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Fiction Friendship

The rain sounded as if it were rocks hitting the roof of the bus stop and a small waterfall rushed down over the corrugated tin roof towards the ground. She stood underneath her umbrella, white with coloured love hearts scattered on it, but it didn’t protect her feet or legs as torrents of water tumbled down, hitting the pavement with such force that some of the splashes reached the bottom of her rain coat.

“Sometimes I hate the rain! Other times I just love it - usually when I’m sitting curled up on the couch watching through the window” she said to Mr Nobody.

The wind was picking up the large droplets and blowing them in to the bus stop – just a roof really, with no sides. A wooden bench seat at the back of the shelter didn’t look too wet so she sat down, and sighed. She was tired and put her back against the wall, her bags on her lap so they didn’t get wet.

There wasn’t much light around but quite a lot of traffic going past, cars and trucks driving through the deep ravines on the side of the road pushing the water towards her high in the air, but not quite close enough to soak her.

“Where is the stupid bus?” she said out loud. “I suppose one of the river’s has burst its bank and there’s flooding everywhere. I just want to get home. I’m tired, damp and hungry” she moaned.

She had been at the hospital for most of the day having more tests. She liked to go on her own even though she had been inundated with offers of lifts, someone to sit with her, dropping her off and coming back when she rang, but she said ‘no’ to all of them. It wasn’t like she feared the hospital or all the invasive machines she had to go into, sit in front of or even the blood tests, so why would she need anyone to go with her?

The worst part was all the sitting around. It seemed so long in between each poking and prodding. Some of the time she took out her lap top and continued on with her writing, but today she couldn’t be bothered so just read her novel. The thing she found most interesting was the ‘people watching’ she could do. She would make up in her head what sort of lives they had, their relationship to each other and if they seemed happy or not. Of course a lot of them weren’t happy because they were at the oncology clinic but then again, she could tell the people who had just been told that they were free from the insidious disease, that they had a reprieve and weren’t going to be robbed of the rest of their life, just yet.

That’s how she felt this time last year – exactly this time last year; to the day as it was New Year’s Eve.

She had come back in to see her specialist that afternoon. It was snowing and a strong cold wind was blowing. She had treated herself to a taxi, she remembered because her body hadn’t bounced back to what it once was and she was quite skinny, so felt the cold a lot. Even with a thick duffel coat, a scarf and boots on, she was still freezing!

While she was waiting to be called in she had a bird’s eye view of the main door and could watch the people walk through it, banging their boots on the coir mat to get the snow off before walking on the grey indoor carpet. A lot of them rubbed their hand together and wiped cold red noses as the warmth from the air-conditioning hit them. Some of the little children rushed up to the giant Christmas tree still sitting in the corner, tinsel and decorations adorning it and the silver light flashing off and on. “Don’t touch” a mother yelled at the small child but it was just too tempting for a toddler so he continued to try and pull the tinsel from the lower branches.

Jane had taken her Christmas tree down and methodically put all the decorations away in the box for another twelve months. She wasn’t one to leave her tree up for twelve days after Christmas – she gave it two days and then it was down. She didn’t like clutter of any kind.

She remembers as she sat in the waiting room thinking ‘Who knows if I’ll be here next Christmas?’…

“Jane Miller” someone called out and she put her novel (she hadn’t read any as she’d been too busy watching!) away in her bag and walked into the specialist’s room.

“Hello Jane” he said to her in the melodic tone that was both authoritative and soothing at the same time. “How was your Christmas?”

“Oh just lovely” thank you Mr James (she just couldn’t bring herself to call him ‘Charles’ – just the way she was brought up) and yours?”

“A bit too much food and drink but delightful!” he replied and touched him rounded tummy to show what he meant.

“Oh yes” was all she could manage because she couldn’t relate to eating too much and putting on weight…. at the moment.

“Well we have very good news for you Jane. Your last tumour has shrunk and we’re giving you the ‘all clear’. Of course because the tumours were very aggressive, you will need to come back to have scans each three months to start with and then we’ll stretch it out to six. You’ll also need to keep taking the medication that you’re on and I’ll give you a new script to last three months until your next visit but over all that should make you happy!” and he gave her a reassuring smile. “And” he added “A great start to the new year”.

“That is fantastic news Mr James. Oh yes, that makes me really happy, and relieved”. And she let out a long audible sigh and returned his smile. Saying “And a Happy New to you”

She had been worried about what he would tell her. Although she knew that she had no control over the outcome of the appointment and her belief was that whatever happened did so for a reason, she didn’t embrace the thought of her life being cut short when she was still young. Her mother had died from brain cancer when Jane was young and this had always been at the forefront of her mind ever since being diagnosed.

She almost skipped out of Mr James’s office and in doing so, going around the corner towards the main door she ran into another person going in the opposite direction. “I am so sorry” she said to a dark haired man rubbing his arm where Jane had knocked him.

“That’s ok” came the reply from the rather handsome man “you look like you’ve just had some good news – I hope so anyway”.

Jane didn’t normally tell strangers her business but blurted out “I did get some good news actually – my brain tumours have shrunk” Then she blushed as she said “Sorry, as if you want to know that!”

“I think that is fantastic news for you. I on the other hand have had some bad test results so am on my way to find out my fate!”

“Oh I’m sorry to hear that. I do hope that the prognosis is good – in fact I feel like it will be” and she gave him a wide smile.

“Thank you but as I always say ‘everything happens for a reason’”.

Just as she was about to tell this man about her belief in that saying too, he said to her “I must run as I don’t like being late….and Happy New Year by the way”.

“The same to you”. She said back but he had already gone.

She was brought back to the ‘here and now’ by the sound the bus pulling up beside her, and she narrowly missed getting soaked by the huge wave it created. She stood up and clutched her bag under her arm as she stretched her legs as far as possible to step on to the bus without getting her shoes wet. The driver was a round happy Irishman and in a very strong accent told her that it was “Good weather for ducks eh love?”

“Oh yes it’s terrible she replied looking down the row of seats to see how full the bus was. It was quite empty so she decided to walk towards the back. She passed a couple of old ladies and could hear them talking about how the weather had changed dramatically in the last decade and it was such a problem to know when to hang out the washing!

As she neared the back, on one of the seats, the window one, sat a man wearing a baseball cap and reading a book. Looking straight at him she knew it was definitely who she thought it was and had no hesitation in sitting down next to him and saying in her usual friendly tone “Hello, remember me?”

The man put his book on his lap and looked at the girl sitting next to him. At first he didn’t recognise Jane but then it hit him and a huge grin broke out on his face. “Hello. Yes I remember you…it was the hospital and you nearly took me out with your joy!” and they both laughed.

“It was a year to the day” she told him “New Year’s Eve”

“Was it really? You’ve got a good memory. How did you remember that?’ he asked her.

“Well I remember when I got the ‘all clear’…

“Oh yes of course you would. It was the day I received bad news”.

Jane didn’t know whether to ask him or not – she didn’t want to appear nosey but he seemed quite friendly and open, so she tested the waters with “You look well now” and waited for a response.

“Thankyou” he responded but said no more so Jane left it at that.

“Maybe I should get up walk a bit further on down the bus” she began to ask herself. She had half stood up when he looked at Jane saying “Why don’t you stay here –and we can chat. Are you going to the bus terminal?”

She sat down again on the well-worn seat next to him and placed her bag on the floor in front of her feet. “Yes I am actually. I live not far from the Circular Quay terminal”.

“Wow that’s a coincidence, so do I” he said as the book he had been reading was popped into his leather satchel. I usually drive my car to and from work but we had drinks after work today so that’s why I’m on the bus. Are you coming from work too?” he asked Jane.

“No, not coming from work today. I had the day off from work” and as she was about to elaborate he started talking at the same time.

“Have you been doing anything nice?’ he enquired.

Outside the bus the rain was teaming down, hitting the windows hard and running down in rivulets. The inside of the windows were steamed up and Peter rubbed it so that he could see where they were.

“No, not nice, boring really” she answered “ I’ve been at the hospital, the one we met at….I don’t mean met as in ‘that kind of met’, just when we saw each other that time”

“I know what you mean” and he started to laugh as he said to her “we met, not we ‘MET’ and he raised his eyebrows and tucked his chin into his neck at the same time as saying it slowly….and they both knew!

“What were you doing at the hospital? Or is that none of my business?”

“No it’s fine to ask me. I was going to ask you if you were ok now, in remission or not, so that isn’t any of my concern! So you tell me first. And by the way I’m Jane”.

“Ok then. I’m Peter”. And he held out his hand, which she took and moved up and down ever so slightly. Then he continued “To answer your question….Jane. I have been in remission for two months now. I will go back every three months for a scan, so that is due in three weeks, and I feel positive that it will be all clear, so now, what about you?”

“Well I spent the day at the hospital because my tumour has grown back, so I will now wait to see what all the scans, MRI and everything else shows”.

“Oh I am sorry. I shouldn’t have asked - none of my business.”

“No it’s ok - Peter. I’m fine with it, I really am. Everything happens for a reason”!

“Hey that’s what…” he started to say when Jane interrupted with “Here’s our stop now – umbrella’s up”.

They stepped off the bus together and the bus driver called out “happy new year” to them. They both had umbrellas up - trying to shelter from the falling rain. It was quite blowy and the rain blew in under their brolley’s,  wetting them both, but they looked at each other and smiled. “I live just down there” said Peter pointing left. “I’m going away tomorrow with work for a few weeks but would it be ok if I gave you a call when I get back”.

“Oh I’d like that very much” Jane replied feeling quite pleased with him asking. She liked him and felt comfortable in his company. Whether it was because they had illness in their lives in common or not she wasn’t sure.

“Take my business card” he said to her as he handed over a blue and white card, “and when you get home and have time could you text me your number please?”

“You’d better get going or you’ll get soaked” he told her, and she walked quickly off down the street, turning to wave as she neared the end of the street, and when she twos

ted her head around he was still there, standing in the rain watching her.

It was a fortnight since Jane and Peter had met on the bus and as she picked up her phone to text him her hand was shaking and she felt sad inside, but knew it was the right thing to do.

She thought back to last week when her specialist had rung her up to come in and see him immediately. It hadn’t sounded good. And it wasn’t.

Her brain tumour had grown back, very quickly and it was inoperable. They gave her six months at the most. She had been expecting it in a way – just a feeling she had. She told herself it wasn’t ideal but with her strength and determination, she had decided that she would keep it to herself for as long as possible. She didn’t want to burden anyone else. And when her family finally knew, then they would care for her in the end. It was Jane’s choice and she felt content with it.

Her text to Peter read:

“Hi Peter. Hope you’re fighting fit! I decided that I need to be by myself for a while and sort a few things out…just letting you know that you don’t need to text me when you’re back. Just bad timing – that’s all. I wish you well for your future Peter. Jane X”

She was just about to press ‘send’ when she added a post script:

“I really like you Peter but remember ‘Everything happens for a reason’.”

December 31, 2021 14:20

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2 comments

Barbara Burgess
06:09 Jan 06, 2022

What a lovely but sad ending story. Full of good description. Lots of 'show don't tell.' I can see you have been working hard on that one! Well done.

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Valerie Preston
06:29 Jan 06, 2022

Thank you Barbara. It is always such a treat to get a positive comment. Happy new year. Valerie🌺

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