It was late in the afternoon, and Rose was making coffee in the office above the pub. In her back, the boys were arguing about something. When put together, Des and Jake were worse than two kids. Two very noisy, somewhat violent adolescents.
She was about to turn around and tell them to settle down, when a sound stopped her; Jake coughed again, an strangled sound, like a dog choking on a bone.
“What did he eat?” Rose demanded, suddenly very serious.
“He stole my cookie,” said Des, pouting like the child he was.
“Were there nuts in it?”
“I don’t know, I think. Maybe. Why?” The panic ebbing from Rose seemed to transfer to Des, who was starting to sweat.
Jake suddenly managed to look very pissed and very afraid at the same time, quite a funny sight, despite the situation.
“He’s allergic,” Rose explained, trying not to panic. There was no time to panic, she had to act, and quick. “Call an ambulance.”
“What?” Des looked utterly confused, watching Jake’s reddening face with a morbid fascination.
“Now!” she screamed.
She grabbed Jake before he tripped over his own feet, and helped him sit down on the couch.
“Deep breaths,” she told him, quite uselessly. Jake was starting to swell, his face puffy and red.
Rose could hear Des on the phone, shrieking panicky bits of information, hopefully to a 911 operator. They’ll have to call Mal later. Right now, Jake needed his injection; his lips were slightly blue now, and he was shaking on the couch, his eyes half closed.
“Where is the kit, Jake? I can’t find it.”
But Jake couldn’t answer, not anymore. Still, he raised a shaky hand and pointed at the kitchen. Go figure.
Rose started rummaging through pots and pans. There, between tin cans and macaroni, a small white box with a red cross on it.
“They said they’re coming. They’re coming, Rose.” Des was babbling in her back.
With a silent prayer, she opened the box, which had been furnished, fortunately. She took the epipen out, and went back to the couch.
Poor Des was hovering next to Jake, looking nearly as distraught and out of breath as him.
“Des, listen to me”, said Rose. “I need you to stop panicking. Come here and take Jake’s hand, would you?”
“What? Are you sure ? I don’t want to...”
But he fell to his knees and grabbed Jake’s hand anyway.
“It’s going to sting a bit.” She winced.
“I really don’t like needles,” Des mumbled, unhelpfully.
Jake made a gargling sound, and if he could speak, he would have bitched about how it wasn’t a little sting, and how it hurt like a bitch, even after four or five times now, and...
Rose made a face, uncapped the pen and jabbed Jake’s thigh with it. His eyes shot open, and Des screamed, his fingers crushed in Jake’s grip.
“Ow ow, let me go, ow. I’m sorry,” Des cried.
With his other hand, Jake tried to pushed Rose off. His movements were uncoordinated at best, and he was still wheezing badly.
“Shh, you’re okay, Jake. Don’t fight it,” said Rose, making sure the pen stayed in place a little longer.
“Please, don’t break my hand,” Des sobbed.
Then Jake started breathing again, and next thing they knew, two medics were at the door of the office.
“Mal? Don’t freak out, but...”
“What? What’s wrong? Is Tinny okay?” Annoyed and fearful. Not a good combination for someone with heart problems.
“Oh God. We didn’t tell Tinny.” Des was still freaking out in the background.
“Tell her what? What’s going on, Rose?”
“Jake had... He had an encounter with nuts.”
“I’ll meet you there.”
They had been ushered in the waiting room what felt like ages ago. Des was cradling his “injured” arm and muttering to himself while pacing the room.
“Oh God. Jake is going to kill me. Oh, no. Mal is going to kill me first. I need a new identity. I... Maybe I could hide on a boat, sail to Europe. What will I tell Tinny...? Could you tell her I’m—“
“Des, quiet. Sit down, you’re making my head spin,” Rose said, tired. “No one will kill anyone.”
“Maybe I could go live in Quebec...”
Malachy’s worry for his son hardly ever shown, but it was there, Rose could feel it. Mal was tensed and silent, focused on the door rather than on what the doctor was saying. He had heard the same words at least five times since Jake was born.
He would be fine, as always. The kid just really need to stay away from nut-related food products.
Jake was a sorry sight. He was white as the sheets of his hospital bed, with red welts on his neck, disappearing beneath the pale green blouse. Anaphylactic shock was the only thing that could make him that miserable.
No bailing out against medical advice that time, and Mal sighed in relief at the thought. One or two days, and he would be as good as rain again, running head first into danger.
Despite Des’s fears, Jake didn’t try to strangle him when put in the same room. In fact Jake seemed quite happy to have the younger man with him. Hospital always bored him out of his mind, and Des made a good distraction.
“I thought...” Jake coughed, his voice still raspy from nearly choking to death, “... you said you were deadly allergic to nuts or whatever. How come you were so freaked out, earlier?”
“You remember that?”
“Bits and pieces, yeah. So?”
“I thought you were going to die. I mean you were blue in the face and...”
“But you said...”
“Last time I... had nuts by mistake,” Des began, uneasy, “they made my tongue all swollen and my mouth tingly. I don’t even carry an epipen, my doctor won’t let me have it. I didn’t know it was that bad.”
Jake stayed silent for a while.
“We’ve all learn one important lesson today,” Des suddenly said, very serious.
“We've learned that you shouldn't steal someone else's food,” Des carried on with a smirk.
“I’ve learned that you may be trying to kill me.”
“What? No. I wouldn't, not like that. I mean not that I would try other ways—“
Sometimes, Des reminded Jake of a kicked puppy who was really eager to please nonetheless.