I looked to Andrea as she explained Dr. Wells’ orders to her. It hadn’t been even one day since she’d gone in for her ongoing malaise, and here she was, lying on the couch and handling it with the calm confidence of a businesswoman. I, however, was worried. What man wouldn’t worry if his wife’s doctor told her that she needed a biopsy done on the painful lump he’d found in her left breast, after she had gone in for feeling generally ill at that?
“Are you sure you feel well enough to go on your own, Andrea?” I asked, palming a Xanax from the bottle. “I mean, I can take time off of work, I can make arrangements to pick you up…”
She brushed her dark waves away from her cinnamon-toned face, her smile pleasant despite her nausea. It always amazed me how that smile, playing on her soft, full lips, could instantly dispel every fear I had, every doubt, every moment of anxious thought. She knew I needed it more than anything else right now… or perhaps she smiled to reassure herself it would be alright.
“Please don’t work yourself up so much, honey,” she responded softly, voice weakened from fatigue. “You know I’ve been working a lot of overtime lately, Chemway has been really pulling in a lot of customers recently. And besides, Dr. Wells said it could be a simple infection. He just wants to rule out cancer, that’s all… And besides, I’m well enough to drive.”
The Xanax began to melt in my palm, its sugar coating mixing with sweat in the creases. Why did she have to say the C word? Why?
But she had a point. It could be an infection. Maybe the soreness and swelling was just a bacterial thing that would clear up with antibiotics. Maybe I was getting all worked up over nothing. Again.
I inhaled deeply, and swallowed the Xanax along with my green tea. Work was getting to me again. Spend enough time with numbers, mortgages and other peoples’ loans, and you’re bound to go a little crazy. Besides, what good would getting myself even more worked up over something that might be nothing do?
Which comes back to me. My name is Michael Zarkoff; I live in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Lived here all my life, but only moved downtown to this riverfront apartment about five years ago, after Andrea and I married. No children yet, but we’ve been hoping for a little boy. Normally around this time of year we maybe go to some Christmas event or another, but mostly stay at home. This year, though, we were planning a trip up to visit my relatives in Menominee; they own a cabin outside the city and several acres of land, with a nice little lake that we used to swim in during the summer. But then Andrea started becoming tired, and that was around when she noticed the lump. She’d gone in after that for an examination, determined as always to see if her anxieties were correct, and the doctor had ordered a biopsy not long afterwards.
That was a week ago.
“At least let me go with you to the hospital,” I sighed, slowly relinquishing myself to the fact that she probably wouldn’t let me drive her there. “I’d just feel a lot better knowing first-hand what’s going on with you, that’s all.”
“Well, I wasn’t saying you shouldn’t come, Michael, I was just saying that you shouldn’t feel obligated to take me there.” She stood, and her sinuous arms wrapped around me gently. “That’s all. I love you, and I hate seeing you worry yourself sick like this.”
“And I hate seeing you sick, period.”
“You want an honest answer, Mike?” Her voice came as a whisper against my ear. “I’m scared too. I’m just as scared as you. I would like you there with me, but not if it’s going to compromise your whole work schedule…”
“It won’t,” I said, pulling her closer. “I promise it won’t.”
“Michael, please, not so tight…”
“Sorry, Andrea, I… forgot.” My grasp loosened. “I’ll let my boss know I won’t be able to make it in on Monday… he’s pretty accommodating; I don’t ask for time off that often.”
Andrea smiled and released her grip on me, her lips turned upwards into a small smile. Her dark and driven eyes peered nervously at me from above that smile. No matter how well she hid it, she was afraid… and so was I.
I pulled my cell phone from the coffee table, fingers hovering over the bank’s phone number. Monday is two days from now. How did I know I’d be able to get time off, how could I even be sure my boss would just give me emergency leave like this so suddenly?
The phone’s screen glowed gently with pale light, almost reassuringly. It will be alright, Michael, it said, She does so much for you. She needs you now, and you need answers just as much as she does. Just do it, Michael. Do it for her. Do it for you.
I swallowed hard as the Xanax’s chemical serenade started to take hold. No point in putting it off any further.
My fingers brushed the telephone symbol next to the number, and the phone dialed.