Another night slips away. I’m not ashamed of what I did but I am afraid of what is coming. The stiffness of new bedsheets pins me still. A bluish haze tinges the dark in the room, occasional sounds from machines pierce the silence.
I don’t know why he thought I wouldn’t find out? I had known for a while before that last time. That last fuck was all I needed. There’s no looking back now. He’s finished. I gave him ten years and then he did that to me. I hope he’s happy with him. I hope they enjoy their future. Best of luck to them.
The honeysuckle cottage, sun shining across the walled kitchen garden at the rear. The raised beds are full of bushy herbs and salad vegetables. Insects dance between the leaves. Hot, sweaty fucking in the front garden, the grass on my back, the scent of fragrant flowers mingling with ours. Hosed down, washed clean, ready for each other again. Pimm’s in a jug. Strong gin with a little tonic washing down home made sourdough with prosciutto and salad from our morning harvest. The dog jumps, snapping at butterflies. We paint the spare room, ready.
Wake up, wake up. A voice pulls her from the fever dream – the rural idyll they had shared. A vision for their future. Their relationship goal.
Wake up, wake up. The disembodied voice stirs her again. Her fever talking to her, no one to be seen. The ward is still silent except for the machines’ occasional tics.
She reaches for the small, digital radio on the cupboard next to her bed. The effort is almost too much for her. The callouses at her joints stab her nerves, the pain searing through her limbs. She switches the radio on, puts her earphones in. The fever grips her again.
As she comes round the World Service is presenting the news. There is only one subject, there has only been one for the last month.
‘Scientists are now certain that this disease has lain dormant for generations in about a third of the world’s population. What they haven’t determined is what triggered the faulty gene to become active. Whilst the initial symptoms are clear – calluses on the joints, a high fever – people are contagious for three or four weeks before they show. Occasional discharges of blood may be an early symptom. Governments are still setting up screening programmes and urge people to refrain from sex until checked. Intercourse seems to be the only way humans can pass the disease to each other.’
As the newscaster continues she smiles, showing the gaps where her teeth have started to leave her. Content that she has resolved matters with him she slips back into her fever dream.