They don't teach this at school...

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I finish sharpening the knives sometime around midday and stretch my legs out in front of me, momentarily basking in the spring sun. Knowing that I need to relieve Joe, I stand up to get the blood flowing back into my legs. I hate pins and needles. The yarrow seemed to work, but only temporarily. Joe said that Tommy even had a little colour back in his face, but after forty-five minutes, the colour quickly faded, and he started puking uncontrollably again.

Before I can get inside, Joe joins me out on the porch. "Can you look after Tommy for a while?"

I nod solemnly. "Why don't we try getting him in the bath? It will probably help the pain."

Joe shakes his head with dismay. "Every time I have tried getting him out of bed, he screams the house down. Figured he was better off where he was."

Feeling a little desperate, I say, "If I heat the water for the bath now, we can wait until he's passed out asleep and then just carry him in there. I'm sure he can't be comfortable as he is."

Joe has a thoughtful expression on his face as he rubs his brow, looking weary. He looks over his shoulder, calculating my offer. "You get the fire cooking, and I'll go check on him."

I quickly go outside to the back of the house and grab a few logs from our store pile. While the fire begins to roar, I fill up five metal canisters of water from the tank and hang them over the burning embers to boil. Five canisters of water for a bath is considered a luxury; after all, water is rationed as with everything in Merope. I can't even remember the last time I had a steaming hot bath; most folks have a lukewarm wash at best.

As soon as I see the little bubbles begin to dance and pop in the canisters, I grab Joe's iron casting mitts and run the water inside. I dash in and out the house, being careful not to slop any precious water on the way. Joe opens the bedroom door and nods his head at me; Tommy must be sound asleep. I follow him out into the dim, stagnant room that is Tommy's bedroom. The curtains are drawn, giving the room a gloomy, dank appearance. I nervously step over the threshold as the stale smell of vomit and sweat hits the back of my throat, making my eyes water.

In the corner of the room, Tommy is curled up asleep with his sheets tangled around him. Joe slowly approaches the bed and tentatively pulls back the covers, exposing a now tiny Tommy so wet with perspiration that his pyjamas are stuck to his skin, and his hair is glued to his face. I stifle a sob at the sight of him; he's even worse than yesterday. I notice that as he sleeps, his breaths are slow and laboured, a new worrying symptom that he's developed overnight. Joe looks to me for reassurance, but I stand there rooted to the spot, so appalled by Tommy's appearance that I am unable to do anything.

Not wasting any more time, Joe reaches beneath Tommy and pushes his hands underneath his bony frame. He stirs uneasily, almost flinching from his touch. In one swift motion, Joe lifts him from his spoiled bed, holding him close to his body. Tommy's eyes fling open, as lets out an ear-piercing shriek. His face distorts as he claws at Joe, desperate to be released. I quickly open the door, making way for Joe to go through to the bathroom.

He strides out, struggling to hold onto Tommy as he thrashes erratically in his arms. Tommy is fighting so much that Joe nearly drops him straight into the bath. As soon as his body hits the water, something strange happens; he stops thrashing his limbs and lays there in a catatonic state, staring at the ceiling, unblinking. I stand there too stunned to move as Joe lunges forward and reflexively feels for a pulse in his neck.

Joe bows his head and exhales loudly. "He's still breathing."

I sigh with relief, completely shocked by what happened. For a heart breaking moment, I thought Tommy had actually turned. Uncertain of how much more of this I could take, I sit on the floor and rest my back against the wall. Completely resigned, Joe joins me and kneels beside the bath, wets a sponge in the warm water and gently squeezes it over Tommy's hair.

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