Even her hands are hot with fever. She traces my eyebrows with warm fingers, following down along my jaw, my lips, my nose - touch tender and sweet. She's memorizing the lines of my face, her eyes half-focused and glassy in their mission, making sure she can remember me if I get abducted in the night while she sleeps. "You're sick and I'm sick," she says.
"We are," I agree.
"So, we have to take tare of each udder?"
And I tuck her up close against my chest and set my chin against her hair and squeeze with whatever strength the fever hasn't sapped from me. "Yes, we have to take care of each other."
I don't really know how she does it - wrapping up this sickness in sweetness because all I want to do is sleep or cry. She spends her time nestling against me, lacing her fingers through mine over and over again and whispering, "Are you feeling better yet, Mommy?"
And because this wretched cough has stolen my voice I can only whisper back while my eyes water and my throat burns, "No!" And her hand will come up and find my hair and she'll tap my head affectionately until she falls asleep, sickness breathing out of her in what sounds like the strange purring of a feral cat.
Days and nights and they're all the same and children's television programing becomes increasingly obnoxious and I actually miss going to work and I can't be there to support my sister and her presentation and suffocating on a cough while I realize I've never taught my six-year-old about 911 and I have visions of myself lying dead on the bathroom floor but then it's over and he just says, "What was dat all about? Were you like chocking or sumting?" And sudoku and six movies and cough syrup that knocks me flat on my butt and Tina Fey wrote the funniest book I've ever read...
Please, God, let it be over.
Tonight I tuck her beneath her pink blankets and kiss her nose and whisper how sorry I am that I can't sing to her. She just pats my face and says. "Dat's okay. Are you felling better yet, Mommy?"
"I think I am," I tell her. "Are you feeling better yet, Noa?"
"A little bit," she says and her eyes fall closed before I can even leave the room.