It wasn't much of a sleep I got, but every time I woke up, Giovanni was either in my room ready with a fresh wet cloth, or only a weak shout away. I never had to call more than once, and then he would glide in like a trained nurse.
But once morning truly arose, he seemed to have hit a checkpoint. His face was terribly sallow, and there were slight bags under his eyes. He started hanging about like a ghost and fretting more than a new mother. "Go to sleep," I said, admittedly a little impatient, if not whiny.
He shook his head. "You're still sick."
Although it was technically true, I had stopped throwing up at least an hour ago, and I was certain my fever was going down. I tried explaining all of this, but he wouldn't listen.
"I should call your work," he said, sitting on the edge of the bed.
"Because you shouldn't go in today. You could get germs on the books, and then that would only make you get sick again later."
Somehow I got the impression that he felt more inclined to believe that the books had been what had gotten me sick in the first place. I didn't blame him, it was actually more than a little possible. Ridiculous, but possible.
I grabbed the phone off the nightstand before he could even reach for it, and then tapped in the number. "Stop fussing, please. I'll do it." I heard him mutter something, but it was lost to the sound of the phone's incessant ringing very close to my ear.
"Shop Books." Mr. Defoe's voice was a little flatter than usually, and I wondered if he was tired. It wasn't that early in the morning though.
"It's me," I said, unsure of how to go about this. I had never missed work before, not like this. Whenever I got sick, I would just drag myself there regardless. That was not even a remote possibility while Giovanni Nightingale was watching over me like a security guard in a museum diamond exhibit. It was a wonder he hadn't called a hospital, really.
Mr. Defoe cleared his throat. "Ah, Pundit. I was just about to call you." Oh. That might not have been a good thing. "Bad news, I'm afraid."
" I bit my lip and mentally shook myself. He would explain faster if I didn't interrupt. And it was rude.
He didn't seem to mind though. "Yes. You see, my wife has taken ill, and I really don't think I should leave her on her own. I just wanted to call and tell you before I went back home."
Although I couldn't help feeling immediately guilty, I focused on telling myself that settling blame on my curly head was useless and counter-productive. "I'm sorry about that, sir."
"It'll be alright, m'boy," he said, still sounding tired. Like Giovanni. "However, we won't be able to open until my wife is feeling a bit better. I know you need the work, and you've been more help then I really pay you for
so, I'll pay you for half the day."
"That's very generous, sir
" I couldn't let him do that.
"Tomorrow I'll need you to come by and get the key to shop. You'll be opening and closing up for the rest of the week."
It was still too much, but at least he was going to let me work after today. I bit my tongue, then let it go. "Actually, sir, I was"
"We'll talk it over at more length tomorrow," he said, as if he hadn't heard me. "Go to school today, or get some rest. You always look as though four more hours without sleep will do you an injury."
And then he hung up. I set the phone on the little table and considered scowling at it. "He wanted me to take the day off anyway."
"That's lucky," Giovanni chirped, beaming at me. He appeared to have received a second wind while I'd been on the phone, albeit not much of one. His hair was still drooping, and he looked like he was trying not to yawn.
It was getting to be too much on this end of my life as well. "Now you have to go to sleep," I told him, doing my best to sound stern and commanding. "If you don't, then I won't either."
This did thewell, it did a trick. He squeaked in obvious dismay, then squirmed under my covers and cuddled with me. I would have squeaked as well, but he'd surprised me too much. His feet were cold, I just knew it!
He had a hand on my shoulder, and he was too tall for his feet to actually touch any part of me, but I still knew his feet were cold, bringing down my temperature from fever to annoyed and chilly.
"Get out of my bed!" I demanded, disbelieving my voice even as I spoke. I never would have thought I would ever say that to anyone. Ever. That was probably why it didn't work. I didn't have the necessary experience. I sighed and resigned myself to another situation that involved Giovanni and rampant impropriety. "You're going to get sick."
"Aw, you're sweet." He patted my hair. "But I promise I won't."
"How can you just promise something like that?"
"Promising things is easy." The funny thing was, my bed was too big for just me, it always had been, and Giovanni fit in rather well. Er, not 'well', exactly, there was just plenty of room for him. For some reason, that was more embarrassing than the fact that he was there at all.
I looked out the window and let the snow sink into my mind. Apparently we'd had our full quota for nice weather and there wouldn't be any more until
who could say. It had always seemed unfair to me that snow had to be so beautiful and wet at the same time. Cold, I didn't mind, but it stuck too fast when you got wet. "I wish it would do it in turns."
If I could have jumped, I would have. Giovanni hadn't been overly inappropriate, and he hadn't really said anything remarkably unsettling yet. I'd forgotten he was there. "I
" The fault of the fever, of course. It was slamming back into me, making my head pound in jealous concert. "You were looking out the window. There isn't really anything else out there."
I still didn't like his being so close, but it was easier to put up with now that his feet had warmed up. Even though he would insist on holding my back to his chest. "What did you do about the door?" I asked, hoping it might be a trigger to get him up.
Nothing doing. He yawned like a cat, uncomfortably near my face, then settled again. "It still closes. I just messed up the lock."
Which was not a notoriously easy thing to do, no matter what tone he was adopting. "Someone could get in, then."
He chuckled softly. "I'd like to see a burglar try to get past Saffron."
"Oh yeah, you didn't know that she's a brown belt." Giovanni rubbed his head on my shoulder, practically purring. "Saffron is a brown belt. She'll protect us."
I had to hold my head, the room was going on a joyride without my permission. "Saffron is here?"
"Did I forget to tell you that too?"
"Yes, Giovanni." I pushed the entire right side of my face into the pillow and repressed a groan. "I believe you did forget to tell me that."
"Right, sorry. Saffron's here."
This would have been much easier if I hadn't felt like something that had been under the business end of a steamrollerbut if that were the case, neither of them would have been in my flat right then. And it did feel pretty good to think Saffron cared enough to guard my door, even if Giovanni had made me do it. "How long has she been here?"
Giovanni tapped my shoulder, possibly counting in his head. "I don't actually remember."
" No, I was not gritting my teeth. I was trying to hold in an annoyed yawn.
"I didn't think you'd want to be all pukey around her since you know she's pretty, so I waited until you were feeling better enough that you weren't pukey anymore."
There were several reasons to blush, so I was glad he was behind me. A single ray of sunshine on an overcast situation. Yay. "What's that about being pretty?"
"Oh, you areabsolutely beautifulbut I was talking about Saffron. She says you're pretty too, by the way."
The heat in my face increased and shot from my chin to my forehead, like the flame from an acetylene torch. I stuttered a thank you, then went back to hiding my face in the pillow.
"And she says that it's kind of a shame that you're not at all gay."
Any other time, and I really might have choked on my tongue upon hearing something like that. This time I laughed, so hard I nearly rolled out of the bed. "She did, eh? Why does she think it's a shame?"
For a moment, Giovanni just hugged me close to himself and pretended to be asleep. He was terrible at it.
"I don't want to say."
Some of the humor drained away. "But I asked you. You have to tell me." This would fit his logic perfectly.
At first I thought it might have failed, but he didn't pretend to be asleep again. Then, after an extended silence, he said, "Because I could really really like you. It'd be too easy."