I bite my lip as the heat overtakes me again as it has every day for three weeks. Walking into the bathroom, I switch on the light as the feeling in my stomach grows to feeling like something trying to claw its way out.
I try to breathe slowly, deeply, the way my mother taught me, but nothing helps. I see the flush in my reflection and my eyes water. How long will this go on?
I begin to hunch as the pain continues to strengthen, my heart beginning to race. “Calm down.” I say, tapping my foot. “Tensing up doesn’t help anything.” I rock back and forth and the motion sooths me, I force my abs to relax. “The meeting is in four hours. You can do this.”
I loosen the drawstring on my sweat pants and take a seat at my laptop. One more editing pass and I’ll be ready. I shove my mind into the pages, detaching it as best I can from the unnamed warring in my body.
My front door slams. “Penny?”
“Back here, Mom!” I keep focused on the screen as her heels clatter down the hall.
“Penny! You should be in bed, you look—”
“I know, but this has to get done.”
“But the doctor said—”
“Said he couldn’t find anything wrong with me without needles, tests, and machines, and I say no thank you. Not when I could be this close. Not when this whole thing could just go away.”
“You’re red as a root, Penny.” She touches my forehead. “If you meet with a publisher in this condition, they’ll never take you on.”
“Mom!” I laugh, the shaking of my stomach bringing fresh tears to my eyes. I focus on the screen. “I’m 25 years old! I’m old enough to decide when I will go see a doctor, thank you.”
Mom sighs and gives my hair a gentle yank. “That might be, but you still don’t have a bit of common sense.”
Sweat beads on my forehead.
“Penny,” she cups my chin and turns my head, “your health is more important than any story.”
“But how long have I been dreaming about this? How long have I been working, and trying to get my name out there? I can’t let a stomach cramp or two stop me.”
She smiles. “No, that shouldn’t be enough to stop you, but pain that keeps you from standing upright should.” She wipes away a tear of her own. “For now, at least.”
“I can’t—” My eyes bulge as I shove my mother out of the way, covering my mouth as a swell of bile threatens to explode from me.
“That’s it,” she says as I heave into the toilet, trying to keep my tongue out of the way of the flood as my body contorts with force enough to steal my breath, “I don’t care if I have to sit on you to keep you in that bed, I’ll do it. You are not going today!”
“Yes,” I wipe my eyes, and mouth, “I am.” I blow my nose. “I have an appointment, and it’s unprofessional to cancel. An agent’s time is valuable.”
She nods, helping me up. “It’s also considered unprofessional to vomit on people.” She rolls her eyes as she helps me to my bed and sits beside me.
I look at my laptop and sigh. “Mom, I don’t want to miss this opportunity.”
“Honey, you have a work ethic like I do. That’s why I’m here. There are too many times in life that I didn’t take care of my own health when I should have, and it cost me. I don’t want to see you do that.” She hands me my cellphone.
“What if I never get another chance?”
She kisses the top of my head. “You’re always so dramatic. You will. It might be next week, or next year, but I know you will, because this is what you were meant to do. The right doors will open, in the right time. You have a passion for writing that no illness, no matter what this is, will stop.”
I frown, trying not to cry.
“You’re not alone in this, and you never will be.”
“There are no ‘buts’ in life. There’s only try, and try again. Now, you call the agency, and I’ll call the doctor.”
The next day as I wait in the doctor’s office, my mom sits with me making sure I don’t run. I try to ignore the odor of disinfectant and not think of all the sickness that’s seen these white walls. “Why do they paint walls white when they have so many nauseous people around them?” I say.
“Hello, Penny.” The older doctor smiles. We exchange pleasantries and he questions how
I’ve been. He tells me to lay back and he again probes my belly.
“Nothing hurts right now,” I say.
“Yesterday she was in agony.” My mother says. “So much so, that she missed her appointment.”
“Appointment?” The doctor says.
I mostly keep quiet as my mother puffs up with pride and tells him my writing history from the age of two up until yesterday. I mouth the word sorry, to the doctor.
“I can’t find anything wrong, again,” he says, “The next step will be—”
“Needles?” I say.
He nods his head, yes. “And a lollypop, if you’re a brave girl.” He says, a smile lurking in his eyes.
I take a deep breath.
“You know,” he says, “you can only reach your dreams, if you’re healthy enough to do it. You were right to come in today.”
I shrug. “I just hated to miss that appointment. I’ve been trying forever to get an agent interested in my book.”
He scribbles down some notes. “Oh, don’t worry. You’ll have another chance, I’ll see to it.”
I giggle. “What are you going to do? Write me a note to give to the agent’s secretary?”
“No,” he laughs. “You said the agency was a local one, right? Clarence and Brown?”
His smile widens. “I’ll simply call my son, Clarence. He’s on vacation this week, but I happen to know he’s looking for new suspense writers.”
Thank you for reading. Click here for the character interview. You might have noticed this post was late, well, that’s because it’s sort of based off of my current reality. It seems that I’ve had a food allergy pop up, and wasn’t aware of it until I got really sick. I’m needing more tests to confirm that, though. I hope you all are well!