It was early one evening when Amelia Pond received the news that her life was never going to be the same. Her mother had cried, of course, and her father was still at work in blissful ignorance, unaware of what had befallen his family as he sat in an office near their home.
But Amy, oddly enough, did not cry. She sat stoically in the uncomfortable blue chairs of the doctor's office, appearing more concerned with the dull grey paint on the walls than the news that had just been given to her. The doctor supposed it was her way of dealing with the shock. Her mother was too busy wallowing in her own grief to pay her daughter's emotions any mind. One would have thought upon entering the room that it was the older woman beside the leggy redhead whose life had been so drastically affected, but that was not the case. Amy simply could not process anything that she was being told.
Cancer. An ugly word. It didn't settle properly in Amy's brain.
It was one of those things that happened to everyone else. There was always one poor, unfortunate character in a film or in a book that had it. Every once in a while, a celebrity would take the same path. Even less often, one of the people in their village that Amy had never even spoken to would find out that they had it, and would disappear for days at a time to the hospital miles away. It was something spoken about by others in a hushed whisper and with pitying expressions. It couldn't happen to her. No, it certainly couldn't. The doctor must have picked up someone else's test results by mistake. It didn't make any sense.
And yet, it did, albeit vaguely.
She'd felt tired for so long now and always felt oddly weak. She was even paler than usual, even for a Scot. She knew that there was something wrong with her, but she had always chalked it up to something along the lines of an iron deficiency. But it couldn't be cancer. It just couldn't be.
She couldn't even bring herself to properly listen to the doctor, so she hoped that her mother was at least retaining some of his words. She zoned in and out, hearing the occasional word or phrase that just made her zone right back out again. 'Acute lymphoblastic leukemia', 'chemotherapy', 'prognosis' – it was delusional. Wasn't leukemia something children had? She had half a mind to grab her mother's hand and storm out. Surely another GP could give her the truth.
She looked out of the streaky window and watched the rain drizzle over the leaves of the tree near the glass. The droplets made a soothing rustling sound as they hit the tree, aided by a very faint breeze.
Rain in England. At least something made sense.
It took an annoying amount of reassurance to convince her mother to go home without her. She claimed that she didn't want to go home and wallow in self-pity, but instead wanted to have a nice evening out like she had been planning to before their hospital visit. Constant repetition of her falsified plan to visit a nearby friend's house to watch a few films finally eased Amy's mother's mind, and the woman with a huge weight of worry sinking in her stomach drove herself home, leaving her daughter standing on the kerb in front of the hospital.
Amy waited until her mother was completely out of sight before she pulled her mobile phone out of her jacket pocket and called the friend that lived the closest to where she was. She wasn't in the mood to be with anyone, and instructed her friend to claim that she had been there if her mother ever bothered to ask. Directions like that were, of course, bound to create questions.
"Why exactly do you want me to lie for you?"
She sighed. "Please, just do it."
"Where are you, anyway?"
"I'm around. I'll explain this eventually. Just tell her I'm there until about midnight, and at any point after that, tell her I've gone home. Please, you've got to do this."
Amy had to endure several more minutes of begging for the truth before her friend finally gave up and agreed to do it, only on the condition that her mysterious behaviour would be explained later.
She had never been to the area around the hospital very often, but Amy imagined that it wouldn't be hard to navigate. The only thing she was truly concerned about was running into a familiar face. That was the last thing she wanted.
Everything that the doctor had gone over with her and her mother was starting to take shape in her mind, and the gravity of it horrified her. Everything played over and over in her frantic mind, repeating the same word and the image of her distraught mother. Cancer, cancer, cancer.
Her long legs took her several strides down the pavement and her eyes looked forward almost unceasingly, all the while not really seeing the world around her. All Amy could see was the images that films had placed in her head of what cancer looked like and the painful future it was undoubtedly going to bring for her, one of long hospital stays and IVs and chemotherapy and the steady loss of her hair. Every time she heard her long hair smack against the back of her jacket as she took a step, she felt sick.
For the first time, life was uncertain. Amy felt as though she was treading along in a world made of thin ice, and any step could cause her to slip down into a cold embrace and cease to be. She had become suddenly aware of the fragility of everything. A little too suddenly, in her opinion.
Amy wasn't too sure that she wanted to wander around aimlessly any longer. She wasn't really in the mood for that either. She didn't want to be at home and she didn't want to be with family or friends, and she certainly didn't want to be out here. She needed some sort of escape.
A mad thought came into her brain then, one that she very nearly dismissed as ridiculous, but after pondering it for nearly a minute, deemed it to be rather reasonable. She had wondered if she could manage to sit on a roof somewhere, turn off her mobile and just relax. She could look out over the skyline as the sun set and night fell or up at the twinkling stars in the dark sky, and concentrate on something of beauty for a while, instead of the hell that her own mind had rapidly become. It would perhaps be the only escape she was going to get any time soon.
She turned on her heel and headed back to the hospital.
She had to admit that she was rather grateful for the chaos that was a hospital at dusk. Between the slow-moving visitors leaving at the end of visiting hours and the influx of people that had already done stupid things that evening and needed to get into A&E, none of the members of staff even gave Amy a second glance.
To further her passage into the bowels of the building, Amy tried her best to look as though she belonged there whenever she saw a group of nurses. She switched between the confident walk of someone that needs to be somewhere very urgently and the claim that she was looking for her mother whenever anyone asked. She wasn't too sure about her acting abilities, and was rather pleased that she didn't have to lie to the staff very often as she made her way around.
As it turned out, it was difficult to find any sort of entrance or ladder to the roof out on the open in the building, due to, as she assumed, the necessity of keeping patients safely indoors at all times. The topmost level of the building yielded no immediate indications that there was any way of getting up higher, but a ladder to the roof inside the unlocked door of a custodial cupboard was exactly what she needed. She just hoped that the door wouldn't be locked when she needed to leave later on.
The air on the roof was wonderfully cool and hardly windy at all. Here, finally, she had a large expanse of emptiness in which she could relax and be alone. It was a godsend. A filthy, puddle-covered godsend.
She made her way over to the very edge of the roof and sat herself down cross-legged, peering over the edge with interested eyes. The world below her seemed so small and insignificant, she found, at the sight of every person and car decreased to the size of small insects. The sound of car horns and feet on pavement was muffled from far up, and Amy thought that even if she decided to scream out every thought in the recesses of her mind from her place up on the roof, nobody below would even hear her. Life down below continued on and none of the little specks down by the road had the faintest idea of how muddled and confused her mind way. It didn't concern anyone else, and that felt strangely wrong. She had expected the world to stop at a diagnosis like this. Her life was drastically changing from what felt like a million feet above the rest of the world, and the world continued to turn.
Amy moved herself until she was lying flat on her back, gazing up at the sky above her. The lights from the ground below had brightened the night sky to a shade of black slightly lighter than she would have wanted it to be, but it was beautiful all the same.
Cancer, cancer, cancer.
She squeezed her eyes shut and reached her now trembling fingers down to her coat pockets, pulling a starkly white cigarette out of the squashed box in the depths of one, and a nearly empty lighter out of the other. She had felt them in her pockets earlier as she had sat in the waiting room with her mother, deciding then, in her boredom, to plunge her hands blindly into her coat to see what she would find. Amy couldn't quite remember if they were hers or if a friend had put them there long ago for safekeeping. She wasn't even completely sure of what she was doing or why she was doing it – it was almost as though her hands were moving of their own accord. She wondered if her body was already betraying her.
She lit the cigarette and put it between her already waiting lips, sucking in deeply and breathing out a cloud of smoke into the air above her. Along with the smoke, a cough escaped her lips as well – she couldn't remember the last time she'd smoked. Perhaps those had been in there for years. She really should have thrown them out when she'd first found them hours ago. Smoking in her… condition really was idiotic.
But it was calming, anyway, and that was all she needed.
She gazed up at each distant pinprick of light in the universe above her head as she took several more drags of her cigarette. She could already feel her nerves soothing with each exhale, her anxiety lessening with each star she focused her mind upon.
Until, that is, a strangely strong gust of wind whisked her smoke away and broke her concentration.
A/N: I've had this story stuck in planning mode for about a year now. I started to flesh it out early this year, but having someone very close to me be diagnosed with cancer and pass away two months later really put me off writing this (and pretty much anything else) for quite some time. I'm glad to say that I'm in a good enough place that I can work on this again. At the moment, I think there will be three chapters, but that might be subject to change, so we'll see what happens! All favourites and reviews are greatly appreciated, and thanks to all of you who continue to read my work! x