A week later, Michelle was in her bedroom, chatting with Peter on her smartphone.
“So, have you got your test results back?” he asked with the expected tone of disbelief.
“Yes,” she said. “I’m OK. I’m not a carrier.”
“I could’ve told you that a week ago,” he said.
“Peter,” she said, struggling not to raise her voice. “My mom has it. She’s in quarantine, struggling to fight it off. You weren’t there when she caught it. I was.“
“What did you see? An acting job?”
“It’s real, Peter! She wasn’t acting. I saw red cracks all over her body. They were opening and closing. I could see bits of her brain showing!”
“Did you see any blood?” he asked. She could almost see his sneer. “Blood must have been flying all over the place if her head was opening up.”
“No…oddly, there wasn’t any blood.”
“Which makes this whole thing all the less believable.”
“Oh, go to hell, Peter! Don’t talk to me again until you grow up!” She hung up on him. “Ignorant, arrogant asshole!”
Her father was standing by her ajar bedroom door. “Michelle?”
She looked over at him. “How’s Mom?” she asked.
“She’s about the same,” he said with a sigh. “Still struggling with it. According to the people taking care of her, those cracks on her body keep widening and narrowing, back and forth, in a kind of stalemate.”
“Have the doctors learned anything about how to help her get better?” she asked with teary eyes.
“No. All that seems to help is the wearing of decontamination clothing. A week has gone by and no one wearing that clothing ever catches The Splits. People on the news are already telling everyone to buy those suits and wear them everywhere. Stores are all getting stocked up with them as we speak.”
“I know. Peter’s gonna hate it. He’ll never comply.” She started crying.
“Oh, honey,” Her father walked over to her and put his arm around her. “We’ve both been tested, so I guess we can make contact. But Peter’s still being stubborn, eh?”
“Yeah,” she sobbed. “He’s too proud to admit he’s wrong. When…er, if…he catches it, I don’t wanna be there and see his body cracking into pieces.”
“He might just be a carrier.”
“Then he’ll carelessly give it to me, or to you, or to somebody else, to many other people, and at least some of them will die. I might be there to see that, and I’ll have to explain why I wasn’t insistent enough to get him to wear the protective clothing.” She sobbed louder.
“Do you still want to go out with him?”
“Yes, of course. I still love him. I’m just mad at him, and really afraid for all of us.” She knew her father’s real motives for asking the question: if she’d stop being Peter’s girlfriend, she wouldn’t have his influence, and maybe she wouldn’t be so against her parents’ business and governance of the Mississauga area. And he was much more adamant in defending his business than her mom was.
Still, she bit her tongue: now was not the time to be fighting with him.
Now was a time they all needed to pull together.