Beth was pulling things out of her drawers and stuffing them into a large bag. She wanted to get out of the house before her mother heard her next bout of coughing. She could feel it creeping up her throat.
“Beth, breathe,” Alex said.
She shook her head violently; if she breathed, she’d start coughing and she’d never stop. She pushed some toiletries into the bag and zipped it up. Looking around her room for anything she’d missed, she grabbed her phone charger and put it in the side pocket. Alex slung it over his shoulder and the two of them left the house
“Bye!” Beth shouted but still didn’t breathe until they’d got into the car.
Then she started coughing. And didn’t stop for a long time. If Alex hadn’t been driving, he probably would have held her close to him and put his arms around her, as if he could protect her from something that was already inside her. He was anxious, Beth could tell. He didn’t know what was wrong with her either. Alex had mentioned the Spanish flu, but he’d also said he’d never seen a case as bad as hers.
They finally reached his house. Alex got out with her bag and was just shutting the car door as Catalin emerged from the house.
“Where is she?” she asked urgently.
Beth stepped into Catalin’s line of sight and the girl hurried them both into the house. Robert was pacing in the living room – again – but stopped immediately when Beth entered.
“When did this start?” he asked her as he sat her on the sofa.
“I had a fever this morning, probably around ten. Why?” Beth asked.
“Shush,” he said gently.
He knelt down in front of her. He gave her a look that seemed to be asking for permission for something, what it was, Beth didn’t know. She nodded anyway. He opened her eye wider and told her to look up, down, left and right. Then he looked at the other one. His face gave away none of his thoughts, returning to its usual steeliness.
He sat still in the silence for a minute, watching the clock. After that, he told her to cough. His eyes flashed with alarm and distress for a moment and his face took on a worried expression. He put a hand on her forehead and he frowned even more.
“Have you got a sore throat?” Beth nodded. “Muscle aches?” She nodded again. Robert thought for a moment. “What about your stomach?”
“What do you mean?” Beth asked.
“How does your stomach feel, in general?” he explained.
“Um, empty. Very empty. I feel really hungry, even though I know I’m not.”
Robert nodded. Then he turned to Alex and Catalin who were stood in the doorway.
“It’s most definitely flu. But it is vampire flu,” Robert said.