His voice came at the same time the nausea did. She turned and for the second time puked all over her dead cousin.
"Ahh, gross," Chan said, but then he snickered. "I guess I deserve this. Not that I meant for this to happen. I really didn't." But then he laughed again.
Della wasn't laughing. "What's happening?" Tears, partly from the frustration, partly from the pain, filled Della's sinuses. She forced them away. She wiped her mouth with the sleeve of her shirt and saw her leather jacket tossed over the foot of her bed.
Chan put a hand on her shoulder and gave her a nudge. "Lay back down and I'll explain."
"There was a gang war," she muttered trying to remember.
"Yeah, vampires and werewolves. I went to watch. It's cool to watch us take out a few dogs."
Her phone, sitting on her nightstand beeped with an incoming text. She tried to reach for it, but moving hurt. Another surge of tears filled her throat.
"It's your lover boy," Chan said. "This is like the tenth text he's sent. I think you missed your hookup date." Chan shook his head. "So my little cousin is getting it on with a guy, huh? I feel like I should go beat him up or something." She dropped back on the bed.
"Do you want me to text him and tell him you're okay?"
"I'm not okay!" Talking made her head pound worse. Realizing she was talking to a ghost make it pound twice as hard. Pain shot in the back of her eyes and she closed them, wishing for relief.
"What's wrong with me?" she muttered to herself and not to Chan, because logic told her that Chan wasn't really there.
Someone must have put something in her drink at that party. Yeah. That had to be it.
She heard a chair being pulled up beside her bed. "You're not going to believe this, and that's to be expected. It will take a while to soak in. You see . . . I'm not dead. I . . . well, our family carries this virus. It's dormant and you can go your entire life and not even know it, but if, and when we come in close contact with a live carrier, especially when there's blood involved, the virus turns active."
"I got a virus?" She swallowed another bout of nausea.
"Bird flu?" she asked.
She opened one eye, that's all she could do, and peered at him. She would have laughed if she didn't feel as if she was dying. "I'm a vampire?"
"Not yet, it takes four days. And it's not going to be easy. But I'll help you."
"I don't need your help." She was her father's daughter, always figuring out how to help herself. Della closed her one eye. Another pain shot through the back of her head and she realized the way she had to help herself right now was to get help. But not from a ghost. Using every bit of energy she had, she got to her feet. The world started spinning.
"Where are you going?" Chan caught her right before she fell on her face.
She started to ignore Chan, because he wasn't real, but what the hell. "Gotta get Mom." Whatever someone put in her drink was pretty powerful stuff because she was sitting here talking to a ghost about vampires.
"I can't let you do that." Chan pushed her back on the bed, not that it took much effort. She had about as much energy as a snail on Xanax, skinny dipping in a cup of chamomile tea.
"Mom?" Della screamed.
* * *
Della wasn't sure if she'd been in the hospital three hours or ten. She wasn't feeling any better, but at least she'd stopped hallucinating. Chan had disappeared. He hadn't appeared since her mom found Della in the fetal position, throwing up again. The nurses came in and out of her room, trying to force her to drink something. She didn't want to drink anything.
"What the hell did she take?" Della heard her father mutter.
"We don't know she took anything," her mom answered.
"Why would she do this to us? Doesn't she know how this will look?" her dad asked.
Della considered trying to tell them one more time that the only thing she'd done was drink one beer. Earlier she'd almost confessed her theory that someone might have put something in her drink, but stopped when she realized that would've gotten Lisa in trouble. Best to keep her mouth shut, and take whatever punishment came.
"I don't give a damn how it looks! I just want her to be okay," her mom said.
It was the same argument, different version. Mom hated Dad's pride. Della didn't like it either, but she understood it. She hated making mistakes, too. And on top of that, she'd seen the one-room house, over a Chinese restaurant that her dad and his six siblings had been raised in. Her father and his family deserved to be proud of what they'd accomplished. And it hadn't happened by making mistakes.
Della heard the hospital door open again. "Why don't you take a coffee break, I'm going to be here for a while," a female voice said. Della thought she'd heard the voice earlier. Probably a nurse.
The sound of her parents leaving filled the room. Della felt an overwhelming gratefulness toward the nurse for sparing her from having to listen to the argument, but she didn't have what it took to express it.
"You're welcome," the nurse said, almost as if she'd read Della's mind.
Della opened her eyes. The nurse stood over her.
Blinking, Della tried to focus, but then something weird happened. She could see . . . something on the woman's forehead. Weird crap. Like lines and stuff, like some kind of computer jumbled pattern. She blinked hard and slowly opened her eyes again. It helped. The odd stuff was gone.
Della went to push up and realized something else that was gone. The cut on her hand. How had it healed so fast?
The nurse smiled. "Has anyone talked to you, yet?"
Della forced herself to reach for the large cup on the hospital table. "About drinking my water. Yeah."
"No, about what's happening to you." The nurse took the cup from Della's hand. "Don't drink anything. It'll make you sicker."
"Sicker? Have they figured out what's wrong?"
The door swished open and a doctor walked in. He moved to the side of her bed and stared down at her. "Does she know?" he asked the nurse.
"Know what?" Della blurted out.
"I don't think so." The nurse ignored Della's question.
"Know what?" she asked again.
"Her parents aren't live carriers?" the doctor asked.
"No," the nurse answered.
"Would you stop talking about me like I'm not here?"
The doctor met her gaze. "Sorry. I know this is hard." The intensity of his stare disturbed her. For some reason, everything about him disturbed her. Which was odd. She didn't normally instantly dislike people. It generally took at least fifteen minutes and a good reason.
She started to close her eyes, and bam, the weird crap appeared on the doc's forehead.
The doctor growled, a real growl. Della recalled the gang members doing-
"Someone knows." The doctor nodded back to the door.