“We are going to going to miss our flight!” Lana yelled at her husband Eric as they raced through Philadelphia International Airport. “I told you we didn’t have time to stop at Starbucks!”
“You weren’t telling me that when you were sipping on your latte,” Eric murmured mildly.
Lana sputtered and stepped onto the moving sidewalk, the wheels of her red carryon suitcase clicking loudly against the conveyor. “And then,” she continued on, “you suggested we walk to Terminal F instead of taking a nice, relaxing shuttle!”
Eric knew better than to argue with Lana when she was in this kind of a mood, but she needed to calm down before she worked herself into a heart attack. “We’re not going to miss our flight. Boarding is in 30 minutes.”
Lana spun around to face him, her green eyes flashing. “You think you have all the answers! We’ll see about—” Missing the step off, she flipped onto her back and her carry-on popped open, spilling the contents onto the floor. Her curling iron lay in pieces next to her right foot. She crawled over toward it and cradled it in her arms like a baby. Her shoulders shook as a single tear ran down her cheek.
Eric immediately joined her on the floor, surrounded by her scattered belongings, and gathered her into his arms. It didn’t matter she might not need her curling iron soon; she was mourning more than a broken tool. “It’s okay, honey,” he murmured as he stroked her hair. He moved away and she clutched onto him like he was her lifeline. “I’m here, Lana. We can get through this.” Again.
“I know.” She sniffed once and sat up straight. “I’m okay now. Let’s go.” Standing up slowly, she lifted her chin stubbornly, and bent down to gather her belongings.
“Here. I’ll help you.”
“No. I can do it myself.” She picked up a book and put it into her bag.
He watched her carefully. “I’ll call for a cart?”
“No.” Lana shook her head. “We can walk.”
“What about the flight?”
Her shoulders slumped. “Who gives a flying—”
“I was going to say ‘care’,” she said with a cheeky grin. She extended her hand toward Eric.
He took the handle of her suitcase first before taking her hand in his. They continued their trek toward Terminal F.
“Final boarding call for Flight 3328 with service to JFK International. Boarding now at Gate F-23.”
“That’s us!” Eric squeezed Lana’s hand tighter as they dashed for the gate. Breathless, they flashed their IDs and boarding passes at the airline attendant before making their way down the ramp toward their plane.
Lana rested her head on the armrest between her and Eric. They had made it. Within an hour, they would land in New York and an hour after that… She gulped hard. An hour after that she would hopefully receive the most important news of her life. She was so lucky to have Eric with her. He was the epitome of support for her. She sighed. Now that they were safely on the plane, she could rest. She closed her eyes.
Eric watched his wife sleep. She was nestled in the crook of his arm, against the armrest. She was strong and so stubborn, his Lana. But was she strong enough for what came next? He hoped so because he didn’t think he could be strong enough for the both of them. Not this time.
The cart in the aisle rattled beside him. “Would you care for a drink, sir?”
“Yeah. Scotch and soda.”
Shortly after he finished his drink, the plane landed with a gentle bump against the runway. Lana and Eric collected their luggage from the baggage carousel, and easily hailed a cab outside.
“67th and York,” Eric told the driver.
Lana stared out the window, watching the cars whiz by. The sky was dark. She was afraid and had run out of words to say. At least Eric was strong.
The sky had opened up and rain was falling in sheets by the time the cab pulled in front of the cancer clinic.
Lana watched numbly as Eric paid the driver. This is it. She stepped out of the cab and let the rain soak her to the skin.
“Come on, honey, let’s go in. You’re going to get sick.”
The irony of his words caused her to chuckle. She was already sick. How could she get any sicker?
“Sorry, Lana, I didn’t mean—”
“I know.” She squared her shoulders and nodded bravely. “I’m ready.”
“Good, ‘cause I’m getting soaked out here,” Eric said, jokingly.
With one last glance at the busy street, Lana followed Eric inside. After she registered with reception, they sat down to wait for her name to be called.
It was either good news or bad. Since her initial diagnosis, everything had become very black and white to her. Yet she still couldn’t believe she was sick. She didn’t feel sick; aside from the parasitic tumor that had lived inside of her. And might be there again.
Eric nudged her. “That’s us.”
With an impending sense of doom, Lana followed the nurse beyond the double doors.
She looked around the typical examination room. Hospital bed covered with a white paper sheet. Cushioned, black stool on wheels. Desk. Two hard, brown chairs. She chose a chair, crossed her legs, and folded her hands in her lap. Was she strong enough for this? Guess it was time to find out.
She turned toward the sound of the doctor’s voice. “Yes?”
The doctor walked across the room and leaned against the desk. Flipping through the chart in her hands, she stopped when she found the lab report. “Ms. Blackstone,” she began without any preamble. “I have your test results.”
Eric squeezed her hand.
“Your cancer is back and this time it’s inoperable.”
Lana opened her mouth to scream and no sound escaped. She bolted from the room and ran into the street. Throwing her arms into the air, imploring heavenward, she stood in the middle of York Street, rain sluicing down her already damp clothes as the cars drove past. What am I going to do? I’m so tired of fighting!
Eric walked into the busy street, unmindful of the traffic, took Lana by the hand, and led her to the relative safety of the sidewalk. “I’m here.” And tears streamed down their faces as the rain continued to downpour.