We begin at the front entrance to a rather large amusement park. Balki suddenly ran into view, jumping and cheering for all he was worth. Larry ran up next, huffing and puffing, with the girls following.
"It may not be Disneyland, but I love it!" Balki crowed, a large smile plastered to his face.
"Balki..." Larry began, trying to catch his breath, "donít run off like that when we get in there! I didnít wear sneakers just to chase you around."
"Oh, Larry, heís just excited. Iím sure you felt the same way when you first went to an amusement park," Jennifer said, putting an arm around him.
Larry made a bit of a face. "Well..."
"Cousinís got his antacid flashback look on his face," Balki said.
Larry wrang out his hands. "The first time I went, I got sick on the first ride."
"A roller coaster?" Mary Anne asked.
Larry shook his head. "The Merry Go Round. I havenít been to a park since."
"Weíre gonna fix that for you right now, Cousin!" Balki said, cheerily.
"I donít have to go on the Merry Go Round, do I?" Larry asked, worry etched on his face.
"No, you donít have to," Jennifer said.
"Oh good," Larry said, with a sigh.
The quartet entered the park after paying for their tickets. Balki grabbed a park map and opened it up.
"I want to find the water rides!" Balki exclaimed.
"I love the water rides!" Mary Anne said.
"Itís this way!" Balki said, then started pulling Mary Anne in that direction.
Jennifer turned to Larry. "Weíd better follow them."
"I donít have to do the water rides, right?" Larry asked, making a face.
Jennifer rolled her eyes. "Larry, you can just watch, I promise."
Larry let out a sigh. "Good." He took Jenniferís hand and they ran after Balki and Mary Anne.
At the log flume ride, Balki and Mary Anne got in line, Balki refolding the map. He then pointed at the bridge where many people stood, watching over the rail. "What they doing?"
Mary Anne grinned. "Watch!"
Within seconds, a log came down and splashed water onto the crowd on the bridge, effectively soaking everyone.
"Lets go up there after the ride!" Balki said. Mary Anne nodded.
Larry and Jennifer caught up to them, but only Jennifer got in line. "Larry, this one isnít that bad! Why donít you give it a try?"
Larry shook his head. "No, Iíll be fine waiting for you right here."
"Cousin, you missing all the fun!" Balki said, as the line moved forward.
Larry waved as they moved along in line farther than he could follow. He sighed, wishing he could join in. He turned away and found the nearest bench and sat down. He slouched down, hands clasped, and watched the people mill about. He couldnít help but think about how his stomach seemed to be doing backflips. He hadnít had the heart to tell his friends the real reason he wasnít going on the rides.
Larry felt there was no sense in ruining the othersí fun by telling them that he was just plain sick.
It was about fifteen minutes later when Larry heard Balki cheering, running from the rideís exit, the girls just two steps behind him.
Larry stood to greet them and plastered a smile on his face. "How was it?"
"How was it? How was it?" Balki repeated, then paused. "What was the question?"
Larry sighed. "How was the ride?"
"It was so much fun! Cousin, you have to go on with me!" Balki grabbed Larryís hand and started to pull him along.
Larryís eyes widened and he started to dig his heels into the ground. "Balki, stop!" He managed to pull out of Balkiís grasp. "I donít want to go on it! Why canít you just leave me alone about it?" he snapped.
Balki looked hurt. "But, Cousin, I just want make sure you have fun, too."
Larry rubbed at his face and noticed, to his horror, that he felt warm and not just from sitting in the sun. "Balki, really, Iím fine. I donít need to do the rides to have fun." He paused, thinking he really needed to get a drink and sit down again. "Why donít you find the roller coaster? Youíve been looking forward to that all week."
Balki grinned like a kid in a candy store. "Okay!" He unfolded the map and began walking in the direction of the coasters. Mary Anne fell in step next to him.
Jennifer joined Larry. "Larry... are you okay? You look a little pale. It couldnít be heat stroke, weíve only been out here a half an hour."
"Iím fine," Larry said, waving it off.
"Okay, but maybe you should get a cold drink while we ride the coaster," Jennifer suggested.
"Already thought of it," Larry said, forcing a smile. If he didnít start feeling any better soon...
The group made their way to the coaster, Larry stopping briefly at a vendor to get a lemonade. He slurped the drink as the other three got in line for the coaster. He waved at them, then went to the nearest bench and sat. The lemonade helped a little, but despite that, he still felt warm when he wiped a fine layer of sweat from his forehead.
Larry made a decision. When the others returned, heíd excuse himself and head back to the hotel they were staying at for the weekend, then they wouldnít have to keep asking him to go on rides and heíd be able to lie down.
Unfortunately, it was almost a half an hour by the time the trio returned from the ride. Larry had finished his drink in about fifteen minutes and was really starting to feel the heat again. He didnít get up as they came over, and Jennifer sat down next to him.
"Larry, whatís wrong? You really donít look good," Jennifer said.
"I know itís only been an hour, but I think you were right about the heat stroke, Jen," Larry lied. Or maybe it wasnít a lie... completely.
"Oh, Cousin, weíll take you back to the hotel--" Balki began.
"No, no, Iíll head out and get the shuttle back. All of you stay here and have fun. Iíd just be in the way. Iíll go back to the room and cool off. Iíll be good as new later," Larry said, giving them a half smile. He stood up. "Iíll just head on out." He jerked a thumb in the direction of the gates.
"Okay, Cousin," Balki said, a little let down.
"Feel better, Larry," Jennifer said.
Mary Anne waved. "See you later!"
Larry sighed, his shoulders slouching as he walked away from them, and they turned in another direction to continue on. It sure was his rotten luck...
Nearly an hour later, Larry finally entered his and Balkiís hotel room. He felt horrible. His stomach flipped and now he felt dizzy. He pulled off his shoes and detoured into the bathroom and checked his reflection. Jennifer was right, he didnít look good. He was even more pale than his usual complexion
Larry splashed some cool water on his face, then grabbed a towel and dried his hands. He left the bathroom and headed for the far bed which heíd claimed for his own. Slowly, he crawled onto it and curled into a ball. He sighed as he closed his eyes, willing himself to fall asleep.
Balki shot Nerf balls at wooden painted ducks. The bell went off signaling him as the winner. He jumped up and down as he was given a prize, a big blue stuff dog, which he gave to Mary Anne.
Meanwhile, Jennifer was having pretty good luck of her own. She was currently spraying water into a clownís mouth, trying to be the first to pop the balloon on its head. A loud *pop* was heard and the bell went off. She pointed at a medium-sized brown bear with curly fur and a blue ribbon around its neck. The bear was handed to her and she hugged it as Balki and Mary Anne joined her.
"What next?" Balki asked, unfolding the map for the umpteenth time.
"Iím hungry," Mary Anne stated.
"I could use some lunch, too," Jennifer agreed, then paused. "And Iíd like to call the hotel to check on Larry."
"He might not answer. Iíve been through enough of Cousin Larry being sick and he can sleep like a boulder!" Balki said.
"Good point..." Jennifer said, unsure.
"We could have lunch, play some more games, then take our prizes back to the hotel and check on him then. Maybe heíll be feeling better and can come back with us for the afternoon," Mary Anne suggested.
Jennifer smiled. "Thatís a good idea."
"Okay, ladies, this way to the food!" Balki proclaimed, pointing to their left. As they headed for the food area, they tried to decide what to get...
The room was dark, a stark contrast to when heíd originally came in and laid down, only to get a beam of sunlight cut through the blinds and land directly on his face.
With great difficulty, Larry had gotten up in a huff and daze, trudged over to the window, and pulled the drapes closed, completely blocking the sunlight and pretty much any other light coming in.
Now, Larry was curled up on the bed again, back to the window. He couldnít sleep, however, despite being very tired. He felt horrible, not just sick, but guilty as well. Their weekend of fun wasnít so for him and he wondered what the others were doing.
He was lost in his thoughts when a knock came at the door. His first thought was that it was the maid. "Donít you see the ĎDo Not Disturbí out there?"
Another knock came. Larry groaned, then slid off the bed and trudged his way to the door. When he opened it... he was met by a furry face. "What--?"
Jennifer appeared in the doorway, holding the teddy bear sheíd won earlier. "I talked Balki and Mary Anne into letting me bring our prizes back here so they could keep going on the rides. Balki really wanted to come back to check on you, but I told him you didnít need all three of us." She held out the teddy bear to him. "He reminds me of you."
Larry took the bear... and smiled. "Heís cute." He looked up. "You didnít have to do this." He moved aside to let her in and closed the door after.
"I wanted to..." she began, then trailed off, seeing how dark it was in the room. Jennifer turned to him. "You donít just have heat stroke, do you?"
"No," he said, then sat of the end of Balkiís bed. "I felt it coming on yesterday and I didnít want to ruin everyoneís weekend." Larry paused, then gave a slight grin. "Imagine that, I actually wasnít being selfish for a change."
"No, but you mightíve made yourself sicker by going out," she said, gently.
Larry sighed, then looked down to play with the bearís ribbon. "I guess I just canít do anything right. Iím an albatross, thatís all."
"Larry, you know thatís not true," she said, sitting next to him.
"They named Murphyís Law after the wrong person," he said, then sighed. He looked up again. "You donít have to stay here, Jen. Why donít you go back to the park? Iíll be fine. Iíve been sleeping for most of the time Iíve been back here anyway."
"I donít feel like going back." Jennifer paused. "Thereís an observation deck two floors up. Think youíd be okay for that?"
He considered it, then gave a half shrug. "I guess so, as long as thereís somewhere to sit." He paused. "Sunglasses, I need to find my sunglasses. Iíve gotten too used to the darkness in here and the bright light wonít help anything."
"Iíll get them. Where are they?" she offered.
Larry pointed at a backpack on the chair in the corner of the room. "Outer front pocket."
Jennifer went over to the bag and pulled the sunglasses out of the pocket. "Found them." She turned and went back to him and held out the sunglasses, which he accepted. She then offered her arm. "Shall we?"
"Yes," he agreed and took her arm, then headed out of the room.
Being mid-day, the observation deck wasnít awfully busy, seeing as at least ninety-five percent of the people staying at the hotel were outside enjoying the beautiful day. There were, however, two people about to make use of the area.
Jennifer and Larry stopped in the doorway, Jen turning to Larry. "Still okay?"
Larry slid his sunglasses on, then sighed. "So far, so good."
They claimed a small couch in the middle of the room and sat down. From where they sat, they could easily see the amusement park.
"I still feel rotten... in more ways than one," Larry said.
Jen gave his hand a squeeze. "Donít worry about it. Balki and Mary Anne are still at the park and I get to spend time with you." She smiled at him.
Larry gave a slight grin. "It isnít like Iíd go on most of the rides, anyway. I remember going to Disneyland when I was six. We went to Tomorrowland... It wasnít a pretty sight." He paused. "I canít recall if that was before or after the Fantasia incident."
"I kind of liked Tomorrowland," Jennifer said, then shrugged.
Larry slouched down enough to rest his head on her shoulder, the top of his head touching her neck. "On the other hand, I really liked Opryland in Nashville. There was atleast one day that my parents could not get my youngest siblings off the Mini Rock Ďní Roller Coaster. It was hilarious watching them get on, then get off and run right back in line again. They eventually dragged me on and then I kept doing the same thing. My parents have atleast one good picture taken as the coaster was going down one of the short descents where I have my arms up in the air. That was a great vacation... Iíd never been more sunburnt in my life."
He sighed. "I know, Jen, Iím babbling."
"No, that actually wasnít what I was going to say."
"What were you going to say?"
"You feel warm. I can feel it on my neck," Jennifer said, removing his sunglasses to check his eyes.
Under normal circumstances, Larry wouldíve pulled away quickly, saying that he felt fine. But he really didnít and didnít feel like arguing... for a change. "That doesnít surprise me."
"Maybe we should go back to the room--"
"Not yet, please?" Larry glanced up at her. He immediately regretted the action as his equilibrium slipped, causing his eyes to close.
His eyes remained closed as he spoke, "How do you feel about me, Jen?"
"Truthfully, youíre annoying me a little bit right now."
Larry frowned. "Not what I meant."
Jennifer sighed. "Larry, weíre going back to the room, then Iíll answer, okay?"
"Alright," he agreed.
They entered the still-darkened room and Jen led Larry back to his bed. As soon as he laid down, he curled up. His eyes opened slightly. "Well?"
"Well what?" she asked.
"How do you feel about me?"
Jennifer smirked. "You can be incredibly stubborn."
Larry groaned, pulling the pillow over his head.
"Iím sorry, Larry. Iím just... thrown by the question. I wasnít expecting it," she admitted.
"I was just wondering if this was sympathy... or pity..." he muttered.
Jennifer pulled the pillow away, then swatted him with it. "Larry, how can you say that!?"
"Jen!" He reached out for her, but she stood just out of reach. His arm dropped, defeated. "Only two other people have spent this much time with me when I was sick... my mom and Balki. Iím not used to it. And you know Iím not overly tactful at times."
"At times?" she repeated, questioningly. Jenís expression softened and she knelt down to match his eye level. "Weíve known each other for over three years and I like to think I know how you are normally and Iím fine with that. Iím just not used to... this side of you."
"What do you mean by this side?" he asked.
"Vulnerable," Jennifer answered, honestly.
Larryís eyebrows raised slightly. "Maybe a little... okay, a lot." He paused. "Iím probably getting delirious. Just forget I said anything. Hey, why donít you go grab something to eat? I could probably try to get some soup down."
"Okay," she said and nodded. "Iíll be back shortly." Jen got up and left the room.
Larry groaned. "Good going, Appleton." He paused. "Think Iím going to be sick..." With that, he slowly got up and made his way to the bathroom.
Jennifer returned to the room a short time later, using the key to let herself in. The room was slightly lighter now as a couple lights had been turned on, but the drapes remained pulled. She set the styrofoam container of soup on the nearby dresser, then glanced around the room. Her gaze landed on the closed bathroom door. She stepped over and listened a moment. She heard water running, slightly. "Larry?"
The running water shut off abruptly, but it tooks a few seconds before the door opened slowly. Larry stood leaning against the inside of the door frame and held the door open. His curls were damp and he had a weary look on his face. He made an attempt to smile, but it didnít work. "Hi, Jen."
"Larry... you look worse than you did earlier. Why did you let me leave?" she asked, taking his arm and leading him out of the doorway.
Despite looking like he might collapse at any moment, Larry stopped her in the middle of the room. "I needed to think." He sighed. "I managed to do a lot of thinking while I was in there." He made a slight wave toward the bathroom. He looked away. "I hate feeling vulnerable." He turned back and swallowed hard. "I thought Iíd end up spending the rest of the day alone here after I left the park. It never occurred to me that any of you would show up. Well, maybe Balki, but..." He swayed a little, but Jennifer hung onto him, allowing him to lean on her. "Iíve never been cared for this way before. You know, by someone who wasnít my mom. Or Balki."
Jennifer wasnít sure how to respond. She met his gaze and realized it was unwavering. He was pale and sick as all get out, but he was determined to tell her what he was thinking. "I do care about you, Larry, a lot. I couldnít possibly have stayed at the park knowing you were here by yourself and sick." She paused, "Speaking of... you look like youíre going to pass out. Lets sit down--"
But Larry interrupted, "I hope Iím not contagious." He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her.
Jen was surprised at first, but it faded quickly and she melted by his kiss. Or maybe it was the heat radiating from him, she wasnít sure, but at the moment it didnít matter.
It was several moments before Larry pulled away from her slightly. The act of kissing her took too much exertion and he felt dizzy.
Jennifer noticed the faraway look on his face and sat him on the bed. She placed the back of her hand to his forehead and gave subconscious gasp. "Youíre burning up. Iíll go grab a wash cloth and run it under some cool water. Iíll be right back."
Larry still sat dazed, his gaze fixed on the floor. When Jen returned, he looked up and whispered, "Canít believe this is happening..."
She dabbed the wash cloth at his forehead. "Itís perfectly natural, Larry, donít worry about it."
He reached up and lightly took hold of her hand, keeping the cloth to his head. "I need to sleep this off..."
Jen let him take the cloth and watched as he leaned back, head resting completely off the pillow. Once his eyes closed, she shook her head, then decided there wasnít much else she could do and laid down on the opposite bed.
It was late evening when Balki returned to the room he shared with his cousin. Mary Anne waved as she went into the room she shared with Jennifer. Balki returned the wave and went into his room. Inside, he found Larry snoring softly on the bed that heíd claimed while Jennifer slept soundly on Larryís bed, her arms wrapped around one of the pillows.
Balki smiled a little as he moved closer to Larry. He pulled away the now-dry wash cloth and frowned seeing how pale his cousin looked. Balki turned and headed for the bathroom. He ran the cloth under the cool water and went back out. He folded it and placed it back on Larryís forehead. Larry didnít even flinch.
Balki turned and gave Jenniferís arm a gentle shake. She opened her eyes, then went to say something, but Balki put an index finger to his lips, then motioned to the still-sleeping Larry.
Jennifer nodded her understanding, then got up. She leaned close to Balki and whispered, "Call me first thing in the morning and let me know how heís feeling."
"Okay," Balki agreed, then let Jennifer out of the room. He turned back and spotted the styrofoam container on the dresser and peeked inside. He had an idea of why it was sitting there, but also realized the soup was cold. Rather than wasting it, he slurped it up as quietly as he could while he watched a muted TV.
It was about three oíclock in the morning when Larry woke with a start. Heíd had the strangest dream, which now any memory of was fading quickly. He sat up slowly, glancing around the darkened room and saw Balki had taken up the other bed. He gave a slight smile seeing Dimitri wedged between the pillows.
Larry rubbed at his face with both hands, the wash cloth having fallen into his lap. He thought he still felt warm, but it was hard to tell with cold hands. He did notice one positive: he was starving! He got up slowly and felt along the bureau for the room key. He picked it up, then felt his way along the wall to the door.
Larry eased the door open and stepped out, keeping one hand pressed to the wall to keep his balance as he didnít trust himself fully on his feet. He went a few doors down and found the vending machine. He debated which of the snacks in the machine wouldnít make him regret eating. He sighed, put some change in, and hit the button for the Pop Tarts. He knelt down to pull out the snack. As he stood, he heard foot steps behind him.
Larry turned to find Jennifer behind him. "Hi, Jen." He gave her a small smile.
She returned it. "Feeling a little better?" She nodded toward the snack.
"Feeling hungry, so... yeah, I guess I am." Larry paused. "But I canít tell if Iím still warm. My hands feel like ice."
Jen put a hand to his forehead. "Feverís still there, but at least you feel like eating, finally."
They started back down the hall to their rooms, her arm around his shoulders. "Donít take this the wrong way, Jennifer, but I think this has been the worst weekend of my life," Larry commented with a sigh.
"I understand," she said as they stopped between the doors to their rooms. "Iíve got an idea. Would you want to go downstairs and sit in the lobby while you have your snack?"
Larry gave a slight nod. "Even though I doubt the wrapper would be loud enough to wake Balki, knowing my luck, this time it would."
A short time later, Jennifer and Larry still sat in the lobby. Larry finished off the last of the Pop Tarts. "I hope Iíll be able to manage real food tomorrow."
"You mean those arenít real food?" Jen asked, a slight grin appearing.
"Theyíre about as real as Dimitri," Larry quipped. He paused, then said, "Thanks again for spending the day with me, I really appreciate it."
"I was glad to stay with you," she responded.
"Even though I ruined the weekend," he said.
"You did no such thing, Larry. Like I said before, you couldnít help being sick. Besides, you thought of us over yourself. Thatís a big step for you," Jennifer said, with a wink.
Larry chuckled slightly. "Yes, it was a big step. Either that, or I was delirious."
Jennifer playfully swatted his arm. "You donít give yourself enough credit."
He shrugged. "Maybe." He sighed. "I donít know why these things always happen to me. Itís almost like Iím cursed or something."
"You arenít cursed, Larry," Jennifer said.
"No, I just have a lot of bad luck." Larry glanced out the windows, then made a poor attempt at stifling a yawn.
"I saw that," she said, poking him in the arm.
Larry nodded. "I am starting to feel tired again."
Jennifer stood. "How about we head back up, then? Maybe youíll feel better in the morning."
He stood as well. "I doubt it, but itís a nice thought."
She slugged him playfully in the arm and he feigned being in pain as they headed for the elevator.
The next morning came all too quickly. Unfortunately, Larry had an unceremonious wake up call in the form of a shaft of sunlight peeking through the slight space between the curtain, landing directly on his face. He winced against the offending light and rolled over, all intentions of going back to sleep.
It wasnít to be. The curtains were suddenly flung open and were followed by Balki letting out a pleased sigh. "Itís a beautiful day!" He turned and went over to Larryís bed. Seeing his cousin facing the opposite direction, he leaned over him.
Despite having his eyes closed, Larry knew what Balki was doing and opened his eyes enough to glare at him. "Balki..."
Balki smiled, then spoke quietly. "Good morning, Cousin. How you do feel this morning?"
"Well," Larry began, then paused to figure it out, "actually, I feel better--"
"Youíll join us on the rides, then?" Balki said, a hopeful expression crossing his face.
Larry sighed. "Not quite that good, but I think Iím up to walking around with you. But first, youíll have to let me up."
"Oh!" Balki straightened, then motioned toward next door. "I let the girls know."
"You do that," Larry said, then sat up and watched Balki head out. He sighed again, but followed it up with a smile.
Later that night, the guys entered their apartment, carrying luggage and souvenir bags.
Larry dropped his bags, then dropped himself onto the couch and gave a sigh of relief. "Feels good to be home."
Balki set his bags down, then climbed over and sat on the back of the couch. "Cousin, Iím sorry you didnít get to enjoy our trip that much, but Iím glad we went. I had a lot of fun!"
Larry shrugged. "I knew how much youíd been looking forward to it. And I did walk around with you today."
Balki grinned. "Was that you under the dark sunglasses and Cubs hat?"
Larry leaned over to dig in his bag. He sat back up with the sunglasses on, then put the ball cap on. "What do you think, Balki?"
Balki snatched the hat, causing Larry to laugh as he replaced it backwards. "Backwards looks better."