It seemed a fever like any other my boy brought home from school with him on Monday. But after two days running a temperature, his face flushed and a faint rash creeping across his body, he stuck out his tongue and I knew something more was wrong. Too late to call a doctor, I turned instead to Google. Keywords: fever, rash, red, bumpy tongue. The diagnosis was immediate - scarlet fever - no question about it.
That night he talked in his sleep and woke his brothers. Not averse to the romance of the situation, I carried his soft, grey, pet bunny up the stairs to greet them in the grey light of dawn and Lewis managed a wan smile from his sick bed.
"And presently the fever turned, and the Boy got better. He was able to sit up in bed and look at picture-books, while the little Rabbit cuddled close at his side. And one day, they let him get up and dress." The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams.
The fever had turned but he was still not well. And now I knew the risk of complications, the damage which might even now be being wrought upon his heart and kidneys, I counted down the minutes until the doctors' surgery opened. I called the hospital. I called Health Direct. All expressed surprise at my diagnosis, but soon confirmed it. He must see a doctor within four hours. We took the first available appointment that morning.
"Everything was arranged, and now it only remained to carry out the doctor's orders. They talked about it all, while the little Rabbit lay under the bedclothes, with just his head peeping out, and listened. The room was to be disinfected, and all the books and toys that the Boy had played with must be burnt.
Just then Nana caught sight of him. 'How about his old Bunny?' she asked.
'That?' said the doctor. 'Why, it's a mass of scarlet fever germs! - Burn it at once.'" The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams.
Not wanting to linger in the waiting room we arrived right on time, but our appointment had been pushed back by other emergencies. I sat down to read a book to the children and a nurse came rushing into the toy room.
"Are these yours?" she gasped, gesturing to the children. "What have they touched?"
Whisking the toy out of my baby's hands she ushered us into a sterile waiting area, and we started the story again. Two pages in she reappeared.
"You are going to hate me, but the practice manager has asked if you can wait in your car. You can keep the book."
We found a spot under a tree in the grassy car park and read Dr Seuss. There was no sign of a bonfire, so presumably they were waiting until after we left before they burned all the books and toys. The boys raced feathers dancing in the breeze and spied on the backpackers at the youth hostel behind the back fence. We waited in the autumn sunshine for an hour, growing hungry and tired, and I thanked the heavens it was not raining and my boy was not still sick with fever.
Lewis amused himself infecting things around the yard. Trees, grass, the wooden fence. Touching the trunk of an old pear tree, its leaves ravaged by pear slugs, he laughed "I can't make the pear tree sick. It already is sick!"
The doctor was sceptical, but my boy poked out his tongue like a strawberry and she agreed and sent us home with a script. Dosed up on penicillin, we climbed into bed and read The Velveteen Rabbit and slept. Darcy woke with his nose spouting blood. The white sheets sprayed with drops of crimson. His new hand-sewn clothes soaked scarlet. Our week so red.