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by Elizabeth Bocock

         On the first sixty-degree day of the year, Kathrine should have been outside relishing the sunshine on her skin and the wind in her hair. She had been anticipating the arrival of spring as she had grown tired of the Midwest's short, gelid winter days. But now she could not enjoy the season’s change, as, at present, she was confined to her bedchamber, ailed with a fever.

         How ironic, she thought, that she had survived the entire winter without even a sniffle, but the instant the air showed even a hint of warming, she fell ill, sicker than she had been in years. She could only imagine how pitiful she looked, lying in bed, duvet pulled up to her chin, pale and sickly. Though she felt hot to the touch, she shivered as if plunged into a pool of ice water. Margaret had warned her against covering up and would be cross when she returned and saw the thick blanket atop Kathrine’s feeble body. Kathrine knew she should probably listen to Margaret, as she was often right about such matters, but Kathrine was anything if not a thorn in Margaret’s side.

        She gazed over to the mug sitting on the bedside table. The tea within had long since gone cold, and Kathrine regretted letting it go to waste, knowing that hot liquid could soothe her sore throat. She supposed it didn’t matter. Soon, the fever would do her in, and her body would be as cold as the liquid within the cup. Like many young women who fell ill before her, she would succumb to her illness, and, at the prime age of one and twenty, she would see the end of her days from her mattress.

        Oh, the tragedy of a short life. There were so many things she still wished to accomplish. She hadn’t even been able to finish university before her expiration. She and Margaret would never go traveling as they had planned. Their dreams of visiting anything outside their small town in the United States would never come to pass. Kathrine supposed Margaret could take the little money they had saved and travel alone in her honor. She was sure there would at least be enough for her to travel to Disney World and scatter Kathrine’s ashes in the Haunted Mansion, as they always said they would ever since they saw that one YouTube video about it.

        Oh, their money! Kathrine realized with a start that her illness had come on so fast that she hadn’t even considered getting her affairs in order! She would have to relay her intentions to Margaret the next time she came to visit. Her mother would surely receive a good portion of her things. Her younger sister Kayla, at the ripe, young age of six and ten, would receive Kathrine’s prized Squishmallow collection. Her older sister Kimberly would receive nothing. She knew what she did. That left Margaret. Her beautiful Margaret …

         “Oh my gosh, Erin!” The sound of Margaret’s lovely voice pulled Kathrine out of her daydreaming. She looked up to see her beloved place a second mug next to the first, this one filled with extra-brothy chicken noodle soup. Margaret pulled the thick duvet cover off Kathrine and left it bundled on the floor at the foot of the bed. “You’re going to cook your insides under there.”

        “Margaret,” Kathrine said, swooning against the pillow at the sight of her. “It has been so long since you visited. I was sure I would never see you again. I feared death would take me before our lips touched next.”

        “I’ve literally been gone for, like, five minutes.” Margaret unfolded a flat sheet and spread it out over Kathrine. The sheet was cold to the touch and caused Kathrine to develop goosebumps the moment it met her skin. “Why are you talking like a Bridgerton?”

        Kathrine let Margaret take her temperature under her tongue before taking a small sip of her soup. As she suspected, the warm liquid made her throat feel instant relief.

        “Shockingly, your fever actually went down a bit,” Margaret said.

        “I owe it all to my beautiful nurse.” Kathrine took Margaret’s hand and kissed her knuckles. “I could never repay you, my beautiful Nurse Margaret.”

         Margaret giggled and pulled her hand away. Kathrine smiled wider at the blush that spread across her face. “Stop saying my full name in a British accent; it's freaking me out.”

         Margaret picked up the television remote from the bedside table and began crawling onto the bed beside Kathrine. “No, Mags, you’ll get sick too,” Kathrine said in her normal voice, rolling over to block Margaret’s space to lie down.

         “Whatever.” Margaret wiggled her way onto the mattress between Kathrine and the wall. “There are worse fates than catching the flu from you, babe. Besides,” Margaret gave Kathrine a quick peck on the lips, “I have a perfectly suitable nurse to take care of me.” She said it in a British accent even worse than Kathrine’s, and it sent both girls into a fit of giggling.

         Kathrine kissed her again, and they settled into bed together. And as Kathrine drifted into a fragile sleep within Margaret’s arms, she knew that if she died in this bed, it would most certainly be from happiness, not fever.

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