Nikki opened the door to her suite at The Drake Hotel. She walked somberly to the window taking in the view it offered of Lake Michigan and found solace from its serene beauty. She had told Victor she was looking for her perfect wedding dress. If only. It was just one of the many lies she had told in the past month. Instead of hearing the words lace, tulle, chiffon, she heard: CBC, MRI, CT scan, chemotherapy, radiation, HER2 positive, stage 3, radical mastectomy. Cancer. She moved towards the Victorian couch and sank into the soft brocade. She brought her hands to her face, tonight she would cry. She would cry for herself, for her fears, her doubts. She would cry for her family and for the mess she had made of her situation. She knew her family had become increasingly aware of her strange behavior. She was edgy, distant, and even cryptic at times. She had even postponed her wedding to Victor.
It made her sick to lie, or tell half truths, to the people she loved. Why was it so hard to admit? Why was it so hard to tell her children, her friends, and Victor? Why was it so hard to say, "I have cancer"?
There would never be an easy way or a 'right' time. She had worked up her courage several times, but something would come up and derail her plans. Victor holding a press conference to shed light on Jack's addiction. Adam taking control as CEO of Newman Enterprises. Victoria joining Victor in his quest to regain his beloved 'legacy'. Nick opening up his night club. Even Katherine was consumed with her company, Chancellor. Excuses. They were all excuses. Her family had the right to know.
Initially, she thought perhaps her test results would amount to nothing. A false positive, or something that could be treated very easily. No one would have to know. No one would have to worry and add more stress to their already overloaded lives. The last three days she had spent in Chicago sent her positive outlook crashing down to the ground and shattered it into a million pieces.
In the forefront of her mind was Victor. How desperately she wanted to tell him. To have his arms wrap around her and tell her it would all be okay. Because even if it wasn't, when he spoke those words to her, she believed them. But, she didn't want to create more stress in his life. She had been consumed with worry for him. He was already taking medication for epilepsy and his heart transplant. He had been hospitalized recently for a severe concussion. Add to his compromised health, his ongoing and epic battle to gain his company back, and you have the recipe for disaster. But even more so, her thoughts turned to her worst fear. She would need so much support. She would need so much of his attention. He would have to make a choice and the reality of it made her sick. If the past was used as a reference, wouldn't Victor always choose his company?
Tonight she would cry. Tomorrow she would drive home to Genoa City, she would find her courage and put the fire back in her eyes. She would tell her children. She would tell Victor. But tonight, she would cry.
Victor gazed out at the magnificent view his penthouse provided, wishing Nikki were there to share it with him. She had been gone for three days and already it seemed like an eternity. Something was amiss with her, but he could not seem to coax her into telling him. His concern only deepened when she asked to postpone their wedding, but she assured him she only wanted it to be perfect and there just wasn't enough time to arrange everything she wanted in the two weeks remaining. His thoughts even went to so far as to question whether she wanted to remarry him, but, she was dress shopping in Chicago. At least that is what she had told him. The sound of the doorbell interrupted and he walked the distance to the door.
"Hi Dad" his daughter greeted him with a hug. Victoria walked through the door and asked, "Is Mom back from Chicago? I thought maybe I could help her with some of the wedding plans, she seemed kinda stressed out the last time we met."
"No, she hasn't come home yet."
"Hmm. . . I tried to call her cell a few times, she didn't answer. Have you talked to her?"
"Well, did she sound okay?"
"Yes, she just said she was very busy. Trying to get to as many stores as possible."
"It's crunch time" Victoria said with a laugh, "Less than two weeks until the big day."
Confusion swept across Victor's face, "She didn't tell you? She asked to postpone the wedding."
"What?!" Victoria asked surprised.
"She said something about wanting it to be perfect."
"Well, that isn't really a shock. She mentioned postponing at the club the other day, but I thought I talked her out of it."
"Really? What did she say?"
"Well, she was worried about you, your health, and then of course Adam."
"What the hell does that have to do our wedding? I can handle Adam!" his voice raising.
"I know. That's exactly what I told her." She thought back to her meeting with her mother, and a look of realization swept across her face.
"What is it?" her father demanded.
"You know, the more I think about it. . . I don't know, Mom seemed kind of out of it. Half the time I don't even think she was listening to me, which isn't like her, and then . . . " she trailed off.
"She said something I thought was strange, something about you can't predict what the future may hold and that no one is guaranteed a happy ever after." Victor turned from his daughter and exhaled the breath he had been holding. Something was very wrong. Victoria instantly regretting relaying the conversation to her father, "Dad, maybe she is just stressed out, I mean, Mom is a perfectionist and this is going to be the last wedding for the two of you." Victor forced a smile on his face and turned to her, "Yes, I'm sure that's all it is."
"Okay, well, I am gonna head back. Billy and Jonny alone for long periods of time is not usually a good thing" she finished in an attempt to lighten the dark cloud that was hanging over them. "Okay sweetheart. Love you."
"Love you too, Dad."
How ironic the morning proved to be so beautiful. Was it a sign that everything would be okay? Or was it a cruel joke? Nikki couldn't help but wonder. She would be home in less than hour, her drive going far more quickly than she would have liked. She needed more time. More time to plan what she would say. "Victor, I have some bad news. . . " "Victor, we need to talk. . ." "Victor, I've been lying to you for months. . ." "Victor, I am dying." Good grief, the last one was pretty dramatic and not entirely the truth. Her prognosis wasn't great, she had a highly aggressive and advance form of breast cancer, but the word 'death' never crossed her doctors lips. Maybe they were only trying to give me hope, she thought. She felt tears begin to brim in her eyes and cursed herself. This was not the time to cry. It was a small wonder she had any left after last night. She had to be strong. She remembered her last conversation with her daughter. Victoria told her she would be there for her if she had anything she wanted to talk about. Maybe it would be easier to tell Victoria first? Or should she just get everyone together and say it once? She just didn't know! She didn't know how she would react to saying the words out loud, just as she didn't know if she would fall apart at her family's reaction. She turned her cell phone on and called Victoria. If she were to fall apart, she would much rather it be in front of her daughter and not Victor.
Nikki hesitated at the door of the penthouse and uttered a silent prayer that Victor wouldn't be there. She was meeting with Victoria in an hour and wanted the time in between to collect herself. She opened the door to find Victor, newspaper in hand, on the couch. "Sweetheart," he rose to greet her. When his arms made their way around her she melted into them. He lifted her chin so that his lips could meet hers easily. She wanted nothing more than to stay that way forever. Forever. The uncertainty of the word brought another wave of emotion and she fought desperately to keep back the tears she felt were just below the surface. Her struggle did not go unnoticed by him.
"Sweetheart, what is it?"
"Nothing, just happy to see you" she forced her self to flash a dazzling smile and broke their embrace.
"So, did you find a dress that you liked?" he asked, not buying her answer, but not trying to push her either.
"A dress?" she asked confused, "Oh! A dress! Yes! Yes, I, I, I did. Yep." Good God! Get it together, she scolded herself as she turned away from him.
"Yes?" she replied and turned so that she was facing him.
"Is there something going on? Something you are not telling me?" his voice soft.
"Why would you say that? I am just. . . overly emotional today. Hormones" she finished with a laugh. Her attempt to downplay her behavior fell short.
Victor closed the distance between them so that he was in front of her and lifted her chin so that their eyes met and asked, "Do you remember, not so long ago, you made me promise that I would never look you in the eye and lie?" Nikki faintly shook her head in agreement. He continued, "And do you remember when I said it goes for the both of us?" Again she nodded.
"So, I am going to ask you one more time and you are going to tell me the truth. There is something else going on here. Something you are not telling me. What is it?" She closed her eyes, she felt sick. "Nikki, look at me" he demanded, his voice rising in frustration. She felt the world was closing in on her, desperation was taking over her like a caged animal. She had to get out! She didn't want to lie to him anymore, but she wasn't ready to tell him the truth yet, not like this. Not when he was beginning to get angry. In a deft move she backed out of his reach and looked away, "Everything will be fine."
"That is not a god damn answer Nikki!" She flinched at the tone of his voice as he finished with an accusation, "You are lying to me!"
"I am not lying!" she defended in panic.
"You are keeping something from me, it's the same damned thing!"
"What? Like you always do? You've made omitting certain facts an art form!" She countered back, her panic elevating her voice. She had to get out. She grabbed her coat and fled. When the door shut, Victor found the next closest thing to him, an end table with a lamp, and sent it crashing to the floor. He looked around for something else, anything else, to help free the frustration he was harboring. He eyed the desk and strode towards it. Just as his hand went down to clear the contents on it, the phone that rested upon it rang. The cloud of rage was broken and he took a moment to collect himself. "Hello?" he answered. A cheerful voice came through the line, "Hi, this is Julie at Dr. Carlyle's office. I was trying to get in touch with Mrs. Newman, but her cell phone has been turned off."
"She's been in Chicago" Victor returned. His curiosity peaked.
"Yes. With Dr. Wexler. I just wanted to confirm that it all went well. Well, as well as something like that can go, and to confirm her appointment with Dr. Carlyle to discuss her decision on how to proceed. I will continue to try her cell, but if you could pass the message on, I would appreciate it."
"Yes of course" he responded.
"Okay. Thank you Mr. Newman."
Victor was stunned. What had just happened? What the hell was going on? This was the second time that doctor had called Nikki. She had told him it was just an annual check up. Who was Dr. Wexler? He needed answers and if Nikki wasn't going to give them, he would find them elsewhere. He grabbed his coat and headed for the door, stepping over the destroyed lamp. "Somebody clean this goddamned mess up!" he bellowed over his shoulder as he left.
Nikki's hand shook as she knocked on the door to Victoria's house. She had finally given up on holding back tears. What would her daughter think? She must look frightful! Victoria was expecting her and opened the door with a fleeting smile. "Mom? Oh my God! What is wrong?" She ushered her mother into the living room and helped her to the sofa. "Mom? What happened?" Victoria's eyes moved restlessly as she tried to read her mother. Nikki took a ragged breath and looked at her daughter, "Umm. . . I've been keeping something from you. From everyone actually." She looked down at her hands and took another shaky breath before returning her glance, "I don't really know how to say this. I've been going through it, over and over. . . what I would say. How I would say it. But, it just. . . Well, there is no way really." Victoria sat puzzled and waited for her mother to go on.
"So, I'm just going to say it." Nikki paused again.
Eyes wide, Victoria looked on expectantly at her mother. "Victoria. I wasn't in Chicago to look at wedding dresses. I was there to see an oncologist." Nikki exhaled in relief. Oncologist, that sounded better than what it was. Victoria's brows furrowed in confusion, "An oncologist?"
"Yes. Please don't make me say the word." It hit Victoria like a freight train, "Cancer? You?" Nikki looked down again and meekly nodded.
"Oh my God" Victoria whispered. She moved closer to embrace her mother as tears began to fall from her eyes. They held each other seeking refuge from something they could not hide from, the only sound was their muffled sobs.
Victoria felt more helpless than she ever had in her whole life. Her mother had always been there for her. For anything. For everything. Could she face the reality that a day would soon come when her mother would no longer be there? No, she couldn't. But right now she knew what her mother needed was her strength and so she mustered up all that she could. "So, what do we do?" Nikki wiped at her tear streaked face and answered as stoically as she could, "Well, next week I go for surgery and then treatment to follow. Chemo, radiation, and something called Herceptin, which is used in the type of breast cancer that I have."
"Okay. Good," Victoria's voice squeaked, "They've come a long way in treatment. It's. . . it's going to be fine," She looked at her mother waiting for her to agree, but Nikki just looked away. "Mom? It's going to be fine. Right? Be honest." Honesty. What a novelty Nikki thought. When was the last time she had been honest? "Honey, I don't want to scare you."
"I can handle it, Mom. I want to help you through this." Nikki smiled at her daughter and explained, "I have a rarer form of cancer, one that is much more aggressive and more likely to return even if I go into remission. Its called HER2 positive. I won't go into too much detail, but its when you have a gene that doesn't work correctly and it makes too many copies of itself. It allows for the cancer to grow faster and makes it more likely to spread. But there are medications specifically for this, like Herceptin."
"Whatever you need Mom; Nick, Dad, and I, we will help you get through this. I promise. What did Dad say? I think he knew something was going on." Victoria read the distant look her mother gave clearly, "You didn't tell him. Oh, Mom!"
"Victoria, calm down. You're right, I haven't told him yet. I was going to, but then we just ended up fighting. . . " a new stream of tears began to flow as she continued, "I thought at first it was nothing, just some abnormal readings on my blood tests. I didn't want to stress anyone out, least of all your father. He has too much going on right now.""Are you kidding me? You should have told him the moment you found out something was wrong!"
"I know. And I will. But please let me be the one to do it. Promise me you won't say a word to anyone until I am ready?"
Victoria let out a deep breath, "I don't feel right about this. But for you, if it's what you want. . . I won't say anything."
"Thank you sweetheart. I am sorry to bring you such awful news."
"Don't be sorry Mom. I love you. If you need anything, anything at all, you just ask, okay?"
"Thank you. I love you" she said as she hugged her daughter goodbye. Victoria watch her mother leave and sank down into her couch and cried uncontrollably.
Victor stormed to the reception desk of Memorial Hospital, a man on a mission. Answers. "I need to speak with Dr. Carlyle immediately!" His demeanor and voice left the woman at the desk powerless to do anything but what he requested.
"Mr. Newman" the doctors voice greeted him minutes later, "I'm glad you stopped by. How is Nikki doing?" Victor had to tread lightly, he needed answers but knew the doctor would obey his doctor-patient confidentiality clause, so he eluded to know more than what he did, which was nothing at all. "Nikki is doing as well as can be expected, but I am very concerned."
"As I expected, Mr. Newman. I am just glad she finally told you. Last we spoke, she hadn't."
"She can be very stubborn when she wants to be" Victor jested. The doctor's mouth formed a smile, "Well, that could very well be her saving grace. She is going to need all the strength she can get. Physically and emotionally. I am glad you'll be there with her every step of the way."
"Of course. Where else would I be. But, umm. . . I want your opinion, how bad is it?"
"Well, Mr. Newman we try not get caught up in statistics. The mind can prove to be a powerful healer in cases like these. If there is a will, there is a way." Dr. Carlyle broke off from his reply to pick up his paging beeper, "I'm sorry Mr. Newman, I have got to go." Victor watched his hope for an answer run down the hall.
Victor walked back to his car in exactly the same state he was in before. Clueless. Clearly something was medically wrong with Nikki, but what? He had asked the doctor how bad her condition was, and although the doctor never said outright, he alluded to the fact it was serious. But how serious? He berated himself for his outburst with Nikki earlier. Why did he have to be so damned demanding of her? The depth of his love and concern for her often spiraled into anger when he felt she was slipping away. And wasn't that what she was doing? Postponing the wedding. Avoiding his questions. He should have known there was something greater going on. He should have been gentle with her, not the bellowing bastard he had been. His desire for the truth was consuming him. He racked his brain. When Nikki stormed out of the penthouse, where would she have gone? His answer came immediately.
He knocked on the door to Victoria's house, relieved to find Billy's car absent form the driveway. He was likely to take his frustrations out on Billy's face. When his daughter opened the door, he could tell she had been crying. "What's wrong, sweetheart?" Victoria flashed back to her mother and the promise she made about keeping her secret quiet. She pasted on a smile, "Nothing. Just overly emotional. Woman are drama some days" she joked.
"That's strange" her father replied, "That's the second time I've heard that today. From you, and from your mother earlier." Victoria swallowed the lump in her throat. She knew her father knew something. "Your mother was here earlier," he guessed, "What did you talk about?"
"The wedding. She got a dress. . . Umm, we talked about. . . what kind of flowers. . . "
"Enough!" his interruption roared. "I have had enough of this! Something very serious is going on and I'll be damned if I am going to be kept in the dark." When Victoria didn't speak he continued, "I saw her doctor today, he told me, so there is no point in keeping a secret Victoria. If you know something, now is the time to tell me." He felt no guilt in his embellishment of the truth or goading his daughter into telling him. He was desperate. Victoria was still raw with grief and wanted to believe her father knew. She wanted him to know. She wanted him to make everything better. "Did he say how bad it is?" She asked in a whisper. Victor watched as his daughters heart broke, she knew, "No, his goddamned beeper went off."
"Dad, I am really scared."
"Victoria, you have to tell me what you know," he pleaded.
"She made me promise not to tell you. She said she'll tell you when she's ready."
"When will that be? When it's too late?" Victor knew he gave a low blow. He knew those words would pull on Victoria's heart strings. "Victoria, I don't mean to upset you or put you in a difficult position, but don't you think I have a right to know what is going on?" And Victoria knew he did, and so for over an hour, she told him.
Nikki drove around aimlessly for hours, but it was getting late. Time to face the music she thought, although this would prove to be a depressing song. She opened the door of the penthouse to find Victor waiting for her. He watched her walk in, his eyes taking in the view. Her body. Her face. Would he ever tire of seeing her? Touching her? Making love to her? Never. And suddenly he was faced with the reality that it could all be taken away from him. Without speaking their arms found their way around each other. He savored the feel of her next to him, her head on his shoulder.
"I'm sorry," they whispered at the same moment. He led her to the couch and sat down close to her. He looked at her, waiting. He wouldn't push her, he wouldn't be the bastard he was earlier, but he would have the truth. He pulled her even closer so that she rested against him, "Baby. . . I saw Victoria today." She looked up to him, mouth gaping. He could feel her tense up and interjected, "Before you get upset, she had every reason to tell me. It was not fair for her to keep that secret. She did the right thing." Soft tears fell from Nikki's eyes as the truth of his words sank in, "I know," she whispered.
"Why didn't you tell me, Baby?"
"I'm so sorry. . . At first, I thought it was just a false alarm, I didn't really understand the magnitude of it all until a few days ago. . . I didn't want you to worry, you have enough going on.""Nikki, this is more important than anything else I will ever have going on.""Is it?" she asked pensively.
"Are you serious? How can you think that?"
"Well, I . . . know how important getting Newman back is to you, and I . . ." she struggled to find the words, "I just didn't want you to have to choose, because ultimately you would. You can't be taking me to doctors and sitting around holding my hand when you have a company to get back. . . And maybe a part of me didn't want to know what your choice would be." Her words hit him harder than anything he could have imagined. For a moment he wanted to tell her she was ridiculous, but there was truth to her words, and that made them cut even deeper. He thought for a moment before speaking, "I've given you thirty years of feeling that way, haven't I? I always felt I could have both, you and the company. I know you have had to pay the price for that. Listen to me, if I had to choose right now, between you or Newman, one or the other, I would choose you. A hundred times over," He lifted her chin up so that her eyes met his, "Do you understand that? You. Always you. So you better fight like hell, because I don't know what I would do without you."
Victor woke the next morning with Nikki curled up beside him, their bodies fitted perfectly together. She looked like an angel. His angel. Not God's, not anyone else's. He wasn't ready to lose her. He never would be. He took his fingers, and in long, slow strokes he moved them up and down the length of her frame. She moved into him, her back arching at his touch. A sly smile crept onto her lips as her eyes fluttered open, "Good morning," she whispered, her voice still laced with sleep.
"You are so beautiful, you know that?" He captured her lips with his in a slow kiss.
"Maybe we can just stay like this forever?" she asked demurely. He flashed her a grin and kissed her again, "But. . ."
"But what?" she asked, propping herself up onto her elbows to see him better.
"I think maybe we should talk to Nicholas and Victoria," he felt her begin to withdraw and quickly added, "If you are up for it." He felt her exhale and relax, "Well, better sooner than later, huh?"
"I think so, but, it is still rather early. . . "
"I think I know something we could do to pass the time," she suggested seductively. And even though their lives were about to change dramatically, some things would always remain the same. She was his, and he was hers, and two became one.