“Today is the day I change.” Melanie lay in bed with her eyes closed as the thought bounced off the edges of her mind. “Today is the day everything changes.” Instinctively, she reached an arm out finding a cold pillow where there was once a warm indentation. It had been over a year since she started sleeping alone, but sometimes, she forgot. Worse were the days when she rushed to feed the dog. Then, she would remember that she no longer had a dog.
Breathing deeply, she opened her eyes and glanced at the clock. 5:15AM. She had laid there 15 minutes past her alarm. Time. It was her enemy now in more ways than one. She shivered and watched the snow drifting lazily past her window. She thought how a day like this looked once looked so different. Snowfall meant calling in late to work while they indulged in a morning of lazy lovemaking, pancakes, and play arguing whose turn it was to take the dog outside. Life hadn’t been perfect, but it had been functional. It was better than what she had expected. It just wasn’t good enough.
Swinging her legs over the edge of the bed, Melanie paused and looked down at her chest. Her breasts were bare except for the faded butterfly tattoo, a remnant from her college days. She thought of other remnants from her college days most recently, her marriage. They say sorrow came in threes. If that was true, she was on her last one.
Her phone pinged with a text. “Pick you up in 20!” Kate was nothing if not punctual. Her best friend since childhood. Kate was the one person she could count on. Melanie didn’t have family, but Kate was better than family. She was the one constant in Melanie’s life who stood by her through all the good, the bad, and the unbearable. She wasn’t sure she would still be standing if it weren’t for Kate.
Sure, she had other friends, but they were compartmentalized into specific socialization boxes taken out for socially acceptable situations. Not ugly cry situations on the floor of your bedroom or worse your married best friend’s bedroom. The latter is what filled Melanie’s life the past 18 months. Therefore, Kate was the only friend qualified for the atomic disaster of Melanie’s life. Her other friends were sequestered to watch from afar through waves from the driveway or social media posts that revealed little.
No one told her how lonely life would be after divorce. She knew that some people would take sides even when there wasn’t really a side to take. Marc was unhappy, and he found happiness elsewhere. She had stopped loving him long before he made that choice. Their divorce was amicable for the most part. The one contention being Sadie, their loving and loyal yellow lab. Melanie was thankful even now for their inability to conceive those few months before the separation. The fight over Sadie was bad enough.
Regardless of sides taken, it was only a matter of time until Melanie’s married friends began to drift. Without the commonality of children and school functions, Melanie had little to offer to the conversations particularly when it turned to husbands. Her single friends were great until they found boyfriends. Her work friends had been too flaky or perhaps she hadn’t been engaged. No matter. She was on medical leave anyway. The loneliness hadn’t bothered her much at first. At first, she was focused on drinking a little too much, not dating enough, and re-establishing a once defunct career.
Now, her loneliness weighed her down like the weighted blanket, a gift from Kate, she slept with to stave off her anxiety of sleeping alone. She thought of Marc sleeping cozily in his new bed with his new wife and Melanie’s former dog. In the end, it was only fair that he got the dog. Melanie’s now former job required an excessive amount of travel. At the time, it made rational sense while it tore out her heart. Melanie felt a loud sob erupt as the longing for her beloved lab and the comfort of her soft fur overwhelmed her. Today would have been a great day for a snow day with Sadie.
Melanie wiped her eyes. No time for this now. No time for anything except the matter at hand. She ran a brush through her hair and threw on a loose tunic and leggings. She didn’t bother with a bra. She wouldn’t need one.
She grabbed her overnight bag and opened the front door in perfect timing with Kate pulling into the driveway. As she locked the door, she thought of the woman who would unlock it in a few days. She couldn’t visualize her clearly yet, but she was coming into focus. She silently repeated her mantra, “Today is the day, I change.”
”Hey Lady!” Kate’s forced positivity would be considered toxic if it weren’t so earnest. “Are you ready? Time to say ‘Ta-ta to the Ta-Ta’s.’” Kate flipped her curly brunette bob and patted her thighs to the beat of Gloria Gaynor’s “I will Survive.”
Melanie grimaced as she climbed into the passenger seat. She hated that phrase, and Kate said it just to tease her. Melanie hated the whole JV cheerleader “Fight Breast Cancer” sentiment. As far as she was concerned, those people could shove their pink ribbons up their asses.
She was pretty certain she wasn’t the only woman recovering from a divorce and a legalized dog-napping only to be told her tits were defective nine months later. She did not want cheer…she wanted her designated support person or if not that, her designated support dog. But they both belonged to someone else now. Where were the colored ribbons for that?
“You know Kate,” she mumbled as she fastened her seatbelt with one hand and flipped the radio silent with the other, “Sometimes your early bird personality is pretty fucking annoying.”
”Mel,” Kate’s tone turned sober. “I know, you’re scared. I’m scared, too. But Dr. Edelstein is the best. He’s got you. I’ve got you.” She reached over and tugged on Melanie’s blonde ponytail. “Besides, once you’re healed, he is creating you a great pair of tits! Good-bye B Cups!”
Melanie smiled at Kate’s reminder. She looked over and winked at Kate, “Yeah, and the best part-the fat transfer from my ass to make them.”
Kate held up her hand to high five Melanie. “Not that you need much fat taken from there, but here is to cellulite removal!”
Kate turned the radio back on to a local station and steered her car towards the interstate. The hospital was only a ten minute drive which would come in handy for chemo visits.
Melanie tried to ignore the worry of who would help with the sheer volume of those appointments. Kate had a husband and twins. She could help some, but Melanie’s doctor had warned her that she would need multiple sessions a week.
Breathing deeply, Melanie peeked down at her scoop neck tunic and at the tiny butterfly wing just visible. Soon, her breasts like her tattoo and her marriage would just be a remnant. Today was the day she changed. Her story would no longer be about how she lived, but how she survived.
She leaned her head against the car window and allowed the tears to run past her cheek to her chest causing her butterfly wing to shimmer as if in flight. Her metamorphosis was imminent. It would be a painful season wrapped in bandages and cocooned in chemo chairs.
But today was the day she would change. She would change her attitude about her divorce, her loneliness, and the cancer ravaging her body. Today, she would choose to believe that like the butterfly, her end result would be just as beautiful.