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It was almost two o’clock in the afternoon, and my stomach was growling so loudly that I was pretty sure that Wendy could hear it. As we cruised down Alma’s business section towards Wendy’s apartment, I thought back to our conversation about Harry Potter. I had only invited Wendy to ride with me to the nature preserve because I had such a good time eating dinner with her that day I got punched in the gut. And, almost everybody had gone home for the summer, so I didn’t have very many other people who I could ask. But, my first impressions of her were that she was strong, compassionate, smart, and funny. I started to appreciate these traits of hers even more when we went on our walk, and now during a drive that should have felt stressful she helped me to feel more at ease, just by having her seated next to me in my car.
“Do you want to pick up food from Applebee’s and bring it back to my place?” Wendy asked.
“Sounds good.” I made a left hand turn into the restaurant’s parking lot and pulled into a parking lot. It looked open, but there was a big sign which announced that they were accepting take out orders only. Not a surprise. Wendy pulled up her Applebee’s app, and we placed an order.
It was while we were waiting for our order that Wendy’s cell phone rang. She picked it up to answer it and, while I could only hear her responses and bits of words from the other end, it became clear after a while that she was receiving some bad news.
She hung up her phone and clutched it firmly against her chest. I waited for her to say something, but she remained silent. Tears dribbled down her cheek.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
She looked at me. “That was a nurse at Sparrow hospital. One of the protesters that were detained last night was diagnosed this morning with COVID19. She said I need to quarantine myself for fourteen days, and watch for any symptoms of COVID.”
“Oh, I’m sure it’s just a precaution,” I said. “Everybody was probably wearing masks, so there’s a chance you didn’t catch it.”
“Yes, but I was with my mom and dad, and I’ve been spending time with you.”
“Your mom and dad wore masks,” I pointed out. She looked up at me with wide eyes, then glanced at the mask I had taken off before we left Lansing. “If I have to go into quarantine, it’s not a big deal,” I pointed out. “I work from home anyways.”
“That’s the other thing,” Wendy said.”I can’t quarantine inside my apartment, because I’d be contaminating the apartment.”
I thought for a bit. It seemed pretty obvious that the best solution was for her to stay with me, so we could quarantine together. Besides, there was no way that I would let her quarantine alone. I was about to tell her when a notification popped up on her phone saying that our food was ready.
“Listen,” I said. “How about if we swing by your place to pick up some of your things, and you could stay with me for the couple of weeks?”
“No, Scott, I couldn’t–”
“It makes total sense, Wendy,” I insisted. “We’ve both been exposed, and we can ride this out together. It keeps your roommate safe, and if anything happens we can take care of each other.”
“Well . . .”
“Please,” I said. “Think about it until I get back with the food.”
When I returned with our order, Wendy told me that she thought my idea was a good one. “If it becomes too much of a bother, I could always move back in with my parents for the remaining days,” she said.
“We can hold on to that as an option, but I doubt it’ll come to that,” I said, then smiled.
We stopped by Wendy’s apartment. She texted her roommate, Carolyn, with a list of the things that she would need, and then I went inside to help pack and then carry everything out to the car. Wendy stayed in the car to avoid contaminating anybody.
I drove the rest of the way to my apartment in Shepherd, and then we ate our dinner. I gave Wendy a quick tour of the one bathroom, two bedroom apartment before I carried her things inside.
Wendy called her parents from the kitchen to let them know that she had made it home safely. She didn’t mention anything about being in quarantine, or temporarily moving in with me. When I asked her about it, she shrugged it off. “There’s no need for them to worry if I don’t get sick,” she said. “And, the rest is none of their business.”
Next, she called her manager at Meijer to let them know. They asked a lot of questions, but seemed appreciative of the head’s up.
Always the gentleman, I offered to sleep on the couch so that she could have the bed, but she insisted on taking the couch instead. I knew that it wasn’t going to be worth my trouble to change her mind. The first four days were pretty uneventful. Even when I was in my office working, I was comforted by the idea that she was somewhere in the apartment with me.
Then, on the fifth day she developed a persistent cough, and definitely had less energy. She was eating less, and complained once or twice that the spaghetti I made tasted weird. She was sleeping a lot, and on Sunday she developed breathing problems.
I called 911, and then I called her parents after she had been admitted to the hospital in Alma. Tears running down my cheek, I listened to doctors as they told Wendy that she had tested positive for COVID19. I stayed at the hospital until her parents arrived before I headed backt o my apartment.
It occurred to me that I was still under quarantine for another six days, only now I’d be totally by myself. I thought a lot about that day when we met. I did want to support Wendy, but only because that guy was a douchebag, and I really just wanted to take back my empty bottles so I could go back home. It was only a coincidence that Wendy was also kind and attractive, or at least that was what I had repeated to myself for days after that happened. Thinking about Wendy laying in a hospital bed, hooked up to a ventilator, I realized that I might have discovered too late that our friendship was the beginning of something that could be really special and long lasting.