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4.2: “Lying Young” (part two)
Continued from part one.
Friday, March 30th, 2012, 7:49 p.m.
The remainder of Dori’s lasagna sat untouched on her plate, getting cold. She no longer possessed the energy or will to return the dishes to the kitchen, or put them away. She only sat motionless in her recliner, paws concealing face, up to her closed eyes. Her father Simon finally reached for one of her hands.
“Dori, please tell us what happened,” he implored.
She only covered her face with the other hand and shook her head.
“Well, if you’re not gonna say a damn word, you can at least finish your dinner,” her now inebriated mother shouted, as if to hear her own slurred words. “Throwing away money or food’s just stupid.”
“Viola, please, stop that,” Simon ordered. “She’s clearly upset enough already.” He turned back to his daughter.
“Dori, whatever it is, you can tell us. C’mon.”
Dori dropped her other hand with a sigh, revealing her distraught, tear-verging eyes.
“…That was the Publisher’s Clearinghouse.”
Viola said an unpleasant word Dori would prefer not to hear at a moment like this.
“A’right, c’mon. The truth now.”
“Okay. Okay…” Dori took a few more breaths.
Simon let his eyes open wide and his mouth descend ajar at the horrific declaration. He placed his free hand to his chin.
“It-it was Dr. Bixby,” Dori went on. “He, uh…he said there was one thing about my physical that had him worried. He told me when I was there that he was sure I was fine. But, uh…”
She almost broke into tears, but held together.
“…He said he double-, triple- and quadruple-checked, and, well, he just told me now, it…” She shrugged.
“…Turns out he was wrong.”
“What does that mean??” Simon demanded to know.
Dori covered her face once more and sniffled. She answered, but they couldn’t quite hear her.
“What, babe?” asked Simon.
“Speak the hell up, Dori,” admonished Viola.
“A tumor, okay?! He found a brain tumor! I have a brain tumor!”
Her parents displayed two very contrasting reactions. Simon began shaking his head.
“But…but, you’re…you’re only 20 years old!” he stated in disbelief. “Are—…aren’t you…too young for something like that to happen?”
“He knows, Dad, he knows!” Dori insisted. “But he said age doesn’t matter. He said this happens to people as early as their teens.”
She looked down at her lap. A single first tear plinked the hem of her dress.
“What he didn’t say was why me.”
“Oh, God,” Simon lamented, as something in his mind clicked. “The migraines.”
Dori nodded. “Yup; he said he should’ve caught that sooner. But sometimes you just dunno till it’s too late.” She gave a dry, scoffing chuckle. “What a run, huh? Twenty whole years.”
“But…you mean he can’t treat it now?” asked her Dad.
“He wants me in the hospital first chance I get. And they’re gonna do everything they can, but he said it doesn’t look great. He said…”
She sniffled, brushing and pawing away more tears.
“…He said I’ve probably got…six months. If that.”
Simon started shaking his head again, slowly at first, then quickly and more vehemently.
“No…no, no, Dori, this isn’t happening. This isn’t right. This has to be some sort of mistake!”
“Dad, it’s no mistake!” she told him. “He said he checked, checked, checked and re-checked every diagnosis he’d made a dozen times! It’s the real thing. I’m gonna die! I’m…I’m…”
Dori flashed on what she’d just said. A chill engulfed her as it sank in.
“…I am really dying.”
For a few moments, no one could say anything. Simon was impossibly stunned. Dori felt numb. And she couldn’t help but notice that her mother had remained uncharacteristically silent the last little while.
“…M-Mom?” she finally asked, courage mustered.
Viola wouldn’t seem to look at her. She stared off inscrutably in a different direction. Dori gave another discreet prod.
“Aren’t you gonna s—…say anything?”
Viola’s eyes shifted in Dori’s direction. Her vision of her daughter was fuzzy, and her speech a bit garbled. But there was no mistaking the certainty of her tone. She spoke.
“Dori Young…” she uttered, in a quiet, very ominous voice…
“…That is not goddamn funny.”
The words pierced Dori like a dagger through the soul. It was now she who couldn’t believe what she’d just heard. Her ears or brain had to have been playing a trick on her.
“Viola! What in the hell is wrong with you?!” Simon hollered at her, as if he didn’t know.
Viola’s wobbly voice remained loud, and intensified in hostility as well.
“You’ve pulled some fast ones before, little lady, but this; I can’t even believe you’d wait so long buca escort to try to put this over on us.”
“Viola, stop it, damn it!” her father again ranted, losing control himself. “Look at her tears! She’s a compulsive liar, not Meryl Streep!”
Dori’s indeed tearful eyes had turned to utter consternation by her mother’s accusations.
“Mom, you…you don’t believe me?”
Simon turned back to her. “Of course she does, Dori. She’s just drunk. It’s that damn wine. She doesn’t know what she’s saying.”
Viola stood from her seat, demonstrating that her balance was about as wobbly as her voice.
“Hey. Lemme tell you something, lady. I believed you when you ‘broke your leg’ on the playground in second grade.”
“Viola, that actually happe—” Simon started to shout at her.
“I’m not finished! I believed you when you ‘burned yourself’ on the workshop lamp. I even believed that bit about your ‘headaches’ all those years. Well, forget it, daughter. Enough of this. You cried wolf one goddamn time too many; you are not gonna get me again.”
Simon leapt up beside her. “That’s it! I’m not putting up with this one more second. Viola, get outside, I’m taking you to the car. I am so sorry about this, Dori. Listen, I’ll be back in a sec. I’m just gonna get her in the car, then I’ll come right back. Excuse us.”
Fortunately, Simon knew Viola’s limits when it came to drinking, and that she hadn’t much more energy. She’d fall asleep soon. So he marched her down the staircases out to the car, placed her inside, belted her in and instructed her to stay. Several moments later, Dori saw a tear-blurred image of the door opening, and her Dad stepping back in alone. He approached, embraced her and kissed her head.
Dori shook said head, unable to swallow it. “…She didn’t believe me.”
“Oh, sweetie…” Simon sighed, breaking the hug to look her tenderly in the eyes. “You know how your mother gets when she drinks. And all she could think about was all the times you’ve lied to her before.”
Almost afraid to ask this question, Dori blinked, and sniffled out, “You…you believe me, don’t you, Dad?”
“Babe, of course I do! Your Mom does too. She just doesn’t realize it. I just can’t believe this situation. I can’t believe what’s happening!”
“Neither can I! I…”
Dori suddenly let it all loose. A wave of wracking sobs broke from her.
“This is my worst nightmare! It’s like my biggest fear in the world! Dad, I…I don’t wanna die!” she bawled, clutching Simon, burying her face in his chest. “What’m I gonna do??!”
“Dori…sweetheart…” he began, feeling his heart all but literally shredded by his daughter’s pain. He groped for words, nearing tears himself, not quite knowing what to say. He kissed the top of her head once more.
“If…listen to me, honey. If nothing else, if absolutely nothing else…you just live. You live your life, and you do the things you’ve always wanted to do. Believe me, babe, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to say, but…”
He tried to be strong for Dori, and hold back his own sniffles.
“…However long we have left, we have to make every day count. And in the meantime, we’ll make sure Bix does every last thing in his power he can. And whatever happens, we just do what we’ve always told you.”
Dori nodded. “Go with the flow,” she uttered.
“That’s right. Because?”
Dori had frankly always found this philosophy a bit corny, but right now, she was willing to cling to any words of hope available.
“Because no matter how much time goes by…”
Simon finished with her.
“…We’ll always be Young at heart.”
“And don’t worry about your mother,” he added. “We’ve gotten through rockier times before. You just take care of yourself. Just be happy, sweetie. If you can smile every day, then your life’s been truly blessed. Whether it’s two years, two decades or two centuries.”
Even though the last thing Dori felt she could do right now was smile, his words really did make her feel better. She kissed his cheek.
“I’m glad you’re here, Dad.”
Growth On The Brain, Life On The Line
Saturday, March 31st, 2012, 4:27 p.m.
A bit shy of twenty-four hours later—following a call in to work with a vague (honest) indication that she’d be taking some serious time off—Dori made her way to the medical center. Once admitted, she was shown to a room, and lay on the bed, staring at the ceiling. She waited anxiously for the family practitioner Dr. Patrick Bixby to return. She performed idle projects: twiddling her thumbs, crossing her ankles, crossing them the other way, checking the time, et cetera. When at last Bix did give the door a quick knock and reentered with her chart, Dori bolted up, sprang off the bed and seized him by his white coat lapels.
“What? What?? What?? WHAT??!” she manically cried.
“All alsancak escort right, now, Dori, please settle down a second,” the doc told her.
“‘Settle down’??” Dori unhanded him and turned to an imaginary companion. “‘Settle down,’ he says!”
“Dori, I just need you to calm down a little for me, so I can tell you what I need to say.”
“Doc, if this whole thing’s an early April Fool’s joke, I am gonna be so upset.”
Dori’s ironic tension-breaker aside, Bix managed to silence her for the moment. Dori about-faced and climbed back into bed.
“Now Dori, there’s no point in beating around this particular bush. You have a brain tumor.”
Dori let her head drop.
“Tell me something you haven’t told me already!” she pleaded. “I’d prefer good, but at this point I’ll take neutral. Tell me about your vacation in Hawaii. Tell me your cousin’s in town from Vancouver. Tell me you had mung beans for supper. Anything. But yes, doc, yes, I know what I have back there!”
“A’right. You’re gonna stay over starting tonight. Then treatment begins. Now, you know I’m just your general practitioner. So while I won’t be performing the surgery myself, I’ll see to it that you’re under the care of the finest neurosurgeons we’ve got.”
“Dr. Bix…level with me.” She sighed, shut her eyes and asked the next question.
“What’re my real chances?”
“I’ve gotta be honest with you, Dori…”
“Oh, great. No good sentence ever started with those words.”
“Lemme put it to you this way: if we pull you through this, I recommend the first thing you do’s buy a lottery ticket.”
“Ooh, I love the sound of that.”
“I’m being straightforward with you because I need you to give us what help you can, Dori. Here’s the good news: there is a chance. It’s small, but it’s there. And it relies on your strength as well as on us.”
Dori exhaled, trying to maintain composure. “Okay.”
“A’right. I’ve made your folks aware you’ll be with us indefinitely. Your, um…your mother apparently remembered what she said to you the other night. And…she mentioned something about never forgiving herself for it.”
“Oh. Yeah. Well, if you talk to her again, please tell her I hope it burns like hell on her conscience forever.”
“Translation: you forgive her?”
“Of course I do.”
“Well, I’m sure she’ll be glad to hear that. So…is there anything else I can do for you?”
“You mean besides save my life?”
Bixby joined her in a moment of silent empathy. He felt terrible for her. He wished more than anything he could say it would all be okay, that they’d pull her through this. And while he had the utmost confidence in his colleagues and their finesse, he’d indeed been honest with her. It didn’t look good. But Dori knew this already. She realized, and had begun coming to grips with the fact that she’d most likely have to face her worst fear, in as soon as six short months. There was so much she hadn’t done. So much she’d planned for her future. So many regrets, so much lost time. The optimistic part of her told her this could actually almost be sort of exciting, in a way…afterlife, possible reincarnation, who knew. But Dori didn’t want a new life, no matter how fresh or pure. She liked this life. She all but loved it. She didn’t want to say goodbye. She felt Dr. Bixby give her shoulder a squeeze.
“Okay. Be strong, kiddo. Get some rest.” He turned to leave her be.
“Wait. Doc, uh…just F.M.I., how late are visiting hours?”
Dori thanked him and let him go. She snatched her purse from beside the bed and started rummaging. A short spell later, she found it. She activated her cell, dialed the number, and waited with fond hope.
“Uh, hi…um…it’s me, Marla.”
Deb And Flow
Saturday, March 31st, 2012, 10:36 p.m.
With her parents having brought some things—including an affection-caked apology from her sober Mom—and leaving her to rest a while ago, Dori was wishing they hadn’t gone. She was lonely, but her therapist and confidant Dr. Deborah Morelli was now coming. She’d had some things to take care of first, giving Dori time to change into a pair of her snazzy jammies and settle in. However, putting on pajamas and settling in took the lass barely three minutes. Then she had to pass time by reading, playing solitaire, or daydreaming about the beautiful Lesley Claire Walker. They’d only gotten to see one another those few times. Dori hadn’t told her, because she couldn’t bear to make the lovely girl sad. That was, if Lesley cared enough about her to become that sad. Dori just didn’t want Lesley to get the idea that she wasn’t interested, and that that was why she hadn’t heard from her since. She was very interested in possibly pursuing things with Lesley. It was just…this one pesky little thing standing in her way.
She had Lesley’s bornova escort number too in here somewhere, but no idea what to say if she tried calling her. It was pretty late tonight anyway. She ought to just wait for Dr. Debbie this evening. Shortly past 10:30, after reading one more book and wondering if she could bang out any sort of memoir in six months, another knock came at the door. “Visitor!” came the faint, friendly voice from behind.
Dori worked up a small smile. “I want you to go away,” she affably called back.
“You certainly don’t.”
“Of course I don’t. Come on in.”
Dr. Morelli was shown in by a nurse who was somewhat confused as to whether the patient indeed wanted to see her or not. But in she strolled, putting a happier look on Dori’s face. The nurse withdrew and shut the door.
“Hey, Marla Rose,” greeted her therapist, giving her a wink as she pulled up a chair. “I’ll kindly skip the ‘how’re you feeling’ part.”
Dori chuckled dryly. “Thanks so much for coming, doc. Really, I know I’ve only seen you twice, but I already like you a whole lot, and…”
“Okay, that may’ve been a little much right off the bat. But I figure I better tell everyone how much they really mean to me while I still have the chance. My parents were with me for a while before, and now I wish they still were. Even though I know they’ve had a long day and they’re tired. I’m tired too, but I was still pretty lonely. I really wanted to be with a friend. And…” She paused for another sincere and sentimental beat. “I hope you don’t mind me thinking of you as my friend.”
“Of course not, kiddo. And glad to be of service. Besides, it’s hard to conduct a decent therapy session on the phone.”
“Oh, thanks, Dr. M., but I don’t think I want therapy right now…even if it is free,” Dori joked. “I kinda just wanna chat.”
“All right, sure. And by the way, you can call me Debbie. Inside my office, I have to be Dr. Morelli. Anywhere else, I can be your buddy.”
“Okay, well…can we still keep things just between us?”
“Most certainly. We’ll let the formality slide, but yes; we’ll stand fast on the confidentiality.”
“Cool…” Dori stretched out horizontally on her side, cuddled a stuffed animal her folks had brought, and rested her head on the pillow. Even though it wasn’t a session, she liked being able to simulate the couch with this bed, having Debbie sit nearby.
“Well, Debs…” Sigh. “I’ve had a lotta time to let this whole thing sink in. But the truth is, I’m still…kinda in shock over it. And, I’m…”
She paused to somberly swallow.
“Doc—er, Debbie…I’m really sad and scared. I mean, like, y’know, ‘you have no idea’ sad and scared. And, well…can you blame me? There was so much I wanted to do. It-it feels like I’m being ultimately…well, screwed. And cheated. It’s just so unfair! I don’t wanna sound selfish or whiny, but for heck’s sake! I…I-I can’t help it; I want my life back! The first decade was…okay, I guess, but my teens really kinda sucked. And now I’m independent and happy, I’m a grown woman, I love my job, and-and…now it’s all being taken away from me! I know how young I am—trust me, I really friggin’ do—but it took me a long, hard time to find the Dori I am today. And call me crazy, but I’ve gotten attached to her, dang it! I like this lady! I love myself, and n—oh, God. I haven’t even gotten to this part yet.
“Now I meet Lesley, that beautiful, awesome girl I told you about last time. I actually finally meet someone I might want a real future with. I’ve only seen her two or three times, but other than…this whole thing, she’s all I can think about! I mean…I know I already said it before, but this is so not fair. For God’s sake, Debbie, I don’t even have anyone to give my stuff to!”
Debbie nodded. “I know, Dori. And I know how much it hurts. Take it from me, I’m well aware of how you feel.”
“How could anyone alive know how this could feel right now??”
She felt the therapist reach out and give her arm a gentle pat. The next thing Dori heard her say undeniably surprised her.
“…Dori, I’ve been there.”
Dori looked up after a moment to meet her eyes.
“Say what now?”
Debbie looked off in another direction with an odd smirk.
“Eight years ago. A cold winter day I’ll never forget. Death had me chained to its front door.”
“Turns out, Dori, I had a heart condition in my 20s. The entire decade was a nightmare. And I knew I couldn’t keep running away from it forever. Then one night, a few days before Christmas…”
She paused, letting go of a silent sigh. Dori filled in the blank.
“…It caught up?”
Deb palmed her own cheek, returning her eyes to Dori.
“All I can remember’s a few blurry seconds in an ambulance. And a distorted sound of a siren in my ears. The horrible beeping, doctors all mumbling to each other…I couldn’t understand a word of what they were saying. If I had any energy, I’d have been going nuts.”
Dori propped herself up on her elbow. “So what happened then?”
“I have to assume they tried to defibrillate me and shock me back to life. But it must not’ve worked. Because…
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