PANDEMIC

Chapter 8

Jessica

Jessica had feared that Brooke’s father wouldn’t make it, that it was inevitable he would die, but she’d held out hope nonetheless. Now, that hope was gone. She stood from the love seat and went to Kayla, wrapping her arms around her as Kayla sobbed.

“Brooke’s an orphan,” Kayla moaned. “An actual orphan. Her mom and dad are dead. We’re all gonna die!” The hysteria in her voice rose with each sentence and all Jessica could do was hold her and murmur that everything would be all right.

“No it won’t,” Kayla said as she pushed Jessica away. “Nothing will ever be all right. Not anymore.”

Kayla was completely right. Jessica didn’t see any point in arguing against what they all knew to be true. All she could do was stay by Kayla’s side with her arm around her shoulder.

“I don’t want to talk anymore,” Kayla whispered.

“I think we’ve done enough talking for one night,” Matt said, much to Jessica’s relief.

They put on a favorite movie, a comedy from years past, but there was very little laughter as the four of them stared at the TV.

The movie seemed so pointless. People were dying. How could they sit there watching such an inane show?

Holding back a sigh, Jessica excused herself and went into her bedroom and called her mother.

“Hi, honey,” her mom said, her voice sounding less cheerful than it had when she’d spoken to her last. In fact, it sounded like it was well on the way to how Rochelle’s voice had sounded.

“How are you?”

“Not good, baby.”

Tense with worry, Jessica asked, “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know. Earlier today I started to feel unwell. Scratchy throat, aches and pains. That kind of thing.”

Dread spiked within her. “Do you have a fever?”

“I don’t think so. I mean, I’ve been so chilled.”

Jessica thought of both of Brooke’s parents dying, of Rochelle being sick and now not answering her phone, of the fatality rate skyrocketing to ninety-five percent. Tears flooded her eyes and a sob leapt up her throat.

“It’s okay, baby,” her mom said. “I’m sure I’ll be just fine.”

Had her mom not seen the news, or was she trying to placate her? Either way, the thought of losing her mom tore her apart.

“Jessica? Are you there?”

“Yes,” she croaked out.

“Oh, sweetheart. Don’t cry. I’ll see you in a few days and we’ll have a great time.”

Jessica didn’t have the heart to tell her mom that there was no way she would get on an airplane, trapped in a metal tube with recirculated air and potentially sick people. Besides, she knew the chance that her mother would survive was extremely low. Especially with how weak the cancer had made her. “I love you, Mom.”

“I know, sweet girl. I love you too. I always have.” Her mom sniffled. “You’re my heart.”

Her mom knew she was going to die.

A fresh sob welled up inside Jessica.

She needed to get herself under control, needed to take this time to talk to her mom.

Breathing deeply, she gathered her emotions. “Tell me about that quilt you’ve been working on. The one you sent me a picture of.”

“The one with the flowers?”

Jessica nodded, overcome with emotion once again. “Yes,” she whispered.

“Oh, it’s coming along beautifully.”

Jessica listened as her mother spoke, soaking up every word, every syllable, listening to her mom talk until she said, “You know, honey, I’m feeling really tired. I’m going to bed now. Let’s…let’s talk in the morning.”

Knowing full well that by morning her mom would most likely be dead, for a moment Jessica couldn’t catch her breath. It felt as if a band had wrapped around her chest and was compressing, compressing, compressing.

“Good night, my love,” her mom said, sounding exhausted.

Rallying, Jessica said, “Good night, Mom. I love you.”

“I love you too. Sleep well.”

With that, all was silent. Her mom had disconnected the call. That was when Jessica let the sobs overtake her, bathing her face in tears.