A pretty woman of about Auntie’s age came into the room. She had soft skin, bright black eyes, and a brisk way about her. I tried to smile, but all she saw was that I was tugging at the ties. “Stop that,” she said. “You’re not going to Kentucky today.”
How did she know about Kentucky? She pressed the back of her hand against my forehead, and then on each cheek. “Your fever is down. Are you back in the world again?”
I nodded and tried to speak, but still no words would come out. She untied me. “Stay in bed this time, okay?” She took a glass of water from a nearby table and held it to my lips.
I clutched the glass and drank it down without pausing to breathe, then I lay back among the pillows. “Thank you. I’m sorry to be so much trouble.”
“For such a sick little thing, you sure are strong and willful.” She felt the edges of my cotton shift, then rummaged in a nearby dresser. “Do you know where you are? Do you know who I am?”
I wasn’t sure, but I recalled a name from my dreams. “Marisa?”
She shook the folds out of a nightgown. “That’s pretty good. I wasn’t sure you would remember.”
“I remember a lot of things but they don’t make sense.”
“You had some crazy notions."
She helped me into the new nightgown, which was fresh and dry, and smelled like pressed flowers. “How did I get here?” I asked, after she got me settled among the pillows. “And where’s my horse?”
“Flecha is fine. The doctor is taking care of her, since I don’t have any place to keep her.”
“How did I get here?” I asked again. “I remember spending the night in a barn after being chased out of a village. . .”
“I don’t know anything about that. My cousin and his wife found you lying under a pine tree at the side of the road outside of town. They thought maybe you had fallen off your horse.”
“I would never fall off a horse.”
Marisa looked at me skeptically. “As sick as you were, don’t bet on it. They brought you here because I had a spare room, and I was immunized in federal days.”
If she had been immunized, she had probably been a federal supporter before the southwest region split from the United States. What happened in Valle Redondo was because of people like her, with their stupid resource wars and anti-hoarding laws. But as I looked into Marisa’s face, I saw no evidence that she was a bad person. She had a sweet smile, and there were soft crinkles around her eyes, suggesting she used that smile a lot.
She went away and came back a few minutes later with another glass of water and a cup of hot broth, which smelled so good that I paid no mind when it scalded my tongue. She went away again, and I must have slept, because the next time I opened my eyes, there was a bearded man in the room. He was talking in low tones to Marisa, and when he saw I was awake, he came over and took my temperature, checked my pulse, listened to my lungs and asked a lot of questions. Then he sat back and made notes in a book.
“How is Flecha? When can I see her?”
The doctor looked up. “You nearly died, and all you care about is your horse?” He seemed amused. “If you take your medicine and mind Marisa, I’ll bring Flecha around tomorrow.”
This wasn’t what I wanted, but Marisa and the doctor seemed to be in agreement, and I had the impression I had given them a lot of trouble. I agreed to the plan and swallowed a few pills.
I fell asleep again, and the next thing I knew, Marisa was shaking my shoulder. “Diana, wake up. I have your dinner for you.”
I sat up, frowning. I didn’t remember telling her my name. I must have told her in my delirium, or maybe she looked through my things. I sat up and Marisa settled a tray across my lap. There was soup, tea, and a custard made with eggs and honey. Everything was so good I was halfway done before Marisa could leave the room. When she returned for the tray, I thanked her and let her give me some more pills and a medicinal drink.
I dozed again and when I woke up the room was dark, except for an electric lamp on the table beside the bed. I had meant to ask for some easy work to do after dinner, like maybe some mending, but the house was so quiet now, I figured Marisa had gone to bed. I felt bad. I had to do something to deserve all this care from her, and I would rather work than give her what little money I had.
I took a sip of water from the glass on the nightstand, then beat up my pillows, rearranging them so I could go back to sleep. That’s when I found my diary.
What complete nonsense I’ve been writing for two days!
I thought about ripping out those pages and tossing them in the brazier, but then I changed my mind. I’m not sure why. I guess I just didn’t want to tear any pages out of this nice book, although it looks like I tore out at least one while I was sick. I must have tried to write a letter to Auntie or Robert. Whatever I wrote, I’m sure it made no sense at all, so I hope Marisa didn’t send it. I’ll ask her in the morning.
I get to see Flecha tomorrow! They say she’s okay, but I can hardly wait to see for myself. It’s almost enough to. . . no. I have a feeling that being sane wouldn’t make Marisa and the doctor any less mad at me if I tried to sneak out. I’ll just have to wait.
I don’t know how I’ll ever sleep now. I wish I had my The Last of the Mohicans book, but I don’t know where—
I hear footsteps in the hallway. I guess Marisa wasn’t asleep, after all. It must be time for my medicine. I hope she gives me something to help me sleep. I’m so excited about tomorrow, I think I need it.
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