By Camilla (bananacosmicgirl@hotmail.com)
She was exhausted. She had thought of it, and she couldn't come up with a better word for it. Her whole body felt tired, which probably wasn't that weird when one thought of how much she had worked these last weeks. Besides yearbook, in which she had spent several hours every day to get pages done for their deadline, she had dance team taking up hours after school and her normal classes, like honors math and science, in which everyone expected her to get A's, none the least herself.
Mariah was walking in to third period, advanced art. She felt like just going home and falling asleep, and then sleep for days, but that was not going to happen. She didn't have time for it. She had had a perfect attendance the whole year, and she wasn't about to break that now, not when it was less than a week until a hundred page deadline in yearbook and a competition coming up for dance team.
She sat down heavily and put her bag up on the side of the desk. Her bag was uncomfortable and hurt her back. It contained two heavy, big books, her binder filled with paper and two notebooks. In a while she would get up and get her key for the locker underneath her desk, where she kept her art supplies and the art she was working on. Mariah's friend, Heather, sat down besides her and smiled.
"How are you?" she asked. Heather was in yearbook too, but wasn't as involved as Mariah. From time to time, Heather would tell Mariah to slow down and take it easy, with everything. Things could get done without her.
"I'm fine," Mariah said. Fine wasn't really the word she would have used, but she knew that Heather only had asked because it was a nice thing to say.
Ted came up behind them. Ted was Mariah's friendly enemy, if such a thing existed. They teased each other constantly, about anything and everything.
"Why did you take the book?" he asked.
She knew what he was talking about, but said, "What book?"
"In English," he said with his hands on his sides.
They were reading the same book for English - Lord of the Rings, if anyone cared to know - and Mariah usually left her book in the classroom. Since Ted had English the period after Mariah, he read in her book instead of bringing his own. The problem, for him, was that today, Mariah had decided to bring her book with her home to read a little, so Ted had had no book to read.
"I'm taking it home to read," she said. For once, she didn't feel up to teasing.
"Yeah, I guess you need that," he said. "Since I'm so far, far, far ahead of you."
"Get over yourself," Mariah said. "The only reason you're ahead of me is because I was ahead of you and you didn't like that. So you decided to read two hundred pages and be ahead of me."
"That is so not true," Ted said. "I can't help..."
Suddenly, Mariah couldn't hear Ted's voice properly. Small black dots danced before her eyes for a short second, then they disappeared and everything became crystal clear again.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?" she asked, dumb founded.
"I said that I can't help that you are so far behind."
Mariah decided that she didn't feel like discussing the whole book matter anymore, and stood up to get her key. But before she had taken more than two steps towards where the keys were, the black dots started dancing in front of her eyes again, and this time they didn't disappear. Instead, Mariah felt herself falling into darkness.
She felt something wet on her forehead. Cool drops of water ran down her forehead and cheeks but luckily not into her eyes. Mariah tried to move, but her body ached and felt so tired and she didn't want to move at all. Suddenly she noticed that someone was holding her. Instead of moving, she tried opening her eyes to see who it was. The world was blurry at first, but then she could see the worried faces of her classmates.
"She's waking up," some genius said.
A new wet cloth was put on her forehead, waking her up a little more but not making her feel much better. She noticed for the first time in whose lap she was laying. Ted's. He was also the one putting the wet cloths on her forehead.
"Give them some air," Mrs. Hensley, the teacher, said. She kneeled besides her. "How are you feeling, honey?"
"Okay," Mariah said in a hoarse voice and decided to try to stand up. She gathered power, but when she tried, Mrs. Hensley held her back, saying:
"You should rest." Then she looked up at Ted. "Can you take her to the nurse and then see to it that she gets home?"
"No, I can't go home," Mariah whispered. "I have to much..."
"Things will get done without you, sweetheart, and you need to rest."
"No, I have..." Mariah started coughing hard.
"Take some deep breaths, honey. Now, Ted, can you take her to the nurse?"
To Mariah's surprise, Ted nodded. And what more was, he gently picked her up in his strong arms, intending to carry her to the nurse's office. She was about to protest, but realized that she wouldn't be able to walk all the way to the office, where the nurse was, by herself. So instead she put her arms around Ted's neck and relaxed her head against his shoulder. She knew that if she tried to stand up, she would faint again.
The class watched Ted leave with Mariah in his arms. It was a little embarrassing, but at least no one was making any comments, although she was sure that that would come later, once she was well again.
Outside, the wind was brisk and cold, and Ted held her closer. "You have a fever, you know that?"
She shook her head a tiny bit to say that she didn't know. He didn't say anything more. She smiled a little, because she had heard in his voice that he was concerned for her. He cared.
In just a little bit, they reached the office building, and a proctor - who normally didn't care at all - opened the door for Ted and Mariah. Inside, people looked at the two, but no one said anything. Ted walked in with her to the nurse's office and put her on the green bed in there. He showed no sign of leaving.
"What happened?" the nurse asked.
Mariah was about to answer, but Ted started before her. "She fainted in the art class. She has a high fever and I carried her from the art class room to here because she's to weak to walk."
The nurse nodded. "What's your name, honey?" she asked.
"Mariah Dennis," Mariah answered. Her mouth felt dry and she had a hard time answering.
"And I take it you want to go home?" the nurse asked.
"No," she murmured, thinking to herself, I don't want to, but I guess I have to.
"Yes, she does," Ted said for her, with an annoyed look at Mariah. His expression also told her that he'd thought that the nurse's question had been incredibly stupid, which it indeed had.
"Let me call your parents. Are they at work?"
Mariah nodded and the nurse called. After talking a little bit, she turned to Mariah. "Can you get home on your own?"
Mariah hadn't even thought of that, but before she had time to answer, Ted said, "I'll take her."
The nurse turned back to the phone and told Mariah's mother that a boy named Ted would take Mariah home. When Mariah's mom had approved it, the nurse put down the phone and wrote two passes; one for Mariah and one for Ted.
She was about to get up when Ted, in a soft and concerned voice, said: "Don't get up. I'll take you."
"Are you sure?" Mariah's voice was still hoarse and she felt like she needed water.
Ted nodded. He put one arm around her back and one under her knees and lifted her. But before he had enough time to leave the room, the yearbook teacher, Mrs. Lindsay came in to the room. She looked worried and talked fast.
"I saw you walking by with her outside my classroom," she said to Ted. "Are you okay, Mariah?"
Again, Ted answered for Mariah. "She fainted in art class and has a fever. I'm going to take her home."
"Fainted? Why? Shouldn't you go to the hospital?"
"Hopefully she won't have to. She's just really tired right now." Ted put Mariah back on the bed.
"Can't she talk for herself?" Mrs. Lindsay wondered, seemingly only a little annoyed.
"Well..." Ted's voice trailed off.
"I'm fine, Mrs. Lindsay," Mariah whispered. "Just tired. Ted thinks I have to go home."
"Okay, well yes, I think so too. You need to take care of yourself and don't you dare show up here again before you're well." Mrs. Lindsay sounded like the mother of three children that she was.
"But..." Mariah tried.
"No buts. Yearbook, dance team and your other classes will survive without you, and you will have to survive being gone for a couple of days. Now, Ted, please see to it that she gets home safely."
"I will, Mrs. Lindsay."
"Thank you. Take care, honey," Mrs. Lindsay finished with and left the office.
For the third time that day, Ted picked Mariah up and they left the office with the slips in their hands. When they got outside, Ted told her to tuck her head close to him, because it was raining.
"But what about you?" Mariah asked.
"I'll be fine. You're the sick one, remember?" He didn't seem to want to argue, so she snuggled up as close to him as she could. She could feel her body get wet from the big heavy drops falling down, and wondered how Ted was really doing. She had to be heavy, to carry her all the way to the parking lot. Finally, they reached his car and he put her in the front seat. She fastened the seatbelt and he sat down on the other side.
"So, where do you live?"
The drive was quite short since Mariah lived pretty close to the school, although she would never have been able to walk home in her current state. But by the time they got to her house, she felt strong enough to go up to the door by herself.
"Are you sure?" Ted asked.
She smiled at him. "Just hold my hand," she asked and then they walked up to the front door and unlocked it.
Standing in the doorway, the situation suddenly became weird. Ted was standing there, like a dog waiting for commands, and she had none to give him. He was wet, probably all the way to the skin and she realized that the thing to do probably to invite him in.
"Come in," she said and he entered.
"I think you should go to bed," Ted said when he had taken his jacket off.
"Whatever you say, sir," Mariah smiled, although bed was exactly what she had thought too.
Walking up the stairs, he held her hands, because she was still wobbly. She didn't tell him, but those black dots had started dancing before her eyes again when they were standing in the doorway, and they wouldn't go away. She was surprised over how exhausting the easy exercise of walking up the stairs was. When they were almost at the top, Ted seemed to decide that she had been exhausting herself enough, and he picked her up again and in the very same moment, she lost consciousness again.
When she woke up, she was lying in her bed, a cool cloth on her forehead, a blanket covering her body, a glass of water besides her and the shutters down. A dim light filled the room, and in the corner, in her reading chair, sat Ted, sleeping.
She felt so much better. Whatever he had done, it had made wonders for her. She had gotten some of her power back, and although she wasn't feeling a hundred percent yet, she wasn't down on the minus ten she had been at before. She took the cool cloth off her forehead, put the blanket aside and set her feet on the floor as she sat up. She took a couple of deep breaths before she stood up and walked over to Ted. She hesitated a little first, but then she bent down and placed a soft kiss on his lips. His lips were sweet and warm, and he started to respond.
As he opened his eyes, she drew away. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "But I had to take my one chance to do that."
He placed his hands on her hips and drew her down on his lap. "Don't you know how long I've wanted to do just that to you?" he asked. He drew her near again and kissed her. She closed her eyes and responded to his warm lips. It wasn't hungry, it wasn't aggressive; it was just wonderfully sweet.
"You still have a fever," he murmured.
"Yeah, I should probably go and lay down, huh?" She pulled away a couple of inches from him.
He nodded and followed her back to her bed where she laid down.
"I'll stay right here, Mariah," he said with a soft smile. "I'll stay here as long as you want me to."