Angel Falling Softly

Chapter 40

Everything has its price

It was past three when Steven picked her up. She and Darren Wylde had spent most of the afternoon discussing this child they had given birth to: Daranyi Medical Informatics. He felt enough enthusiasm that she thought it might warrant incorporating as a separate entity. It was something to think about, the sight of this old man, at three-score and seven, so invigorated at the prospect of initiating a radical change in his life. Michael would do himself some good to spend time around a man like Darren Wylde.

“Miss Daranyi.”

She opened her eyes. They were back in Sandy, on Larkspur Lane, in front of her house. She’d fallen asleep.

“Thank you, Steven.” She got out on her own accord and stopped at the driver’s side window. “I’ll not be coming into work on Monday. So I shall see you on Tuesday.”

The sun was well gone, hidden behind the roiling charcoal sky. A hot sirocco coursed along the Salt Lake Valley, churning up a dirty yellow curtain of dust. Virga fell like veils across the horizon. In the house, Milada turned on the swamp cooler. But the wind whipped at the curtains, and she tasted the grit in the air. So she turned off the cooler and closed the windows.

She took two hundred milligrams of fexofenadine to retard the histaminic reaction to the sun, then stripped off her clothing and took a long, cold shower. Besides washing off the dust and sweat and oil, the water fixed the reaction in the skin, kept the burn from spreading. In a few hours any pressure on her skin would become unbearable.

Milada examined herself in the mirror. What a mess. Darren Wylde was right about the incidental ultraviolet. And her shoulders—she should have kept on the jacket—were just as bad. It would look like hell soon enough, and her skin would hurt even worse until the damaged flesh scabbed over. And then another twenty-four to thirty-six hours until it shed.

She showered, toweled off, and tied her yukata loosely around her waist. She gathered up her collection of drugs—antihistamines, codeine, ibuprofen, cortisone cream—that she always kept handy just in case. With her metabolism, it was a trick to take any drug with the right timing and in sufficient amounts to be effective.

In the kitchen she filled a liter bottle with warm water. She had to keep hydrated as well. In the family room, she spread out a bath towel and lay down. Then she called Jane.

“Are you okay?” was Jane’s first question.

“Do I not sound okay?”

“You sound—stressed. You’re sure you’re okay?”

“I’m okay, okay?”

A suspicious tone crept into Jane’s voice. “Did you get sunburned up there?”

“A little.”

“A little?”

“Okay, a little more than a little. I shall recover.”

“Do you have enough codeine and cortisone on hand?”

Milada sighed. This was why Jane needed to get married, so she could have a child of her own to bestow all her mothering instincts upon. Jane took the cue and moved on. “How’d the day go?”

The day had started with her sending a kid into the ICU. Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln. She composed herself before she spoke. “The meeting with Mr. Wylde went better than expected. We are going to have to pull a few rabbits out of a few hats, but I am optimistic.”

“Anything you want me to relay to Garrick?”

“No. I shall write up a memo and e-mail you tomorrow. I’ll call the two of you Monday.”

“From home or the office?”

“Home, most likely.”

“So you got burned pretty bad then.”

“Jane—” Milada said with tender exasperation.

“Someone has to watch out for you girls.”

“I appreciate it, Jane. I promise to lie very still and think calm thoughts and take lots of drugs.”

“If you promise.”

“Good-bye, Jane.”

“Good-bye, Milly. And take care.”

Milada clicked off the phone and tossed it aside. She uncapped the water bottle and washed down two codeine tabs and a thousand milligrams of ibuprofen. Then she lay very still on the floor and thought calm thoughts. Spinning off Daranyi Medical Informatics as an independent company could prove quite lucrative. No debt financing, a pure intellectual property play. She would have smiled if it didn’t hurt so much.

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