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Jamilah's Illness


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Hi guys...so this is a little piece of a much bigger writing project I did awhile back. If you like it/are interested, I can post more of it :) This first part is just the begginings of illness/some hurt and comfort stuff :) 

Characters: Jamilah ~ black hair, green eyes, quite underweight. Aged 19 or so. Just recovered from a bout of bacterial meningitis (AKA a bit immuno-compromised). The story is told from her perspective.

Connor ~ sandy brown/blonde hair, blue eyes, tallish, thin and wiry. Same age as Jamilah. 

The two have been dating for quite some time. Hope you enjoy! :) 



"Oh, Connor, look!” I exclaim, grinning. The flakes are coming down fast and hard now, weaving their way in and out of the bare trees. Some still have a few of their leaves, but clearly winter is here and fall is over. 

“I love snow,” I say, somewhat dreamily, as I watch.

“Dance with me,” Connor murmurs suddenly, urgently. While surprised, I consent.

“Okay.” I take his hand, but keep mine in my sleeve, not wanting to ruin the moment with how cold I am.

With his eyes deep in my own, he rests his forehead against mine and we sway back and forth, pressed together. The snow in his hair and the glitter of his turquoise-y, aquamarine eyes and the feel of him so tight to me is making my heart explode with love and desire. 

We spin and we dance in silence, just being in each other’s presence and watching the snow fall harder and the light fade in the background. At one point, though, my hand escapes my sweatshirt.

But this time, its icy temperature matches his.

“C’mon, we need to go inside,” I order. “You’re just as cold as I am. Are you okay?”

“Yeah. Let’s go.” He holds my hand and we speed-walk out of the woods. I should be watching for roots and things so I don’t trip, but I can’t take my eyes off of his face.

He said he was fine, but I’m not sure I believe it. He’s never this cold, and his face looks a little pale.

“Hey,” I say, squeezing his hand. “I’m worried about you. You don’t look okay.” I shiver as the wind cuts through my chest, but I don’t take my gaze off of him.

His eyes are very gentle and loving when they meet mine, and he squeezes my hand back. “I’m tired. And cold. And hungry. But, honestly, I’m okay. Thank you though, sweetheart.” He kisses the top of my head, but concern and fear fill his eyes when he sees how I’m trembling. “Let’s get you inside.” He drops my hand and puts his arm around my waist. “You’re the thin, small one with the serious chance of coming down with meningitis again.” Shuddering at the idea, he propels me forward faster as we reach the edge of the woods.

    *        *        *        *        *

We spend our Saturday night wrapped up in blankets, huddled close to each other on the queen-sized bed in my room. Today was amazing, but I honestly don’t feel that good at all. I’ve been watching Connor, trying to tell if he’s truly okay, and he seems to be. The cold-hands thing scared me for a minute, but I guess it didn’t affect him too badly. Unlike me.

We lay there together, listening to each other’s breathing. I have my back pressed up against him, and his arm is draped over my side and stomach. I know I should tell him how bad I feel. It’s just so hard for me to let someone in like that. My feelings and emotions have always been a part of the great array I keep strictly under lock-and-key, guarded deep down so that I only suffer on the inside. So that my weaknesses can never, ever be used against me. I don’t know why, exactly, but I do know I spent nineteen years doing it and old habits die hard.

I shut my eyes to the darkness and force myself to whisper, “Connor?”

“Yeah?” he murmurs back.

“I...I don’t feel so great.” The words feel like they’re burning me as they come out, and Connor’s reaction to them is immediate. I feel his body stiffen and I can sense that suddenly he is wide, wide awake.

“What’s wrong?” He’s up on one elbow, his arm off of me.

“I don’t know...my head hurts...my throat hurts...” I keep facing away from him, speaking haltingly. 

“Like how?” he prods. “As in, strep throat?”

“No...as in, aching throat.” I’m flaming with embarrassment and fully regretting my decision to say anything at all. I must sound like the most pathetic person on the planet. 

“I’m afraid I’m not familiar with that illness.” He attempts to tease me, and I attempt to laugh, but it hurts so much the sound fades to a sigh. I know I might as well confess the last thing.

“And it’s gotten a little harder to breathe...” 

“Don’t tell me. Your chest is starting to get congested, right?”

I sigh again. “Right.”

“Knew it. That wind...you’ll have a cough or a cold tomorrow. We’ll have to be careful it doesn’t turn into pneumonia.” He runs his hand gently over my forehead, brushing my hair back and checking my temperature. “No fever yet, though.”

I don’t even know what to say. This is horrible. But, truthfully, it also feels amazing to have him care. That combination of emotions kind of really makes me want to curl into a ball and die.

He must be able to tell, because next he adds, “It’s okay. Thanks for letting me know, for once. That you’re not fine.” He kisses my cheek, but he doesn’t lay back down; instead, he hovers just above me.

“Love you,” I murmur, starting to check out. Sleep is the easiest way to escape this situation, and I’m exhausted.

“Love you too,” he whispers now, and just before I drift off, I feel him pull the blankets even tighter around me.

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Wow. This is terrible, but I completely forgot that I posted this! Thank you for your sweet comments!!! Here’s part two~


The next morning, I wake up choking, scaring Connor half to death, and I’m sick for what feels like forever. It seems as if I get steadily worse: eventually, every breath I take results in my coughing so hard my whole frame shakes. I sleep most of the day and all night too, usually seeing Connor only sparingly. I don’t like him seeing me this way, anyhow.

But then one day, I wake up and Connor is still here, upright, watching me closely. I drag myself up off the pillows, which makes my head rush and spin. I’ve been laying down for too long.

“Is it Saturday?” I croak, fighting back a cough.

“No, but you are going to the doctor today,” he replies, his piercing blue eyes trained on me.

I breathe in too fast, and my lungs explode in a hacking fit that feels like it’s pulling a razor through my throat. I keep my face turned away and close my eyes briefly. I can’t stand him seeing me ill.

“Please,” I whisper, “go away. Go to school. I hate you being around me when I’m so disgusting.” I am so humiliated and feel so terrible that tears start to pool in my eyes, and I want to cry so badly, but I know that if I start I won’t be able to breathe...

“You will never in a million years be ‘disgusting’ to me,” he responds. “I’m just so worried about you...that cough is deep.” His hand gently strokes my hair and his voice grows even more concerned and my tears spill over then and I’m just sitting there, sobbing silently because I’m too tired to do anything else and my throat and chest and head hurt.


I don’t answer and I don’t look at him; I just keep facing the other direction with my hair draped over my shoulder like a curtain between us.

He reaches out and gently flips my hair back, sees that I’m crying, and pulls me into his arms. I press my left hand hard against my mouth so that no sound can escape, but when he’s holding me, I really start to weep—my shoulders are shaking and my breath is coming in heaves that hitch as I suppress a cough. He’s rocking me back and forth, back and forth, but I’m all worked up from the pain and embarrassment and a muffled wail escapes through my hand and then I’m coughing—choking—until I run out of air and then I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.

“Easy. Easy,” Connor murmurs, and when I get control over my lungs and pull away enough to look him in the eyes, his expression is scared and intensely worried.

“I’m sorry,” I half-whisper, half-mouth, dying inside.

“I didn’t know you’re that sick,” Connor replies, agonized. “C’mon, you’re going to a doctor now.” He jumps out of bed, but I’m too weak. I can’t even swing my legs over, hardly, let alone stand.

“Connor,” I whisper. “I can’t.” The horror on my face is reflected onto his when he sees what I mean.

His eyes are going crazy with worry. “That’s okay. Sit there.” He rifles through my dresser, grabbing three shirts, a sweater, sweatpants and thick socks. He races over to me and helps me put everything on, not even bothering to take my pajamas off.

“I’ll be right back.” He meets my gaze briefly before he goes flying downstairs. I hear doors open and close; pots clang. In the sudden moment alone, my nose begins itching and I let out a harsh, wet sneeze, wincing when it sets off another coughing spasm. By the time I finally get it under control he returns, throwing on the sweatshirt and jeans he wore yesterday.

“Connor, take it easy,” I plead. “No rush.” But even as I say so, my nose protests. “HIIITCHOOOO!” I break into another coughing fit that leaves me gasping for air.

“You are scaring me.” His eyes are wide and distressed, and he scoops me up. We bolt down the stairs, he grabs a thermos and coat off the kitchen table, handing both to me, and then sprints outside. The morning air is icy and it blasts us as he runs, but within seconds he’s got the door open and he sets me in the running car.

“Eat that.” He gestures hurriedly toward the thermos in my hands. “I’m going to lock up.” He shuts my door and darts back inside before I can reply.

I let the coughs I had been holding back explode out of me as I fight to open the container, and by the time I manage to stop hacking he’s back. I realize he made me chicken noodle soup, and I swallow it gratefully. It’s boiling hot but I chug it down anyway because it feels amazing on my throat and chest.

Connor is driving so fast I can barely see the trees outside the car windows, and every muscle in him is clenched so tight even his sweatshirt can’t hide it.

“I’m sorry,” I repeat. “I know we can’t afford this.”

“What’s fifty dollars? Jamilah, I...” He trails off, jerkily pulling a hand through his hair; stressed. “...I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this sick. On the outside.” His pained eyes meet mine for just an instant, and their expression sends a knife through me. “Before, it was all suffering on the inside.

“This? Oh, this is nothing,” I lie, desperately trying to hold back another fit by scrubbing at my itchy nose. “I won’t die from this.

He shakes his head and grips the steering wheel tighter—I’m surprised it isn’t mangled yet. “God, I promised—I swore—that I would never let this happen again. And what did I do? Allowed you to go outside without a coat on and stay outside even after the sun went down and it was freezing cold.” He’s inexplicably furious with himself, and I can’t take it.

“My health is not your responsibility. HIIIIITCHOOOO! HIIITSHOOOO!” I try to take a breath and say more, but the sneezes make me cough and I end up being unable to stop until we pull in to the doctor’s office.

“Bless you. That cough is eating me alive right now.” Connor’s face and tone are beyond worried as he parks and rests his eyes briefly on my face. “You sound so sick.” Before I can respond, he nods to the coat in my arms. “Put that on. The last thing we want is for you to get worse.”

“But what about you?” My voice grinds to a whisper, failing me.

I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.” His voice is stern and he reaches over, helping me into the winter coat.

“Let’s go,” he murmurs grimly, getting out of the car and coming around to my side. He gently pulls me up, and I grip his arm as we start to walk. My pace is slow as a snail’s, and the wind is so cold it sends shivers through me despite my five layers. I don’t know how Connor can stand this weather.

Once we get inside, I write down my name as Jamilah McHuile and Connor tells them a story about me being his sister, or something like that. I’m not really listening; I’m just concentrating on not coughing or making a public spectacle of myself.

We sit down in the crowded room, and I take the coat off. I keep my eyes down and try with all of my strength to refrain from breaking down into another fit. My nose itches unbearably.

At last, after an eternity of waiting, a nurse opens the door and calls, “Jamilah?”

I get up slowly, but I’m suddenly overwhelmed by the tickle. I stifle a weak sneeze into my sleeve. “Stay here,” I whisper to Connor. The look in his eyes kills me, but I don’t want him to see—or hear—what’s about to happen. “Please.”

“Okay,” he replies, his voice calm, but I can see the hurt I’ve caused.

I force myself to turn away and walk as steadily as possible towards the nurse. She indicates for me to follow, and we start down a corridor. The door shuts behind us, and she points me into a room at the end of another hallway. Everything about this place smells plastic-y and too sterile.

We walk into the small room and she closes the door behind us.

“So, Jamilah, what brings you here today?” Her voice is pleasant as she snaps on her gloves.

I take a shaky breath, my lungs screaming at me to cough, and answer.

The examination goes on and on, and the whole time I’m in physical pain from my sickness and mental pain from making Connor stay behind—I mean, I wanted to be alone for this, to save my embarrassment, but I feel awful making him wait for me outside, unaware of what’s going on.

After what feels like forever, the doctor tells me I have bronchitis and to be sure I stay inside. I thank her, but after I buy the medicine from the in-office pharmacy and before I go back to the waiting room, I stop in the bathroom and let myself cough.

    *        *        *        *        *

“Let’s get out of here,” I whisper to Connor as I grab the coat. Because of everyone else watching, I’ve been very careful to keep my balance and walk normally. It’s taking so much of my energy that I almost drop right there in front of him, but I don’t let myself.

We’re silent on the way out, and once we go back outside, he puts his arm around my waist and supports me. That one gesture of affection makes my guilt go into hyperdrive.

“I am really sorry I made you stay,” I murmur after we both get into the car, my voice hoarse and gravelly, “but I really didn’t want you to see me...see what was about to happen,” I try to clarify, feeling ashamed.

“Don’t apologize. Whatever makes getting taken care of easier for you is fine with me.” His eyes meet mine, and all the pain from before is gone; there’s only endless gentleness and kindness and worry in them. The corners of his aquamarine-blue eyes tighten as he hesitates, but then he asks, “What did they say?”

I close my eyes for a second, stifling a cough. “Bronchitis.”

He sighs and looks down, starting the car and adjusting the heat dial, hiding his emotions from me.

“It’s okay,” I whisper, barely keeping myself from choking. “Not your fault.”

“It’s just...I can’t stand seeing you sick. Or suffering.” He clenches the steering wheel as he backs the car out of the parking space.

“It’s hardly in your control.” My voice constricts and the cough explodes out of me, deep and painful. My head starts to throb and I lay back against the seat, exhausted.

He strokes my hair gently.  “Regardless, I feel awful for you,” he murmurs, his voice troubled.

“Thanks,” I wheeze, smiling sadly at him. His expression says that I am breaking his heart. “But I want you to stay away from me, okay? The last thing I want to do is get you as sick as me.”

“Don’t worry about me, Jamilah Jade. Not one bit, alright? I can’t stand that, either.”

“Sorry,” I grin. “I can’t just not worry about you—you’re more important to me than—” I want to say “than anything else”, but I start hacking before I can finish.

“Take it easy, sweetheart.” He takes my left hand, his voice gentle. I sigh, weary and hurting.

The rest of the drive is quiet besides my occasional coughs. Once we get home, I’m so drained and weak Connor has to completely pull me out of the car—I can’t get up myself; I can barely even help him. He tries to support me as we start to walk, but I slump into him, and then he just carries me. I bury my face in his sweatshirt, hiding from the wind and relishing being close to him without having to worry about contaminating him.

He climbs the stairs and sets me down in our bed. “I’ll bring you some food so you can take your pills, okay?” He meets my gaze, and I nod.

“Thanks,” I whisper. After he leaves, though, I collapse down and fall into a dead sleep. The next thing I know, he’s shaking my shoulder. Glancing at the clock through blurry eyes, I see hours have passed.

“Hey, you have to wake up now, sweetheart. You have to take these.” He hands me the medicine and food I vaguely remember him promising, and then he steps out of the room. I have to make myself eat at first, but by the time I finish I’m surprisingly awake—the medicine has an almost instant effect on me. I start to get some of my energy back.

Slowly, I rise out of bed, grab some clean, warm pajamas and underwear out of my dresser, and go take a boiling hot shower to help clear my chest and sinuses. By the time I get out and brush my teeth and hair, my urge to cough and my headache have both diminished.

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