Louise’s phone rings. Her heart leaps into her throat.
It’s the hospital.
Please, she prays silently before she answers. Please.
“Mrs. McCargar?” A business-like voice, one that does not give away the subject of the call.
“Yes,” Louise lies. She kept her last name, but finds it easier not to correct people when they call her by Douglas’s. Hearing his name, her knees turn to warm liquid, and she sinks into the nearest chair.
“I’m calling to let you know your sister is here.”
Louise does not know where to focus her eyes. Her brain races to process this information. Is Penelope visiting Douglas, for some reason? No, that can’t be. No visitors allowed.
“Why?” she asks.
“She was tested after presenting with symptoms. She’s positive. We have her in the ICU, where she is resting as comfortably as possible.”
Louise stands. She sits. She stands. Her body cannot find stillness.
“Is she, will she be okay? How sick is she?”
“She’s quite ill, Mrs. McCargar. She would like to see you.”
Louise sits again, fighting vertigo. “But there are no visitors allowed.”
“Our most severe cases, we arrange for one visitor a day. Mrs. McCargar, would you like to visit your sister today?”
“Yes. Of course. Yes. May I?”
They make the arrangements, set the time and place where Louise will present herself. The woman on the phone reminds her that she will not be able to see Douglas, but that he will be informed of her sister’s condition. She warns Louise that seeing someone on a ventilator can be a shock, although Penelope is not on one, yet, she might be soon. She assures Louise the hospital will give her sister the best of care.
“Do you have someone to drive you here? It’s often best not to try to drive yourself,” the woman on the phone says, still business-like, but with compassion.
Louise realizes that she does, indeed. “Yes,” she tells the woman, and says goodbye.
She calls David.