What became of her? Was she under quarantine too?
She was aware of the spokesman as he continued addressing them all, but her mind drifted away. She wondered if Simone had noticed her absence. Would she call? She doubted if anyone else would notice as she lived a very secluded life in her apartment. It was actually a tradition she had met when she moved in and she joined the flow.
The spokesman had said they would remain quarantine for 7 days, during which time their blood would be drawn and tested. Anyone who came out ‘clean’ and completed the quarantine would be allowed to leave.
Allen’s ears rang as he listened to the man speak; they were to be quarantined for 7 days?! What happened to his work during this time. This sentiment was echoed and voiced by an angry women who lamented she would loose her business clients to her competitors during this period.
The medical spokesman tried to calm them down, urging them to bear with the institution as that was the procedure for getting things done.
There was an uproar in the hall as every one spoke at the same time, voicing their displeasure. The spokesman remained calm, empathizing with the disruption that had occurred in their lives.
“We understand that this must be quite tough for you all”, he said after a while, and calm returned. “But we want to assure you that we are doing all within our powers to hasten things up so you can all return to your individual lives. Please, bear with us and you will be out of here soon.”
The team soon left and the day’s activities happened in a frenzy. Another set of men came in and took blood samples of everyone.
Babine felt the prick as the tiny needle was inserted into her wrist and grimaced slightly, but the lady drawing the blood kept a straight face. She seemed anxious to get her task done on time, and Babine quelled the anger rising inside of her.
What, they had become pariahs now? They weren’t even confirmed as infected and already this lady had the attitude of a sour donkey.
She looked over to see Allen being attended to as well. He seemed to be taking the sudden disruption well, and somehow, she couldn’t help but compare him to the strong and decisive Alex of her dream.
The results began coming hours later in batches. Babine was handed hers, her heart hammering in her chest. She felt she would die from the sheer anxiety that gripped her. Now she understood how people felt when they went to test for infectious diseases.
“Congratulations, you are free”, the medical attendant supplied, and she let out a long breath she wasn’t aware she’d been holding.
“Thank you”, she murmured and gave her first smile since the whole incident started.
Allen sauntered over to where she stood and the unworried expression on his face told her all she needed to know about his test results.
“I guess congratulations are in order”, he said and once again Babine couldn’t help noticing the rich baritone of his voice, the way he seemed to speak with a drawl that was quaint, yet calming.
What was wrong with her? It was so unlike her to be so aware of a guy. What was it about this one that got to her so?
“We should pop some wine”, Allen continued, seemingly unaware of the emotions at variance within her. “Unfortunately, we can’t do that.”
“Yes, quite unfortunate”, Babine replied, a little hurriedly as she tried to quell the mini turbulence rising within her. “But it will all be over soon.”
“What do you do, if I may ask?” Allen changed the subject, taking the seat beside her.
“I’m an artist. I make paintings and sculptures occasionally.”
“Oh really, that’s nice. There’s an art gallery just around the corner from my office. You work there?”
“Not quite”, she replied. “It belongs to a childhood friend of mine. I exhibit my work there. I was actually on my way there when this whole hullabaloo occurred. I’m yet to get through to my friend, Simone. She must be worried sick by now. I left my house with a flat battery, hoping to charge when I got to the gallery.”
“Same here”, Alex replied. “I left the office suddenly and my absence must have been noticed by now. Anyways, its a good thing we’ll only be here for a while.”
“Seven days”, Babine supplied, then groaned. “That’s like a lifetime. They are barely prepared for us. What do we do during this time.”
Allen shrugged. “I have no idea. But one thing I do know is that one week will soon be over and then our lives can continue.”
He was right. Babine barely had the time to catch her breath as the days rolled by so fast. So much was done during this period. Their living condition was made a little more comfortable. Beds and tvs were brought in, bathrooms were hastily set up, and she couldn’t fault the medical care and feeding given to them.
This was the last day and they were all eager, waiting for the chief medical examiner who would have them cleared; all 20 of them.
Babine glanced over at Allen. They’d grown close in this one week, keeping each other company and generally just getting well acquainted. She got to know he was an architect and worked very close to Simone’s office.
His office had long since called and promised to check on him, until he told them they were not allowed visitors. Babine had received a call from a stunned and worried Simone herself, and several from her mother who called everyday.
The door opened and the medical examiner suddenly came in with his team. The 20 quarantined patient rushed towards him, surrounding him. There were looks of apparent impatience on faces, just like she felt, at his congratulatory speech. They wanted him to get to the part they were most eager to hear.
“You are all cleared”, he said finally and an excited chatter went up. He raised his hand for calm and it was gradually supplied. “However, it is recommended that you all take things calm for the next few weeks- that means absolutely no sex, as these viruses can sometimes remain dormant, and no strenuous activities. That will be all, guys and I am happy to dismiss you.”He concluded amidst the laughter that rang out.
“Oh, and by the way, some of you have family members and friends waiting for you at the reception. We took it upon ourselves to call these people in based on the informations you supplied in the forms you filled.”
The reception was truly brimming with faces. She sighted Simone and her mother, who burst into tears on seeing her. Babine sighed. She had forgotten just how emotional her mother was.
Mrs Thomas, a round, stocky woman, wrapped her arms around her daughter.”My baby girl”, she cried on, enveloping Babine in a bear hug that threatened to snuff the life out of her. Babine struggled to breathe. ” My enemies wanted to disgrace me, but God has vindicated me!” She announced, shaking Babine for emphasis. “They have failed.” She began to sing and Babine couldn’t help but sigh.
Her eyes met Simone’s over her mother’s head and the other girl had an amused grin on her face. She was used to Mrs Thomas and her dramatics by now.
“Mom, its alright”, Babine said, disentangling herself from her mother’s grip. “We can continue singing at home.” She smiled, then turned to Simone and the other girl smiled, stepping forward for a hug of her own.
“Death can’t take you just yet”, she supplied, her eyes misty. “Not for a thousand years to come.”
Babine smiled, relieved at being with loved ones again.
“Shey they have cleared you to leave?” Mrs Thomas asked. “So we can leave, abi?”
“Yes”, she replied, looking around. “But before that there’s someone I have to say goodbye to. I’ll be right back.” She said, sighting Allen.
She made her way to him, noticing he was surrounded by a small crowd of people. His family?
He saw her approach and smiled too. “Leaving, right?” He asked and she nodded.
“My mom and friend are waiting for me”, she replied. “Just came to say goodbye.”
Allen nodded and took her hand casually. “It was nice getting to know you, Babine”, he said. “Hope we can keep in touch?”
Babine nodded, her hand getting warm where he held it. Yes they could keep in touch. their leaving the center didn’t mean a friendship that had just been built had to die. “Yes, that would be…..”
“Baby! Oh my God, I’m so glad you are free!” Babine was almost knocked off her feet as a lady brushed past and threw herself into Allen’s arms. “I got a call yesterday from the hospital and I came as soon as I could.”
Allen’s eyes met Babine’s over the girl’s head and he said, “Babine, this is my girlfriend, Ava. Ava, this is Babine, she was quarantined as well and we kept each other sane all through.”
Babine’s senses reeled as she took in the information and surveyed Ava’s tall lithe form all in the space of a few seconds.
Ava turned to look at Babine, subtly giving her a once over. Her arm went around Allen’s waist and she smiled at Babine. “Nice meeting you, dear.”
Babine replied and then said her goodbyes, making her way to her mom and friend. She walked on, somewhat aware of a pair of eyes burning into her back as she moved, but refused to turn.
Right now, all she wanted was to go home with her family and pretend this quarantine never happened.