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Miranda fumbled with the contraption in her hands. “This umbrella is hopeless. Just run. The car is right over there.”
Lisa made a face. She lifted her briefcase to shield her head from the downpour and sprinted to Miranda’s red Prius.
Sliding into the driver’s seat, Miranda tossed the useless tangle of wire and fabric in the back floor with her purse. She took a deep breath and exhaled an exaggerated sigh. “Let the weekend begin.”
Lisa wiped her glasses on the hem of her skirt. “With that in mind, will you stop at the wine store? I need supplies.”
Miranda chuckled. “I could use some supplies myself.”
“You want to come over? After the week we just had, we both deserve a bottle and some take out. I have the new Ryan Gosling movie queued up and ready to go.”
“I wish I could.” Miranda stuck out her bottom lip.
“I’ll make Lisa’s famous chili cheese dip.”
“So tempting, but Dave is still out of town and the kids are coming home early. It looks like Mom’s new husband, Bill has the flu that’s going around. I just hope the kids don’t get it.” Miranda pulled her Prius into the parking lot of Lincoln Street Wines & Grocery. “Traffic is really light for a Friday.”
Lisa nodded. “Maybe it’s the rain. At least you got a parking space up front.”
The women dashed into the store. Perusing the aisles together, they managed to fill the cart. “How long is Dave going to be in Phoenix?” Lisa asked.
“I’m not sure. His trip has been extended. We aren’t the only ones working overtime. This flu bug hit his crew too. He has to stay until the project manager comes back.” Miranda looked into the cart with raised eyebrows. “Really Lisa? Four bottles of red and a fifth of Bailey’s?”
Lisa added a bag of chips. “Don’t judge me. It’s been a hell of a week.”
Miranda smirked and wheeled the cart to the checkout. The older gentleman behind the counter blew his nose loudly. He pumped sanitizer into his hands and rubbed them together. “Hello ladies.”
“Mr. Marcus.” Lisa greeted him. “Sorry to say but you don’t look so well.”
Mr. Marcus sat down hard on the padded stool behind the register. “It’s this flu. The whole family’s got it. Now I’m getting it too.”
Miranda placed her items on the counter behind Lisa’s and stepped back. She looked up at the little television balanced on the shelf next to pints of cheap vodka. She watched the screen for a moment while Mr. Marcus rang up Lisa’s purchase.
“Would you turn that up please? I think they’re talking about the flu.”
Mr. Marcus turned a bloodshot eye toward the little screen and poked a boney finger at the volume button. The pretty bleach blonde anchor droned in her news voice. “And confirmed reports of at least thirty seven deaths associated with the virus. The CDC is on site to evaluate the situation. Now we’ll go over to Antonio in our Weather Center.
Miranda felt a cold chill run down her spine as she stood glued to the tiny screen. The image changed from the perky blonde to the dark features and smooth baritone of the meteorologist.
“Thanks Tiffany. This low pressure system is going to continue across the middle of the country and threatens to dump up to five inches of rain…”
Lisa poked a manicured finger at Miranda. “You gonna pay the man or watch the news? Oh I love Antonio, the weather guy. He’s got a sexy voice.”
Miranda turned from the television to look at Mr. Marcus. He was finishing with bagging her purchases. She handed him her debit card. She watched him slide the card and punch at the keypad. Miranda noticed the veins in his face like an old road map. She retrieved her card and picked up her bags. “You should get some rest, Mr. Marcus. This flu bug may be worse than you think.”
The old man cracked a smile. “I’ll be fine, but thanks ladies. If business stays this slow, I may close up early tonight.”
Miranda and Lisa dumped their bags on the back seat and hopped into the car. “I will be glad when this rain lets up.” Miranda commented.
Lisa pulled open a bag of chips. “Antonio said it’s a slow moving system but it is headed to the east.”
“Good. I promised Rob and Farrah they could go to the skate park tomorrow.” Miranda flipped the wipers on high and pulled out of the parking lot.
Lisa wrinkled her nose. “You hate the skate park.”
“I do. But I promised the kids since they had to cut their granny vacation short. Rob is almost fifteen. I have to keep him engaged or he’ll end up spending all his time playing video games. Mom was going to take them to a play and some museums so I wanted to do something special for them.”
A police cruiser with lights flashing pulled from a side street to speed ahead of the Prius. “Great. It’s probably an accident. No surprise with this rain coming down in buckets.” Lisa munched loudly on a chip, annoyed. “Take a left up here on Adams and go over to Washington. The side streets may be your best bet. If there’s an accident, we’ll get stuck on Lincoln. And thanks again for giving me a ride. Alex at the auto shop promised my car would be ready by Thursday but he got the flu. I tried calling but just got his stupid answering machine. Who still has those?”
Miranda laughed. “Alex must be a luddite. Since we’re going that way I’ll swing by the shop. Maybe it’s ready and he just hasn’t got around to call backs. If it is ready, you won’t be stuck at home all weekend without transportation.”
“And you won’t have to trek all the way from the burbs to get me on Monday morning.” Lisa teased.
Miranda winked at her friend. “Bonus!” She pulled the little red car into a space in front of the garage. The pouring rain showed no signs of letting up. Lisa bolted from the car to the shelter of the awning over the door. Miranda watched as Lisa tried the door, knocked, and peered inside. She ran back to the car.
Lisa shook rain from her soggy blonde hair. “It’s locked but the lights are on. And there’s an awful stench coming from somewhere in there. It smells like somebody died.”
Miranda dropped Lisa at her building and watched as her friend hauled her briefcase and grocery bags (full of wine) to the door. The rain was still coming down hard but traffic was light so she made good time getting home. She punched the button for the automatic door and pulled into her garage.
Miranda exhaled a sigh of relief as the door closed behind her and she was able to exit the car without getting drenched. Before she could retrieve her belongings and groceries from the car both Rob and Farrah ran out the side door. “You want to help?” She started to say, when both children clung to her. Farrah was in tears.
“What’s going on?” Miranda asked.
“They’re all dying.” Eleven year old Farrah managed between sobs.
Miranda looked into the blue eyes of her son. He could not hold back his tears. “It’s the rain and the virus. The news said it’s not the flu. Now, wherever it’s raining people with the virus are dying.”
“I heard that over two dozen had died in…”
Rob interrupted. “No Mom. Thousands. People are dying by the thousands. Where have you been?”
Miranda choked on the next breath. Her voice sounded far away. “I was just coming home from work.”