That Elusive Cure 11
By lisa h
“What do you think it’s like?” Sally was still under the covers. Lucy must have finished whatever it was she had to say as she crawled out from under the covers and left the room.
“What do you mean?” I knew exactly what she meant. The thing I had thought about on and off for the last two years. Would I snuff out? Be reborn in some squalling baby? Go on to a higher plane where I was rewarded for bearing the cross of cancer?
“Death.” She sniffed and moved about under the covers. I guessed she was crying. “Rob came to see me earlier.” She laid that one out for me. Like a booby trap or landmine.
“He did. Told me to bury myself deeper. That he needed me.” Sal pulled the covers back enough that I could see her head. “But the children… they need me more.”
I nodded at the tea. “Peter brought you a tea and your meds.”
“Would they miss me?” She glanced at the door. Fortunately the kids were elsewhere. “All day I thought about what they would do when I’m gone. Do you think they’d cry?”
I nodded. “Of course they would. They love you very much.” The last time Sal had spoken like this she’d had to go in to hospital for a few weeks. I’d looked after the kids, but that was before chemo hell took over my life. I wasn’t sure I could cope right now.
“I think they’d cry. For a day or two. But then I think they would be relieved.” Sal wiped the tears from her cheeks. “They’d be glad that I’d finally gone, and wasn’t destroying their childhood anymore. You’d make them children again. You and Jimmy.”
“Stop being silly.” I sat on the side of the bed and put an arm around her. “Drink some tea. Do you want me to take out your meds?”
I waited, but she didn’t reply. Her face had gone lax, the look in her eyes distant, like she was very far away.
The writing on the bottle said two. I popped the top off and put the tablets in her hand. “Here.” I pushed her hand to her mouth and handed her the mug. “Swallow those down. They’ll help you to feel better.”
“Feel…” She was hardly even blinking. “Yes, I’d like that.”
Sal swallowed the pills and I felt a small amount of worry leave me. I couldn’t stay at her house forever, but I needed to make sure she was okay enough to leave her alone with the kids. I stared at her for a long while. She’d gone blank, not speaking, hardly even blinking. There was only one choice for me. I stepped out of the room and rang home.
“Hey what’s up?” Jimmy answered on the second ring.
“Sal’s in a bad way. I think I’m going to have to stay the night.” I peeked in the kitchen. Peter had taken out chips and fish fingers and put them on a baking tray. The oven was heating up.
“You sure you’re up to that? You’re not even a week out of chemo.” He’d stopped typing and was listening properly, a sure sign of concern.
“Sal’s in there alternating between comatose and crying while she talks about dying.” The kids were in the living room watching cartoons. They were as lively as their mother. My heart ached for them.
“Maybe she needs to be somewhere else, where there are professionals who know what they’re doing.”
I sighed. “I can’t do that to her. What about the kids? A half-working Sally is better than a foster home. I guarantee it. I can’t cope with them full time right now - maybe in a few weeks when I’ve recovered from cycle six. I’m getting a break, the docs said they’d give me three months to recuperate, I could look after them then… if Sal can just hold on a little longer.”
“We can’t have the kids, are you an idiot? How are you supposed to get better if instead of resting you’re looking after a couple of kids?”
Still thinking I had a chance of getting better. Poor Jimmy. He was as deluded as Sal. I was only going to slowly get worse until they gave me morphine and called time on my treatment.
“Look, I’m staying the night, and that’s that. You know where I am.” I hung up, staring at the phone for a minute, willing Jimmy to ring back, tell me he loved me and supported me, but the phone remained silent.
I stood in the hallway, torn for a moment as to who to go to first. The familiar dull ache had started up in my liver. So much for my magic machine. I decided to go to the kids, tell them their Auntie Kathy was staying the night, but the tears took me by surprise before I had a chance to go into the living room. For a long time I stood in the hall sobbing. Crying for Sally, for her kids, for the life that was being stolen from me, for the life Sal didn’t want, but mostly for the machine that was never going to save me.