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Sweat trickled down the sides of her face, creating a path that sometimes tracked along her jaw or curved around the shell of her ear before plummeting to her scrub top. The drops created haphazard circles of moisture that covered both the blue material then seeped on to the sterile coat above it. Attempting to wick it away from her skin would involve moving an arm made of stone, so Jasmine ignored the irritating tickles.
The effects of this flu would be the death of her if she didn't get some medical attention soon. With her constant exposure to kids, the elderly and sometimes the homeless right in the height of flu season, she'd been stupid not to get vaccinated before the season started. There had always been something that needed her immediate attention though. By the time she made it to employee health or the local pharmacy, they were either closed, temporarily out of stock or providing vaccination services at a different time.
She could have been more diligent. She could have insisted, but no
A shiver sliced through her. Uselessly, Jasmine tried to burrow into the long-sleeved lab coat she wore by pulling it tight around her torso. It didn't stop the chill deadening her fingertips and toes.
Someone sensed her plight and a warm hand stroked over her back. “You okay, sweetie?”
The brown eyes of her supervisor, Natalie, were laced with concern when Jasmine turned to look into them. That she could make the woman's normally stony gaze soften was a true testament to how shitty she must have looked. Not to mention Natalie calling her “sweetie.”
Jasmine released a humorless sound meant to provide comfort. The croak probably made matters worse. “I can't seem to shake this bug,” she said, patting Natalie's hand. “Nothing some chicken soup won't cure.”
This time Natalie's eyebrows furrowed in a frown. “No way do you get sick unless it's one of those migraines of yours.”
“Not this time, thank goodness. Right now, though, I feel like death warmed over, and nothing in my medicine cabinet is touching it.”
Natalie took a half-step back. She might as well have crossed herself too. “Yikes. Maybe you should go home.”
“I'm not contagious!” Jasmine protested. As far as she could tell, she'd long since bypassed the incubation period when she'd been most susceptible to passing the illness along.
“Don't make me order you to leave, young lady. You can afford to use up a few hours of leave. They don't give bonuses for having the fewest sick days used up, last I checked. I also think, by some miracle, in some strange way, the dozen staff members you leave behind will be able to function without you here.”
Ouch. Jasmine laughed, a sound that quickly degraded into another croak. “I'm not that bad.”
Natalie snorted. “Yes you are. Go home. You've long since earned it.” Natalie's gaze dropped to Jasmine's hand in a small subconscious move. The gesture alone made the small red dot itch, and she almost made a move to rub it. The tests had come back negative, so everyone said she had nothing to fear. Of course, if she had nothing to fear, she wouldn't have to come back to employee health for more tests in six months, just in case.
“Yeah.” Jasmine stretched, using the movement to stifle her growing worry. Maybe getting some rest wasn't such a bad idea after all. “I guess I'll head home early if you think you can spare me.”
“Just make sure you call me if you need anything. Anything at all. You look about ready to fall over.”
Jasmine tried to grin, but the protests of her facial muscles stopped the motion midway. “I feel that way too.”