The Bond of Friendship

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It started with a sneeze in one class and then it got progressively worse over the day, or that's how Luke Matterson viewed it.

His friend Eric Dons had or was in the beginning stages of getting a cold. How, when, or where he may have contracted it was a mystery.

Eric had been sneezing and coughing all throughout the latest Student Council meeting for which both of them were involved. Luke had voiced his concerns, but Eric dismissed them, stating he was fine. "Nothing than a little Vitamin C won't cure," he had said almost jokingly.

But Luke knew better. And he was right.

Eric got worse in their latest class together. And all the students around him, Luke observed, were getting annoyed with Eric's symptoms. His latest coughing spasm had him sounding like he was about to eject a lung. They were in Algebra class.

Finally the teacher had had enough. He turned aggressively from the blackboard, chalk in hand, in the midst of a mathematical equation, and said, "Enough! Your dedication to your school work in admirable, Eric, but you're being disruptive to the rest of the class. I sympathize that you're sick, but go home."

Eric looked like he was about to protest, but started to cough again, inhibiting a response.

Luke put up a hand to speak. "With permission, I'll bring him home; someone should take him back safely," he said. Again, it looked like Eric was going to protest, waving a hand in the air, coughing, but again he was unable to give a verbal response.

The teacher agreed.

Eric sneezed, coughed more, and then finally stopped, and nodded, sucking in air to fill battered lungs. It was a fight he knew he wasn't going to win.

Eric closed his books and went to stand, but he started to wobble. Luke could see this, and jumped out of his seat to catch his friend, before Eric could fall.

"My head is spinning," Eric muttered. "This is so embarrassing."

"I'll get you home as quickly as possible," said Luke. "And everyone gets sick, even the so-called invincible Eric Dons," he said with a light sardonic tone. Eric was a popular guy in school. He was also head of the Student Council, the Chess team, and head editor of the school newspaper.

Luke turned to the teacher, and said, "Sorry about this." The teacher seemed to understand and nodded.

Luke then turned to a friend, Wade, who was in the same class and also a member of the Student Council. "Can you collect his things and take them to the Student Council Room…he can get them later or I'll collect them at another time." Wade was Treasurer of the Student Council.

Wade nodded. "Sure," he said. "I'll also let the others know. Maybe Eric should go to the hospital? He looks pretty bad."

"I'll get him to his dorm room, then I'll play it by ear," said Luke. But calling a doctor would be a prudent call, he thought. "Oh, and his sister should be told. I believe she's not on campus today, but I forget where. . ."

Wade reminded him. And Luke nodded.

After everything was said and done, Luke escorted Eric out of the class, and subsequently back to his dorm room that wasn't far off campus. They shared a dorm room at a private school. He then helped Eric into his bedroom and into bed. "Maybe I should call a doctor," said Luke.

Luke turned to make the call; Eric lightly grabbed Luke's hand, and then muttered something almost incomprehensible, dreamy. But Luke didn't need to hear Eric's voice to understand. He read Eric's lips. He said, "Thank you."

They had been friends for as long as he could remember. "You're welcome, buddy," Luke said back.

Luke brushed a string of Eric's mop top, brown hair out of his boyish face, and then felt his forehead. Eric had a fever. And he was also sweating profusely.

He left Eric for a minute, and then returned, bringing a bowl filled with cold water and a cloth, and applied a cold compress to Eric's forehead.

"You're burning up," Luke said.

He noticed a stand alone tall rotating fan near by and it was pointed at Eric's bed; too close, in fact. The weather has been warm lately, perhaps Eric had it blowing on him last night? Luke wondered. He sweats, it cools, and then causes irritation in the skin, and then an infection. It's a common occurrence, and it's happened to me more than once. So, how Eric got the cold is solved. Now it's time to bring his fever down.

Luke undressed his friend down to his underwear and tucked Eric under the sheets, and continued to apply cold compresses to Eric's forehead. Then he also did the same to his arms, chest and torso. He needed to settle the fever down. In this day and age, what he was doing may have been construed as homosexual in nature, but they were friends, and he cared more for his friend and his health than rumors anyone could contrive.

***

It had been a long night, but finally at around three o'clock in the morning Eric's fever broke.

Luke sat back in a chair next to the bed he had been sitting, and sighed softly, wiping sweat from his brow. The bond of friendship is stronger than any other, and I wouldn't be much of a friend if I wasn't here for you, Eric.

He sighed a deeper breath of relief. Now he could relax. He had been so on edge trying to bring Eric's fever down, that now that it had, he felt his mind begin to ease.

"Thank god," he said softly. He hadn't been able to contact a doctor who made house calls, so he had to take care of Eric himself. With his friend resting comfortably, Luke suddenly found himself totally exhausted. His eye lids felt heavy. He tried to stay awake, but it was hopeless. There was no need to anymore. And the adrenaline was gone.

***

Early the next morning, Luke was startled awake when he felt a hand touch his shoulder. Eric stood over him, smiling. Luke smiled back sleepy.

"You've been here the whole night?" asked Eric.

Luke nodded. "You had a bad fever, and I couldn't find a doctor who did house calls. I didn't want to leave you alone. Your sister is away, and there was no one else."

Eric looked around confused. "What happened? For the life of me I can't remember how I got here."

"I helped you home from school and then got you into bed. I hope you don't mind, I undressed you. You were sweating a lot. I cooled you down with cold compresses."

Eric smiled back. "So that's why all these towels are around. No, I don't mind what you did, just don't tell anyone. They may get the wrong idea." They both laughed. "Thanks, Luke. You're a good friend. I don't think no one else would've done this. We've been friends since childhood."

"I'm relieved you're feeling okay," Luke said. "But I think you should call in sick today just to be on the safe side. And what are you doing up? You need rest or you'll exhaust yourself."

"I just went to the restroom." Eric sat down on his bed. "This cold just hit me. I was fine yesterday morning."

"These things happen," said Luke. "My theory is you got it from that fan blowing on you all night." He gestured to it.

Eric agreed, nodding. "I'll try and watch that, but it has been exceptionally warm lately. Thanks again."

And Luke said, "You're welcome. You're my friend, I'm sure you'd do the same for me."

Eric nodded, smiling.

Suddenly, Luke sneezed.

Eric said, "Oh no. That's how it started for me. Let me get you some Vitamin C."

And they laughed.

END