At that moment, I heard Alec's tiny little cough from the other room. It sounded even worse than before, and he was hacking and wheezing until he was almost gagging from it. I closed my eyes as I heard him gasping for air, and two more tears rolled down my cheeks.
Taryn? His tiny voice called out between coughs, and for a moment...I was almost too scared to face him. Too scared to walk back in that bedroom and have him see no answers whatsoever when he looked me in the eye. But when I heard whimper, Taryn, where are you...? He just sounded so helpless. I had to straighten up. I had to at least appear to be strong, even when I was just as lost as he was.
I'm coming, Alec. I said, wiping my tears away and clearing my throat. I took one last look at the dawn before allowing the blinds to snap shut again, and I went to tend to my brother. He was sitting up in the bed, still clinging to the blankets by pulling them around his shoulders. Heyyy...how are we doing big guy?
I feel yucky still. He said. I sat next to him on the bed and pressed my hand to his forehead. He was a little warm, I think. I can't say that I really have a mother's instinct when it comes to feeling around for a fever.
We're almost done, ok? With the whole vacation. Then we can go home.
I wanna see Mom.
I know you do, Alec, but I need you to be my soldier today. Alright? Immediately, Alec began to sniffle and whine as he realized that he still wasn't getting his way. Don't. Don't do that. Alec, we can...we can go home really soon, I promise. But I saw Alec's eyes close, and his face wrinkled up as his mouth opened up for him to cry. I tried to shush him, but he wasn't having it. He didn't even have the energy to throw a tantrum this time. He just broke down in front of me and cried in defeat. Alec...please, honey, just...I need you to stop that. It broke my heart to see him surrendering the way he did. It made me realize that perhaps it took just as much effort from him for me to stay strong as it did any effort of my own. Don't cry. I need you to stop crying, ok? Babies cry. You're not a baby, are you?
But Alec looked at me and said, You're crying.
He was right. And I hadn't even realized it. Shit.
I quickly wiped my tears away and pulled Alec in for a hug. He wrapped his arms around my neck and held on as he sat in my lap, his tears turning into quiet sniffles, and then he began to cough again. I could feel his whole body shake and tighten up from the agony of it. Shhh...it's ok. I'm gonna see if I can find some medicine to make you feel better, ok? Can you stay here and be brave for me while I look around?
I'll be good... He whined. And I let him go, giving him a kiss on the forehead before getting to see what I could find in the bathroom. If I can just keep his body healthy and his brain occupied for another day or two, we just might make it through this ordeal alive.
I went straight to the mirror and opened up the medicine cabinet. But...it was empty. I mean, I saw two toothbrushes and some toothpaste, but that was it. Nothing else. No medicine, no aspirin, no antacid, not even a single Band-aid. I checked a few of the drawers and cabinets beneath the sink, but they were even more empty than the medicine cabinet above. It just sort of struck me as being a bit odd. But, maybe they're like my mom and keep stuff in the kitchen instead. So I closed everything up and tried searching for something over there. I looked on top of the refrigerator but there was nothing there. Okaaaaay...
Maybe they hid it in one of their cabinets, then?
I started on the right end of the kitchen, opening up cabinet after cabinet...and I found...'nothing'. And I don't just mean any kind of medicine...there was no food. No plates, no bowls, no silverware, no pots, no pans, no oven mitts...every last drawer and cabinet was as empty as it must have been the day Sean and Milo moved in here. The only thing they did have was a small shelf full of glasses to drink liquor out of from the bar in the living room.
Curiously...I took a few steps towards the fridge...and I opened both the fridge and the freezer doors at the same time. I saw a few bottles of juice and soda, again...probably just for mixing drinks, and few trays full of ice. Nothing else. Not a single bite of food in the entire kitchen. What the heck is going on here? Who lives like this? It's not like Sean and Milo can't afford to eat, right? They've got alcohol and music and video games...they pay bills for the apartment, obviously...so where's all the food?
My mind was trying to come up with some sort of wild excuse as to how or why the kitchen and bathroom would be so vacant, but as I heard Alec's sick little puppy dog whimpers flaring up again from the other room, I tried to get my mind back on the task at hand.
When Alec saw me walk by the room, he called out for me. I told him, I'm right here. Just...ummm...hold on a minute. I'm going to ask Sean where they keep the 'feel good' stuff, ok? Sit tight for me.
M'kay... He said meekly.
I knew that it was super early and that Sean and Milo were most definitely still asleep at this time of morning, but hopefully they're just keeping everything in the other bedroom where they were sleeping. Geez, I hope they're decent. I'm still not quite sure if they're, like...a couple, or friends with benefits, or just...'co-workers', but whatever they are to one another, I didn't want to judge and I certainly didn't want to intrude.
I stood outside of their closed door and listened to hear if anybody was moving around in there. Or snoring. Or something. But it was dead silent. So I lightly knocked three times on the door.
I got no answer.
Ugh...I felt so bad about this, but I think they'd understand how urgent it was that I find something to keep Alec from choking on his own coughs the way he was. So I knocked again. This time a little bit harder. Sean? Milo? It's...it's Taryn. I hate to bother you, but...I looked all around the house and I can't seem to find any medicine. Do you guys think you might have some cough drops or some cold meds hidden away somewhere?
I reached for the doorknob, and slowly turned it, opening the door just a crack so I could peek my head inside. Guys? Is it ok if I come in? I didn't hear anything. Not even the sound of heavy breathing. Guys?
I looked at the bed, and Sean and Milo were both laying there under the covers. Sean all snuggled up behind his bed mate, spooning him from behind. Hey must have been super hard sleepers to not hear my voice, or the knocking, or even Alec's constant 'barking' from the other room.
Hello? I said, raising my voice enough for them to hear me, but not enough to scare them out of a deep sleep. But still...no response. They didn't even fidget...or stretch...or roll over. So I opened the door all the way, and I carefully stepped inside. There were little piles of discarded clothes on the floor, some stuff on the dresser in front of their bedroom mirror to fix their hair and some spray cologne. Other than that, and a shared closet of clothes with the door wide open, their room seemed to be just as empty as the rest of the house.
I thought...maybe if I got close enough to touch one of their shoulders or something and gently shake them awake, they'd be able to help me. Maybe they were just drinking last night after Alec and I went to bed, and they're just passed out. Right? Maybe they're still intoxicated. It is pretty early after all.
Milo? I said, stepping closer to the bed. Sean? The closer I got to them, the more uneasy I felt. My brain wouldn't accept it, but the evidence was becoming undeniable. I saw how stiff they were. Their skin was so pale that it didn't look like their bodies contained any life at all. They didn't stir at all. Didn't react to my presence or my voice. A fearful chill crawled up my spine as I reached the side of the bed. Their eyes closed, mouths parted slightly, just laying there in each other's arms. Are...are you guys ok? I asked, my mind still trying to tell me it wasn't true. I took my shaky hand and gently shook Milo to see if I could get him to wake up.
That's when I lightly put the back of my hand against his cheek. He was ice cold. Nobody could be that cold and still be alive! Nobody!
My body was suddenly wracked with tremors, and I backed away from the bed, both hands covering my mouth. They were DEAD! Sean and Milo were both DEAD!!!
What happened??? What did I do??? Was it because of the rain last night? Was it hypothermia? Did they just...oh no! Oh God! OH GOD!!!
I've got to get out of here! I've got to get out of here NOW!!!
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