Short Story Sunday: Payment

The pandemic was more or less over, or so they said. They of course were the voices that floated around in the press.

She’d done well. She never got Covid. She was careful. Now she couldn’t breath. It was a flu. Not the one she got a shot for but another one.

Now she couldn’t breathe. It was as if a large hairball or worse a grease ball had caught in the base of her throat and even a nice glass of red wine, or a hot cup of tea with lemon could cut through it.

Dare she ask for help?

If she did ask for help what kind of payment, if any, would he want?

Not money. That would be crass and uncomfortable. A good bottle of wine? Tickets to the Philharmonic? A trip to Costco? A Royal Deluxe typewriter from the 1950’s? Her soul?

After bundling up against the cold night air, she put a bottle of wine in her bag, locked the door, and walked three houses over. She stopped briefly at the bottom of the stairs and looked up at the front door. It was painted dark green. On each side were pots full of succulent plants covered up by sheets to protect them from the early morning frost. The front porch light was on, and she could see a light inside, as if he was expecting her. Or maybe he was expecting someone else. Maybe he already had company. Maybe he wasn’t home and had just left the lights on.

Then the door opened. There he was.

“Hey. What are you doing out in the cold? Come in.”

She gave a shy smile and followed him inside.

His appearance surprised her. Usually immaculately dressed, even when he was casual, tonight he wore drawstring plaid flannel pajama pants and a black sweatshirt.

Putting her arm over her mouth she coughed. “I should go. I’m sick.”

“You’re here because you’re sick,” he said.

“I shouldn’t take advantage of you like this.”

“We’re friends. That is what friends do. We help each other out.”

“But…”

“We all have our skills. We all have our talents. Why let them go to waste? Right? Come sit down.”

She sat in a comfortable leather wingback chair. He put his cool hands gently on her neck.

“Just close your eyes”. His hands grew warm from the warmth of her body.

“I can breathe,” she said. “I feel normal again. How do you do that?”

“Everyone like me can do that if we want to. We’re healers. Some more than others, but it is one of our skills.”

She looked into his hazel brown eyes. There was something there. Something she couldn’t describe. Then he kissed her on her mouth, then his cool lips moved to her neck.

Later they had a glass of wine and sat together on the couch in front of a fire.

“Will I…?”

“No,” he said. “It doesn’t work that way.”

“This is perfect. I have class on Monday and I won’t have to subject my students to my coughing or a Zoom class. I can actually be in the classroom. Thank you so much.”

“No problem. My pleasure.”

“Can I do anything for you?”

“Continue being my friend. Continue to come over for long interesting talks until the sun comes up. Continue going to museums with me, and sharing books, and laughing at my bad jokes.”

Early Sunday morning she walked back home a few minutes before sunrise. She thought about it was good to have friends who were different. That was something she always talked about with her students. We can only know ourselves by knowing those who are not like us, and even celebrating those differences. When we learn from each other, we learn more about ourselves.

It was simple advice that everyone knew but needed to be told again from time to time.

She’d have the students discuss their own experiences, and she’d tell them some of hers.

Of course she’d never tell anyone about her one friend, who lived only three doors down. One learns a lot when you have a Vampire for a friend, but one thing you learn is to never tell anyone just how different you are.

~ end

3 comments

    1. Thank you so much. This one just came over a half cup of coffee that was gradually getting colder and colder. You’ve always been one of my treasured supporters. You and Aurora Jean were my first two followers way back in 2012. xoxo

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