37: Cough

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Autumn sits in science, tapping her pencil against the desk. She stares blankly at her paper, trying hopelessly to decipher the formulas and elements printed on it. 

She coughs. 

Not again...

Her eyes start to water, and she can feel her airpipe swelling. She stumbles out of her chair and goes to the teacher. 

"Nurse," she croaks, coughing. 

He nods, and she runs, coughing the whole way. She stops to catch her breath and walks the rest of the way. 

The nurse insists she take her temperature, since Autumn can't stop coughing long enough to tell her she already knows what the problem is. 

"You do have a fever," the nurse announces in a way that makes Autumn think she only said it to sound official. "We'll have to send you home."

Autumn coughs.

She coughs and wheezes until her breathing becomes more even. Her coughs are less intense. 

She stands, takes a breath, and thanks the nurse. She walks home. 

She lies on her bed for a few minutes, then decides the right thing to do is call the doctor, who has left three more messages. If nothing else, it's to give him some piece of mind. 

He picks up on the first ring. 

"Jenna! Where have you been? How's Autumn? Need an appointment? Feeling okay yourself?" he demands, relief flooding every word he says. 

"This is Autumn," she says uncomfortably, never having liked talking on the phone. "I can't stop coughing. Should I come over?"

"Of course! We'll check up on it! Come on in as soon as you can!" He pauses. "How's your mother, by the way? Is she doing alright?"

"She's fine," she lies. She isn't sure why, but she feels that he shouldn't know she's alone. The lie just slips out, and she can't take it back. "She's at work. I got sent home early because I had a fever." She decided he deserved at least a little bit of truth. 

"Ah, yes, that is a symptom. Why don't you drive on over - you're sixteen, right? - and we'll perform an exam."


She hangs up and starts her mother's car; its first time being used since she left. 

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