This one is a little closer to my heart. 2020 has been a rough year. Everyone has lost something or someone. I know that.
But I’m a writer. I process my grief through storytelling.
This isn’t part of my NaNoWriMo project, but it definitely has a women’s fiction vibe.
Dying but Not Alone
She was dying.
A sudden jarring pulled her from the warmth of sleep. The constant fuzz clouding her mind receded after a few eye blinks. In front of her, an array of autumn flowers bloomed over the rims of several pots. The sight lifted a weight over her heart, and she sipped the air.
Her nose didn’t work right these days. But maybe she was thankful. When she shifted her hips, a tug reminded her of the catheter—yesterday’s latest addition from her home health nurse.
Something wet touched her fingertips. She jerked slightly and glanced at her hand. It was Maggie. The miniature labradoodle lay beside her leg and gazed at her with sad brown eyes.
She probably needed to go outside. Judging from the grayness of the light beyond the windows, it was early.
Everyone dies. That’s what she’d been telling herself for the past several weeks as the yellowed skin and constant pain in her side became nausea and intense agony throughout her lower abdomen. As knives radiated up her back, she’d realized the hip pain caused by her bad knee hadn’t been so horrible.
When the medical scans had located a mass between her liver and pancreas, she’d known. The god-awful disease that had claimed her father and two of her four sisters was coming for her, too. So, she’d called her children. One lived an hour away, and the other lived across the country. But they came.
Now that the doctors had given her a mere weeks, she worried more about Tom than anything else. Since she’d been sick, he wandered around the house aimlessly. His broad shoulders became more hunched, and he never smiled. After the doctor gave the diagnosis—and abysmal prognosis—her husband withdrew even further. Any attempted conversation ended with befuddlement for him and frustration for everyone else.
It’s like he joined his younger brother in the late stages of Alzheimer’s from one blink of an eye to the next. What would the kids do if they lost both parents at once? She knew all about being an orphan and having no one. Fortunately, a family—much better than many biological ones—found her years ago.
“You’ll have to wake up Kyle.” The words stuck to the roof of her mouth. Boy, those painkillers did a number on her.
As she reached for the straw and cup combo on the roller table near her shoulder, she pulled just enough to remind her organs they ached. Most of that internal shouting was caused by the surgery that had removed those obvious pieces of cancer. Too bad the source was inside her liver. She should have guessed that the jaundice meant her bile duct harbored enemy cells.
Bile duct cancer. Rare and incurable. Treatable only with a liver transplant when found in the early stages. Although her doctors had done everything right, her body hadn’t alerted her to the invading army early enough for her to get on a transplant list.
I’m eighty. I’ve lived a wonderful life.
Once, she was convinced she’d always be alone.
Some of the story is identifiable to my husband’s family, so I didn’t want to share that here. It’s an unedited early version. I would change things up to make it less personal if I planned to publish it.
What do you think? My character is a nameless “she.” Did that keep you from connecting with her?