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Sick Day

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Venus squeaks out a little sound of concern as she slowly, carefully pulls the RV into one of the parking spaces at the edge of the lot. Once she’s satisfied with her alignment, she breathes a long sigh of relief and looks toward the back seats, checking on you. She was already keeping a few eyes on you, but you how she liked to have all her attention in one place.

 

“Are you feeling any better, Neptune?” She asks, her voice light and shy.

 

You force out an overdramatic cough. “No Venus, I’m dying. This is it for me. Tell my girlfriends I love them.” You smirk and keep your tone as dry as possible.

 

Venus pouts, puffing out her cheeks. “I’m serious, y’know, I’m worried about you…”

 

You laugh, just a little. “I know, you big dork. But I’m fine.” You shift a little, positioned across the backseats, laying with a blanket over your body, not enough to keep you from shivering a bit through the cold of your sickness, but plenty comfortable. You’re pretty sure it’s just a run-of-the-mill cold, but who’s going to turn up an opportunity to be pampered by their girlfriends? Certainly not you.

 

Your other girlfriend is currently holding your left hand in one of hers, and patting Venus reassuringly with another, one more on the car door, and yet another pulling the blanket up around you. She spawns one more and holds its palm against your forehead, and you roll your eyes. “Your temperature is still a little over normal, but um, I think it’s probably okay,” she mumbles, and then shrugs. “I’m not like, super sure though.”

 

You can’t help but genuinely chuckle at that. “Very reassuring, thank you Doctor Jupiter.” You roll over onto your side, just a little irritated that you can’t give either of them a peck on the cheek as they leave. “Anyway, be back quick. It gets boring in here.” You grab your phone from the side port where it was charging, absently scrolling back and forth on the Home Screen.

 

Venus and Jupiter quickly scurry out of the van and into the convenience store, and you nestle deeper into your covers as you scroll through your old photos. You’ve deleted a lot of them to make room for new memories, pictures of you and your girlfriends driving together, standing by various landmarks you passed, or at a diner together. You love those pictures, but your mind is fixated on the few from before that summer.

 

You settle on one picture, you in a long dress with your mother and father, preparing you for your first day at church choir. You always hated that long, stiff, uncomfortable dress, almost as much as you hated singing for an audience of stiff old couples with scowling expressions, who would mumble about how you never smiled enough.

 

Something in your brain just connected, suddenly, in your hazy mind. You remembered how this phone was given to you by your parents, almost like a bribe, almost like a threat. Your parents would yell and scream and berate you, but hey, you got a nice phone, didn’t you? Show some appreciation. No one would believe that a girl who got such nice things was a victim.

 

It’s only a few minutes before your girlfriends return. Jupiter is carrying two bags on each arm, filled with snacks and supplies, while Venus cradles a small container in her hands, smiling just a little, in that subtle and beautiful way. And your irritation at that memory almost melts away.

 

What a baffling and awful world, you think, that can produce cruel people like your parents, like their parents, and yet all that cruelty and pressure can’t break their kindness. They never gave up, never dared to stop trying their very hardest. It makes you feel a little distant from them, sometimes. You’re the one who couldn’t take the pressure of being good, you’re the one who gave up.

 

But you remember what they always tell you when you feel that way. They wouldn’t be here, now, if it wasn’t for you. So maybe being bad isn’t too bad after all. You’re all devils now, after all.

 

You smile a little as Venus slides open the side door while Jupiter goes around to the trunk. “What’s with that?” you say, pointing to the cup in her hands with a smile.

 

“Oh, um…” Venus blushes, and the light that emanates from her shifts its tone a bit, and it’s beautiful, a shade of pinkish-red. “I just thought, like, that soup is supposed to help when you’re sick, right, so I got you some… it might be kind of silly, but Jupiter said it was a good idea too.”

 

And you can’t stop yourself from smiling more. “I’m sure she did,” you say, holding out your hands to take it from her. “She’s just as much of a dork as you.”

 

You cup the small, cheap, awful little container of soup in your hands. It’s barely warm, and knowing the setup at places like this from your old summer job, you’re very certain that it’s been sitting out all day. At the same time, it’s a considerate gift from one of the first people who’s ever thought about you in kindness. Someone who wanted to go out of their way to make you happy, and to bring you joy. A small thought, but an earnest one. A gift so much more honest than any of your parents’ bribes.

 

You pry off the plastic top, and take the cheap plastic spoon that Jupiter fishes out of one of the bags for you. You dig in, and just as you expected, it tastes awful. It’s lukewarm, and there’s almost no broth to contain the vegetables.

 

“How does it taste…?” Venus offers, a shy and clearly embarrassed expression, almost ashamed.

 

You reach over and rustle her hair with one hand. “It’s delicious,” you say with a gentle smile. “I feel better already.”