“Phyllis!” He took her hands in his, blowing his warm breath on them, silently praying she’d open her eyes at any moment, flash him a mischievous smile, and tease him for being so gullible. “Phyllis, come on…please…talk to me.”
Desperation began to settle in soul as he realized he had so few options. He needed to get her inside–get her warm…
He reached around her, grabbing her, lifting her in his arm, staring down at her face. His breath caught in his throats as he saw her eyes blinking slowly back at him.
“Billy…” Her voice was slurred and slow. “What are you…where am I?” She shivered, her face confused. “I’m shaking…I don’t know…”
“That’s good,” he whispered, pulling her closer to him, pressing her to his chest as he struggled to open the door. “Shivering is good. You just keep talking to me, ok? We’re gonna get you inside…get you warmed up.”
Who knew his time at boarding school would ever prove useful? Before ski trips, they’d often discussed the dangers of hypothermia, about the symptoms, about the stages, the treatments, about how serious it was….how it could….
No…he couldn’t even entertain the thought. She couldn’t leave him. In some ways, she’d left him already, but there was something about knowing she was still here–still in this town that gave him comfort.
He shook his head, banishing the thought, refusing to believe–even for a second that she might leave him.
Billy gently placed her on the floor, in front of the couch, grabbing the blanket from the chair and the couch and rushing over the hall closet for the quilt and pillows. He spotted his discarded shirt laying on the back of the chair–another perk of bachelor life. He grabbed it. Her dress was soaked through.
“You still with me?” He called out her, gathering everything in his arms and pausing to turn on the gas logs before kneeling beside her again. His heart pounded when he didn’t get a response. “Phyllis! Come on….you gotta talk to me.”
“I need you to try to talk to me.. ok, beautiful? You’ve never been the strong, silent type. What were you doing here tonight, huh? You come here to tell me something? You want to talk to me? Talk to me now, ok?”
He removed her jacket, laying it beside the fireplace and reached behind her, his fingertips finding the zipper of her dress.
Her head shifted slightly. “What are you…”
“We gotta get these wet clothes off you. I’m gonna get you warmed up.” He pulled the dress up and over her head, wrapping the shirt around her quickly and buttoning it. “God, you’re like ice,” he whispered, bounding the blankets and sheets around her face and neck as he covered her body and bare legs with the quilt. He moved her closer to the fireplace, wrapping his arms tight around her.
“What were you doing here, Phyllis, huh?”
“I wasn’t gonna stay,” she whispered, her eyes still droopy.
“I know…you were by your car and you locked your keys in, right?” He stroked her hair as she nodded slowly.
“Couldn’t leave,” she said quietly.
“I’m glad. I’m glad you stayed. I just wish it wasn’t like this. You gotta be careful. You can’t scare me like this…I’m getting old.” He smiled as he saw her lips twitch slightly.
She was more focused, and a little more alert.
“So, you said you were leaving but you still haven’t told me why you came…why you were here?”
A yawn escaped her mouth and she snuggled up against him, her voice more clear when she spoke now. “I can’t tell til I leave..you’re supposed to find out then.”
It sounded lucid yet the words made no sense. Billy looked down at her. There was Color returning to her cheeks, her pulse was no longer racing, her shivering had almost stopped and there was a marked difference in her body temperature. These were all signs that she was improving yet she seemed thoroughly confused.
“I don’t understand, Phyllis. How can I find out after you leave. If you’re not here to tell me…,does someone else tell me?”
“You didn’t see it…” Her voice rose at the end of her sentence as if her mind wasn’t sure if she was asking the question or making the statement.
Billy watched as her head dropped to his shoulder, exhaustion finally winning out. She was no longer shivering and her body felt normal to type. He’d check on her of course, but what she needed at this moment was sleep,
He gently placed a pillow under her head, standing still and watching her for a moment before walking away. He was looking for something–if only he knew what.
His eyes fell upon the black trash bags that sat everywhere and he lucked them up, throwing them into an unclaimed corner of the foyer. He glanced down as he lifted a bag, his name catching his eye.
The envelope was light, but he somehow knew how heavy the burden would be. He opened the envelope and began to read.