Glad the story has good reception so far! I have a few more chapters written, so here's one right now.
It's after seven when I get to Casey's apartment that night. I had texted her to tell her I was on my way over. Casey said that was fine, but that she was still sick so we'd have to keep our visit short. Casey is always up for a visit with me. I spent the weekend with her when she had food poisoning over the summer; despite how awful she felt, we actually still managed to have a good time together. I know something is really wrong.
I have a key to Casey's apartment, so I'm able to go inside the building without having to buzz her. As soon as I get on the elevator I'm hit with this terrible feeling that something is very wrong. Something my mind doesn't even want to imagine.
I get off on Casey's floor and make my way to her apartment. I hesitate outside her door. I think about just using the key and going in, but I don't feel right about that right now. So instead I raise my fist and knock. After a few seconds of silence I call out, "Casey? It's Alex."
I'm about to knock again when I hear footsteps coming towards the door. The lock is drawn, and Casey opens the door slightly to look at me. I almost gasp when I see her. She looks even sicker than this afternoon, and is wearing her bathrobe. I don't think I've ever seen anyone look as pale as she looks right now.
I try to keep the shock off my face, but Casey sees it. She smiles lightly and says, "I know how I look. I'm sorry." She opens the door and stands off to the side so I can go. "Come on in."
"Jesus, Casey – what is going on?" I ask as I step into her apartment. I quickly take in the familiar surroundings; everything appears to be normal and nothing is out of place. There is a blanket on the couch and a garbage can sitting nearby.
"I hope you don't mind, but I need to sit down," she tells me, slowly stepping around me and sitting down on the couch. She lets out a breath as she sits, as if that one motion completely wiped her out.
I sit down next to her. I was worried before, but now I'm completely terrified. There is something so obviously wrong with my best friend, and my mind is going to the worst places possible. I know she goes for walks at night alone – what if she were attacked? What if she were raped? I can't imagine that happening to Casey.
I'm sitting there watching my best friend stare blankly at the wall and avoid looking at me. It's heartbreaking; Casey knows she can tell me anything. I reach out and put my hand on Casey's arm gently and I smile warmly when she finally looks at me. "Casey – you're scaring the hell out of me. Please tell me what's wrong."
She looks away again, but I can tell her resolve is weakening. I can tell she wants to tell me, but for some reason she can't.
"It's really hard to talk about, Alex. And I don't want to burden you."
"Burden me?" I echo. "I'm your best friend, Casey. Whatever you're going through, you don't have to go through it alone. I'll be here for you – I promise. No matter what it is. Nothing you can say will make me stop wanting to be your friend."
She still doesn't look at me, so this time I squeeze her arm. "Casey – please look at me." She does as I ask, and I almost start to cry when I look into her eyes and see weakness and sadness looking back at me. Casey's eyes always used to be happy. Who or what did this to her? I'm suddenly filled with anger at whatever happened to turn my best friend into his zombie I see before me.
"Talk to me."
Casey swallows and looks away from me again. "I can't."
"Did someone attack you?" I ask.
Her eyes go wide. "No – nothing like that, I promise."
"Are you pregnant?" Now I'm tossing things out there.
She looks at me again. "Now how would that happen? No."
"Then what is it? Casey, you haven't been yourself. I walked into you getting sick in the restroom at work. You have been calling in, you've been distracted, and no offense, but you look like death. Now I care about you. You're the closest thing to a sister that I've ever had. And I know something is going on. Something more than a 'bug'. Now what is it?"
Casey sighs and sits back against the back of the couch, drawing her knees to her chest. "I guess I won't be able to keep it a secret for much longer anyway, so I may as well tell you." Her attention is on me now, and I pick up her hand and give it a reassuring squeeze. "I had to call in a couple days last week and I'm sick right now from my chemotherapy."
It takes a few minutes for her words to sink in. From my chemotherapy. That can't be what she said. Only people with cancer have chemotherapy – and my best friend can't have cancer.
The only words I can coherently utter are, "Wh –what?"
Casey sighs and tries again. "I've been getting chemo for two weeks. That's why I'm sick, and haven't been myself."
We sit there in silence as I process what she's just told me, but my mind still refuses to believe it. "Casey – no. You aren't sick."
She smiles at me. "I'm afraid I am. Leukemia. Lymphoblastic Leukemia - the bad kind. They had to start chemo right away because it's very aggressive." Her voice breaks and she nearly starts to cry, but manages to hold herself together. I have no idea how. She bites her lip and forces a smile. "How's that?"
I can't hold back my emotions. I start to cry, and I grab my best friend and hug her tightly. "Oh, Casey! I am so sorry!" I can feel her shoulders shaking and hear her sobbing quietly against my shoulder. I rub her back gently as I say, "It's going to be okay. I'm so sorry this is happening to you."
I think about my aunt Carol, who had breast cancer. She underwent chemotherapy when I was a teenager, and I'll never forget what it did to her. It was worse than the disease itself and I had to watch my usually cheerful and vibrant aunt succumb to the suffering caused by the treatment. It pains me to think I'll have to watch my best friend go through the same thing.
After a few minutes, Casey pulls herself together. She pulls away from me and smiles a genuine smile, giving my hand a squeeze. Her cheeks are wet and her eyes are red and puffy from crying. "Thank you, Alex. I – I needed that."
I try to smile back, back another tear makes it way down my already saturated cheek and I just shake my head. "You've been getting chemo for two weeks?" She nods. "Casey, why didn't you tell me? You should not have been going through this alone. You need someone there with you. I would have gone with you! You shouldn't be alone, honey."
She looks away from me, and I feel badly for making her feel ashamed. "I'm getting it twice a week to start with, then I'll have a week off before they increase the dosage. I just couldn't tell you. I tried to, but – you're so busy with your job. I couldn't put this on you. I knew you'd want to be with me, and it wasn't fair to you."
I'm almost mad at Casey. She should be thinking of herself, not about me! She's the one who is sick. And of course I want to be with her – there's no way I'm letting her face this alone.
I call her name gently so she looks at me again, and once I have her attention I tell her, "Who cares how busy I am. This is important. It breaks my heart to think of you having to sit at the hospital alone while getting your chemo. How did you get home?"
"I took a taxi," she says sheepishly.
"And then came home alone and stayed by yourself, even with how sick you are?" She nods to confirm my suspicions. "Casey, that's not right. I would have been here for you. I would have sat at the hospital with you, and brought you home with me. You shouldn't be here alone. Now I'm not leaving here unless you're with me. Either you come home with me, or I stay here with you. Your choice."
I leave her no room for argument. I can see her relenting. "Alex, you don't have to – "
"Casey! Stop! You would do the same for me, right?" She smiles and nods. "Exactly. Now talk to me – how treatable it this cancer? How long do you have to have chemo?"
She bites her lip again. "Well, it's worse in adults, but they caught it early which is good. It's basically a cancer of the blood and cells, and it's aggressive. The chemo is supposed to stop it from progressing any further, but –" she cuts off and looks away from me.
"But what?" I ask, my heart in my throat. I'm almost afraid to hear what she has to say. What if she's going to tell me it can be treated for a while and there's nothing that can be done? I would be devastated to lose my best friend.
"But I will most likely need a bone marrow transplant. That's really hard on an adult. A long hospital stay, aggressive chemo – it's no fun."
"But it will make you better, right?"
"There are no guarantees. It might work and it might not. There's just no way to tell." She looks away sadly again. "For now I have to continue the chemotherapy. It's bad enough. I get so sick from it. The first time, I was throwing up before I even left the hospital. I can't describe how it makes me feel…imagine the worst nausea, body aches and fatigue combined. It starts to subside after the second day, but it's so rough, Alex. I'm not sure it's worth it."
"Of course it's worth it!" I tell her, exasperated. "I know you are miserable. I know you feel like you want to give up. But this means your life. Misery is a small price to pay for your life. If you give up, you will die. But if you fight like hell – like I know you can – you can beat this. You won't be fighting alone. I'll fight alongside you. I'll go with you to every chemo session and hold your hand or do whatever you want me to do. You have so many friends who are going to want to help you, Casey. Please don't give up. If you can't do this for yourself, do it for us. We don't want to lose you. You mean too much to so many people."
I know I've gotten through to her. She looks at me and nods, her bottom lip quivering as she hugs me again. I wrap my arms around her and say, "I know you're scared – I'm scared too. But you can do this. I know you can. You're so brave, Casey. When is your next treatment?"
"Monday," Casey says as she breaks away from me and wipes her eyes with her sleeve.
Good – at least she'll have the weekend to rest up. "Okay. Then Monday I'm going with you. I'll get the guest room ready for you this weekend. You can come home with me today. There's already a bed in it so you can rest. I'll get a TV for the room this weekend."
"You don't have to do that."
"I know. I want to. I want you to be comfortable and know you aren't alone."
Casey is twisting a strand of her hair around her finger. "Could you not tell anyone right now? I know they'll have to find out eventually, but I'm not ready."
"Of course. It's not my place to tell them. I won't say anything until you're ready."
She smiles again. "Thanks, Alex. You are the best friend a person could ask for."
"No – that's you, Casey," I correct her. "I mean it."
She smiles a little and then sighs. "This is why I haven't pursued Amanda. I like her, and I know she likes me. I'm not blind. But she isn't going to want to be with me. Who would want to be with someone who is sick all the time and who is going to lose all their hair?"
I hadn't even thought about that. Casey has such beautiful hair. I actually feel sick as I think about her losing it. She is so fussy about her hair. "That doesn't happen to everyone, Casey. Not everyone loses their hair."
"I know, but about ninety-percent of chemo patients do. So I already know my fate." She releases the strand of hair between her fingers and lets it fall over her shoulder. "I don't know how I'm going to deal with that."
I pick up her hand again. "Together, remember? We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Don't dwell on it right now, because it's only going to make you even more upset. And about Amanda – she cares about you, and she's going to want to be here for you too. She's not a superficial person. She doesn't care about your hair; she cares about you."
"It's just not a good time to start a relationship. Why jump in and get attached to someone and have them get attached to me, when I don't even know what's going to happen? It wouldn't be fair to fall in love with her and she with me and then I – I don't – "
She struggles with the words, but I know what she's thinking. I squeeze my eyes closed. "Casey…"
"And then I don't make it," she finishes. "That's not fair to her."
I can understand where she's coming from, but it's a terrible thing to think about. I refuse to think about Casey not making it. She has to.
I feel very emotional and I know I can't let Casey see me breakdown again. I have to be strong for her. So I plaster on a fake smile and say, "Why don't we get your things and head over to my place? We can watch a movie tonight. We'll forget about everything that's happening."
Casey nods and I watch her get up from the couch shakily. She heads towards the hall and I follow her to help her get ready, my heart dropping down to my feet.
We'll pretend to forget what's happening, but neither of us really will.
Poor Casey :( What do you think? Will she stick with treatment? Will she need a bone marrow transplant? Do you think she'll make it? Please review and let me know what you think!