“Thanks for the ride home, John. I'll see you tomorrow morning?”
John nodded. “Bright and early.”
“I've gotta say, this is the best cold I've ever had.”
John chuckled. “See you tomorrow, Nick.”
Nick shut the car door and checked his watch as he rushed upstairs to his bedroom. He was cutting it close, but the run would make him sweat just enough for believability. He pulled off his clothes, changed into sweats and jumped into bed, arranging things properly. Not a moment later, he heard the door to the townhouse open and close and a familiar voice call out, “Sweetie?”
“Ubstairs!” he called out, trying to sound as pitiful as possible so August wouldn't suspect.
Soft footsteps padded up the stairs and entered the room. “Hi Sweetie. How're you feeling?”
He rubbed his head and coughed. “Terrible.”
“Ohhh, poor baby! Can I get you anything?” She felt his warm forehead and shook her head sadly.
He sniffed; it sounded a bit dry, but seemed to do the trick. “A bilkshage?”
Nick coughed and nodded.
“Of course. I'll be right back.”
She headed back down instantly and before too long he heard the sounds of the blender. He smiled, pulling a few tissues out of the box, balled them up, and tossed them about the bed covers.
“Here you go, Sweetie.” She handed it over and propped him up with both of their pillows to help him sit up comfortably. Then she walked over to the closet to change.
He sipped it, watching as she undressed and pulled on something more comfortable.
“How was your day?” he asked, and cleared his throat.
“That's so sweet of you to ask. It went just fine. My boss—”
“Awwww… bless you, Sweetie.”
He wiped at his nose from the fake sneeze. “Thaks, Hodey.” He forced a yawn and rubbed at his head. “I thig I deed to go back to sleeb.”
She nodded, readjusting the pillows for him and then tucking him in to bed with a pat on the leg. “Just call me if you need me. That's what girlfriends are for, right?”
As soon as she was out of the room he rolled over onto his back, smiling to himself. With any luck, another day or two would be easy.
* * *
“Ahhhh, this is the life, ain't it, Nick?”
Nick nodded, leaning a bit to gain access to his pocket and a tissue he'd stuffed there earlier. His nose had begun to run a bit since lunch, probably from the cold wind on the lake.
“Jesus, Nick! You trying to tip us over?” John yelled, one hand clinging to their rowboat, the other to his fishing pole.
Nick shot him a look; he hadn't been leaning that much. He pulled out the tissue, a bit damp but intact, and honked into it a few times. “When you catch a four-footer, you can… complain.”
John looked at him a bit quizzically. “What?”
Nick was staring to the side, as if concentrating on a far off point. Then suddenly his whole body shook with convulsion in a single, violent, “AarrCHOO!”
John leaped forward to protect the bait box as the small rowboat capsized and everything plunged into the water, including the two men. It was John who righted the boat again, treading water as he lifted the box, poles, oars, and other nearby floating items into it. He climbed in, and offered a hand to Nick.
But Nick, treading water in place, had another look of blankness on his face. This time, his nose was scrunched up, nostrils flaring. “I… just… can't… snuh... sn… sneeze…” he whispered between shallow breaths.