She didn’t smoke.
She didn’t drink.
She didn’t do drugs.
She only had one goddamn cup of coffee per day.
She ran five miles when she had the time. At least three when she didn’t.
She gave to charity often; never less than a hundred dollars. She raised three good children; two intelligent, beautiful girls and a respectful little gentleman. They were not yet grown.
Her husband was a good man. He loved her, respected her, worshipped her and she did the same to him. They’d been together over two decades and were still just as in love as they’d been the day they got married.
It just wasn’t fair that this was how her life would end.
Lana walked aimlessly through the city, a manila envelope in her hand, filled with everything that was wrong with her, apparently. The doctor had handed it to her with a look of pity on his face. She didn’t even have to open it to know what her results were. He had explained them anyway, and her heart dropped further and further into her stomach with every single word, then seemed to implode altogether when she heard the final one.
She was terminal. Everything she had worked her entire life for; all the money she saved, her two degrees, her home, her career, her family…all of it was for nothing. There wasn’t enough money in the world to save her now. School couldn’t save her life. Her home would be nothing more than a place she left behind. Her family would be heartbroken.
Her phone vibrated in her pocket and Lana considered letting the call go to voicemail, but she knew that it would just make matters worse. She fished the cell out of her pocket and took a deep breath before swiping her thumb across to answer it.
“Hello?” she croaked into the receiver.
“Lana? Sweetie, where are you?” She’d left David at doctor’s office, telling him that she just needed a moment alone to breathe. Ironic, considering the tumors that were currently growing with every single breath. She could barely inhale without feeling pain in her chest. She just couldn’t stay there with him looking at her like he’d just lost his entire world. They both needed to get themselves right before they saw their children.
“I don’t even know,” she confessed, looking all around her. “I haven’t really been paying attention.” She coughed and winced. “I’ll hail a cab and meet you at home, okay?”
“Alright,” he sighed. “Want…want me to pick up the kids?”
“Yes, please,” she replied. “I just…I don’t think I can deal with them right now.”
“I understand,” he said. “How about I take them out for ice cream or something? I’ll give you a little time to yourself. Un-unless you want to spend time with your kids right now. I know it’s a very stressful time and being surrounded by family—”
“Will only remind me that I’m about to break three more hearts,” Lana finished for him, swallowing thickly. “Just give me an hour to sort myself out, okay?”
“Okay,” David replied, his voice soft and understanding. It crushed her heart further. “I love you, Lana.” It sounded too much like goodbye.
“I love you, too,” she replied, but she felt numb.
After she hung up the phone, she stepped out into the street, watching her foot as it lifted to take one more step than was necessary. It would be so easy…so easy.
She placed her foot on the ground and raised her hand instead. A cab slowed near her and she got in, giving her address and curled her body into a ball as she watched the city go by in a blur outside of her window.
She wanted to soothe herself the way David hadn’t. She wanted to tell herself that everything would be alright, that things would get better soon and this would all be a memory. But then her body shook with another cough and she found blood on the back of her hand; and she remembered that things were not going to get better.
She wished that she had just stepped into traffic.
When she arrived home, she was met by silence. It was strange. Typically, the house would be bustling with activity. Henry would be teaching April how to play some kind of violent video game in the living room. Kate would be at the kitchen table, eating grapes, talking on the phone, and doing her homework all at the same time. David would be fiddling with something in the garage. Somebody would be playing music in the background.
Lana would walk in and complain about a headache as she headed to her bedroom to lay down for a nap. Secretly, she loved the noise. She missed it now.
Like most days, she made her way upstairs to her bedroom and threw herself onto the bed, finally allowing the tears to fall, her chest aching with every single sob, the throb lulling her into a deep sleep.
When she woke up, hours later, she felt a weight on her chest and began to panic.
No! This couldn’t be how it happened! She hadn’t even said goodbye to her babies yet! Her children had absolutely no idea that she—
“Mommy?” She felt a nose nudge against her neck and turned her head to see Kate staring at her over her shoulder, eyes drowsy and half-lidded. She inhaled sharply as she looked around her, finally seeing her two other children draped across the bed next to her. April was tucked against her side, a weight on her chest, and Henry was on the other side of her, his long, lanky arm draped across her to rest on his mother’s waist, protectively. Lana found herself smiling softly as she turned to meet Kate’s eye.
“Go back to sleep, baby,” she said. Kate didn’t need to be told twice as she spooned herself against her mother’s back.
“Love you, Mommy,” she said, reminding Lana of the child she used to be.
“Love you too, sweet,” she sighed back, stretching to press a kiss to the teen’s forehead. And, despite three children resting atop her, she felt as if a weight had just been lifted off of her.
At least for now.