I spent, like, two and a half hours at the gym on Friday to make up for my total lack of self control when it came to those damn Girl Scout cookies. So, when I spent the rest of the weekend feeling kind of achey and off, I just thought I overdid it at spin class. When I fell asleep Sunday night my throat felt kind of scratchy and I had a little headache, but I felt truly craptastic from the moment I woke up on Monday. It took a heinous amount of time to get out of bed, so I skipped make up and hair completely. I mean it seemed like a bad idea to wield a curling iron when the bathroom was spinning. I would have totally skipped work completely, too, but I had promised Charmonique I would be there to support her when she asked Sapperstein for her way overdue raise. So, like the hero that I am, I dragged myself into work despite puffy eyes, runny nose, aches, and a cough like a dying donkey.
I don't remember driving to the office, or even the elevator ride up, or saying good morning to Charmonique, but I found myself settling into my office chair with a box of tissues under one arm and hand sanitizer in the other. I don't know how long I must have been spaced out, staring at my computer screen, but next thing I knew, Henry was standing over my shoulder.
"Good morn- Good god, Eliza!"
"Morni'g, 'Enry." Huh, my voice sounded underwater. I blew my nose into my tissue and added it to the giant pile in the nearby trash can. "How are you?" I asked before finding my hand sanitizer, pumpkin spice scented (not that I could smell it), and slathering it over my hands.
"Are you okay? You look awful!"
I glared at Henry. Well as as much as I could through my already watery and squinty eyes. "I have a cold. Thanks a lot." My glare quickly melted away. I was too tired to hold it very long and he looked good enough to eat today. Damn him for looking so hot in a suit. Oh, crap- he was talking to me.
"- at home?"
"Sorry, huh?" Weird. Now Henry's voice sounded like it was underwater, too.
"I said, why aren't you resting up at home?"
I shrugged. "I promised Charmonique I'd be in today."
"Eliza, you're white as a sheet, your eyes are glassy, and you sound like a chain smoker." Henry reached out to touch my forehead with the back of his hand.
I flinched away, causing me to feel dizzy and him to freeze. "Henryyyy," I whined. "I'm all germy! You're gonna get sick, too!" Just as I said this, I had to turn away to hack and cough and cough again roughly into my sleeve.
He sighed exasperatedly. "Just let me check your temperature."
I felt raspy in my chest when I was done coughing, and I would have killed for some water but I must have forgotten to buy a drink in my exhaustion. Henry reached out to test my forehead temperature again. As soon as he laid the back of his hand against my skin he hissed. "Jesus. You're burning up." He turned his hand over to gently lay across my brow and I leaned into the cool relief. Henry's other hand came up to press against the back of my neck. "Shit, Eliza. You're fever is really high."
"Mhmm." I had closed my eyes and had practically shifted all my weight from my chair to his side. He was pretty much holding me up because I really didn't think I could sit up anymore.
"Everything alright her- holy cow. Ms. Dooley. Are you ill?" Sapperstein must have been walking by.
"Sir. Eliza's sick. I'm going to take her home."
"Of course! Let me grab her things for you."
Home? I blinked. Their voices sounded so far away and the office lights seemed to sway.
"Eliza? Come on, you can lean on me and I'll drive you home."
I nodded and stood. Or tried.
I was told later that it was all very dramatic. I tried to stand and before I was even fully out of my chair I totally damsel in distress fainted. Thankfully, Henry hadn't left my side so he caught me before I hit the floor or my desk and apparently swept me quickly off my feet.
When I woke up again I wasn't in my apartment or the office. I was in a white room with terrible lighting and sitting at my side was Henry, his hands clasped at his brow as he leaned his elbows on the edge of my bed. He looked like he was praying or something. And his hair was a complete mess.
He seemed to notice me waking up, because he immediately sat upright and jumped forward, “Eliza! How do you feel? Do you remember what happened? Can I get you anything?”
“Henry?” I felt like I was in a fog. Where was I?
He seemed to know I was confused. “You’re in the hospital.”
“Hm?” Why would I be in the hospital? That didn’t make sense.
“You came to work sick. I was going to take you home, but you fainted.” He grimaced sheepishly. “I may have panicked and brought you to the ER.”
Oh. I did? He did? My mouth felt like ass and I licked my lips.
“Here,” Henry said gently. “Drink some of this.” He held a tiny plastic cup near me and placed the straw on my lips.
I sipped greedily. I was so thirsty. I felt much more awake and wondered at the sweetness of the drink.
“Ginger ale?” I asked.
“There’s water, too, if you like?” Henry stood anxiously and grabbed a pitcher on the little rolling table nearby. I stared at him. “Are you hungry?” He placed the pitcher down and gestured to a lunch tray. “They brought soup earlier, but you were still... unconscious.” He looked pale at this and his eyes shifted to the side.
“Henry? Are you okay?” He was kinda freaking me out.
“Am I o-? Eliza! You had a fever of 104.2! You were severely dehydrated and you literally fainted in my arms. Are you okay?”
“I think so, but, you’re acting all...” I waved my hands around. I realized I had an IV drip in my arm. And an awful thought hit me. “Am I? Am I dying?” I whispered.
“What?!” He rushed forward again, this time to take my hands that had suddenly tangled themselves into the blankets. “No, no, no. I’m sorry! No, you just have a really bad case of influenza. I’m sorry to have worried you. I think I’m still just-“ He paused and took a breath. “I’m sorry. You’re going to be fine. Some fluids and some rest and you’ll be all better. The doctor will probably explain some more when she comes in.”
He smiled at me reassuringly and squeezed my hands. I held on tightly.
“You’re still just what?” I looked him in the eyes. This felt important. Or maybe I was still feverish.
He squeezed my hands a little tighter and looked at our intertwined fingers. “I’m still,” he took a deep breath, “shaken.”
“You fell unconscious and I barely caught you. You were so white and I didn’t know if you just fainted or if something... worse... happened and I don’t know what I was thinking. I drove like a maniac to the ER. I think Sapperstein was going to call an ambulance but for some reason I thought I’d be faster. I broke the speed limit.” I gaped at him, but his eyes were glued to our hands. “When I pulled up it seemed like no one was around. I carried you inside and for a second no one noticed us. I think I yelled something because a group of medical professionals ran to me and took over.”
“They asked me a lot of questions, but they didn’t tell me anything at first.” He shifted in the chair and ran one of his hands through his hair. Oh, so that’s why his hair was standing up like that. “I was...”
“You were what?” I whispered.
His eyes met mine. “I was really scared.”
“Aw, Henry!” I tugged him forward and wrapped my arms around his shoulders. He hesitated a few seconds before placing his arms around my waist and pressing his forehead to the place where my shoulder meets my neck. I held him there and felt his back shudder.
“Thank you for taking care of me, Henry,” I whispered. “No one’s ever done something like that for me.”
He pulled back to look me in the eyes. “Anything for you.”
Oh god, that was the sweetest thing anyone ever said to me. “Henry, I-“ suddenly started coughing. Luckily I turned my head in time and didn’t cough all over Henry’s face, but it was a close one. When I resurfaced, he had a box of tissues and my pumpkin spice hand sanitizer ready for me.
Henry stayed with me in the hospital for a few more hours before I was discharged. I still felt weak and wobbly, but I didn’t feel like death anymore, so yay for saline drips. He took care of all of the paperwork. And when he helped me into his car he asked, “Eliza, would you like to come stay with me until you feel better? I could make you my mom’s seaweed soup?”
“I-“ some fuzzy feeling filled my chest, and it wasn’t a cough. “I’d like that, Henry, thank you.”
“You’re welcome, Eliza.”
He closed the passenger door gently.
When he got into the driver seat and turned the car on he began listing all the things he needed to buy from the store on the way back to his place, “Honey is soothing, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory,” and the logistics of picking up my prescriptions for me and how I could just write him a list of what I needed from my apartment so I could just rest in his guest room while he went to get it.
I sat in the passenger seat and listened to Henry ramble until I sort of dozed off feeling cared for and warm and, well... loved.