The Price of Guilt
By Art Cerf
Here’s the first snowfall of the year in Connecticut. It has nothing to do with the story. We just think it is beautiful and as good a way to illustrate this story as any.
Mike and Jill had been married for almost two years and still behaved like newlyweds. They treasured each other.
One morning Jill woke up with a headache and a slight fever. She said it’s just a cold and went on with her day. But the headache got worse and her fever climbed so Mike rushed her to the hospital. It was the last time he would see her for four weeks.
He checked about every four hours with the hospital staff but she was showing no improvement. In fact, three days in the doctors said they had to put a tube down her throat because her oxygen levels had dipped so.
Mike was worried sick. He couldn’t work. He couldn’t read or watch TV. About all he could do was go outside and walk…and walk…and walk.
One day, he ran into Maggie, one of Jill’s acquaintances and she asked for Jill and he told her how she was now hospitalized with Covid. She looked at him…gaunt in appearance, he hadn’t shaved in days nor eaten much.
She said let’s go back to your place and I’d cook you up something. He followed her and she rummaged through the fridge and came up with bacon and eggs.
She told him to go upstairs, shower, shave and change his clothes. When he returned, he suddenly realized he was ravenous and quickly ate every bite.
After the meal, he asked her if she’d like a beer.
“No, but if you have any gin, I’d take a martini.”
So they both had martinis and talked. And then a second martini and then a third.
The next thing he knew, he was getting out of bed to pee while nursing a terrible hangover.
As he returned, he saw a sleeping Maggie, one bare breast peeking out from beneath the sheets.
He tried to dress quietly but she awoke smiling, saying, “Good morning, lover.”
Mike turned scarlet and stammered, “We shouldn’t have, I shouldn’t have…”
She stopped him, saying not to worry, it was a one-time thing and she had no desire to break up his marriage, adding, “As for me, I really enjoyed myself and apparently, you did too…twice!”
Maggie then said she’d take a quick shower and be on her way.
Those were the longest 25 minutes in Mike’s life until she went out the door.
Then he worried, “What if the neighbors saw? What if she had a social disease or, God forbid, Aids?”
And then he realized he had used no protection…what if she’s pregnant?
Just then the phone rang and it was the hospital. A doctor told him Jill had been taken off the ventilator and was doing much better and though still very weak, could go home in two or three days.
Mike ran upstairs, stripped the bed and washed the sheets…twice. He then scrubbed out the tub to make sure none of Maggie’s long, chestnut hair was stuck in the drain or anywhere else. Â Then he cleaned up the kitchen, washing pots and dishes, again trying to erase any sign of Maggie’s presence.
Three days later, Jill came home and went straight up to the bedroom to lie down.
Then the phone rang and it was Maggie.
“Mike,” she said, “I had a Covid test at work after our night, and I’ve tested positive but asymptotic. However, they warn that I may have past the virus to anyone I’d seen or spent time with.”