a few minutes before something hard slams into my head. With the pain shooting through my already tired head, I sluggishly roll out of the way of Heidi, who is bombarding the bathroom.

"Christ, Bridget. If you wanted to get wasted you sure did a lousy job of it."

"What the f-" I mutter before another voice interrupts.

"What are you doing?" I hear Meredith ask, and I swear I can hear Heidi rolling her eyes. I roll onto my back and squint up at my roommates, who are looking up at me with pity and contempt in their eyes.

"Are you going to explain or are we going to have to stand here all day?" Heidi asks, prodding me softly in the ribs with her barefoot.

"Don't be such a bitch, Heidi." I blurt, covering my eyes with my hand. I feel something drop onto my eyes and cheeks, and realize that the Pepto Bismal pills I hadn't had the chance to take had been sitting in my hand all night. I sigh and brush them off me, not caring to pick them off the floor as they roll across the tiled floor.

"What's your problem? All you've been doing lately is moping around the house and frankly, being a pain in the ass." Meredith states, as if it is the general consensus in the house, except I had been gone for when the vote had been taken.

I close my eyes as I twirl my hand nonchalantly in the air, a smirk playing in my lips, "Maybe our bodies got switched during the storm last night. And now we're in this Freaky Friday kind of scenario and we have to learn how to get along otherwise we'll be stuck like this forever...Shit."

I let out a laugh as I drop my hand against the floor. Sighing, I muster up enough strength to push myself up into a sitting position. Placing my hand on my stomach, I realize for the first time this morning that my stomach ache is gone. 'It must have been something I ate,' I think. I brush my fingers through my hair and yawn. Looking up to my perturbed roommates, I make an effort to defend myself, "For your information, I felt like shit last night. I probably ate something that didn't agree with my stomach...I came in here for some Pepto Bismal-not to get wasted, Heidi- but I must have blacked out from the pain."

"Right. Well, I have to take a shower and get ready for work, so...if you would..." Heidi opens the door some more and holds out her arm in a vain attempt to escort me out of a bathroom that- I note- we all share.

I push myself to my feet-without the help of my roommates- and head back down to my room, my barefeet welcoming the warmth of the carpet having slept on the cold floor of the bathroom all night. I quickly make my bed-an old habit from when living with my strict parents- and sit down at my desk to open my laptop. I quickly glance at my email inbox, deleting spam and subscriptions to various websites I, at one time or another, had a slight interest in. After finding there is nothing worth reading, I delete all the new emails and close the lid of my laptop.

Knowing that I have a while before Heidi (and then Meredith) is done grooming, I switch my silk pajama shorts and blank tank top for my running shorts and a clean t-shirt. I put on my favorite pair of running shoes and sneak out the back of the house, knowing that no one would care, or take notice, if I was gone, which isn't really safe, if you think about it. Maybe the Girl Scouts really were right about enforcing the Buddy System. Either way, I was on my own.

After a brisk morning jog, I head back to the house and find that luckily both Meredith and Heidi have finished with the bathroom and now it was my turn. I jog up the stairs to my room and place my iPod on my bed before walking back out of my room and down the hall to the bathroom. I close the door behind me and lock it since both of my roommates obviously have no respect for my own privacy. After a relatively long shower, I get out and dry off, wrapping my hair in a towel like a turban and covering myself with another towel. I walk out of the bathroom, dripping slightly on the wood floor of the hallway, and into my bedroom.

I launch into my daily regimen of getting ready for work, drying my hair and applying the necessary curling gel, drying off any excess water droplets, putting on a bra and underwear before applying my make-up. It seems haphazard and out of order, but it was how I had done things forever, so I wasn't going to stop now. After my make-up had been applied, I search through my closet and pick out a pair of light grey trousers, a lilac colored blouse, and white high heels. After getting dressed, I pick up my carrier case I use for work and walk out of my room and down to the kitchen, where I fix a cup of coffee for myself and pour the contents into a traveler. Before I walk out the back door, I grab an apple and put it in my purse. I walk down the back porch steps and up the side walk that lines the side of the house. I glance at Derrick's house, which is dark and quiet, before moving on.

--

It's ten o'clock, and I've been at work for 2 hours. My office is the only place where I can feel at peace these days. Fortunately I have my own window office, instead of being stuck in a small cubicle, and I find it easy to withdraw from the rest of the office if I have to. Transcripts that need to be translated are being piled up on my desk, and I am completely booked with appointments. I work downtown at a family counseling practice, in the adolescent division, and today has been an incredibly busy day, for me at least. Since I also work as a freelance Spanish translator, I usually have my plate full.

Typing away at my computer, I make a few small translations while I wait for my next patient. I shake my head slightly at the sound of my rumbling stomach, growling angrily up at me for not feeding it enough. It's five minutes before my next patient arrives, and my boss, Samantha, strolls into my office, as chipper and glowing as ever. She is elegant in every aspect, donning pearls around her neck for every outfit she wears, which is usually some of the most extravagant and professional clothing I have ever seen. She exudes virtuosity and competency, all with an agility and grace that is the envy of the office. We have all dubbed her the Miss America of the office.

"Bridget, how is it coming?"

I chuckle, "It's coming, alright."

Smiling gratefully, she replies, "Keep up the good work. When you have a moment, could I speak with you in my office?"

"Sure, Samantha." I reply apprehensively.

Winking, she assures me, "Don't worry, it's nothing terrible."

"Alright." I reply, smiling back at her before she walks back out of my office. Sure enough, after she leaves, my next patient, 13 year old Anna, walks briskly into my office, a stark difference from her usual stipulated march every Wednesday morning. She has even said in previous sessions, "I wish I was at school", which is saying something, considering it is at school where most of her problems reside.

"Morning, Anna."

"Morning, Dr. McCarthy."

"How are you doing today?"

"I've been better."

'Haven't we all?' I think to myself before sitting in an arm chair across from Anna.

--

It is almost an hour later when I break free from my office and make my way to Samantha's at the end of the hallway. I walk past closed doors before walking to the last open office, where Samantha is sitting at her desk, pouring over her latest romance novel. That's the thing about Samantha, she comes off as someone who analyzes Shakespeare and the Bronte sisters, and yet she has this huge fascination with smut books. I just can't comprehend it, but since she is my boss, I guess I don't have to question her motifs; just shut up and listen.

"Hey, Samantha, did you still need to talk to me?" I ask, walking further into the office and sitting in an arm chair in front of Samantha's desk.

Dog earring a page in her book, she places it down and smiles at me, "Yeah, I sure do."

After pausing, she continues, "I've been talking to a few of your colleagues and I just wanted to ask you how things are going at home and if there's something we should know about?"

I pause, rather indignantly, as I feel my cheeks turn red from embarrassment. "I didn't think my personal life was such a big topic for discussion in the office."

"Oh, Bridget. Dear, that's not what I meant, and I apologize. It's not a big topic around the office, I had just been curious, because I know you get a long with quite a few of the therapists in this office, about how you have been doing lately."

I nod. "What did they say?"

Samantha frowns, "Well, Bridget, to be perfectly honest, they're worried about you, and for good reason. I was looking at your time clocks and it looks like you've been staying at the office until nine or ten in the evening."

I focus on my fingers in my lap, saying nothing.

"If something is going on at home that I should know about, Bridget, then you need to tell me now, otherwise...otherwise I'm afraid I'm going to have to make sure myself you are leaving at your scheduled time. I'll be honest with you Bridget, I don't think either of us wants that to happen."

"I...I can't." I chock out, blinking back tears.

"You can't what, Bridget?"

"I can't say." I say. "I can't say what's wrong."

Samantha stares back at me with her bright green eyes for a while, most likely fabricating a new plan. Smoothing her hands over the desk, she finally says, "Well. Why don't you take the rest of the day off? I can take your patients for you."

"I don't think-"

"Bridget," Samantha shouts curtly, anger and frustration in her voice, "I really think it's in your best interests to return home for the rest of the day, and if you need to, take tomorrow off. You are obviously distraught. About what, I don't know, since you're unwilling to divulge that information and you are in no condition to be helping people with their problems when you are so clearly out of touch with your own."

I blink. This was all very unexpected and harsh. Sighing, Samantha stands up and says, "Please, Bridget. I am asking you this as your boss, colleague, and as your friend. Take the day to figure things out. Call me tomorrow morning and we'll go from there."

Still in disbelief, I push myself out of the chair and dart out of Samantha's office and down the hall to my own, where I hastily grab my carrier case and purse and charge back out of my office, through the front doors and towards the parking garage, where I find my car after a few wrong turns. The one place I had thought would save me was now becoming a place I would start to avoid, and it felt like my whole world was spiraling out of control. The only place I wanted to be now was home and as soon as possible. I toss my carrier bag in the back seat before closing the door and walking to the driver's side of the car. And the last thing I see before getting in the car and speeding off is Derek, across the parking lot standing on the sidewalk, staring right at me.