For the colouring book I'm going to be running a colouring competition - winner to be on the cover of the book. I'll be posting the link here so if any of you like to colour look out for it. Since I'm always here (almost) on a Monday and the rest of the time is somewhat random I'll post the link to the competition on a Monday.
More on that later, for now here's the next installment in Cassie:
I woke early the next morning, suffused with a sense of peace that I hadn’t felt for a long time. I smiled as I thought about the look of shock on Matt’s face; I had stunned him. I had stunned myself too, but I was certain my life was heading in the right direction, even if I couldn’t see the path in front of me.
A surge of energy had me out of bed and dressed. I would take the dogs for a long walk before breakfast this morning. The early mornings were beautiful at this time of year, with just a hint of chill in the air and a light mist bathing the regular walking path in mystery. The dogs were as excited as ever to go, dancing around me in canine glee while I struggled to get their leads on for the short walk to the park. As we walked my mind went back to Matt, wondering if I would see him there. I was part excited and part anxious to see him – and part hoping that I wouldn’t in case it proved awkward.
The latter proved to be the case, causing my stomach to dip as my foolish mind then wondered if Matt was regretting everything he said, and perhaps my boldness, and was avoiding me. I chastised myself all the way home, alternately calling myself a fool for such thoughts, and a fool for kissing him. But all thoughts of Matt and my future were erased when I picked up my phone, which I had left on the kitchen counter, and saw a message from Andrew which had been sent thirty minutes ago.
“At the hospital, Bev collapsed, in intensive care.”
I couldn’t do anything just then, since Mark was being dropped off by his friend’s mum in an hour, so I sent a text to Andrew telling him I would be there as soon as I could, and then let Saffron and Matt know what was happening. I made a pot of tea to keep my hands busy, my mind filled with flashbacks of Bev. She was such a strong woman, she must have been a powerhouse in her younger years before the cancer ravaged her body. She still was a powerhouse, so much so that even when I saw her becoming progressively weaker I still couldn’t imagine her gone from my life.
I had only known Andrew and Bev since I bought the coffee van business from them, yet they had become as close as family to me. Bev was like a second mother, a woman whose strength and kindness had helped me get through my dark times. She humbled me every time I saw her, as did Andrew. That man adored his wife, yet accepted that her time was coming without bitterness or anger. They were the most inspirational people I had ever known. And now Bev was reaching the end of her time with us.
Remembering how close Emmerson and Bev had become I rang Julia, thankful that these days Julia and I had a civil relationship. Explaining what had happened I promised her that I would let her know if it looked like Emmerson needed to come to the hospital. We both knew that she needed the chance to say goodbye to Bev.
Then I sat and worried about how I was going to tell Mark. He was so young, not yet ten, and had never lost anyone close to him before, not even a pet. He was staying at his friend Jeff’s house, and I was on friendly terms with Jeff’s mother – enough that we occasionally had coffee together but not enough for any close conversation. She knew about Andrew and Bev, not about Matt, that kind of friendship. When she arrived she apologized for having to dash off, explaining that they were going to the movies next. I grinned, we arranged to meet up another time and she was gone.
I followed Mark inside, still wondering how to handle the coming conversation but he was a step ahead of me.
“What’s wrong, is it dad?”
I stared at him, shocked that he could read me so well.
“No, I haven’t heard from your father, I assume everything’s ok with him.”
Mark studied my face, his own expression sober.
“Then it’s Bev, something has happened to Bev.”
I nodded, saying, “Come, let’s sit down and I’ll tell you all I know.”
Still astonished at his quick grasp of the situation I led Mark to the lounge. Once seated I told him everything I knew – precious little since there had been no further communication from Andrew.
“Then we need to go to see her.”
I hugged him, kissed the top of his head and said, “Yes, we will go now.”
“What about Emmie, does she know?”
“Yes, I talked to Julia before. She will bring Emmie to the hospital once I have a better idea of how Bev is.”
“Are we going to say goodbye to her?”
I studied his little face, his grave expression, the sad look in his eyes. “I don’t know Mark, maybe. But you know Bev, she’s so strong.”
He nodded, pleating the fabric in his shirt, and then looked up at me, his eyes far too wise in his young face. “She’s been leaving us for a long time, she’s just been taking her time with saying goodbye. She’s tired mum, she needs to rest.”
I have been speechless in my life before, nothing has ever equaled the lack of words I felt now, confronted with the wisdom of a ten year old.
At the hospital we found Andrew sitting in the coffee shop. He smiled and stood on seeing us, and I hugged him tight.
“Thanks for coming, Bev will be happy to see you both. She’s sleeping just now.”
“How is she, what happened?”
“Let me get you some coffee, or tea, and I’ll tell you. Mark, would you like some juice or a coke?”
I pushed him back towards his chair. “You stay and chat to Mark, I’ll get us something. More coffee for you?”
He smiled his thanks and I went to the counter to order, coming back with a coke for Mark and a table number for the rest of the order. I had ordered a sandwich for Andrew, sure that he needed to eat, as well as coffee for both of us. Sitting down I handed Mark his drink and placed the number in the centre of the table.
“So, what happened?”
Andrew rubbed his eyes before speaking. “I’m not sure, she fell in the bathroom, and couldn’t get back up. She said she had no strength. Her colour was terrible, her face had this blue tinge. So I called an ambulance and they put her in intensive care on an oxygen mask.” He shrugged. “We know the cancer spreat to her lungs, I guess it’s done something.”
My heart sank, what he said was so logical that I knew it had to be the case. I looked at Mark who was sitting very still, very composed. Andrew rubbed the back of his neck, smiling at the woman who had arrived with his sandwich and our coffee. He raised his eyebrows at the sandwich as I indicated it was for him.
“Eat, I bet you haven’t eaten anything yet today.”
His smile turned rueful. “You’re right, I haven’t.”
Mark looked up from his coke. “It’s going to be ok, Bev will go when she’s ready and we should let her go.”
“You’re right Mark, I know it too. She is doing this on her terms, despite how it might look.”
I sat and sipped my coffee, wondering at the wisdom of the very young, the dying and the ones about to be left behind. Or at least the one about to be left behind. For Andrew had always displayed such acceptance, such serenity in the face of what still seemed to me to be a cruel hand of fate.
“I’d better get back up to intensive care, she might be awake now.”
Mark and I stood with Andrew. “We’ll come with you.”
“They only let one person in at a time to see her.”
I touched his arm. “I know, but there’s a waiting room we can sit in. We aren’t going to leave you.”
“Thank you Cassie, you were certainly sent to us that day you decided to buy a coffee van.”
We went up to intensive care together, where Andrew went into the ward and Mark and I kept going to the waiting room.
“Will you call Julia soon? Does Matt know?”
“Andrew will tell us more soon, then I will call Julia. I sent Matt a message earlier. He will get back to me when he gets it, I think he’s at work today.”
Mark nodded his satisfaction, picked up the book he had brought with him and began reading. I wished I could settle that easily, my mind was flitting from Andrew to Bev to Matt to the kids. It seemed like no time, and yet forever when Andrew came to see us. His face was grey, I knew without asking that the news was not good.
“They will run a few tests, but they don’t want to do too much as she is weak. The first thing is a scan to see what is happening with her lungs, but the nurses have warned me that it looks as though the growths have increased, interfering with her ability to process oxygen, so she can’t get enough. She’s going to need to stay in hospital for the foreseeable future. There may be further complications, they don’t know as yet.”
“Can we see her?”
Andrew directed his attention to Mark. “I believe so, she is awake and knows you are here.”
He turned his attention to me. “I have told them about you and they have agreed to allow you both in to see her together.”
I was relieved, having been worried about Mark seeing Bev on his own. Even though he was displaying such an astonishing level of maturity he was still a little boy. I was also anxious that the hospital was prepared to bend the intensive care rules, at what it implied, but pushed that aside for the moment.
Bev, when we went in, did not have an oxygen mask on as I had expected – put that down to old television doctor shows. Instead there were tubes going into her nostrils. She had colour back in her cheeks, or at least she wasn’t blue and she looked like herself, although the hospital bed made her seem tiny. She smiled when she saw us.
“My second family, come in, don’t be shy. Is Emmerson coming too?”
“Julia is just waiting for my call and she will bring her in to see you.”
Bev smiled again. “Tell her she doesn’t need to hurry, I’m not going anywhere just yet.”
She patted the bed. “Come sit her Mark, and your mother can sit on the chair. They only let me have one visitor at a time usually, isn’t that ridiculous? As though too many visitors will shorten my time.” She winked at Mark. “I’ll go when I’m ready, visits from loved ones are not going to make any difference.”
Mark smiled back at her, and soon they were chatting away as though this was a normal day, a normal visit. I shook my head, this was the most amazing woman I had ever met.
Letters To Myself - 11 reviews on this book now!