"I'm gonna get in the shower," I said as I got up from the couch.
"Okay!" said Feliciano Vargas cheerfully. "Just don't take too long. The pasta doesn't have much longer."
"Okay. But if I'm not out by the time it gets done, you guys can go ahead and eat." I made my way up the staircase, feeling a slight pain in the right side of my back. I gathered some clean clothes and went to the bathroom. I had been living with the representatives of the former Axis Powers for four days now. It was odd and very awkward at first, living with a group of grown men, but after spending a week with the representatives of the former Allied Forces (who were also all grown men), I soon adjusted.
After shedding my clothes, I plopped down on the toilet. Here's the weird thing: I really felt like I had to go, but nothing came out.
Weird, I thought as I proceeded to work the knobs on the shower. When the water was at a favorable temperature, I stepped in, taking in the warmth and letting it sooth my tired muscles. The water had no effect, however, on the pain in my back, which had returned and intensified slightly. I did my best to ignore it while I bathed and prepared to shave my legs. I set my razor on my right ankle and began to pull it across my leg when--
"FELICIANO, YOU CAN'T EAT YET!!"
Ludwig Beilschmidt's outburst was so loud that it caused my hand to inadvertently dig the razor blade directly into my Achilles' tendon. The pain instantly made me recoil and almost drop the razor, but I kept a firm grip on it. I quickly, and painfully, rinsed and dried myself off and dressed, being very careful not to touch the cut.
I staggered out of the bathroom and headed to the banister. "Hey, Ludwig!" I called. "Where's the first-aid kit?"
He, Kiku, and Feliciano were all standing near the bottom of the stairway, Feli with a bowl of pasta in his hands and Ludwig looking as stressed as always. They all looked up at me in slight surprise as I limped down the stairs.
Ludwig was the first to notice my ankle. "Feliciano, go get the first-aid kit," he ordered. With a light shade of red dusting his cheeks, he picked me up bridal-style and put me on the couch in the living room. Feli came back with the first-aid kit, which Ludwig hurriedly rummaged through and pulled out some cloth, gauze, and a bottle of rubbing alcohol.
"Oh no, anything but the rubbing alcohol," I groaned as I flipped over onto my stomach and moved my foot toward Ludwig.
He took my foot in his hand and began cleaning but paused. "How did this happen?" he said solemnly.
"I nicked myself shaving," I answered monotonously. "Is it really that bad?" I looked back and lifted my leg to see. It was deep, way deeper than I thought it was. Even though Ludwig had already cleaned off most of it, blood was still flowing out of the wound in huge amounts. Only when I saw it did I actually feel the pain shoot through my leg. "Oh lord, please don't put the alcohol on it now."
"I have to or it will get infected," he said, wiping away more blood. He put alcohol on a cloth and carefully dabbed it on the wound. I tightened my grip on a pillow on the couch and took in a breath through my teeth.
"Stop that," I grunted. Soon enough, he finished cleaning the wound and wrapped gauze around my whole ankle.
"Alright, I'm finished." He put the remaining gauze and rubbing alcohol in the first-aid and stood up.
"Hey, Ludwig?" I said before he left. He turned to look at me. I smiled, a rare expression for me in those days. "Thanks."
He raised his eyebrows, then smiled, a rare expression for him as well. "Bitte," he said, and walked out of the room.
That night, when everyone was asleep, I slipped out of the bed that I shared with Feli to go to the bathroom. I settled down on the toilet, hoping something would actually come out this time. It turned out that something did come out-- and it burned like fire in the process.
I breathed in little hisses from the pain until I left the bathroom. As I tried to go back to sleep, I filed through every bit of anatomical information in my mind. After just finishing a course in human anatomy, my medical expertise had developed significantly. I decided to worry about it later as I ignored the pain in my back (and ankle) and tried to go to sleep.
The next morning, I sat down breakfast with the other three. Halfway through my pancake, I set my knife and fork down and said, "Can one of you guys take me to the doctor today?"
Ludwig put down his fork and looked at me. "Because of your foot?"
I thought for a moment, then shook my head. "No."
"For what, then?" asked Kiku, jumping into the conversation.
I moved some hair out of my face. "Well, you'll just have to wait and find out," I said, picking my silverware back up and continuing to eat.
I could tell that Ludwig was getting a little irritated, but he kept quiet.
Half an hour later, Ludwig decided to drive me to the doctor. When I climbed into the car, I carried my purse and two water bottles, one of which I was already drinking from.
Ludwig looked at the unopened bottle. "Is that one mine?"
He looked confused for a moment, but then simply drove us through town.
"So," he said after a long moment of awkward silence, "want to tell me why we're going to the doctor?"
"Nope," I replied casually.
"Why?" he said, irritated again.
I looked at him with a persistent expression on my face. "You'll find out what's wrong with me when we get there."
He raised his eyebrows, then sighed, giving up.
At the doctor's office, I sat on the examination bed while Ludwig sat patiently in a chair by the bed. I had downed both water bottles on the way there, so I really needed to go. The doctor walked in and shut the door. He looked at me and smiled. "Also, was ist denn los?"
I wasn't sure how to answer, so I looked at Ludwig. Ludwig turned to the doctor. "Sie spricht kein Deutsch. Sie Spricht nur Englisch."
The doctor nodded in understanding. He looked at me and said in perfect English, "I am sorry. I did not know you don't speak German."
I shook my head. "No. That's okay. I understand."
"So, what is the problem here?"
I glanced at Ludwig, who was looking at me skeptically. I sighed. "Okay. I might as well tell you. Doctor..."
"Schneider. Well, Doctor Schneider, I think I have a urinary tract infection."
"WHAT?!" shouted Ludwig. "WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN?!"
Doctor Schneider raised an eyebrow. "What are your symptoms?"
"I have all the symptoms. My back hurts, I feel like I have to go when I really don't, and when I do it burns really bad, and I felt kind of sick to my stomach this morning," I said calmly.
"And when did your symptoms first come up?" he asked, writing down notes in German.
I glanced at Ludwig. "About four days ago," I mumbled.
"What?!" Ludwig shot up from the chair.
Doctor Schneider nodded and took the sheet from the small notepad. He went through a clear cup and handed it to me. "I need a urine sample from you so we can run a test. There is a restroom down the hall." He opened the door for me.
"Okay. Thank you," I said as I walked out the door.
A few minutes later, I was back in the office with Ludwig while Doctor Schneider was off testing my urine sample. There was a very long silence between us until Ludwig decided to break it.
"Why didn't you tell us sooner?"
I looked over at his standing figure. I couldn't believe it. He actually looked hurt. I sighed, exasperated. "I didn't think it was that big of a deal--"
"A big deal?" he interrupted in an almost disgusted tone. "_____, you could die from this--"
"From a urinary tract infection?" I interrupted back. "I highly doubt that."
"But you could! Do you understand the severity of the situation?!"
I stood up and faced him, ignoring the pain in my foot, my back, and a place where the sun don't shine. "Ludwig," I said, my voice dropping a whole octave. I put my hands on his shoulders, causing his cheeks to go a very light shade of pink. "Ludwig, calm down. It's not that big of a deal. Watch, I'll only have to take antibiotics for a few weeks or so. That's IT. It's okay. Stop worrying."
There was a very long silence, and Ludwig's expression slowly started to soften. Doctor Schneider came back into the room.
"Well, I know you won't be caught off guard by the diagnosis," he said with an apologetic smile.
"Positive, huh?" I said nonchalantly.
He nodded. "Ja." He reached for his notepad. "Are you two together?" he asked, gesturing to me and Ludwig.
"Wha--?!" I felt my face go a little red. "W-We're not--"
"Ja," said Ludwig. I noticed that his face was going a bit red as well. "I was planning on taking her to the pharmacy."
I calmed down a little. So that was what he meant. Doctor Schneider nodded, then began writing something down on the notepad. When he finished, he ripped off the paper and handed it to Ludwig. "Treatment will be one antibiotic twice a day. One in the morning, and one at night. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. Keep taking them until they are completely gone. Understand?"
I nodded. "Ja."
After going to the doctor's office, Ludwig drove us to the pharmacy to pick up my antibiotics-- which he paid for out of his own pocket. With the medicine in my lap, we headed back to his house.
When we pulled into the driveway. Feliciano came running out of the house. "_____! Are you okay, sorella?"
I patted him on the head. "I'm fine, Feli," I said calmly as we entered the house.
Feli glanced at my bag of pills and gasped. "But you have medicine! Are you sick?!"
I sighed. "Yeah, but I have medicine, so I'm gonna get better now."
He smiled sadly and nodded. "Okay. Hey, I made pasta for lunch. Want some?"
I smiled back. "Sure, Feli. That sounds good."
We all ate lunch togetherin complete silence. Ludwig didn't want to talk about what all happened; Kiku sensed the mood as he always did and refrained from speaking; and even Feli stayed quiet.
That night I took the first pill, and I continued to take them twice a day until the bottle was empty just like Doctor Schneider told me. During that time, Ludwig would check on me and make sure I took my medicine. He would always come into my room to tell me to take the pills; even after I left his house, he would call every now and then to make sure I was taking them accordingly. I would always laugh when he did, telling him that I was and that I was feeling better.
A month later, I was home in America. I had been back for three days; and no, I had not finished off the antibiotics yet, but the bottle was almost empty. I never told anyone else about my condition, and I swore Ludwig to secrecy.
'Just a few more days,' I thought as I held the medium-sized pill bottle between my fingers and examined it. A minute later, I heard my cell phone go off. I checked to see who it was, and got the surprise of my life when I saw that it was Ludwig. He had stopped calling me after I went back home. I automatically pressed the call button and held the phone to my ear. "Ludwig?!"
"H-Hallo, _____," he muttered into the receiver.
I smiled at the hint of shyness in his voice. "How've you been?"
"O-Oh, fine. _____, have you been taking your antibiotics regularly?"
I giggled. "Yes, Mother. Is that the only reason you called me? This counts as long distance. I'm getting charged two dollars a minute, so I'm gonna milk this phone call for all it's worth."
"J-Ja..." There was a pause. "Well, I--"
"Servus, _____! What's up?" shouted a voice on the other end.
My small smile turned into a toothy grin. "Hey, Gil. Whatcha' been up to?"
"Not much. It's been really boring since you left, Frau. We all miss you. A lot." I could hear a bit of genuine sadness in his tone.
I sighed and gave a sad smile. "Ja. I miss you guys, too. But don't worry, I'll see you again next summer."
He scoffed. "That's too long, Frau! I want to see you NOW!" he pouted. He laughed slyly. "But mein bruder wants to see you more."
"Bruder, be quiet!" said Ludwig.
Gil snickered. "He misses you the most!"
"SHUT UP, BRUDER!"
"He thinks about you all the time! I know because he tells me"
"BRUDER!" I felt my face heat up at what Gil had said. I heard some noises--as if they were fighting over the phone-- until I finally heard, "Ciao, sorella! How's everything back in America?"
"Feliciano!" My smile got wider. "How are you, kid?"
"I'm great! Kiku wanted to talk to you, too, but he's busy right now. I miss you, bella. When are you coming back?"
There it was, the dreaded question. I had been thinking of ways to see them again the whole time. Even when I was busy with other, very important things I would always think of how I could see them. I sighed. "I don't know, kid. I was hoping I could come back next summer."
"Eh?! But that's too far away! I want to see mia sorella now!"
"That's what I said!" shouted Gilbert.
"Feliciano, give me back the phone," said Ludwig. I assumed the following pause was from Feli giving the phone back to Ludwig. "Alright, we have to go now. We hope to see you again soon, und... we miss you..."
"I told you, Frau!"
"Bruder, shut up!" Ludwig yelled at his brother again. "Anyway, _____, take very good care of yourself. Be safe. We don't want you coming back here sick." I could hear a small smile in his voice.
I smiled and nodded. "Ja. I will. I love you guys. Take care."