Mornelly Short Stories: The Nurse is In- Part Two
To read part one, click HERE.
Here's the second part of Aileen's story as she attempts to help her big brother Aichear get over his virus...
Aileen insisted that she’d stay the night with Aichear in case he needed something. “He might need a glass of water, or something else,” she proclaimed.
Aichear was semi-annoyed by his sister’s persistence. “Aileen, I have slept and will sleep fine by myself. I can take care of myself.”
Of course the younger brothers saw this as their opportunity to overpower Aichear’s dominance, and agreed that it would be best if Aileen made sure he was okay for the night.
“You know, in case you start choking or something,” Damhán teased. “We wouldn’t want you to die in the middle of the night.”
“I can’t die, Damhán,” Aichear growled. “There is no point in all of this.”
“Oh but there is! We can’t have you permanently crippled for life! That may happen if you almost choke to death. We need you to tell us what to do!” Bran snickered.
The jokes were lost on Aileen, who took all of this seriously and began to worry such a thing might happen to her oldest brother. Aichear assured her over and over again that he would be fine.
“I’ve had worse colds than this, little sister,” he grunted. “Though I’m glad the allergy medicine didn’t do much other than make me sleep all day.”
She was quick to detour him on a different subject. It embarrassed her she could have made him very sick when she’d tried to help him.
It was eleven o’clock at night. Bran, Breandan, Ciarán and Damhán had all turned in for the evening, though Aileen was pretty sure she could hear Damhán’s video game at the end of the hall. Aichear was asleep. Aileen was on the floor with her sleeping bag and pillow, but she was having trouble sleeping. She kept getting up and making sure Aichear was breathing and wasn’t in danger of choking.
What would he choke on? She wondered. And how did one get crippled for life from choking? It was all confusing to her, and scary. She was well aware that Aichear couldn’t die. None of them could. That was part of their banishment- they were forced to live forever as immortals, never to age again. That didn’t mean Aichear couldn’t get really sick and be sick for life. What would I do if he was sick forever?
She couldn’t imagine such a horrid thought.
“Aichear?” Aileen whispered. She got up and stood next to his bed. He was quiet. Too quiet.
Aichear didn’t respond.
She came closer and pushed his shoulder. “Aichear, wake up. I had a scary dream.”
The figure of her thirty-year-old brother didn’t move.
Aileen’s heart began to race. She shoved Aichear some more. “Aichear! Aichear!” Aileen grabbed his arm and tried to pull him out of the bed. “Get up, Aichear! Aichear!”
Aileen sat straight up, light shining straight in her face. She was sobbing. She clutched her blanket and tried to remember where she was. Aichear’s room.
Just a dream.
“Little sister, what’s wrong?” Aichear murmured, at last getting his glasses on. He squinted at the clock. “It’s one in the morning.”
“I’m sorry,” she sniffed. “You should go back to sleep.”
“I’m asking you a question, aren’t I?”
There was no getting around Aichear when he wanted to know something. She rubbed her eyes. “I had a bad dream.”
Aichear looked somewhat pained. He eyed her thoughtfully. “You haven’t slept very long, have you?”
She shook her head.
“What has kept you up, little sister?”
“I was afraid you weren’t breathing.”
Aichear muttered something under his breath. “I’m fine. I told you that earlier.”
“But then I had a scary dream where I wasn’t making sure you were okay, and then you… you…” she couldn’t finish that last sentence. She began to cry again.
“You know that isn’t possible. Why do you fear it so?”
“I don’t know. It’s scarier in the nighttime,” she admitted. She got to her feet. “Do you want a drink of water?”
He rolled his eyes. “Would you go back to sleep if you got me something?”
“I- I don’t know. I don’t know if I can sleep anymore.”
“Look at me. I’m not sniffing, I’m not sneezing. I’m actually feeling much better. I do believe I only caught a twenty-four hour bug. I don’t even feel feverish. You can sleep, now.”
She hesitated, glancing at the floor. The memory of the dream began to sneak into her consciousness again, and she shuddered. She didn’t want to have that dream again.
Aichear sat up fully. “What would help you go to sleep?”
Aichear sighed. “Well, what?”
Aileen looked down at the floor. “Can- can I sleep with you?”
He bit his lower lip and stared at her. Aileen shuffled her feet around.
“And this will help you sleep?”
She nodded slightly.
Aichear was quiet for a good long moment. Aileen, heart thumping, felt her cheeks grow red. She was ten years old. She was a big girl. Not that she hadn’t made this request before. Most of the time, though, she would wait until Aichear was asleep and then crawl into his bed, so he wouldn’t send her out.
“I’m fine sleeping on the flo-”
He scooted next to the wall and lifted the covers. “Fine.”
She lingered for a second, unsure, then decided to take advantage of the situation before he changed his mind. She climbed into the covers and leaned against him. Aichear reached over her and turned off the light.
“Now go to sleep.”
It sounded a lot like a command, but Aileen knew it to mean that she wasn’t to worry or fret anymore. She curled up next to her big brother and tucked her hands under the pillow. Within moments she was sound asleep, assured that nothing could happen to Aichear as long as she was next to him. Dreams couldn’t haunt her, either, for he was beside her and would protect her.
Aichear was up at seven, having slept the whole previous day and most of the night. Aileen was passed out, making it of the utmost difficulty for him to lean over her and get out of bed without waking the still form. He made his way to the kitchen and started a pot of coffee, his mind cleared and the fever broken. He still had a bit of a cough, but he felt much better.
“Oh, good morning, Aichear.” Bran walked into the room, trying to straighten his dark brown hair with a comb. “You’re up on time.”
“You sleep well?”
“Yes.” He shot a pointed look at Bran. “Though Aileen had nightmares, thanks to you boys. She was convinced I was going to have something dreadful overtake me.”
Bran smiled a bit, reaching over and pouring himself a cup of coffee before Aichear managed to grab the pot. “You should be glad she cares for you so much, Aichear. She tried so hard yesterday to be a nurse.”
“I don’t need you to remind me. I was the object of her pity.”
“Well, perhaps appreciate her pity, then. She wants so bad to please you.”
Aichear nodded. “I am at a loss as to why.”
“Because she cares about you, that’s why. There’s this thing, and it’s called “feelings”. Perhaps it’s foreign to you, but to Aileen it means the world to her. She wants you to know that she loves you.”
“I am aware of her lo-”
“Then let her show it to you,” Bran interrupted. “You can’t seem to bring yourself to use words to express your care for others, and so she thinks she has to use her actions to show she cares for you. She’s imitating you, Aichear.”
Aichear grunted. “I’m not a good role model.”
“Well, look at it this way- it’s either you or one of us that she’s going to try and act like. She’s got no women in her life. I think you’d rather she act like you than Damhán or Ciarán, correct?”
No doubt about that. He took the pot from Bran and poured himself a cup of coffee. A small, faint sneezing sound reached his ears. He stopped, mid-sip, and listened. “Sounds like I need to attend to her.”
Bran frowned. “Great, now she’s sick. Guess that means we’re all going to get it, too. Thanks for spreading the germs, brother.”
Aichear ignored him and headed to the bedroom, setting his coffee down on a bookshelf before entering.
Sure enough, Aileen was sitting up in bed, sneezing her little head off. She kept rubbing her nose, her eyes watery.
“You are sick,” Aichear informed her. “I told you to stay away from me.” He reached down and picked her up, carrying her to her own bedroom.
“But- but I’m supposed to be taking care of you,” she murmured. She sneezed again. “My head hurts.”
“We’ll take care of that.” He set her in her own bed and pulled the covers up, tucking her in. She shivered. He put his hand on her forehead and nodded. “You have a fever. Let me retrieve some medication.”
“That’s what I tried to do for you yesterday,” she said crossly. “How come you can be a good doctor and I can’t?”
Aichear fought back the faint smile that wanted to cross his face. He sat down on the edge of the bed and took her hand. “You were a fine nurse, little sister. Perhaps not a good doctor, but a very good nurse. To tell you the truth, though, I like you the most as my little sister, Aileen.”