Until We Meet Again
Leslie awoke to the buzzing of her phone. She was in her bed, tangled up in Ben's arms. There were only a few people Leslie would answer to at 4:15 in the morning, maybe more than a few, but Ann was one of them. Rolling gently away from Ben, so as not to wake him, picked up her phone.
From the sound of Ann's voice, and the fact that it was 4 in the morning, Leslie knew something was wrong. She could hear the noise of traffic and a distant siren through the phone. "Ann, where are you, are you okay?"
"I'm-I'm in downtown Chicago. Can you come here?"
"Chicago? What are you doing in Chicago?" Leslie asked, taken by surprise.
"Can you just…" There was a long pause "I need you here. Please."
Through the sound of desperation and distress in her best friend's voice, Leslie knew she had to help her in some way. Whatever way that was in Chicago at 4 in the morning. "I'll be right there."
"Okay, I'm at a bar called O'Shannahan's, on the corner of Sullivan and a small alleyway. I'll be waiting outside."
"Don't do that, it's cold outside!" Leslie said, concerned.
Ann sighed. It doesn't matter anymore anyway She thought."Okay, whatever." The cold would feel like nothing in comparison. She was just numb.
"Okay. I'll see you in about an hour. Ann. Will you be okay until I get there?"
"Yeah. Thanks, Leslie." Ann hung up before Leslie could respond. She already had a headache just from so much stress. She rubbed her temples as she paced up and down the sidewalk. She was scared out of her mind. No, she was beyond scared now. She was still just numb. She walked back into the bar and sat down at the corner. Ordering another drink, the second one of the night, she looked down and put her hands over her face. She thought about all her friends in Pawnee, what would they think? Would they care? Of course they'll care, on the inside, but she didn't think April and Ron were capable of showing emotion.
As much as it hurt, she knew her best bet was to stay away from her friends during what little time she had left. Being around them all the time would only make it harder for them when she was gone. And that way they would only remember the better side of Ann, not the weak, disheartened woman she will become.
Ann was the last one in the bar. The sign outside advertised "party all night Tuesdays" but clearly the party had long since left. The disgruntled bar owner was long since ready to close up, but he couldn't until she left. Ann had had enough of people telling her what to do today, and she wasn't about to go stand outside in the cold because a bar owner wanted to go home. Finally, a young bartender offered to take care of the bar for the rest of the night and lock up when Ann leaves. Which left her alone with the bartender, who tried to strike up a conversation. She wasn't going to deny it, this man was attractive. But it was better she turn him down now than try and go out with him, possibly resulting in a relationship that could only end in heartbreak. She let him know she wasn't interested, without actually saying it.
Finally, she saw a car pull up outside that was likely Leslie. Sure enough, Leslie hurried into the bar a few seconds later.
"Leslie, over here."
"Oh my god, are you okay? What's going on?" Leslie said frantically, looking over her friend to make sure she wasn't injured.
"Leslie, um, can we take this outside?"
"Yeah…yeah." She said as they started walking out the door. "You kind of owe me an explanation here, you know."
"Yes. Yes, I absolutely do. Listen." Ann pulled Leslie over to the street corner where there was some cover from the alley.
She lowered her voice and began "Leslie, you are my very best friend, thank you for coming out here when I need you, without even asking. Thank you so much. The reason I'm in Chicago is because, a few weeks ago, I had routine blood work done, and the results came back that I have a high white blood cell count. They scheduled me for an appointment at the hospital here in Chicago to run more tests. And…the tests came back positive. Leslie, I have leukemia."
Leslie gasped. She didn't know what to say. "It's…it's okay though, right? It's not that serious, right?"
"It is. It's too late for treatment." Ann cringed at the look on her best friend's face.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, we'll never grow old together like we planned." Saying it out loud made Ann want to break down all over again. But she had already done that. Twice.
Leslie just stood there for a minute, trying to process what this meant. "No, Ann no. How long? What did they say?"
Ann gave her friend a sympathetic look. After all, she thought it's Leslie who's going to have to go through the next 40 or 50 years without her best friend
"Ann don't do that! Don't do this to me, tell me how long!" Leslie was in tears.
Ann looked around. She never liked this kind of sappy drama that was in soaps and movies, but now it was happening to her. "Leslie," She paused a long time, thinking of a way to tell her friend without flat-out saying it. She didn't think she could say it out loud just yet. "I don't think I'll see the next president."
Leslie was frozen. She stood completely still, processing this information. She turned to face away from Ann for a few moments, then grabbed Ann's arm and dragged her towards the car. "C'mon. I'm gonna go talk to those doctors. Right now, c'mon." Leslie sat in the driver's seat but was still facing out.
"Leslie, stop! Be realistic, please! You're only making it harder for me right now."
Leslie's face dropped. She wasn't used to dealing with this kind of drama, and her reactions weren't exactly practical. "Oh my god Ann I'm so sorry I promise Ben and I will make you have the best time in your life we could go hang gliding I've always wanted to go hang gliding or we could join Broadway and then travel the world you wanna see Paris I wanna see Paris oh and I always wanted to ride a kangaroo, let's do that too and-"
"Leslie." Ann said quietly, but loud enough to get Leslie to stop. "I don't think I have time for all that stuff."
"Oh. Well, we could play a lot of Sims."
Ann laughed quietly, then stopped quickly, realizing that a computer game was going to have a longer life than her. "Leslie, listen. It's only going to be harder for you and everyone else for you to watch me die, and It'll be hard for me to do that to you. I'm leaving. I going to get my stuff and move somewhere else, and try not to make personal connections with the people there. I'll be happier knowing that I'm not hurting my friends, can you try to understand?"
"No, YOU understand!" Leslie stood up out of her car. "You expect me to go each day for the next…however long, knowing that my best friend is out there somewhere, but I don't know if she's dead or alive?! You're NOT helping us, you'd just be hurting us even more! Knowing that you're out somewhere alone and unhappy, when you could be here with us, all of us enjoying our time together! Having this…invisible clock, in our heads, counting down the days that you're suffering alone until we don't know if the clock exists or not, whether it's still counting down, or if it already ended. Is that what you want for us? Look into my eyes and tell me that's what you're going to do to me."
Ann knew Leslie was right. She knew there were consequences of her leaving Pawnee. But there were also consequences of her staying, and that's what she was focusing on. She didn't want to stay in Pawnee for the rest of her life, she wanted to travel. And she didn't expect her friends to follow her around.
"Leslie, just remember that I'm not sad and alone somewhere, I'm happy, and maybe I'll find someone in a similar situation as me. I want to go places, and see the world, not stay in Pawnee. Can you understand? Please, don't make goodbye harder than it has to be."
Leslie's hands were shaking. She was saying "no" quietly under her breath. "You're drunk. You're just drunk. Get in the car, we're going home."
"No, please! Ann, you're not serious? Ann? Don't…don't…just…Ann?
Before Leslie knew what she was doing, her mouth was forming the word "goodbye" even though she didn't want it to. "Goodbye." She repeated.
Ann looked up at the sky then back to Leslie. "Until we meet again."
"Until we meet again." Leslie agreed.
Giving her best friend one last nod, Ann turned and walked down the sidewalk in the first tiny bit of light the sun showed for that day.