"You brought this into our house!" screamed Nicole from the top of the stairs.
"I didn't mean to!" sputtered Kevin.
"Get out!" she said.
"Be reasonable! Where am going to go?" he said, looking up his wife and leaning on the newel for support.
"I don't want to get sick!"
"No one wants to get sick!"
"You could have prevented it!"
"I had to go to work, they needed me! There weren't enough ambulances," he took in a deep breath and his chest ached.
"I told you not to go, didn't I? Didn't I say that?!"
"What did you expect me to do, just let people die out there?!" he shouted, then got suddenly dizzy and sat down on the bottom step.
"Don't you do that!"
"I'm about to collapse," he said.
"Go out on the lawn. You can't die in here!"
"I'm not going to die," he said weakly. A wave of nauseousness quickly passed over him. "And I'm not going out on the lawn. dammit Nicole, what about that 'til death do we part stuff!?"
"Don't give me that," she said. "You have no right to come back here and bring that virus into this house, not after I told you that I wouldn't let you in if you tried to come back."
"So that's it?"
"Don't guilt-trip me! You really think it's best that instead of one of us dying, two of us will?" She peered over the railing at him, then decided to pull her sweater collar up over her nose and mouth. "I'd rather it was neither of us dying, but you had to go and not listen to me, again!"
"It is a survivable disease you know, with the proper care. If you would just take care of me I could recover," he said.
"There are hospitals full of dying people, and they're getting better care than what I could give you," said Nicole. Tears started forming in her eyes.
"They're not getting better care. The hospitals are overwhelmed. A lot of the doctors and nurses are sick now too. If it's just you and me, that's not so hard," he said, feeling queasy. Sweat was soaking through his shirt. He started to unbutton it, but couldn't feel his fingertips. "It's really hot in here..."
"And you would almost definitely infect me, and then who would there be to take care of both of us?"
"I dunno--" Kevin vomited profusely onto the wooden floor.
"Please go out on the lawn," whispered Nicole to herself. There was no other way down to the first floor than the stairs. "Kevin, sweetheart, you have to go out on the lawn," she said.
"No," he said. "I can't. Everything is blurry."
"Then why don't you go lie down on the sofa? It's just in the living room."
"It's too far," he said, his words slurring. "This is too fast. I'm not supposed to have these symptoms--oh God--" he vomited again. This time there were traces of blood. Nicole started sobbing, and sank down to the floor. She clutched the balusters and looked down between them. Kevin turned and looked up at her. "Don't cry," he said quietly. She wiped her eyes with the sleeves of her sweater.
"I can't help you," she said, choking back more tears. "I'm sorry." Kevin turned and stared blankly at the back of the front door. A few seconds later he lost consciousness and slumped into the mess. His body slowly slide to rest on it's back. The pool of vomit kept spreading outward, slowly, over the floor. Nicole screamed into sweater. She felt frozen in place, staring at his body.
Finally she got up and ran into the upstairs bathroom and slammed the door shut. She left the light off and crawled into the bathtub. She sat and rocked back and forth. After a few hours she slid down, curled up, and slept. She was out for a good twelve hours, before waking to the sound of birds cheeping in the trees outside. Strong morning light poured in through the frosted bathroom window. She briefly wondered why she was sleeping in the bathtub. Then she remembered and sat bolt upright. She got up, used the bathroom, then walked slowly out to the landing.
She looked down over the railing. She felt cold. He was still there, though the mess had dried somewhat. There were flies already buzzing around the body, and she wondered how they had gotten there, since the windows and doors were pretty airtight. After a few minutes, she walked into their bedroom and went to the closet. She pulled down a backpack Kevin had used on fishing trips from the top shelf. She checked to see that it was empty and threw it onto the bed.
Nicole changed into her hiking clothes, long jeans, a T-shirt, then a camp shirt, then a polar fleece anorak, athletic socks and her hiking boots. Into the backpack she tossed a change of clothes and several changes of underwear and socks. Then she packed up soap and sundries from the bathroom. When she was done she looked at Kevin's side of the closet. She grabbed a handful of shirt sleeves and buried her face in them. She inhaled deeply, and tried not to start crying again.
She let the sleeves fall and she went and sat on the bed. She picked up the remote and tried to turn the TV on, but it wouldn't come on. She looked to the digital clock on the bedside table, but it's face was dark. She reasoned it was probably time to leave. She got up then knelt down beside the bed. She extended her hand under the bed ruffle, searching. She found the emergency rope ladder and pulled it out. She went to the bedroom window, pulled up the sash, and secured the ladder to the window, letting the rope rungs fall down into the rose bushes below. Then she flung the backpack into the back yard, and climbed down shakily, scratching her jeans on the rose thorns. She picked up the backpack and headed to the edge of the forest that abutted their property, and started down a deer path towards the creek. She did not look back at the house.