Friend looked at me, eyebrows arched in surprise, when I shivered and said I was freezing. I like the cold in general and a day in the 50s should have had me lifting my face to the wind and sighing in pleasure. Instead, I shivered again and moved toward the bathroom again.
"Are you OK?" Friend asked gently and I moaned that my head hurt so badly. It had started in the morning - focused on the right side, a little above my eye. I'd taken Advil when I woke. Tylenol before we left. Excedrin on the drive. And it wouldn't go away, stubbornly throbbing in concert with my newly-acquired nausea, courtesy of the multiple pills.
"I need to eat," I continued to say. But given that I was driving and there were multiple restaurants on the way, I'm not sure why I didn't stop. I finally decided on a place and was slurping soup before nibbling on grilled cheese, watching Friend with her strawberry pancakes.
"The soup healed me," I reported happily and we continued on our journey. Zipping sweatshirts against the cold and cameras in hand, we traipsed among the tulips, mostly quiet.
I watched, a little bemused, as she took photos. Friend is thoughtful, deliberate. And I thought worriedly of the photos she'd shown me the night before - every single topiary that graced the grounds at Epcot Center - and looked at the array of blooms in dismay. If she assigned herself the task of cataloging each of them, her dedication was no match for my impatience and we'd be there for-freaking-ever.
But each time I glanced up, she was never far away. She told a few stories. Pointed out the particularly pretty. And we walked companionably, crunching through gravel and wandering across grassy paths. And I clenched my teeth and endured - a growing trend of late - thinking that I'd feel better for a moment before a particularly vicious gust of wind would anger my headache and renew the brutal throb.
"I make buffers," Friend noted and I nodded, though I'm not really sure what that means. "And some experiments go all wild, but they just need longer to stir. Then it all balances out. Sometimes you just end up with a different pH than when you started."
"You never have enough pictures of flowers," she said later
And though I lost track of our trek through the last two gardens in a haze of misery, the headache eased when we were back in the warm car, additional pills swallowed and jackets shed.
We drove to, then past, the airport, finding a friendly pizza place to spend a last bit of time together before I dropped her off, clinging when she hugged me before leaving the Jeep (and me) with a wave.
So I miss her, which is no surprise. But I got some sleep and went to work and faced my week with some degree of maturity.
"Hey," I answered the phone, machines buzzing around me in the lab as I moved to a quieter spot. "All done?" I asked Mom of her bone scan. We'd talked after she'd received her injection - on their way back home - and then she was to return to the hospital for a quick zip through the machine.
"I think so," she replied. "Claudia is just making sure the doctor doesn't want to do any more scans. I wish you were here to look at the images."
"PET scans aren't hard, I don't think," I mused. "Did you see any bright spots? Really bright spots, I mean, around your ribs? Where they thought the spot was?"
"No," she replied slowly. "But I'll look again. Call you back," she said and we exchanged 'love you's and I smiled fondly.
"Spots, Katie," she said quietly when my phone rang again. "Bright spots. And they want to do more scans."
"Oh," I replied, sinking into a nearby chair. "Maybe..." I trailed off, wanting to say something reassuring, able to hear Claudia in the background. The technologist indicated it could be anything and not to get so upset and I winced as Mom wept.
"Where's Dad?" I asked fretfully and scowled when she reported he was in the car. I love that he wants to go with her, but if you're going to sign up, then get in there! There's no waiting in the car in this game, damn it. "Do you want to pray?" I finally asked, not knowing what else to say and she declined before we hung up again.
"I'm waiting again," she said when she called back. "I'm going to ask to see the radiologist - I can't wait until tomorrow."
"It's arthritis," she finally told me. "Claudia talked to the doctor and showed me the report. It's OK. I'm OK." And despite the relief that rushed through my body, I still shook, literally sick with stress.
But I finished some work, let an adorable Canadian boy rub my feet for 90 minutes and came home to nap. But whether lying in a darkened room with soothing music or at my desk, repeating work because people keep changing the freaking algorithm, I think of cool breezes and thousands of petals and lose myself in the blooms until reality demands attention again.