"Hello," Evangeline said, with a cough as she answered the ringing telephone.
"Hey, itís me. Are you okay? Iím at the diner waiting for you."
"John, Iím so sorry. Iím not going to be able to meet you this morning. Iím sick." Her statement was emphasized by the gravelly cough that followed.
"How long have you been sick? Why didnít you call me?"
"John, you worked late last night. I wasnít going to call you over a cold."
"Evangeline, it doesnít sound like just a cold."
"Well, it is. Iím going to stay in bed today and tomorrow Iíll be good as new."
"Really? Well, Iíll be over a little later to make sure."
"John, donít come over here. I donít want you to get sick too."
"Let me worry about that. Iíll see you later," he said and ended the call. He moved to the counter and ordered his regular cup of coffee.
"Hi, John," Carlotta said. Sheíd warmed up to him again over the past few months.
"Hi, Mrs. Vega, how are you today?"
"Iím fine," she said as she poured his coffee. "Whereís Evangeline?"
"Actually, sheís sick; a cold or something."
"Are you going by to check on her?"
"Yeah. I have to stop by the office for a few minutes and then Iím going to make sure sheís okay."
"Well, stop back by here on your way there and Iíll have some soup ready for her."
"Thanks, Mrs. Vega, thatís really nice of you."
"She worked really hard to keep Jamie with Antonio. I owe her for that. Sheís a wonderful girl."
"I may be a little biased, but I totally agree with you," he said with a smile. "Iíll stop back in an hour if thatís okay."
"Iíll have it ready."
Evangeline drank the last of the juice in her fridge and tried to stifle a cough. She had pulled her hair into a ponytail and put on one of Johnís t-shirts, a pair of boxers and some socks hoping she could get comfortable. She felt awful and knew she needed to eat, but she didnít have an appetite and she had very little food in the house. Sheíd taken medicine and it didnít appear to be working. She was restless and she thought she might have a small fever. As she headed to the bathroom for the thermometer, the doorbell rang. Since only a handful of people knew she was home and they were at work, she continued to the bathroom.
When Evangeline didnít answer the doorbell, John got worried. After his birthday, theyíd exchanged keys and while he didnít want to take advantage of that fact, he felt justified in using it since she was sick.
"Evangeline?" he called as he entered the front door. He pushed the door closed with his hip as he balanced the bags he carried.
Evangeline leaned her head out of the bathroom upon hearing his voice. She glanced at herself in the mirror and groaned. She looked dreadful. She had said no one would ever call her pale, but today she almost was. She heard him on the stairs and took a deep breath before opening the door. She met him in the hallway.
"Hi, John. Before you say anything, I know I look terrible. Thatís how I feel, too."
He gave her a sympathetic smile before he moved to her, "I wasnít going to say that. I was going to say that you looked like a little girl who just lost her best friend and I really hope thatís not true."
"No, youíre here," she replied with a small grin, which was interrupted by a rolling cough from deep in her chest.
"Hey, you should be in bed, youíre burning up," he said as he rubbed her back. He lifted her effortlessly in his arms. She instinctively wrapped her arms around his neck and rested her head on his shoulder. He carried her into her bedroom and placed her in the middle of the bed.
"Thank you," she whispered as he pulled the covers up and kissed her forehead. "What are you doing here?"
"I told you I would be over to make sure you were okay and obviously itís a good thing that I did. Have you taken anything?" he asked waiting for her nod, before continuing, "Are you hungry? Mrs. Vega sent you some soup."
"No, but maybe Iíll eat later."
"Okay, go to sleep. Iíll be downstairs."
"John, you donít have to stay."
"I know, but I am anyway."
"Hey," she said as she walked into the living room where John sat looking at ESPN watching baseball.
"Hey, how are you feeling?" he asked, shifting from his position to make room for her on the sofa.
"Better. How are you?"
"Iím fine. You look better. I was worried about you. I checked on you a couple of times and you were sleeping soundly."
"Thank you for coming over."
"I didnít do it for you," he said with a grin and caught the end of her ponytail.
"Really?" she asked in a whispered tone with her eyebrows raised.
"Yeah, I canít have you sick for long."
"And why is that important to you?" she teased.
He got serious before answering, "Because I care too much about you to leave you here by yourself and I needed to know that you were okay."
She leaned into him and wrapped her arm around his stomach. He ran his hand up and down her back and glanced down at what she was wearing.
"Is this my t-shirt?"
"Yes, I didnít want to call you when I knew you were working, but I wanted to feel close to you anyway. How pathetic is that?"
"Not pathetic. In fact Iím flattered," he said, tipping her head up with his forefinger.
"I knew you were going to enjoy this," she said with a grin as he kissed her neck.
"Iím not, really Iím not," he said kissing her again. "Hey, you need to eat."
"You brought me soup, right?"
"Yes," he said rising to go to the kitchen. "You stay right there and Iíll be right back."
An hour later, Evangeline was curled into John on the sofa asleep. Sheíd had a bowl of soup and some orange juice. Heíd brought movies with him should she feel like watching anything that night. After she ate, she said she wanted to watch "Collateral." Heíd started the movie and within 20 minutes, sheíd been fast asleep. He had stretched out on the sofa and pulled her to rest on his chest. Heíd pulled the afghan from the back of the sofa and covered both of them. He wrapped his arms around her and enjoyed the movie and the presence of his woman.
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