Panic overtakes me. My first impulse is to head to my trusty Google for answers, but I restrain myself. The truism flares in my mind like a neon sign – never look up your symptoms on the internet. The doctors and nurses assure me that I will have the best care available. Indeed, it is in everyone’s best interests that they take care of me. One misstep and the potentially deadly virus I may have been exposed to could be unleashed on the world.

I try to calm myself. The doctor in his biohazard suit is giving me instructions, but it’s so hard to follow along in my anxious state. I look at his nurse and see a trickle of sweat run down her face. Is she hot in her suit, or scared? I feel like Typhoid Mary. The nurse tries to blow a flyaway wisp of hair out of her face. She must have quite an urge to move her gloved hands up under the mask, much like the desire to scratch your face once the cape is on at the hairdresser.

The hairdresser! I should cancel my appointment, as well as the appointment for the eye doctor. Someone else will have to take the kids to soccer and dance practice. Who will do the dishes? Will anyone remember to feed the dogs and the chickens?

I should be paying attention. The doctor is finishing his instruction. I’ve been politely nodding, but haven’t taken in anything he has said.

I see my husband on the other side of the partition. He looks worried and helpless. I haven’t seen him for a few weeks, and I won’t be able to fold myself into his arms for another month. They rushed me from the plane to the hospital in a private, biohazard equipped ambulance, with attendants dressed head to toe like the doctor and nurses. I feel like a science experiment. I’ve been poked and prodded and hooked to machines. Right now I’m free of cords and tubes, but for how long?

I ask the doctor if I can have anything delivered to me. I want my laptop. I need to be able to Skype my family, to see their faces. That’s the only thing that will get me through this month. But will they want to see me? Especially if… Well, I’m not going to worry about worst case scenarios right now. I will have a month’s worth of time to fill with worry. If this thing doesn’t materialize into anything, I can spend some time writing. I can catch up on all of those Ted talks I wanted to watch. I could even take one of the podcast courses offered by the big universities…if I stay well.

The doctor says I can have a few things delivered to my room, but anything that leaves will be in a biohazard bag, so I should choose carefully. I mentally go through my bookshelf. I was reading a great book by Brian Doyle that I wouldn’t mind rereading. My husband should bring that. I estimated the total time it took me to get through it the first time: four hours on the plane each way, plus a four hour layover, then some pages to spare. Ugh. I would need more books. How about something nonfiction. I have a Stephen Jay Gould book that I’ve never cracked open but always wanted to read. Then there are a couple of impulse buys waiting for me to have the time and inclination. Well, I will certainly have the time, and barring this thing blowing up into a full-fledged disease, I will certainly develop the inclination.

I’m a little worried about my fitness. Even when I was gone, I adhered to my running schedule. I guess a couple of weeks off wouldn’t kill me. I guess I will have to forego running for a while. I wonder if they can get me some type of exercise equipment, though. A month is a long time to be sedentary, assuming I will feel good enough to work out.

The doctor and nurses have left. They have a list of things that might help me pass the long hours of isolation. I think about all of the days of family filled chaos where I long for isolation, yet here in this room devoid of company, I long for the noise and chaos of my family. My husband and I make I love you gestures and signs through the glass. The irritations and petty differences can’t cross this barrier. I give him a little wave goodbye, then turn to my hospital bed to wait.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Inside the Bubble.” A contagious disease requires you to be put into quarantine for a whole month (don’t worry, you get well by the time you’re free to go!). How would you spend your time in isolation?

Wedding Plans

“Amber…? Amber!”

Amber tried to hide the look on her face. She turned to face her sister.

“What are you staring at?” Lynne asked, her face all screwed up in that motherly grimace of an older sister.

“Oh, nothing. I was just thinking,” Amber replied, taking a sip of wine.

“Well, I was asking your opinion about the dresses,” Lynne said, pouring herself another glass. “What do you think of coral chiffon?”

Amber tried not to choke on her wine.

“Coral? Not really my color,” she said, pointing to her red hair.

“Well, the day is not about you, is it?” Lynne reminded her. The other bridesmaids stifled tipsy giggles. “We need to talk about this. We need to come to a decision. The girls like this coral dress. What do you think?”

Amber rolled her eyes. This was interminable. She would give anything to be anywhere else right now, like a rodeo, or under a bridge. In the college of life she had inadvertently enrolled in Weddings 101. Instructor? Bridezilla.

“Why can’t we have a normal color, like blue or green?” she offered. These would have set her hair off, but then Lynne, with her stringy blonde hair, wouldn’t like that at all.

“No, I think we’ll go with the coral,” Lynne decided, and raised her glass. The bridesmaid troupe raised their glasses as well. Everyone stared at Amber.

“Fine,” she said, beaten. She raised her glass, then downed the whole thing. What she wouldn’t give for a shot of tequila!

The nameless bridesmaid clones started chatting among themselves like a gaggle of geese. Straightened, highlighted hair bobbing and flowing. Privileged girl tans. She watched her sister chat happily with them, blue eyes sparkling as she laughed about shared times. She turned away again. Her hand went subconsciously to her red curls, pulling and twirling one as she thought.

“Amber…? Amber,” Lynne was staring at her again with her penetrating gaze. How long had she been daydreaming? The clones had left, probably to go to the bathroom together.

“I’m fine,” Amber said, sighing.

“Thanks for agreeing to be in the wedding,” Lynne said. “I know how difficult it must be for you. It means a lot to me.”

“I guess I can expect Dad to be there, right?”

“Of course.”

A pained look came over Amber’s face.

Lynne looked away. Amber felt bile rising up in her throat at the absurd unfairness of it all.

“How are things at home?” she asked, twirling her curl again.

“Oh, you know. Mom is busy with her volunteering, and Dad is working all the time, as usual. You should call them. They would love to hear from you.” Lynne said. “They are planning a trip to Europe after the wedding,” she added.

Ugh! She felt the tears coming again. Stupid tears. Again. Always with the tears. She steeled herself, biting her cheek and blinking fast, hoping that would make them go away. She couldn’t believe he was footing the bill for this circus of a wedding.

“Amber. Think about this. Dad is a selfish jerk, but you can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Mom has spent endless nights crying because you don’t call,” Lynne said.

She turned on Lynne, eyes narrowed. “You don’t understand,” she said. “Everything you’ve asked for, you’ve been given. You just bat those eyelashes and the man caves. I’ve never really asked for anything until I asked for help with paying for the university, and he wanted my five year plan… in writing. Look at this place,” she continued, waving her hand around. “What does a wedding at a winery cost, anyway?”

Lynne looked away. There was silence.

“Amber,” Lynne said quietly, earnestly, turning back toward her sister, “I can’t help what Dad does. I want you to be a part of my wedding. You’re my sister, and I love you. I wish you could put this aside and move on.”

Lynne had been telling her for years to get over it. She knew she couldn’t. The pain seared into her heart. She also knew Lynne was right. It was not her fault, although she had played into it plenty of times. But who’s to say Amber wouldn’t have done the same thing in her position.

The tipsy clones were on their way back.

“Would it help if the dresses were blue?” Lynne offered.

“Nah, coral is just fine,” Amber said, smiling wryly. “Open bar, right?”

Lynne just laughed and hugged her sister.

“You bet.”

Photo courtesy of Grammar Ghoul Press