August 15th was a typical summer day, as it usually was this time of year in East Texas. The pale blue sky was free of clouds and the sun was pleasantly shining down on the small town. On a narrow, paved road not far from the city limits, their picturesque cottage sat, its many windows gleaming in the sunshine. It was an attractive, white one-story with ivy vines covering one of the wood-planked exterior walls. A white picket fence landscaped beautifully with blooming pink hydrangeas surrounded the front yard, radiating a magnificent scent that could be sensed even from the nearby street. The gate was propped open with a wooden barrel which was overflowing with miniature pink roses. A small front porch, partially shielded by lattice and more rising ivy vines, led up to the rusty red front door. A wrought iron patio table and two chairs sat on the porch. Obvious to onlookers, the owners of the home prided themselves in maintaining the property; ensuring that it looked its very best.
The naturally lit interior of the cottage had the heavenly aroma of fresh flowers and clean linens. Nicely furnished, she had taken special time and care to pick elegant furniture pieces and accents. A creamy tan sofa and matching love seat complimented the living room, as well as an ivory chair-and-a-half. Tropical house plants lined the wooden seat of their bay window. The blue curtains were drawn back to let the sunshine in. She wasn’t a decorator but she wanted their home to feel warm and inviting. Works of art and framed photographs dotted the walls and fragrant vanilla sugar candles in the kitchen exuded the rich, enticing scent of freshly baked cookies; the kind her mother made when she was a child. They wanted to raise a family here in this little cottage but feared they never would.
She was there, putting away the lilac towels she had just taken out of the dryer. She moved throughout the house in a trance, unseeing, as she opened cabinets, drawers.
“It’s quiet today,” she heard herself say. Her mind had drifted and she was far away again, in another place. “And when did I finish putting away the towels?” she said aloud as she looked around the room briefly, puzzled, “I really must be going crazy.”
She felt a slight, cool breeze as it wafted into the house through the open windows. The heart-shaped leaves of the cottonwoods and mulberry trees swayed and danced across the road. She looked up and down the street, hoping someone might stop by.
“I guess everyone is working right now. Too bad since it’s such a beautiful day,” she said aloud.
She walked into the kitchen and paused for a moment before returning to the utility room to start the final load of dirty laundry. She had a brief wave of nausea, as she had quite often these days. For weeks she had felt sick and knew something was wrong. She had called to make an appointment with her doctor in the nearby town of Abbey. While there, she relayed the symptoms and feelings she was having, and the doctor, Jake Jenkins, decided to run a few tests. Her symptoms of nausea, dizziness and headaches coupled with the unwanted knowledge of how cancer was prominent in her family gave him an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. He was concerned for her health because she had been his patient for more than twenty five years; since she was a bright-eyed toddler.
She thought back to that day, two days ago, when Dr. Jenkins had sent her down the hall from his office to the laboratory. He had ordered a urinalysis and blood work. She gave the slip to the clerk and took a seat to await her turn to go under the needle. While waiting in the uncomfortable lobby chair, she couldn’t help but reflect back on the many times she had been here before; her mother’s frequent visits for lab work after she developed ovarian cancer. For years, her mother had monthly appointments for more tests. She came to every appointment with her, barely a teenager at the time. She was scared and worried for her mom, and scared for herself, not wanting to grow up without her.
“You know, people with cancer always die,” the girls at school would say.
She heard her name just then, ripping her out of her unsettling thoughts and realized it was already her turn. She followed the technician to the back of the lab. There, she was given a sterile cup to take into the bathroom for the collection of her urine, and then a phlebotomist drew several vials of crimson-colored blood from the crook in her right arm. As he put a white cotton ball and bandage over the spot that was stuck with the needle, the technician informed her that the test results would be available in two days and Dr. Jenkins would be in touch to discuss them with her. She had thanked him and walked out, gripped with fear.
Bang! The shutter of the bay window outside, needing to be reattached, struck the house in the now swift breeze. It took her a moment to remember she was home. She hadn’t realized she was standing there, lost deep in her thoughts.
“Ahhh, this Texas wind never can make up its mind, can it?” she asked herself as she returned to the utility room. Setting her empty basket on the dryer, she stooped to pick up the other one containing the last load of dirty laundry. After dumping it all into the washer, she added soap and set the knob to start.
“Well, I suppose there’s nothing else to do but wait for this load,” she said aloud once again, realizing that she was talking to herself more and more lately.
“Yes, I do believe I’ve completely lost my mind now.”