This story came to me in a dream about a week ago, watching how hard Sidney has to work out on the ice, what he has to go through. His sweat and determination reminded me of somthing else. Hope you like this one so far.
Yeah, our dolls gather dust in the corner of the attic
And bicycles rust in the rain
Still we walk in that fabled shadow
Sometimes we call her name
Hey hey, Cinderella, what's the story all about
I got a funny feeling we missed a page or two somehow
Ohh-ohhhh, Cinderella, maybe you could help us out
Does the shoe fit you now (lyrics Suzy Bogguss)
"Wow." It's not the deepest or most profound reply that I could have come up with, but all things considered, I think not bursting into tears and throwing myself out of the nearest window is pretty huge. Looking across the deep cherry wood desk cluttered with files and prescription pads, not to mention family photos of smiling children and one of those Mario Lemieux bobble heads that so many long term residents of this city seem to have, I find myself staring at my family doctor as though I've never seen her before, like she's not real, as though I'm looking at her through a thick haze. It could be my tears, I'm not sure.
"It's a lot to take in," she says, clicking the end of her ball point pen like she's nervous. Like maybe she thinks that I might actually go for the window, or maybe I might want to throw her out of the window instead. It's a thought.
"This is the part in the movie where when you're watching it you think...oh my god...how sad. And then you think...what would I do if that was someone I know? Because you never think that it's you, you know?" I look over at her and she narrows her shrewd eyes at me behind the safety of her darkly framed glasses, like she doesn't know what I'm talking about. I guess she doesn't. She does this all the time. She watches people fall to pieces in her office over just this type of news all the time. "You just...you never think...oh that's me. I'm going to feel like that," I try and explain, feeling this weird sort of smile tugging at the corners of my lips. It's an anxious smile, a nervous smile. Like if I don't smile I'll cry and I hate crying in front of people. I can't be weak. Not in my profession. Corporate politics doesn't allow for tears and histrionics.
"There are a lot of really positive outcomes for this type of cancer," she continues, looking back down at her notes. As if she doesn't know what they say, like she has to look down to remind herself of the diagnosis. The "c"-word. That ugly word that leaves you unable to breath and immediately has you thinking of tiny, frail, bald children. I don't know why you immediately think of sick children. Maybe because they seem so pathetic and helpless and I don't mean that in a callous sort of way; it's the way the marketing companies want you to feel when they put them in ads or on the news. "Randi...are you listening?" Looking up at her, I nod, though it's a lie. I can hardly concentrate on anything other than the screaming in my head. "There are some aggressive treatment programs. I'd like to get you started right away...," her voice trails off as I shake my head adamantly.
"I can't do anything now. I have tickets...Conner's wedding in Spain," I explain, that same nervous smile tugging at my lips. "It's his wedding...and we've made all these plans. I can't possibly do anything until after the wedding." Catherine looks over the tops of her glasses and looks down her perfectly straight nose at me, like a school teacher. Like I've done something wrong and I'm about to be punished for it.
"We're lucky to have caught this so early Miranda," she says firmly but quietly, as if there's some chance I've misunderstood her. "To achieve the best results, the treatment for this type of cancer needs to start right away." She looks over at me with that impatient parental stare, as if I'm some sort of misbehaving child that's refusing to listen to good advice.
"But he's my baby brother. I'm going to be a bridesmaid and wear this horrible red dress with all these frills," I grin, making these useless gestures with my empty hands, trying to explain to a woman who wears tweed and a lab coat just what a red flamenco dress looks like. I finally put my hands back in my lap when she makes this sort of huffing sound and goes back to impatiently clicking her pen.
"You need to cancel your plans Miranda," she says sternly, tapping the page like it's written in stone or maybe in blood on the print out in front of her, those typed words from the lab that have my heart feeling like a lead weight in my chest. "I'm certain if you explain to your brother...," I shake my head, a nervous laugh bubbling from my throat.
"No...no. I wouldn't ruin their wedding by telling them this," I explain, tears finally stinging my eyes, threatening to fall. "They'd cancel the wedding," I explain, tugging at my own knee length brushed wool skirt. "I couldn't do that. They have all these people coming," I continue, thinking of the huge guest list they've come up with. My baby brother and all these society people in Spain where no one speaks the language, it's going to be such a laugh. Or it was...because apparently I'm not going, not by the look on Catherine's face as she reaches for one of those other pads, the one where they fill in a time and give it to you to send you for blood tests and x-rays and that kind of thing. I've had a lot of those recently. I know all about these orders. I'm almost an expert on these orders.
"You're young. You're in otherwise good health. You can beat this Miranda, but you have to start treatment immediately."
I nod, because she isn't giving me a choice and because I know if I told my brother, my only surviving family, that he really would cancel his wedding and all of his big plans to make sure I got the treatment. The only trick now is getting the treatment and not letting him figure this out.
"I'm really going to need your help," the new, young, coach smiles at all of us, reminding me of a student teacher or a sub hoping that he won't get pelted with spit balls the moment his back is turned. "I know a lot of you, some I've only met briefly but I want all of you to know that as far as I'm concerned, we're all starting with a clean slate."
I look around at the faces of the other guys and they all look like little kids on Christmas morning. Like this Bylsma guy is the best Valentine's present they've ever had. TK is practically peeing himself with excitement. So why do I feel so empty?
It's not like I liked Therrien more than any other coach I've had. I've even disagreed with the guy a time or two. But he'd helped me, a lot, and it's hard to see the guy go. I mean, I agreed with Mario that he'd made some poor choices lately but...this guy is gonna take some getting used to.
"I won't ask you to do anything I won't do. Some of you guys know but for those of you that don't, I'll be running the drills with you, right behind you. I'm going to ask a lot of you, but we're in this together and we're going to make this fun for you again." He beams at everyone just like the student teacher who wants desperately to be liked, and it looks like it's working. Everyone is grinning like jack'o'lanterns at him. Especially Fleur, and for him I'll reserve judgement. Therrien was hard on him. Really hard. So for him I'll keep my mouth shut and reserve judgement and see if this works. "You in on this drill or what Croz?"
Clenching my teeth at the shortening of my name, as if he knows me, as if he's ever done anything more than shake my hand, I get in line behind Jordy and hope for the best. Open mind, I remind myself. I promised Mario I'd keep an open mind.
"Time off?" Tish looks over her computer screen at me and narrows her eyes. "You already had time off for Con's thingie in Spain."
"Yeah I know but uh...I might need some more time," I smile at her but the way her full red lips are pressing down into a blood red line tells me I'm busted.
"Where were you at lunch?" She hisses, reaching down to pull her purse out of the bottom drawer of her desk and pushing her chair back violently enough as she stands to nearly topple it over. When she stands she towers over me by a good six inches. Not that I mind. How can you mind having a super model for a best friend? Grabbing my arm she drags, pushes, pulls me to the bathroom and once inside, she leans against the back of the door, using her broad shoulders and size to bar entry to anyone who might try the door. "Well?" she asks, raising her perfectly shaped eyebrows at me in query, like raven's wings arching in a snow filled winter sky.
I could lie, but not to Patricia. I don't keep anything from her. Everyone has to have someone they can be absolutely open with. Some people have a shrink. I have Tish.
"I went to see Catherine. I was getting those results," I admit quietly. Okay, so I keep some things from her. I hadn't told her where I was going at lunch. I didn't want her to worry.
"And?" she says calmly, although the very pointed toe of her black paten leather shoes taps impatiently on the tile floor.
"Well it's not good," I reply, feeling that huge ball of emotion beginning to build in my throat again. The one I thought I'd managed to get rid of on the drive back to the office. Blinking rapidly I turn my attention up to the bright white industrial lights over head and will my tears back. No tears at work. Not even about this.
I feel her long arms wrap around me as her long silken ebony hair falls over my shoulder as she pulls me into her. I expect she's saying something soothing, or something smart and suitably appropriate for the situation but I can't hear her past that screaming in my head. That voice that tells me I'm going to die. I'm going to die and there are so many things I haven't done yet.
"Of course you're not going to die," Tish says sternly, holding me at arms length and giving me a shake. I had no idea I'd said it out loud but the thunderous look on her face makes it perfectly clear that I have. "You're not going to die on me. We're supposed to go shopping in Paris this summer for fuck sakes, so no, you're not going to die on me." That's what I love about Tish. She doesn't mean to do it and it's never on purpose but somehow everything is really about her. You can't be made at her about it. That's just Tish and everyone loves Tish. It makes me smile to see her consternation at the thought of not having me to go shopping in Paris with her. "What? Why are you smiling like that?"
"I was just wondering what I'll look like shopping in Paris with no hair?"
"Do you have a problem with that Crosby?" Bylsma asks, a faint smile turning the corners of his almost non existent lips up at the corners. It's a threat. I know a threat when I see one, and that is a threat if I've ever heard one. Of course I know about his feelings about star players. Everyone knows about the Gretzky incident, how he missed the pass. "We're all a team here aren't we Croz? No one better than anyone else, am I right?" The threat is clear in his beady little eyes; 'maybe Therrien centered all the plays around you boy but you won't get that from me'.
"Right coach," I smile and take the platter of drinks. It's meant to take me down a peg. I know it and he knows it. The idea is, the rest of the guys won't make me feel like that.
Except maybe Flower. I can't believe he let him score. I can't believe he'd do that to me. I thought we were friends.
"This is the best Gatorade I've ever tasted," Bylsma smiles as he savours the first sip out of his cup. I want to punch him. I want to make him bleed.
Instead I smile. Smile and turn my back and head for the dressing room. So I'm the juice boy one day. When we play, he'll know. I'm the Captain. I'm the star. Not that it's gone to my head. It's just a fact. I can put this team on my back. Flowers and me, we can make this team win, with or without him. He'll understand that soon enough and then we'll see who the juice boy is.
Standing in front of the mirror I run my fingertips down my throat, feeling the slight swelling under my ears, at the back of my neck, and further down, under my arms. No, it's not there yet. That's a good sign. We caught it early she said. Sliding my hands under my breasts, supporting the weight of them in my hands, I look down at them.
So many times they've gotten in the way, stopped me from buying that bathing suit or made me get some blouse tailored, but they're mine; for now anyway.
Closing my eyes I run my fingertips slowly down the soft flesh, feeling for that spot. That damned bump. Half way down, hidden beneath the smooth ivory flesh, there...like a pebble, small, smaller than my fingertip but there; cancer.
Opening my eyes again I look down at the dark pink areola, the light pink nipple and the surrounding pale white flesh. My breasts were too big my mother always said, passed down from my grandmother. She always wanted me to be ashamed of them. She had small, perky breasts, just a handful she always said. Slim and pale with perfect dark ringlets she was beautiful.
I'm nothing like her, except around my eyes, or so my father said, especially after she died. He would put his hands on my cheeks and smile at me and say that my mother was looking out at him through my eyes. Those were the only things she gave me, my eyes, and now this. Cancer.
Wrapping the towel tightly around myself, I turn away from my reflection, from the plain brown wavy hair and the skin that's only pale where the sun doesn't get to it and the breasts that are too big. I have things to do and they won't get done standing here feeling sorry for myself. I have plans to undo and new plans to make, while I still have time.