'When the sinus cavities in your head get infected, the fluid in them exerts pressure outward and they ache,' said Doctor Costa gently pressing Michael's forehead with his fingers.
Dr. Costa's eyes sat deep in their sockets as if trying to distance themselves from the spectacles that perched precariously on the edge of his nose. They were greatly helped by the fact that Dr. Costa's nose itself stretched out interminably from his face like a rocky ledge jutting out from a cliff, threatening to break off anytime and plunge to the floor of the clinic.
The large nose truly dominated Dr. Costa's face. Michael thought he resembled an escaped circus clown masquerading as the doctor, not having entirely succeeded in getting rid of his bulbous nose. Perhaps the real Dr. Costa with the normal nose was tied up in one of the medicine cupboards.
'Priscilla!' the doctor called out. A young nurse entered the examination room. Dr. Costa rose and went to his cabin, leaving Michael to be attended by her.
'I'm going to show you how to put nose drops, okay?' the nurse smiled.
Michael nodded from his chair. She went to a cabinet to pick out a small bottle and returned to sit on a chair facing him. She was slim and clinically dressed and when she sat, the hem of her starched white uniform rose precisely to the midpoint of her knees.
She also smiled clinically, Michael thought. Not severely, but clinically, as though her thoughts lay elsewhere and only her body went about its clinical duties. Perhaps the real Priscilla was also tied up in one of those medicine cabinets.
'How do you usually put these drops?' she asked, offering him the bottle.
Michael leaned his head back and positioned the tiny nozzle over his nostrils. He then carefully squeezed off a drop. The inner lining of his nose tingled in anticipation as usual, and when the drop fell his head slightly shuddered in tickled pleasure. He remained in that position for a few seconds.
'No, that's not the right way,' she intoned taking the bottle from him. Michael looked at her through slightly watery eyes and decided that her cheekbones were quite striking. High cheekbones always brought drama to a face. They drew attention to her eyes which however weren't entirely there. The soft black-brown orbs seemed to be clinical in their absence.
'Watch how it should be done.'
She leaned her head back as Michael had done and eased a drop into her nose. Michael made two observations almost simultaneously. Her neck was one of the most beautiful he had ever seen. A slim ridge rose above the abyss of her cleavage, soaring from the dip between her collarbones to the curving cliff of her chin.
And her nose. Small, pert and perfectly formed. Her nostrils, barely slits at its base, were now visible to him. They flared slightly, parting to receive the nose drops.
The drops fell and he watched a flush spreading around her neck followed by an almost imperceptible twitch of her bosom. He smiled at the lovely sight and felt a warmth rise in his own belly.
Then she suddenly leaned forward and bowed her head, keeping her face inclined downward. Her head was now poised just above Michael's lap and an instant surge of electricity swept through his groin and blew through his brain.
Then again, just as abruptly, she lifted her head and sat back, flushed pink with the rush of blood to her face.
'The drops must enter the sinus cavities in your forehead and below your eyes, okay?' she explained, her lips still reddened. 'Else they will just go down your throat and not reduce your nasal congestion in any way.'
Michael nodded dumbly, his heart still pounding.
'Now, when you blow your nose, how do you normally do it?' she asked Michael, leaning forward again.
He pinched both nostrils with a thumb and forefinger.
'No no, that's wrong,' she shook her head. He saw that her ears were small and as perfect as her nose. They stood out shamelessly naked, clad only in a pair of earrings that clung to them, being too small to dangle.
She pressed her forefinger to one side of her nose and blew gently through the other nostril. He felt her delicate breath on the hair of his forearms. Then she released her finger and did the same to the other side. She repeated the demonstration, blowing gently through alternate nostrils.
'Never blow by pressing both nostrils at the same time,' she warned. 'That pressure can drive the infectious bacteria deeper into the throat.'
Then she suddenly stopped speaking and just looked at Michael. He watched as she seemed to struggle with some emotion or sensation. Her cheeks flushed and her perfectly formed nose quivered. She parted her lips, closed them and then opened her mouth again. She remained that way for a few seconds, with watery narrowed eyes, a hand poised in midair, her open mouth and upturned nose trembling and waiting.
And then she sneezed.
It wasn't a loud deafening roar like his father's, nor was it a long squeal like his sister's with a smaller squeak rebounding at the end. It wasn't even a cough sneeze like his own.
It was a 'kchickk' sneeze. She suppressed the full impact of her nasal explosion, causing her face to turn red, her cheeks and ears ablaze. She had barely recovered when her nose quivered again. She shut her eyes, clamped her thighs together and sneezed again.
And again. And again. Her body jerked helplessly in her chair as sneeze after sneeze rocked her.
Dr. Costa turned his head from the journal he was reading and frowned.
Priscilla finally slumped in her chair and smiled sheepishly at Michael. A few strands of hair had come loose from her tight bun and hung disheveled across her forehead. A few droplets from her had fallen on his face and hands, but he made no attempt to wipe them.
She tucked in her stray locks, smoothened her dress and picked the bottle of nose drops from the floor. She wiped her eyes and then pressed a tissue to her wet nostrils, dabbing at them carefully to avoid another wave of tickles.
As Michael walked down the stairs, he could not stop thinking of Priscilla. He thought of her while gargling his throat that night and as he blew his nose before going to bed.