Ephemera: plural n. things that exist or are used or enjoyed for only a short time
"Good morning sunshine." Barry Frost approaches you with a swagger. He's wearing a pair of fitted jeans with a navy short-sleeved cotton shirt.
"What are you doing here?" you ask, a smile breaking over your features. He bends down as you offer your cheek.
"Oh, was just in the neighborhood," he responds. Barry winks at you and crosses behind, taking control of your mobility. "Where to miss?" he asks.
"Paris," you say. "Immediately."
He pretends to contemplate your request as he maneuvers you onto the elevator. "I do believe that is on the eleventh floor." He reaches over you and pushes the appropriate button.
You snort, look up at him. "Really though, you didn't have to come. It's early."
"And miss your brilliant execution of that Paris line? I don't think so." The elevator rises, stops to let a few others on and then continues. "You know what they say though," he starts. "No better way to start the day then with a little chemo."
You break into laughter, more so when he tugs on the edge of your flowered scarf and tells you that you look like you could use some. The others in the elevator shift slightly away from the two of you which only causes you to giggle more
"Oh never fear," Barry continues, gesturing to the other patrons. His voice is light, intended for your enjoyment alone but loud enough that every single individual inside this steel box can hear him. "Teenage cancer, while tragic, is not contagious."
And with that your elevator arrives on the pediatric oncology floor. He pushes you out, runs a few steps that send you shrieking in surprise and him wheezing in discomfort. And you know without a doubt that Barry has got both feet on the back of your wheels as the two of you soar down the hallway, delight ringing out of your mouth.
"So how many more minutes do I have to sit here and pretend to care about the history of African Americans employed by the Boston police force before you start spilling about that Jane girl?"
Your mouth drops open in shock. Barry squints one eye open from his lazy position in the chair opposite you, re-crosses his ankles, props them onto your own arm rest.
"Excuse me?" You feign confusion, shift your eyes away from the scrutiny of your best friend. You eye everything but him. The drips that hang off to your left, the I.V. connecting them to you, the nurses's station, anything.
You start to fidget. Tugging at your long sleeve thermal, as if the sleeves are too tight on your wrists, picking non-existent lint from your leggings, pulling your legs into your chest so you can reach down and straighten the silver band along your toe.
Barry lets out a bark of laughter. "Oh come off it Maura. She's hot and was eyeing you hard. Don't tell me that it didn't ignite a little something inside that giant brain of yours."
You digest his statement, skip over the lexicon that is not your own, disregard the assumption that high IQ has anything to do with actual brain mass.
You decide to go with, "Yes, she was pretty."
Barry just blinks at you. He then shrugs his shoulders and leans back in his chair, closes his eyes. "Well if you aren't interested then I think I will definitely ask her out. I bet she looks hot in a dress, those long legs and all. She's a little on the skinny side but toned, don't you think? I bet she's got a stamina that is ..."
"Okay!" you practically shriek, incredibly grossed out at the idea of Barry and this Jane doing anything more then refilling an empty cup of punch... for you. "Fine! She's wonderful. She's... infectiously wonderful. Witty, smart, sure of herself, sarcastic but in a kind way, sexy as hell and I cannot rid my thoughts of one Jane Rizzoli- age unknown, attendant of Monument High School located in South Boston, captain of the varsity ice hockey team, member of the varsity softball team, and current record holder for fastest 400 meter sprint in all of Massachusetts."
There is a beat and there is a pause.
"Well, I was present during the entire conversation we had with her on Flag Day," Barry starts. "So unless you had an additional conversation with her, I'm guessing you Maura Isles are so smitten with Jane Rizzoli that you possibly Googled her?"
"No!" You jerk a little, wince as your I.V. reminds you that you can't just flail your arms in annoyance right now. "You know I don't use Google!" You shoot him a death stare. "I simply looked up the athletic department at her school."
"Besides," you rush on. "It's not hurting anyone. I'm allowed to have a crush Barry! You are constantly telling me about some new little hot thing you met at school. I'm never going back to school! I'm dying but I'm not dead yet and I am allowed to find someone attractive!"
Somehow your volume has turned up. Somehow you're angry. Somehow you're irrational, yelling at Barry like this. But you don't know what to do with it. So you pull your knees to your chest, circling your lower body with your arms, look out the window.
By your calculations you will be vomiting on a semi-regular occurrence for the next month or so in about...oh, six hours. Your face will lose all hopes of filling out and regaining color and you'll lose your energy and there won't be a point in getting back into physical therapy so that you can strengthen your leg muscles and possibly get out of this damn chair.
It's enough to make anyone mad about nothing. Still though it isn't like you. You've already done mad. This is not new. And you have no right to take whatever frustration this dark haired girl has sparked in you out on your friend.
Barry sits with you in silence for a moment longer. He rises out of his chair and leans over you, brushes a hand along your forehead. You avoid eye contact. When he speaks his voice is soft.
"You, Maura dear, are also allowed to let someone else find you attractive. And interesting and wonderful and worth knowing regardless of what you call your expiration date."
You sniff a little, blink up at him with emotion pooling just a little in the bottom of your eyes.
He says, "I'm going to go find you the most coveted of all popsicle flavors. Even if I have to sneak into the nurse's lounge to snag the last cherry on this floor. Okay?"
You nod, breathe out the air you are holding in your lungs. He moves and you grip your legs a little tighter.
You were diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a primary bone cancer, at fourteen. Malignant tumors were found inside the bones along your trunk and pelvis. You did an extended round of chemotherapy with non-specific results. Meaning, the tumors were neither shrinking nor spreading. Well, until they did. Your cancer metastasized in the Fall of your fifteenth year, spreading to your spine. You underwent surgery on the primary tumors. Another round of chemotherapy. An attempt at radiation. Drug therapy. A second surgery on the primary growth. And then two months ago, spinal surgery.
The nature of your cancer is that it will continue to spread. You can slow the growth and you can keep letting them cut out parts of you but eventually it will metastasize to another location. Your legs. Your arms. Your lungs. Your breasts. Your brain. All possibilities.
Sort of a welcome to the beginning of adulthood. Here are your woman's hips and legs, a set of magnificent breasts, a brain capable of impacting the world. Now die.
Before spinal surgery you were adamant about staying out of a wheelchair. However, after the increase in muscle weakness it just became easier to use one. You have a habit of passing out, collapsing onto floors of super markets, department stores, and libraries. The chair keeps you from over tiring your limbs and gives you a bit of your freedom back. Your parents are beginning to re-allow you to branch out independently or more often than not with Barry Frost, now that they have some guarantee you aren't going to collapse and shatter another bone, fracture another wrist, roll another ankle.
Your parents do their best. Everything you could possibly want, they provide. They have the means to give you, their only child, any material possession that could be wanted. The fact is that the one thing you actually want, adulthood, is out of their reach. And it has created this barrier in which they feel incompetent and somehow you feel too needy. As if you are wanting too much. And maybe, maybe you are.
You're adopted. Have known for as long as you can remember. Your parents are strong believers in information being power, knowledge a thing not to shelter a child from. Your mother could have had biological children, that wasn't it. They adopted because they could. Because there are a lot of children in need of homes. Because the process of getting pregnant, being pregnant, giving birth, in all honesty, probably felt like too much of a fuss for her. You asked them once if they had known, known you'd be sick, known that your health would prevent the family from traveling, from their daughter becoming something prestigious like a doctor, if they would have forgone the whole thing.
Of course not, they had said. You're our daughter, they replied. That felt good, them saying that. They also said how it was better that a family with means be the one to have something like this happen to. It was then that you added that word to your list.
An ending. An expiration. A Darwinian effect. And now, an expense.
You've read dozens of teenage cancer stories. Sometimes the adolescent dies, more often they don't. Almost always their families seem to made up of these incredibly strong close knit families. Your family is strong too. They are. They do their best even if their best is not quite good enough.
"Remind me again why we're doing this?" You shout it from your position in the living room, making your way slowly towards Barry who is almost always residing in your kitchen.
And yes, you enter to find him in the fridge. A very uncomfortable Richard is standing off to the side. The poor man runs your parent's household and is always off kilter when Barry strolls in and refuses service. He does however rush over to pull a bar stool out for you. You smile at him as he offers an arm to help hoist you up.
"We won't be needing any assistance Richard. A few friends are stopping by and Mother and Father won't be home tell evening."
He gives you a hesitant look and then raises an eyebrow.
"And is Mr. and Mrs. Isles aware of the company?" he asks.
You slap him playfully on the shoulder. "Of course! I would never disobey the rules!"
He chuckles at your affection then reminds you to call if you need anything. You oblige.
Barry watches him exit, a mini quiche jammed into his mouth.
You roll your eyes. "Can you at least wait to eat your snack until after you've pulled it out of the refrigerator?"
He mumbles something about the presence of your family's help making him want to rebel.
"To answer your earlier question," he then responds. "We're just playing the perfect hosts to our newest friend, Frankie Rizzoli, who needs comrades in arms while he navigates the tricky water that is leukemia. I mean come on! Bone, lung, and blood! We make a very bad ass team!"
You roll your eyes at that.
"And, he's only fifteen. So his sister has to drive him; it was only polite of me to extend the invitation to both of them."
"So," you say, "we're doing this purely for Frankie and his health?"
"He's in remission," you say.
"And so am I darling. But that doesn't make it any easier to make friends in the real world. We will still always be the kids who have or had cancer."
This, this is true.
Barry has got a whole spread of cheeses going on all over your counter. You motion for him to bring you the box of crackers.
"Time is ticking Maura Isles," he says. "I will not let you go to your grave without a proper kiss from a very attractive woman. More than a kiss, if I have anything to say about it."
"You did not just say that to me," you deadpan, trying to bite back the smirk on your lips.
He just winks and then of course the doorbell rings.
They're talking about baseball. The three of them throwing around opinions. You lost interest a while ago but you listen, store away the information on what to research later so that next time you can be more of a participant.
Jane is animated. Her hands are constantly punctuating the air, sweeping strands of hair off her face, slapping her thighs. She wears a casual pair of jeans, ripped along one knee and frayed from the wash. A plain navy tank top hugs her upper body and worn leather flip flops are on her feet. Her hair started open and loose around her face but has since been pulled into a sloppy pony tail. Oddly it makes her even more attractive. Observing her energy makes you feel as if you are observing a wild creature participating in a habit you have never had.
You're curled into the corner of the couch with her on the other end. Your billowy white skirt is tucked around you, an aquamarine sleeveless blouse along with a slightly lighter shade wrapped around your skull. Frankie sits in an adjacent overstuffed chair with Barry on the floor next to the table so he doesn't have to reach far for the array of snacks he's got on display.
You're caught up in counting how many grapes Barry has in him mouth that you fail to notice Jane shifting closer to you.
"Not really into baseball huh?"
You snap your head towards her and gosh darn if she isn't even prettier closer up.
"Oh, it's not that I'm not interested. I'm just not primordially interested."
The beautiful girl blinks at you.
"I just don't have much to contribute," you amend, your face flushing.
And now she's got this goofy grin on her face. "You're cute when you blush."
You open your mouth. "Oh."
And now she's the one blushing. "Sorry," she tries. "That came out creepy."
You can't help but laugh which probably doesn't ease her one bit. You try your words. "No, no it was sweet Jane."
"So..." she says. "Tell me about yourself, Maura Isles. Seventeen, enjoyer of punch, knower of big words, owner of huge house, what else is there to know about you?"
She's talking, clearly asking you for information but all you can think is, she thinks I'm cute, she thinks I'm cute. Cute, cute, cute.
You mentally slap yourself, pull your shit together Maura. But instead the only thing that comes out of your mouth is, "I can show you if you'd like?"
Jane's jaw drops a bit and silence fills the space around the two of you. You flip back to the question to try and figure out why she's looking at you all confused and embarrassed. Oh!
"Oh! I mean my room. I could show you my room!"
So. Not. Helping.
You think about clarifying, telling her how a dying girl spends a lot of time in her room and so it is designed and decorated with everything there is to know about you.
But Jane just smiles and agrees without further explanation. Just. Like. That.
"Maura is gonna show me her room." Jane is now standing. "You boys okay by yourself?"
She just gets a wave from her brother who is mid-sentence.
"No! No!" Barry is exclaiming. "You actually own an original transformer action figure?!"
Jane just looks back at you with an overdramatic eye roll. Boys, she explains.
And then, "Lead the way," she says. You are caught up in looking at her as she stands next to you, looking up at her, at that neck, at the clavicle that is just there. A horrified look crosses her face. "Oh god, sorry! Can I get your chair for you?" She goes beet red.
You laugh softly, realizing you've been on the couch since her arrival. You pull yourself slowly to your feet. "I can walk," you say.
And now she's just got wide eyes as if you are some kind of miracle.
"My muscles have a tendency of getting weak " you explain. "Hence the chair. I haven't loss all function yet."
Jane is still standing there.
"Ewing's sarcoma or primitive neuroectodermal tumor," you explain. "Malignant."
She is either not understanding or she is not sure what to say or do next. You don't blame her.
Information makes you feel better so that's what you go with.
"Um, here." You place your hands on your torso. "And here." Your hands tap the front of your pelvis. "Metastasized and spread here." You touch your spine, wincing slightly at the extended motion. "Should I show you my room still?"
You hate that your voice is somewhat tiny. Vulnerable. You've gotten over people writing off your friendship out of fear. You aren't trying to scare anyone. You are just telling the truth. Suddenly though your chest is squeezing, your heart over pumping. If this girl freaks out on you like so many others, you will be crushed. Your head is cloudy trying to figure out why, why you care so much over a practical stranger.
But before you can, Jane steps forward and offers her arm for support.
"I would be honored to know all there is to know about you, Maura Isles. All these secrets that lie hidden inside your room. i must see them." Her eyes are bright as if you, everything about you, delights her.
You laugh, suddenly. The sound bursting out of your throat. You take her arm, blink back the tears that leapt into your eyes the moment she first spoke. Then, you lead the way.
AN: Thank you for all the lovely reviews. Apologies for this taking some time. Was struggling somewhat with finding the right balance between the so very literal Maura of cannon and this AU version. Glad people are enjoying the Maura/Frost friendship. It's fun to write! Hoping the dynamic of Maura and her family is coming off how I intend. My intention is not to paint them in a negative light but instead, a limited light. I always saw the cannon Constance Isles and her transformation into the perfect mother to Maura as very unrealistic. A few sentences from a stranger (Jane) and bam! she is a completely different woman. She's limited and people that are limited have no concept of how to respond to situation's (Maura's illness) that has no room for limitations. Anyways, let me know what you thought!