I threw aside the covers and climbed out of bed with a low curse. Behind me, Kyra rolled over in her sleep, snoring gently. A quick glance at the phone lying on the bedside table and my mood only soured further. I reached for my jeans and began to dress.
“What time is it?” Kyra asked, blinking her eyes as she looked at me in the darkness.
“Crap! Sorry, did I wake you?”
“Either you or the kid.” She coughed and raised her head from the pillow, twisting her neck to see her own phone and check the time. “The fuck are you getting up for at four in the morning?”
I mean, who could. The neighbours had returned early a couple of days ago and hadn’t left the house since. The kid was definitely ill because even with the distance between our two houses, we could hear him coughing and sneezing all day and night.
For the first time, he had begun to scream and shout and had been doing so for the better part of an hour. I finished dressing and grabbed my phone, slipping it into my pocket before I headed for the door.
“Where you going?”
I hesitated, hand on the door handle and looked back at her. Lying in bed, half-raised and trying to focus gummy eyes on me, with her hair falling messily around her face, she looked stunning. I shifted my weight from one foot to the other and shook my head, dispelling the salacious thoughts that were clouding my mind.
“Gonna go check on them,” I said. “Lockdown officially began four hours ago and you better believe I’m not sitting in this house listening to him scream and shout twenty-four hours a day.”
“He’s sick, just leave it be. Finish the vodka and come back to bed.”
Tempted as I was by the implied invitation in that comment, I shook my head again. No, I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything with that caterwauling going on. I pulled open the door and headed out into the hallway.
I was pulling my shoes on as I sat on the lowest step of the stairs when Kyra came down them. She had pulled on one of my t-shirts over her naked form and that did absolutely nothing to dispel the attraction I felt for her.
She grinned as she raised a hand to brush a strand of hair from her face, knowing exactly what she was doing to me.
“You love it.”
No argument there. “You coming?”
Kyra raised her eyebrows and looked down, waving a hand at her nearly naked form. “What do you think?”
“Then what’re you doing?”
“Pouring a drink for when you get back.” She lifted her shoulders in a shrug with also raised the hem of the t-shirt and my heart beat a little faster. I flashed a lecherous smile that faded as I looked up into her eyes. “The kid’s sick, remember that, yeah?”
A sobering thought that absolutely killed my lust faster than a bucket of ice water over the head would have. I pulled the cloth mask from my pocket and nodded sombrely.
“I’ll keep my distance and wear a mask. We have plenty of hand sanitiser which I’ll use when I get back in.”
She nodded and without another word I was up and out of the door into the frigid night air. I hesitated on the doorstep wondering if I should grab a coat and dismissed the idea as I wasn’t expecting to be long.
There was a low stone wall that separated the two properties’ driveways and I stepped over it before trotting over to their front door. I pulled on my mask and pressed the doorbell, then took a step back and waited.
It wasn’t long before a light flicked on inside the house and a shadowed figure could be seen through the frosted glass panel in the door. It was pulled open and a clearly exhausted man stood there in just a bathrobe.
His hair was a mess, and dark rings circled his eyes. He’d not shaven for a couple of days at least and there was a tenseness to his stance that immediately set me on edge.
“Sorry,” he said before I could speak. “You’re here about the noise. I really wish we could do something about it.”
“Your kid’s sick?”
He hesitated, glancing back at the stairs that led up to the first-floor landing. “Yeah, he is.”
Shit. Kids seemed a little more resilient to it and while the majority of the deaths from the virus were older folk, there had been a growing number of reports of younger people dying too. I stood there awkwardly, not sure what to say.
My anger had dissipated on that news and I wished that I’d not bothered coming over to the house. There was a renewed round of crying interspaced with screaming from upstairs in the house and the man before me winced and rubbed at the back of his neck.
“Look, I’ll do what I can to calm him, believe me, I want him to feel calm and well more than anyone.”
“No, I get it.” I licked my lips behind my mask. “Have you called the doctors?”
“Yeah, nothing to do just yet. Have to watch him and monitor his symptoms.”
Which seemed a bit odd. “Just monitor, no medicine?”
“Paracetamol or Ibuprofen and plenty of fluids. He has a temperature but if it stays under thirty-eight degrees then we just keep him cool as best we can.”
“What about the hospital?”
“Look, I know you mean well but the hospitals are full. Even the one here in town. There’s no beds, limited medicine and equipment and the staff are all exhausted.”
Another oddity. That had been downplayed in the daily briefings from the Prime Minister. That really wasn’t a good sign. I licked dry lips again and took a step back, nodding.
“Alright, well, look, if you need anything, we’re just next door.”
“Yeah, thanks. I’ll do what I can about the noise.”
With that, he shut the door and I was left staring at the glass panel. The light from inside went off and I shook my head. The kid was sick, that was clear to anyone who could listen. No one screamed and cried like that if they weren’t ill.
But even with that, the doctors weren’t doing anything and they weren’t sending him to the hospital. Another shake of my head as I curled hands into fists.
Kyra was waiting as I came through the door. She inclined her head towards the bottle of hand sanitiser on the end table beside the shoe rack and I squirted a liberal amount into my hands and began rubbing them together.
“Well?” she asked when I didn’t speak.
I pulled off the mask and grimaced as I slipped it back into my pocket. “Not good. Kid’s sick and they aren’t doing anything.”
“What, the parents aren’t?”
“No, the doctors. They called the helpline and were told to watch him, give him fluids and keep him cool.”
Her eyes widened and she reached for her phone, understanding immediately the ramifications of that. She tapped on the screen and opened her contacts list before scrolling down to a name and pressing the connect button.
The phone rang twice and then went to voicemail and she swore. “Liam, call me when you can.”
“You think he’ll know anything?” I brushed past her and went into the kitchen. There was a drink already poured and I took a swallow, pulling a face at the aftertaste of the vodka. “Fuck that’s strong.”
“Better than being too weak,” she replied, following me. “Liam has as much chance of knowing something as anyone. He was working with… whatsisname?”
“Alan… no, Alex,” I said, and she rested her hand on her hip and nodded. “I thought he worked in the Department of Transport.”
“Yeah, he did. Last I heard he was working his arse off making sure the supply chains stayed intact. With everyone in lockdown and if hospitals are as busy as they are, his entire department will be in the know.”
It was my turn to shrug at that and I drank the rest of the vodka. It left a sour taste and burned as it went down, but it was better than being sober. I poured another from the bottle she had left on the counter.
“What do you want to do?”
I gave her a blank look. How the hell would I know what we should do next? Not like there was a checklist of things to do when the world was going to shit.
“We need more food,” I said, a thought occurring to me. “If things are as bad as I suspect, they’ll get worse before they get better. I think we need to stock up.”
“Seriously? We could just head home.”
“Lockdown started,” I said. “It’s a long drive back to London and there’s no way we could make it unnoticed.”
“What’re they gonna do, fine us? I’ll pay the bloody fine.”
Money wasn’t the issue, going home was. I really didn’t want to go back there and there was a gleam of suspicion in her eye as she saw my hesitation. I raised my hands placatingly.
“Look, it’s not worth the risk. At the moment, we’re in a small town with a load of farms around us. We can hit the farm shops and get veg and meat that will see us through. London, with millions of people, will be fucked. You know that.”
Kyra scowled but didn’t argue too much. She knew enough to know that I wasn’t being entirely honest with her but she wasn’t quite willing to push it, at least not right then. A curt nod was my only reply and I offered her the bottle.
She snatched it from my hand and poured a generous measure into the glass she held. Not at all happy with me, she held onto the bottle and didn’t offer it back.
“We get a load of food and supplies. Then what?”
“Stay here, for now, hunker down and monitor the news.”
“To what end?”
I winced as another scream filtered through from the house next door. I had no answer to her question and I used the distraction to give me a moment to think. A long swallow of the drink helped as she kept her gaze fixed on me.
“Okay,” I said, slowly. “We can’t go to work and it’s not like either of us has family in the city…”
“We have friends.”
“Yeah, but not like we can see them. Lockdown means no going out. So we can sit down in London in our flats or we can stay here and enjoy the fresh sea air and plenty of space.”
“What about Kathy?”
“What about her?”
She took a step closer and set the bottle down on the counter. “You need to deal with her sooner rather than later.”
“I know.” Though that was the last bloody thing I wanted to do.
“You can’t do that from up here.”
She studied my face for a long moment before she gave a sharp nod of her head. “Fine, then let’s go to bed and try to drown out the noise.”
“How the hell are we going to do that?”
She glanced back over her shoulder as she walked to the stairs, her body moving almost sinuously as she leered. “Why, by making our own noise, of course.”