“Danielle, can you come stay with Winnie while I go to practice?” Joel’s voice woke Winnie from her nap. She appreciated Joel calling her best friend rather than her mother. She didn’t want anyone to know she was sick.
Joel had been so attentive and caring through the night and the following day, and they’d finally gotten some sleep the previous night. But he couldn’t miss any more practice. Not with the Rose Bowl three days away.
The Marriot hotel staff had been helpful by providing clean linens and robes, so Winnie didn’t have to wear pants across her stomach, which was tender and bloated from all the rich foods. They’d taken her wedding dress and Joel’s tux to be dry cleaned, brought room service meals for Joel and broth and crackers for Winnie. They’d cleaned and sanitized the bathroom and generally helped them to make the best of a terrible situation.
Winnie felt guilty that she’d ruined their wedding night. She’d looked forward to finally being intimate with Joel now that he was her husband, and instead of them making love, they’d slept in separate beds because him moving made her nauseous.
The first time her groom had seen her without clothes was when he peeled her soiled wedding dress off because she’d thrown up on it. He was probably so repulsed by her that he’d never want to be intimate.
She may have ruined their whole marriage. All the passion they’d felt for one another would be gone. He had proven his commitment to care for her when she was sick, but would he still be interested in her once he’d gotten over his revulsion?
While he was waiting for Danielle to arrive to relieve him of his caregiver responsibilities, he straightened the room and fidgeted as if he didn’t know what to do with himself if he didn’t have something to keep him busy. He probably thought she was asleep, and Winnie didn’t reach out to tell him otherwise. She just laid there with her head on her pillow, eyes peeking out from beneath the covers.
Finally there was a knock at their hotel room door and Joel let Danielle into the room. They spoke quietly about how Winnie had gone about fifteen hours now without throwing up and had eaten broth a few hours ago before laying down to take a nap and how she’d probably love some girl time. Joel mentioned he didn’t know enough about what women needed to be useful. Danielle told him that was nonsense and complimented him for how well he’d been caring for Winnie.
Then he approached her bed and knelt beside Winnie, barely jostling her by taking her hand in his. “Hey, sleeping beauty,” he whispered. “How are you feeling?”
“Like I spent the past two days puking. How are you feeling?”
“Like I spent the past two days holding you in my arms while you were puking.” He chuckled.
“That good, eh?” At least they were able to joke a little.
“Danielle’s here,” Joel said. “She’s going to stay with you while I’m at practice, but I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“Take your time,” Danielle said. “Maybe I’ll help her get a bath and wash her hair and stuff. Turn this puking duck back into a beautiful swan.”
“That sounds good to me,” Winnie said, sitting up halfway. Joel reached out and helped her sit the rest of the way up. She only felt a little woozy. He helped her to her feet and she gave him a quick hug before turning toward the bathroom.
“Are you hungry? Do you want me to call for some room service? Maybe call housekeeping to get clean bedding so you can come back from your shower to clean sheets.”
“Joel—” Danielle pointed to the door. “Go to practice and your media event. I know how to call housekeeping and room service. Come back in a few hours and maybe your bride will feel like being a bride again.”
Winnie and Joel both chuckled and smiled at one another.
“Wouldn’t that be nice,” Winnie said, not entirely hopeful.
“You just focus on getting healthy. The rest will work itself out,” Joel said, heading for the door.
As Winnie watched him leave she couldn’t help thinking that it was going to take a lot more than a shower and clean sheets for her to feel healthy.
Clean would be a step in the right direction so she’d settle for that. Winnie decided before allowing her best friend to get anywhere near her, a toothbrush was her first order of business. While she was brushing, she could hear Danielle in the main room calling housekeeping to come change the bedding and to bring a shower chair. Brilliant. “Why didn’t we think of that?” Winnie mumbled through her foaming toothpaste.
This was going to be humiliating enough having someone else help her in the shower without also having to hoist herself in and out of a bath or stand up long enough for Danielle to wash her hair. Neither option sounded pleasant. A shower chair was a perfect middle ground.
The whole experience still proved exhausting to her weak, little body. By the time Joel arrived back to their hotel room a few hours later, Winnie had clean, braided hair, soft pajamas, a cup of vegetable soup in her belly and renewed life in her countenance.
Joel thanked Danielle profusely and Danielle promised to return the following day so he could leave again for practice. He closed and locked the door behind her then came and sat beside her. “How are you feeling?”
“Weak,” Winnie said. “But not nauseous, so that’s a step in the right direction.”
“Definitely.” Joel seemed nervous and Winnie suspected she knew why. Neither of them knew where to go from here. They knew what they’d be doing right now if she hadn’t spent the past two days puking, but she did, and now she was weak, and tired. “I know you’re probably not feeling up to much of anything else, but do you think, maybe we could sleep in the same bed tonight without that making you feel sick?”
“I would love that.” Winnie smiled with a tired sigh. “You’re so good to me. How did I get so lucky to have you marry me?”
“Probably the same way I got lucky to have you marry me.”
“Some luck”—Winnie snorted— “You’re so lucky instead of making love to me on our wedding night, you got to clean up after me.”
“Hey, we have every night for the rest of our lives to make love to each other. Tonight, I’m just thankful to have you sleep in my arms.”
Involuntarily, Winnie yawned, reminding them both that her body was ready for some sleep right now.
Even though the night was still young, Joel got himself ready for bed and climbed between the sheets beside Winnie, pulling her close to him. She drifted off to sleep with her head resting in the crook of his arm, as close to comfortable as she could get under the circumstances. She slept for a long time.