Pandemic School Part 4

The worst has happened – Maddie finds out that Constance’s brother has tested positive for COVID-19.

“Mom! What do you mean that something’s happened to Caleb? Is he okay?”

Constance’s older brother, Caleb, was a senior this year. He was cute and funny and athletic. Maybe I kinda had a crush on him. And now, something had happened? My mom had turned around to walk back into the kitchen, but my words stopped her. Her knuckles turned white as she gripped the door frame. When she faced me, I sucked in a quick breath. Tears glistened in her eyes. I felt fear tighten around my chest, making it hard to take a deep breath. My mom rarely cried. The last time was three years ago, when her father died.

“What is it?” I gasped.

“Mrs. Wallows called to ask us to pray. Caleb went to get a COVID test yesterday. They just found out – it was positive.”

Stunned, I just stared at her. Maybe I had misheard?

“He has been feeling horrible – difficulty breathing, collapsed in bed. She is terrified. She knows Connie has been exposed.”

“But…how?” I managed, “They have been so careful?”

“I know, sweetheart, I know. But Caleb has not been careful.” My mom came to sit down heavily on the edge of my bed. I just sat motionless in my desk chair, staring blankly at my history assignment on the screen in front of me. She continued,

“I guess, maybe, he thought he wouldn’t get it. Or it wouldn’t be that bad? Or maybe he thought it was all a big hoax?”

“How could he do this?” I murmured, “This mistake could kill his sister…could kill my friend.”

Suddenly, right there, with my mom perched on my bed and my schoolwork staring at me incomplete, I succumbed to a rip tide of anger, sadness, despair, loneliness, and fear. Was this what drowning felt like? Being dragged below the surface, only to crest and gasp for air, before being flung farther and deeper, over again. Fighting at first, only to fall into a resigned sleep. If so, I longed for the tide to carry me out to sea and put me to sleep. I had lost my freedom, my future, my friends. Please not my best friend.

Those last, gasped words were a prayer. That prayer saved me from drowning in despair.

Through my tears and shaking sobs, my mom held me in a firm, comforting embrace. My hair and head felt wet from her tears. We sat wrapped together and sobbed. Our hearts were broken, just like this broken world full of selfishness, fear, disease, and hate. Just like my friend’s broken immune system and broken lungs. Just like her family’s broken relationships.

“Mom,” I finally stuttered, “what happens now? Will Connie get COVID?”

“I don’t know, Maddie bug,” her voice was weak and whispered, “Probably so.”

That evening, we received the panicked phone call from Mrs. Wallows. Connie had been admitted to our local ER. She had a temperature of 103 and could not breathe. This pandemic has left us all breathless.

Copyright © Heather C. Morris 2020

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