» One month earlier »
”You’re not gonna get changed?”
Shane looked up at her best friend with confusion written all over her face and found herself staring at her, unable to take her eyes off of her. She was standing in front of her in a black dress that she knew left Jenny’s back bare even if she couldn’t see it right now, and as always, she was absolutely breathtaking.
“Shane?” she repeated and a giggle escaped her lips when Shane shrugged out of her reverie and smiled back at her.
“Yeah, I’m on my way,” she replied and cast a glance down at her own clothes; she was still in the red t-shirt and blue jeans she’d been wearing all day and there was no way she was going to Jodi’s art show wearing that. “You look…” she started but was interrupted by the ringing of her cell phone in her pocket. She took it out and looked at the number on the display; she didn’t recognize it, but knowing who it could be made chills run down her spine and she cleared her throat and swallowed, nodding in the direction of their back porch. “I gotta take this, I swear I won’t be long.”
She hurried outside and closed the door behind her before she answered the call, running her fingers through her hair and hoping she would be wrong. That they would all be wrong, and that everything was going to be okay. Feeling her heart beginning to hammer in her chest, she listened to the voice on the other end telling her they had her test results.
“What is it?” she asked, struggling to get the words out. “Please… I need to know. -- No, just tell me. I can handle it.” She glanced up at the blue sky and grabbed the back of her neck, squeezing it in frustration when her doctor refused to tell her what was going on. “Look, I don’t want to go to the hospital for this, I want you to just tell me what’s wrong.”
Not even realizing she was doing it, Shane started to pace back and forth on the porch, rubbing the bridge of her nose as she took in every single word until her doctor finally got to the point. She froze, staring at their back garden without even seeing anything. It was far from the first time the possibility occurred to her, but never before had it seemed so frighteningly real to her. “Am I gonna die?”
Her thoughts were racing through her head, and she tried to will them away because she just wasn’t ready to deal with them yet. If the answer to her question was yes, how much time would she have left? When she started to wonder whether or not she’d get to see Shay grow up, or even get a chance to see him again, she rolled her hand into a fist and hit it hard into her thigh to make herself stop. That was all she dared to do because she had a nagging feeling that Jenny might be watching her through the kitchen window and she didn’t want to have to explain any of this to her when she got back inside.
She sat down on the swing when the voice on the other end began to speak again and buried her face in the palm of her hand when she heard what it had to say. “On Monday? In three days?” she asked after a while and realized it didn’t matter what day she had to go back to the hospital. It wasn’t like she had a job anymore or anything. “Okay. What time? -- Okay. Yeah, I’m okay. – Yeah. -- No, I don’t have any questions, not right now. I just—I just need to think about this for a while. Thank you.”
She ended the call and let out a deep sigh. More than anything right now, she wished she could just stay home tonight, lie in bed and try to process all of this, but she’d promised Jodi and the rest of her friends that she would go, so going she was. Maybe she’d even be able to think about something else if only for a moment, though she doubted it.
When she got back up, opened the door and walked back into the house, she’d already made the subconscious decision that this was something she had to keep to herself – at least for now. She had no idea how she was ever going to be able to break the bad news to any of her friends, least of all Jenny. History was repeating itself, and even if this time it was happening to her and not Dana, she knew it would bring back all the memories of what they all went through two years ago and she didn’t know how she could ever do that to them.
“What’s wrong?” Jenny’s voice reached her before she even made it into the kitchen and Shane just shook her head and tried to smile, albeit unsuccessfully.
“Someone got the wrong number,” she lied and instantly wanted to smack herself. Jenny wasn’t an idiot, anything she could possibly have said would have been better than that, but she just couldn’t seem to think straight right now.
“That was a pretty long call for being the wrong number,” Jenny said sceptically and reached out one of her small hands to grab one of Shane’s. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
Shane nodded and swallowed, then wrapped her arms around her best friend and pulled her close, soon feeling Jenny’s arms slipping around her waist and one of her hands beginning to gently rub her back. She was grateful for the opportunity to bury her face in the nape of Jenny’s neck because she could already feel the tears coming and if she had to say another word about any of it, she knew she wouldn’t be able to stop them.
“Do you think I need to let Sounder go outside once more before we leave or will he be okay?” Jenny asked after a while and loosened her hold on her just a little so she could look at her.
Somewhat confused, Shane shrugged and glanced around the room to check where Jenny’s dog was, but she didn’t see him anywhere. “When was the last time you let him out?”
“Um… I took him for a walk, but that might have been an hour ago.”
“If that was before you started getting ready,” Shane said and looked at her friend with her brows furrowed and tried to smile a little, “I’m pretty sure it’s been more than an hour.” It was strange and surreal to be talking to her about whether or not the dog needed to pee when she’d just gotten off the phone with her doctor, but it was nice. Until Jenny playfully slapped her shoulder for making fun of her and Shane had to struggle not to let the pain that shot through her show on her face.
“You’re not ready to go.”
Startled, she looked away from Jenny and took a step back, seeing her girlfriend standing by the door to the hallway wearing a long blue dress and a thoughtful frown. “You’re not going—are you?”
“No, no, I’m going,” Shane assured her, “I just got distracted. Of course I’m going. I’ll be quick, I promise.” She gave Jenny’s hand a reassuring squeeze before letting go and walked up to Molly to place a quick kiss on her lips before hurrying off to her bedroom to get ready.
She closed the door behind her and walked over to her full-length mirror, sitting down slowly on the floor in front of it. What stared back at her wasn’t the face her friends were used to, the one they’d remain used to, but the one she knew she couldn’t let them see. Exhausted, pained and terrified. She could be dying, no one even knew for sure yet; it was too soon to tell. It wouldn’t take long; before she knew it, it wouldn’t even be the same reflection looking back at her. Did it even matter? If it was all going to end anyway?
Unable to stand seeing her face in the mirror, she turned away and her eyes caught a glimpse of a framed photograph of her and Jenny in her bookshelf, taken some time last year, no, the year before that, she realized. After Jenny had just come back from Skokie, before they even found out Dana was sick. Looking at it stung, more than she’d have expected it to. Of course it mattered. She just didn’t know what she could do about any of it; it was all out of her control now. ‘This isn’t even my body anymore.’
She shook her head and got up off the floor, groaning from pain as she did so – something she hardly ever allowed herself to do unless she was alone. How she’d been able to keep Molly from finding out about what was going on was beyond her. She was constantly making things up to keep the truth from her, and she’d even blamed her bike and complained to her girlfriend about her ass hurting during the Pink Ride, when the real reason she was in pain was the tumour in her side. And that was before she even knew that’s what it was. She hated having to lie and she was sick of doing it, but it didn’t seem like she had much of a choice.
Thankfully she’d already picked her outfit for the night so that wasn’t yet another decision she’d have to make. She started to get changed, grimacing to herself as she pulled her t-shirt over her head and she was relieved by the fact that she’d put this off long enough to get to have her bedroom to herself while she did it. It scared her how fast she was getting worse, but she couldn’t blame anyone but herself for not doing anything about it sooner. She’d just kept convincing herself the whole time that it wasn’t all that bad, and that whatever it was, it would get better with time. Asking for help had never been easy for her. It wasn’t even because she wanted to handle things on her own, she realized, but mainly because she was convinced she didn’t deserve it.
She wished so badly that she could just talk to someone about it. Even if she was used to keeping things – especially her problems – to herself, she wondered if maybe it wouldn’t feel so hopeless if she told Jenny about it. Tired of lying and of going through it all alone, she played with the thought of letting her know, but she knew she couldn’t do that. Once she got the surgery over with and found out exactly how bad it was, then maybe.
The tears she’d tried to hold back had begun to trickle slowly down her cheeks and without even wanting to go there, she caught herself trying to imagine how Jenny would take it when she found out, and realized she couldn’t. She just knew that whatever her reaction was, it wouldn’t be a good one and if she was putting her in that place, she should at least have all the facts first. Jenny deserved that much.
It was when she struggled with putting on her striped v-neck top that it suddenly occurred to her. Not once had she thought about telling Molly, or even wondered and worried about how she would handle it when she found out she was sick, and guilt washed over her in an instant. Every little thought had been about Jenny and she froze right when she was about to pull the garment over her head as she made the realization. Her mind was too clouded right now to try to figure out what that meant, all she knew was that it was comforting and frightening at the same time.
She put the rest of her clothes on and sneaked out of her room and into the bathroom to do something about her make-up before someone noticed she’d been crying. When she was ready to go she headed back to the living room and found Molly waiting there for her.
“Are you okay?” she asked when Shane walked up to her, and she gently wrapped her arms around her neck and looked into her eyes, her own green ones filled with concern. “You look a bit, I don’t know, distressed.”
She managed a small smile and nodded as she placed her hands on her girlfriend’s hips and pulled her closer. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. I’m just tired, it’s no big deal.” ‘Here I go again with the lies,’ she thought bitterly and leaned in to kiss her, hoping it would be enough to distract them both from the current topic. It didn’t work on her, but at least it seemed to take Molly’s mind off of it. She didn’t try to ask her anything else until Jenny came back with Sounder, and then it was something as simple as “Are we ready to go now?”
“Yeah,” Jenny nodded, “I’m just gonna make sure he’s got everything. You guys can get in the car, I’ll be there in a sec.”
“Alright,” Shane replied and headed outside with her arm around Molly, but only got to the door before Jenny called her name, and something in her voice made her worry. “Huh?” she said and turned around, motioning for Molly to keep going and wait for her outside.
“What happened?” Jenny asked and bent down to take off Sounder’s leash, and before Shane had time to say something, she continued: “Was it about Shay?”
“No, I told you it was nothing.” Shane tried to keep her voice steady, but it was hard when her heart began beating faster and faster. She couldn’t do this. Not now. “Jenny, please, don’t worry about it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, Jenny, I’m sure,” Shane smiled, but every single word felt like a cut at she said it.
“Okay, I’m sorry.” Jenny walked up to her and gently stroke her hand down Shane’s back, smiling back at her. “I’ll stop asking.”
Later she would wish she hadn’t.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Flashback. Shane gets a phone call.
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