Annette and I spent Sundays together like an old married couple. I would bring in the paper and she'd meet me at the door with a cup of tea. We'd spend most of the day on her couch.
Annette loved her rituals. She started with a cigarette and the style section, then local news, then the front page. By midday, she'd be asking me for clues to the puzzles. Evening would find us watching TV until Bryan arrived from his studio. Then I'd politely take my leave, likely not to see either of them until sometime in the week, usually on campus.
As I had done on other Sunday mornings, I showed up at her doorstep with the newspaper. Annette opened the door slowly, as if she were intending to surprise me. Her face was ashen, and covered with a sheen of perspiration. Her hair was untidy. I was surprised.
"You look like hell! Are you okay?" I flinched at my own tactlessness.
"Just a little queasy, sweetie. C'mon in. I promise not to throw up on you." She took the newspaper from me, tossed it on the day bed, then gestured for an embrace.
"God bless you," I said blandly. Her body felt quite warm as I held her. As usual, Annette smelled of sandalwood. I was sure she had a fever.
"Well, don't worry. What I have isn't contagious," she bubbled. "Tea's on, but you'll have to fetch it yourself while I clean up." Annette padded into the bathroom. I turned toward the kitchen. The kettle had begun to whistle.