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Quarantined

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March 2020

Rose is in the kitchen making dinner when the home improvement show she had on for background noise is interrupted by breaking news. She comes out of the kitchen, her hands still covered in bits of cauliflower, to take a closer look. Even Mia, laying on the floor reading a book, sits up to pay attention.

“Lu!” Rose calls.

Luisa pokes her head out of her office. “Yes, dear?”

“Mama, the whole state’s being put into quarantine,” Mia says. “Come see!”

Luisa wraps an arm around Rose’s waist and leans her head on Rose’s shoulder.

“Are we gonna be okay?” Mia asks, craning her neck to stare up at them.

“Of course we are,” Luisa says, crouching to fondly push Mia’s bangs back from her forehead. “It’s what’s best for all of us.”

“It’ll be okay, kiddo. You’ll get to stay home from school. It’ll be like a family staycation.”

“Yeah, that’s what I’m worried about,” Mia says.

Luisa frowns. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well, Mommy and I will be fine. We’re introverts. But you love seeing your friends and chatting with the vendors at the farmer’s market. Are you gonna be okay?”

Luisa’s frown turns into a mock scowl. “Don’t you worry about me. I’ll be fine. I’ve spent years wanting a family and now I can spend all the time I want with you. This is a dream come true.” She hugs Mia tight.

Mia side-eyes Rose, who shakes her head slightly and smiles. When Luisa pulls back, Mia plasters on a wide smile.


The first week goes surprisingly well, all things considered. Luisa doesn’t get as much work done as she’d like, but it’s a small price to pay to spend all day taking calls in her pajamas with her feet up on the desk.

Rose is tempted to fall back into bad habits and work all day and night but Luisa keeps her on track. She’d trained her years ago to get up at five sharp.  All it had taken really was an ultimatum: “If you stop working at five, I’ll give you a kiss.” Obviously, it wasn’t perfect but within weeks, all Luisa had to say was, “It’s five,” and Rose would turn off her monitor and get up to kiss Luisa.

(“This is like being Pavlov’s dog,” Rose had once complained halfheartedly after her kiss.

Luisa patted her cheek. “It’s for your own good. You know you get so grumpy if you sit there all night.”

“I suppose,” Rose grumbled before she left to start dinner.)

Luisa is starting to feel the pinch of quarantine after the first few days but she video calls friends and family and is determined to look on the bright side of things.

 

“Oh no, I’m fine,” Luisa insists, before she shovels a spoonful of ice cream into her mouth.

Petra raises a skeptical eyebrow over Zoom.

“Don’t look at me like that. Really, I’m fine. I still have my job and I’m lucky enough to work at home and be with my family. None of us are sick and we have enough food and toilet paper at least for the next month. I really don’t have anything to complain about.”

“Be that as it may, there’s a global pandemic going on right now. You don’t have to be okay, you know.”

Luisa nods. “Which is what I’ve been telling all my clients. I know, Petra. You don’t have to worry about me.”

“Do you remember when you took that vow of silence because your shaman told you you had to learn to be fully present with your other senses?”

“Oh yeah!”

“Remind me again how long that lasted.”

“Ten hours, but that’s different! There were so many people at the hotel asking me questions, constantly. The hotel in general isn’t very conducive to being zen. A vow of silence and being quarantined are totally different.”

Petra shrugs. “I’m just saying, you don’t do well when you have a limit on something you can’t do.”

“Hey!”

“Am I wrong?”

“I’m not going to be one of those crazy people who bangs on the doors of the state senate demanding for the state to be reopened.”

“Well no, you’re reasonable, I’ll give you that, but just…don’t underestimate the situation, that’s all. And I know you have Rose and Mia, but like, don’t hesitate to reach out. Or don’t. Whatever.”

Luisa gasps in an exaggerated fashion. “Petra, you do care!”

“Don’t make it a thing.”

“I’m gonna give you a Zoom hug.”

“You get two seconds before I hang up.”


The second week is harder for Luisa. Rose and Mia are both fine. Rose spends eight hours madly clicking her mouse and barking orders through her phone and then stops working at five. Mia wanders in and out of her classes as she pleases, especially since her teachers had to rush to slap together an online curriculum at the last minute. Otherwise, they catch up on shows and read.

Luisa, however, finds that she’s getting listless. She can’t seem to focus on work for more than ten minutes before she has to get up and do something. She usually peeks in on Mia and/or Rose but they can only handle so many cut up carrots and celery. She tries to make smoothies but then she feels guilty for not working so she sits back down at her desk but she still can’t focus.

On Tuesday, she decides she’s going to deep clean the entire house.

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea, Lu,” Rose says cautiously.

“Why not?” Luisa asks, even though she’s already dragged an ancient steam cleaner out from some forgotten corner of the house.

“I feel that we’re going to half-ass it and then we’ll get distracted and leave it for like half a year. I forgot we even had a steam cleaner.”

“It’ll be fine. Might as well get something done during quarantine.”

“What’s that thing you keep telling your patients? You don’t need to feel guilty for not doing anything productive during quarantine?” Rose asks pointedly.

“Okay, but this will actually make me feel a lot better.”

Rose sighs. “If you say so.”

 

A few days later, Rose hears suspicious noises from the roof. “Luisa?” she says as she walks through the house. “Did raccoons nest in the attic again?”

But she realizes the rickety ladder leading up to the attic itself is folded down.

“Mia?” she calls.

“Yeah?”

“Just making sure it wasn’t you in the attic.”

“We have an attic?” Mia asks, appearing at Rose’s elbow.

“Yeah, we shoved a bunch of stuff up there before we got you. Stay here, don’t–”

But before she can finish her sentence, Mia’s already scaled the ladder and poked her head through the ceiling. “Hey, Mama. Whatcha doin?”

Rose sighs and climbs the ladder as well. She greets both of them with a sneeze. “Lu, is this really necessary?”

“I’m deep-cleaning everything.” She rubs her nose, leaving a smudge of dust. “Everything.”

“Oh cool! What’s this?” Mia asks, digging through a box.

Luisa scoots over. “Oh,” she sighs fondly. “You found our fake passports.” She flips through them. “Here’s your Susanna face. And your Eileen face! These were some good times.”

“Why did you need passports from Australia, Italy, and Panama? Isn’t one enough?”

Rose kneels next to her and starts to rifle through the box as well. “Hiding from Interpol is harder than it seems.” She stops suddenly. “Luisa, are these the love letters I wrote you?”

“Oh. Um, yeah,” Luisa says sheepishly.

“I told you to burn them, though.”

“Why?” Mia asks.

“So no one would read them and realize we were having an affair.”

“I think it’s romantic,” Mia says, unfolding one that’s yellowed with age. “This one starts with, ‘My angel, flung out of space.’ What does that mean?”

“It’s a line from a movie called Carol,” Rose says. “We’ll watch it when you’re older.”

“So you actually burned all my letters?” Luisa asks, feeling the old paper crinkle under her hands.

“Not exactly…”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“They’re tucked under the bottom drawer of my nightstand. I read them sometimes when you’re in the shower and I miss you.”

“Love letters are romantic. Whatever this is,” Mia says, gesturing between the two of them, “is just sappy and gross.”

"She’s right, you know,” Luisa says, smiling over at Rose. “You are such a huge sap.”

“Watch it. My guns are stashed somewhere up here,” Rose says.

“Where?” Mia jumps to her feet.

“That doesn’t make you any less of a sap.” Luisa shakes her head. “That just makes you American.”

 

By the end of the week, the house is spotless.

“Huh,” Rose says, putting her hands on her hips. “I’m sorry I doubted you.”

Luisa pats her on the cheek. “No worries since you did clean out the gutters, re-fence the garden, and finally fix the lawnmower.”

“Did you get rid of all that restlessness?”

“For now. In the meantime, wanna watch the next episode of Tiger King? I wanna see if they ever find any evidence that shady Carole Baskin killed her husband.”


Luisa’s motto during the third week is “treat yo self.” But apparently the line between depression and hedonism is finer than she realizes.

“Lu, are you okay?” Rose asks one day after Luisa’s done with a call.

“Of course, why wouldn’t I be?” Luisa’s bunny slipper-clad feet twitch on her desk.

“I love you no matter what, but I’m worried about you. Is the depression worsening?”

“What makes you say that?”

“You’ve been sleeping a lot more than usual, it seems like you can’t concentrate on anything, and you keep holding the cat’s face and asking him if he loves you.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that.” It comes off as more defensive than Luisa means.

“I guess not, but you have to admit it’s out of the ordinary for you.”

“Time isn’t real. Birth is a curse and existence is a prison.”

“Fair point. But really, is there anything I can do?”

Luisa is quiet for a while. “Will you, though? Will you still love me even though I’m disgusting and I’ve let myself go because I don’t put on deodorant or a bra since I haven’t left the house in three weeks?”

Rose sighs, leaving her chair to pull Luisa’s legs off her desk. Rose stands between her legs, holding her hands and leaning their foreheads together. “I will love you no matter how gross you get. I promised to love you for better or worse, in sickness and in health, til death do us part, and I meant every word with all of my heart.”

Luisa brightens. “In that case, there is one thing you can do for me.”

“Name it.”

“Four words: vegan milkshake drinking contest.”

 

The three of them sit at the breakfast nook, gargantuan milkshakes before each of them.

“Okay, everyone have their timer apps open? When you finish your milkshake, stop the timer.”

“Lu, why would you make us go through with this?” Rose asks, her face pained.

“First off, haven’t you ever wanted to see exactly how fast you can chug a milkshake?”

“Not particularly,” Rose says.

“Hell yes!” Mia shouts, banging her spoon on the table.

“Swear jar,” Luisa says.

“But Mamaaa, it’s not even a bad word. It’s in the Bible!”

“I’ll let it slide.”

“You know she’s going to appeal all her offenses now that you’ve let this one go,” Rose says.

“I’ll review it on a case-by-case basis. But anyway, no better time than being stuck inside forever to find out who’s the fastest chugger in this family.”

“Seriously, are you okay?” Rose asks.

“People need to stop asking me that. Ready to lose, nerds? On your mark, get set, go!”

Rose taps out after a quarter of her shake, sinking to the floor and moaning about a brain freeze.

Mia and Luisa are neck and neck for the rest of the race but Mia pulls ahead in the final thirty seconds. She slams her palm on her phone and jumps to her feet, dancing over Rose, who’s still on the floor.

“HA! TWO MINUTES AND TWENTY SECONDS. BEAT THAT!”

Luisa scowls. “You just got lucky. Best two out of three?”

“Please, no,” Rose mumbles.

 

Five milkshake races later (Luisa won best two out of three, but Mia won best three out of five, and Rose was in charge of making the milkshakes because she refused to participate anymore), Mia and Luisa are splayed out on the living room carpet, their stomachs puffy.

“Mommy, it hurts to breathe,” Mia whines, curling up on her side.

“Me too,” Luisa moans.

“I hope you two have learned your lesson about trying to out-drink each other,” Rose says briskly. “Come on, don’t lay down, either of you.”

When Mia doesn’t move, Rose lifts her up onto one of the couches, propping her against one of the arms.

“Me too,” Luisa says again, raising her arms to be carried.

Rose sighs but she bends to gather Luisa into her arms. “You’re lucky you’re cute,” she says, only grunting a little when she lifts her.

“I know.”

Rose fills up two hot water bottles and clucks when she hands them out. She notices Mia’s hair is sticking to her forehead. “Kiddo, you’re very warm.”

Mia just groans.

Rose comes back with a wet washcloth and sits on the edge of the couch to lay the washcloth on Mia’s forehead. Luisa can’t help the surge of affection that swells in her chest, watching Rose’s soft expression as she brushes back Mia’s hair. She doesn’t think she’ll ever try to drink five milkshakes within a twenty minute period again, but maybe this was worth it to witness this small tender moment.

Luisa and Mia lay in their milkshake-induced comas for the next few hours. Rose turns on She-Ra for some background noise as she makes dinner.

The two of them are feeling much better by dinnertime: portobello veggie burgers.

“Well, after that ordeal–” Luisa starts after they finish eating.

“That you brought upon yourself,” Rose adds.

“After that unfortunate and completely unexpected ordeal that literally no one could’ve see coming,” Luisa states again, “I have another idea.”

“Is it another milkshake race? Because you know I’ll beat you again,” Mia says.

Rose sighs. “Have neither of you learned your lesson?”

“As I was laying there, dying, through no fault of my own,” Luisa begins. Rose rolls her eyes. Mia giggles. “I realized that what we really need is some time for vital indulgence. How do you guys feel about a spa night?”

“Really?” Rose asks.

Luisa’s face falls. “Why? Do you think it’s a bad idea?”

“No,” she says, leaning over to press her lips against Luisa’s temple. “I think it’s a perfectly reasonable idea.”

“Good, because I found this recipe for a sugar scrub and I think it’s pretty amazing because it’s in all caps and littered with expletives.”

Rose nods. “That’s how you know it’s a good recipe.”

 

It’s still light outside but that doesn’t stop Luisa from digging out her vast collection of crystals and candles. She debates lighting incense as well but Rose vetoes that. “It’ll be too smoky and overpowering.”

Mia begs to light all the candles so Rose hands her one of the long grill lighters. As they watch Mia run around, flicking it on and off and laughing manically, they grin at each other. “She’s definitely ours, isn’t she?” Rose says.

“Yup. Hey, just out of curiosity, how’s our home insurance?”

Rose knows exactly what she’s thinking. “There’s definitely a clause that covers arson.”

“Oh good.”

“Look, this candle is named 'Girl, You Need to Calm the F down!’” Mia says.

“Ain’t that the truth,” Rose says.

Luisa sets up stations, so while someone’s finishing up the sugar scrub and enjoying a bath bomb in the tub (accompanied by more candles), there’s an open spot to apply a homemade matcha face mask, a seat for mani/pedis, and one for massages.

“Ah, that’s just what I needed,” Mia says when she exits the bathroom in a bathrobe accompanied by plumes of steam.

“What do you wanna do next?” Luisa asks, applying the last of the face mask.

“Can I have a massage?”

“Of course. Go sit backwards in that chair. I’ll be right there.”

Rose is squinting at her toenails, a bit of tongue poking from between her teeth. “How do they keep their hands so steady? It never looks that hard when I go to the nail salon.” She lifts her foot for them to see. There’s flecks of scarlet nail polish on her skin.

“Oh, let me know if you guys ever wanna go to a nail salon,” Luisa says. “One of my Vietnamese friends offered to tell us what they’re saying about us behind our backs.”

“Hmmm, I might take you up on that offer,” Rose says, staring glumly at her handiwork.

“Okay, baby, what kind of pressure are you looking for? Light, medium, or firm?” Luisa asks Mia, applying lotion to her hands.

“Extra firm, like the good tofu,” Mia mutters, resting her chin on the back of the chair.

As Luisa works the lotion into her shoulders, she frowns. “You weren’t kidding. You have some big knots back here.”

“Tell me about it. English is killing me.”

Luisa makes the appropriate sympathetic noises as Mia complains about her online classes.

 

On Thursday night, Luisa bursts into the office exactly at five. “What are you doing tonight?”

“I don’t know, make dinner, hang out with my girls, and go to bed early, just like every other night. Why do you ask?”

“We’re having a movie marathon!”

“What are we watching?”

“I was thinking Planet of the Apes. Only the reboot, though. I can’t take the actors in monkey suits seriously. And even with breaks, we should wrap up by eleven, for the geriatric among us.”

“Don’t make fun of me or I won’t participate at all.”

“You can’t!” Mia says, popping up under Luisa’s arm. “Mama says first one to fall asleep gets her face drawn on.”

“Would you disappoint our child like this?” Luisa asks, squishing Mia’s cheeks for good measure. “Give her the puppy dog eyes.”

And as Mia widens her eyes, Rose sighs. “Fine, fine.”

“Awesome!” Luisa claps her hands together once. It’s a bad habit she picked up from the other soccer moms to convey that she’s about to make an important announcement. “Everyone go to the bathroom now. There will be limited potty breaks available if we’re gonna wrap things up by eleven. I’m making sundaes.”

“I’ve got the Costco crack!” Mia says, scurrying toward the pantry.

“We’re out of it!” Rose calls.

“Nuh-uh! I found your secret stash behind the prunes!”

“Goddammit,” Rose mutters.

 

It isn’t until the end of the first movie that Rose becomes suspicious. “Did you pick these movies because most of the human population is wiped out by the simian flu?”

“No!” Luisa protests. But when Rose raises an eyebrow, she says, “Okay, well I was thinking about it. But this whole franchise has very strong themes about race and war. It encourages deeper thought.”

“Hmmm, when’s your next therapy appointment?”

“Tomorrow. I’ll bring it up, but I wish you wouldn’t worry so much. It’s not a terrible way of coping.”

“Shhh,” Mia says. “The second movie’s starting.”

To no one’s surprise, Rose is the first to fall asleep. She wakes up to “Mia hearts Mommy” and “World’s Sweetest Wife” written in permanent marker on her face.

Her Zoom meetings are interesting that day.


It seems like the thrill of hedonism wears off quickly, because during the fourth week, Luisa becomes an exercise nut.

“Look! I found this online program for yoga. I was gonna do it on the deck so we can wake up with the sun. Do you wanna do it with me?”

“Not really,” Rose mumbles. “Especially not at five in the morning.”

“All we’ve been doing is lazing about inside and eating junk food.”

“Whose idea was that?”

Luisa ignores that. “This quarantine is the perfect time to start healthy habits!”

“Nooo,” Rose moans.

“Just do five minutes with me and then you can crawl back into bed, okay?”

“Don’t wanna.”

“I’ll make dinner tonight if you do.”

There’s a reason Rose does most of the cooking, but there’s one thing Luisa cooks that makes Rose drool.

Rose yawns. “The roasted eggplant with the vegan yogurt sauce?”

“The roasted eggplant with the vegan yogurt sauce.”

As Rose shambles out to the deck, she sees Mia sitting at the counter rubbing her eyes. “She got you with the eggplant and the vegan yogurt sauce too, huh?”

Mia nods.

It’s not too bad, Rose thinks, as the ridiculously chipper woman on Luisa’s laptop walks them through very basic poses. It’s clear this is for total beginners. Rose does feel marginally better after the first video ends but not enough to warrant being awake at this ungodly hour.

“Have fun, Lu,” Rose says, kissing Luisa’s forehead as she tries some complicated maneuver. “I’m going back to bed.”

Mia gave up halfway through and decided to curl up on her mat. She’s already snoring softly. Rose picks her up and carries her back inside.

“Thanks for giving me five minutes, at least,” Luisa says. “I’ll find something we can do as a family.”

Rose waits until her back is to Luisa before she winces.

 

The next day, Luisa drags the bikes out of the back of the garage.

“You’re really feeling the effects of isolation, huh?” Rose asks, as she takes a sip of her tea.

“That has nothing to do with this,” Luisa pants as she pumps up the tires.

“We haven’t ridden those bikes in like two years.”

“We’ve been busy! Things got in the way.”

“You don’t have to pretend things are perfect, you know.”

“I know, I know. Hey Mia, can you see if this helmet still fits you?”

Ten minutes later, they’re riding down the neighborhood street. It’s a nice day, not too hot yet. They see a fair amount of people out and about, although everyone’s keeping the appropriate amount of distance away from each other.

After a loop around their neighborhood and the next one over, they decide to head back. It’s not a very long ride, maybe about a half hour but when they get home, Rose knows she’s going to be feeling the burn for the next day at least.

“That was nice, right?” Luisa asks, as she tries to shove her bike back in front of her car.

“Yeah. I didn’t realize how much I missed being outside,” Rose admits.

“Better than yoga, for sure,” Mia chimes in.

“Let’s aim for a few times a week,” Luisa says. “Nothing too intense. Just something to ground ourselves. My therapist said that was important.”

It actually becomes more or less a daily thing. It calms Luisa, and although both Rose and Mia were just fine being stuck inside, they can’t deny the bike rides don’t make them feel worse.


At the end of their fifth week in quarantine, Luisa scoots over to Rose’s desk at five. “Hey, wanna climb the roof?”

Rose grins. “I feel like owning the house takes away any illicit thrill that might evoke.”

“We’ll take Mia. Come on, it’ll be a clear night. I wanna show you something.”

“After dinner?”

“Mmhmm.”

“Okay.”

 

After dinner, Rose opens their bedroom window and shimmies up onto a little outcropping of the roof. Mia does a little hop and skip, making it just fine. Rose holds onto the edge of the roof and swings back, holding out a hand to Luisa. She hauls Luisa out and up onto the roof.

“Okay, what are we looking for?” Rose asks.

Luisa unhooks a basket from the crook of her elbow and pulls out a blanket that she spreads it out on a relatively flat part of the roof. She also unpacks a bottle of sparkling juice and plastic champagne flutes. “Come sit down. We’re gonna watch the sunset and maybe stargaze a little, depends on if it stays warm.”

They talk about what’s going on at school and work, and trade jokes.

“Oh, I made a playlist for tonight,” Rose says, pulling her phone out of her pocket.

“For what?”

“It’s called 'Used to steal your parents’ liquor and climb to the roof.’ I figured it was appropriate.”

“You named it after a Katy Perry lyric?”

“It’s a good song!”

“Weren’t you working all day today? When did you have time to make a playlist?” Mia asks.

“I wasn’t that busy today.”

“You’re always busy,” Luisa says.

“Okay, I skipped my lunch break to make you a playlist. It’s all songs about mildly illegal activities, but this isn’t even illegal since it’s our own house.”

Luisa laughs as a Kanye song starts to play. “You have the worst taste in music.”

“Shhh, just listen and enjoy the sunset,” Rose says, but she’s smiling too.

They’re quiet for a while as the sky turns dusky shades of orange and pink.

“You know,” Luisa says, “this whole situation still sucks, but these little moments with the two of you make me feel so much better.”

“Love you too, Mama,” Mia says.

“I guess you guys are alright to be quarantined with,” Rose says.

Luisa rolls her eyes.

They sip their sparkling wine as the first stars start to appear.