Ticking clocks, that’s what Mina missed. The little extra something to show the day moved forward and wasn’t sitting still. As she was. Still, so still, until the fever broke, or the headache eased, or she died.

None of those things changed over the last day, and she doubted they would in time for her first date in twelve years.

It had to happen today, of all days. Twelve years, and her first date with Beran was on the calendar – the man she’d dreamed of in her early years, during her married years, and later. The kitchen calendar, marked off by each day until the day, and the day had a big, red heart over the number … now, not likely to be.

The phone pinged. She picked it up. Of course it was Beran, checking what time to pick her up. She had two hours to get better, but despite the drugs, the hot drinks, and the time wasted in resting up, she wasn’t going to make it.

Sorry, sick as sick can be. Contagious. Mina sent the text and flopped back onto the pillows. Tears burned her eyes, and she groped for the wet flannel to cool her face again.

She groaned, got up and went to the toilet, took another couple of paracetamol, and returned to her over-heated, sick-smelling bedroom. The phone didn’t have any messages. Well, that was the end of that.

One chance. She should have accepted his invitation to the dance in high school. What would have happened if she’d done that? But that was spilt milk, and she’d stayed home to take care of her mother after the treatment.

She shivered under the thick doona. These would all need to be washed again, once she was well. And she wouldn’t have anything better to do with her time, would she?

The doorbell chimed.


She pulled up the app on her phone. The camera at the front door showed a head, but not much else.

“I’m sick,” she said into the app. “Go away.”

He looked up and smiled. Beran lifted a box to show her its contents. Soup, bread, wine. Two red and white striped Dark Dragon roses. He remembered.

Mina clicked the ‘unlock’ button.

“You can come in when you put a mask on.”

He held it up, the blue and white medical-grade mask one of many in the pack from his other hand.

Mina smiled. Maybe her mother was right – a problem shared was a problem halved, and a gift of roses was a heart strengthened. Time to test the theory.

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