Quarantined With You | Verso.ink

Quarantined With You

Home At Last

By Taylor Newman

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Chapter Three
March 2020 on the island of Oahu

Bloody hell, I felt as if I were trying to walk out of the ocean in the wet sand against a strong current. I was so tired! I’d had the privilege of a seat that folded flat, and should’ve been able to get some sleep but I couldn’t. My mind kept wandering to whoever this Anna was. I’d worked side by side with Brett for years and he’d never once mentioned this woman. My guess was that this must be a new one because I’d seen a parade of beautiful women come and go. But I could hear him talking on the call from inside of the cafe. I heard him say that he was coming home to her. ‘Home to her’ sounded a little more serious. Were they living together? It didn’t bother me, it just surprised me because I hadn’t known this side of him.

Our town car was waiting at the curbside to pick us up. The plan was to go to Brett’s house to finish debriefing and settle on action plans following the meeting with MTN. As the driver exited the car to put our bags in the trunk I saw that, along with his expertly tailored black suit, he was wearing a mask and gloves. Then I heard the deep timbre of Brett’s voice.

“Is all of that really necessary?”

“Sorry sir, but the company is requiring us to wear these. Things are getting pretty scary here now.”

I chimed in to ask, “What do you mean scary?”

“Ma’am, they are talking about closing down Waikiki beach. They’ve already got plans to shut down all of the restaurants on Friday, and most hotels at the same time.”

I was gobsmacked by this news. As long as I’d lived on the island of Oahu Waikiki beach had never been shut down. I’d checked the news while we were in Amsterdam, and although I’d read that there was concern about the virus spreading in the islands, nothing mentioned a shut down. “When did this all happen? Right before the flight I read the news but it didn’t mention closing the beach.”

The driver held the door open, motioning me to get in, and said, “First I heard of it was late last night. I only heard that they were considering it, but this morning I heard it’s definitely going to happen.”

Sliding across the soft black leather seats, I wasn’t sure if it was the coolness of the seats or some sort of premonition that sent a chill up my spine. I looked over to Brett to find him jumping back into CEO mode. His long tanned fingers were furiously typing on his phone. He sent texts to other leaders in the company to find out what they knew. The phone vibrated over and over again with responses. I pulled out my phone to check my email, and found that within the last 8 hours I’d received over 100 emails. A quick scan through just the most recent 10 emails showed me that they were about how to deal with this virus. We knew that parts of Asia and Italy were already in lockdown where people were told to stay at home, but in hearing from our country’s leaders it seemed like we didn’t expect it to hit the US. My mind raced with all that was unfolding.

“Excuse me sir, I wanted to let you know that it looks like we’re being followed by a police car.”

Brett’s looked up from his phone, and turned to peer out the back window as he asked, “Were you speeding?”

“No sir, seems like they’ve been following us since we left the airport.”

“Hmm…just keep driving to my house and we’ll see if they pull you over.” He didn’t seem very concerned so I in turn was not worried about it.

We turned the corner to Kahala Avenue where Brett lived. I’d never actually been to his house because we always met at the office. The street was beautiful, lined with homes that ranged in cost from five million dollars all the way up to twenty-seven million dollars. I knew this because I’d done some cyber sleuthing at one point and searched on Zillow to see the house prices where he lived. I knew it was a nice area, but this was much nicer than I’d expected. The gate to his home was made of weathered grey wood which connected to a tall rock wall surrounding his compound. The rock wall was backed by lush tall greenery composed of palm trees and African tulip trees with red blossoms topping the green branches. He gave the driver the code to enter the gate, and we pulled into a long driveway. Once we passed the gate I saw a huge banyan tree standing in front of the house. Its trunk was a sculpture of twisted branches rising up to the sky, and there were roots dripping toward the earth from the tops of the branches. There was a manmade stream that flowed between the tree and the front porch with a little footbridge to cross the stream. It looked like something out of a fairytale.

“Wow,” I said in awe.

“You like it?” his deep voice asked. I turned to find his dark eyes watching me intently.

“Like it? I can’t even wrap my head around its beauty. It’s breathtaking.”

“I’ve always loved it. It reminds me that there’s more to this earth than just my needs. In a way, I feel like it humbles me.” Looking out the window at the tree I could see what he meant about its size and beauty being humbling.

I looked back again to find him still staring at me. “That’s a great way of looking at it,” I said with a smile.

Brett turned to the back window and saw that the police car had pulled into his driveway. “Let me get out and talk to them. You wait here.” He stepped out of the vehicle and started walking to their vehicle. One put his hand out with sign to stop where he was. That caused my heartbeat to speed up. Were they going to arrest him? Had he done something wrong? I rolled down my window to hear the conversation as I watched it unfold out of the back window of the car.

“Mr. Pascoe, I’m going to have to ask you to stay at least 10 feet away from us,” one of the officers said. Then they both stepped out of the vehicle. Each was wearing a face mask and rubber gloves.

“What seems to be the problem officers,” he asked tentatively.

“Sir, we’ve been informed that you and Ms. Hammond recently returned from a trip overseas to a country that is on our quarantine list.”

“We just returned from South Africa, but there wasn’t any quarantine that we saw there. And we stayed within the grounds of our hotel except for business meetings. I doubt there’s any way we were exposed.”

“Nonetheless, we need to inform you that our governor has instituted a mandatory shelter in place quarantine for 14 days for any individual returning from countries on the list.”

“What do you mean? Are you saying that I have to stay in my house for 14 days?”

“No sir, we’re saying that you and Ms. Hammond have to stay in your house for 14 days.”

Panic crept up on me. I couldn’t stay with him. And certainly not for 14 days! But Brett remained calm and collected as he continued to talk with them.

“Surely we can get Ms. Hammond back to her home to quarantine.”

“Sir, I’m sorry, but we can’t allow that. We have to keep the spread to a minimum, so we have to insist that you both shelter here.”

Brett called for me to get out of the car to come talk with them. Slowly, I got out and turned to look at all of them. My eyes were practically popping out of my skull. Never had I dreaded something like I was dreading the thought of being forced to invade his home. “You cannot be serious. How am I supposed to stay here? I don’t have my things. We don’t have that kind of relationship. It would be a conflict of interest for me to live with my boss,” my tone escalating with every concern that I voiced.

“Ma’am, I understand your concerns and I really sympathize with your situation. But we’ve been charged with enforcing these quarantines. And unless you’d like to be quarantined in a six by six foot empty jail cell I’d suggest you make plans to enjoy this lovely home.”

I looked back and forth between Brett and the police officers. “They can’t do this to us, can they” I asked Brett sounding more like a plea than a question.

Brett turned away from me, and to the officers said, “We will comply with the law. Thank you for informing us gentlemen.”

“Thank you Mr. Pascoe, you two have a good day.” Satisfied with his reply, they got back into the vehicle and drove away.

Brett showed me inside, past a set of sturdy wooden doors, and it was all I could do to force back my tears. We past statues with plants overflowing from them, and came into the living room that had a wall of windows looking out onto the ocean. Had I not been so knackered I would have marveled at the view, but I broke down. I plopped down on to the caramel colored L-shaped sofa letting myself succumb to the breakdown I was most surely having. “I…can’t…stay…here,” I said through hiccups and tears.

“Your tired. We both are.” He walked around the sofa so that he was facing me. “I don’t see a way to get out of this situation so let’s just make the best of it.” And with that he turned and walked out of the room to what I guessed was his home office. I could hear him getting on the phone and asking to speak to Anna. That was the last thing I remembered before waking hours later, still on the couch but covered with a blanket, in complete darkness.

I wasn’t sure what time it was, but I felt confident that I could summon an Uber to drive me back to my townhome. I’d sneak out so that he couldn’t be held accountable for me breaking quarantine. And when I got back to my townhouse I’d stay there for the entire quarantine period. I didn’t want to potentially infect anyone else, but I hadn’t been in contact with anyone that I suspected was sick. I rationalized to myself that if I covered my face with some sort of mask, and only got into the one Uber I wouldn’t be infecting anyone else. Quickly, before I could rethink it, I grabbed my phone and went to the Uber app to find a ride home.

Twenty minutes later I saw the Uber vehicle pull up just outside of Brett’s gate. So I quietly grabbed my suitcase and purse, and walked out the door. I was as stealthy as hunter stalking his prey. Only my prey was an Uber that would get me out of here. As I got to the gate realization hit that I didn’t know his code to open the gate. “I’ll be out in just a moment,” I assured the driver. Looking around for any other options, I realized that I’d have to climb over the fence, and somehow get my bag over as well. I was determined to get home so I rolled up the sleeves of the same Henley tunic I’d been wearing for two days (was that me that smelled bad?), and pushed my carry-on bag over the top of the fence. It made a loud thud as it hit the ground. Shit, did that wake up Brett? I prayed it didn’t.

After the bag and my purse were over the fence I called out to the driver to let him know I’d be right over. Then I began to scale the wall. Surprisingly, it was easier to climb to the top than I’d expected. But getting down the other side of the fence was a different story. I firmly planted my right foot on one of the rocks below, and made sure I had a tight grip of another rock to hold onto. Then I did the same thing with my left foot slowly making it down. But all at once I came tumbling down as my right foot missed its mark. My landing was cushioned by muddy leaves on the ground, however, it did hurt my foot.

“Are you okay lady,” the Uber driver asked? He was younger than me, maybe nineteen or twenty years old. He had a long dark curled hair that went down to his shoulders, and he was wearing surfing trunks with a tank top and flip flops.

“Yes, yes, I’m fine. I just need to brush off. Can you please put my bag in your trunk?”

“No can do lady, my truck is full. I just managed to make it to the grocery store before they closed today to stock up on supplies.”

As I stood and tried to clean off what I could, I asked, “Supplies for what?”

“Where you been, under a rock? Everyone is emptying the shelves at the grocery stores for this shut down.”

“Christ! I can’t believe everyone’s making such a fuss over this,” I said.

“It’s serious lady. I heard that one of the employees at Kualoa got the virus today. But that’s just a rumor.”

That caused me to pause. So it had made it to our island…

We took off down Kahala Avenue in my Uber driver’s red Kia Forte. The interior seemed clean enough, but there was a fish smell from the trunk that almost made me gag. “Do you mind if I crack the window,” I asked?

“Sure thing. It shouldn’t take us long to get to your destination. You from here?”

“Actually, I don’t know if you can tell from my accent but I’m not originally from here.”

“No…you don’t say,” he said with a laugh.

“I’m originally from London, but I’ve lived in Honolulu for quite a while. I love it here. The beauty of nature here brings me such peace.”

“Oh yeah, that brings me peace too. Especially when I smoke a bowl on the North Shore.”

He didn’t seem at all phased to share the news of his drug use with me. I appreciated it though because for the first time that day I forgot about the ordeal we were in. That was, until I saw the flashing blue and red lights coming from behind us. The Uber driver nervously peered back while trying to fumble in his center console for something. When he pulled over he jumped out of the car way too fast to come off as normal. His hands were high in the air.

“Rendo, is that you,” the officer that was approaching him asked?

“Yo Johnny, howzit?”

“You know man, all good. Where you going?”

“Ah man, just takin’ this howlie back to her home. You know I’m working for Uber now, right?”

“Yeah yeah, I remember. Listen, she’s not supposed to be going anywhere so I need you to step aside while I talk to her.”

Rendo, my Uber driver, stepped aside and put his hands down, and the office (Johnny) looked into the drivers side window to talk to me.

“Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to step out of the car please.”

Rather than playing coy, I opened my door and stepped out. “Yes sir.”

“May I see some identification?”

I had it ready so I pulled it out of my pocket and handed it over to him.

He examined it over for several seconds, looked up at me and stared for a few more seconds. Then he said, “Aren’t you supposed to be in quarantine with Mr. Pascoe?”

He wasn’t the same officer from earlier. How did he know about the quarantine order? “Well, it’s a funny thing officer. I wasn’t quite clear on the restrictions, but I need a few personal feminine items from my flat. So I was having this man take me by my place to grab them. I was planning to come back to Mr. Pascoe’s house,” I lied. I’d thrown in the feminine products part because I knew that always made men squeamish.

“Ma’am, let me lay it on the line for you. You have two choices here. We can take you back to Mr. Pascoe’s house where you will agree to stay for another 14 days, or we can arrest you for transporting an illegal substance. What sounds better to you?”

Wait, what? Illegal substance?
I tried to comprehend what he was saying, but it didn’t make sense. “What on earth are you talking about? What illegal substance?”

“Drugs, Ms. Hammond. We know that there are drugs in that vehicle.”

“How could you possibly know that? You haven’t even searched the vehicle.”

“We’re well acquainted with Rendo. I can say with confidence that we’ll find drugs if we search the vehicle. So it’s up to you. Jail or Mr. Pascoe’s?”

10 minutes later we pulled up to the gate of Brett’s house.

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