The drive home was the most long-drawn-out ride of Katrina’s life. The roadside passing her by as flashes in her peripheral vision. Her mind refused to stop racing, the doctor’s voice repeating itself over and over again. But throughout it all, it was the face of her children that troubled her most. Little Piper and Cooper staring back at her from behind the doctor, trapped, kept from her. They looked frightened; Katrina was frightened.
“Six months,” she whispered, lost in the horizon ahead. “Just six months. That’s nothing.”
Whipping the steering wheel to the right, she suddenly veered off the road, bringing the blue SUV to a sliding halt on the dirt shoulder. Katrina pushed open the door, jumped from the vehicle, the tears already stinging her eyes, and began to run away. Her legs feeling detached, drove her into the shadows of the woods that lined this part of the road. She could barely see, tears streaming down her face as she followed the path further into the shadows. The sun streamed between the treetops, lighting up several patches as Katrina ran through the rays, each time feeling the heat and coolness on her skin. Confusion, fear, and anger won over and propelled her forward, up the hill, running from a life she felt she no longer wanted.
Only once she reached its top, the crown, did she slow, eventually leaning against the only tree that grew at its summit. One Tree Hill had been such an original name, and as she now held it for balance, she was grateful for this valuable friend. Taking her time, the crying and panting broke, melding with the sighs that now gripped her. Fatigued, she tried to wipe her eyes enough to see the farm in the distance, but the drops continued to fall, although now she could tell they weren’t from agony.
Katrina let go of the tree, carefully walked forward a bit, dropped down on her butt, and sat where the slope fell away towards the place that Katrina had always called home. Far below, three figures ran around a backyard where she had once, when she was just five years old, fallen off the swing and broken her collarbone. Daniel was chasing Cooper and Piper around the edge of the sandbox, a final gift from her own mum and dad. Despite the knife blade cutting through Katrina’s heart, watching them sent a rush of pride through her body, quickly washing away any uncertainty. It was there in the distance where her answers lay. Katrina took a deep breath and looked up at the sky, its piercing blue mystery filling the heights above, while in her mind, like an afternoon squall sweeping over the valley, resolve rolled over her doubts.
Katrina suddenly saw with clarity and began to smile again. She would not allow sadness to overshadow the little time she had left. Every minute that remained had so much more value. There are no guarantees in life. She just happens to know when it might happen. She looked down at the farm, at her kids, her husband, and friends. They could all go before her. Her family, not just the ones making mud-pies in the sandpit, but all of them would together appreciate the value of every day. Her impending death would be irrelevant. She would spend quality time with each of them, but she would keep her illness to herself. Until she was ready. Katrina concluded that if she was to reveal her diagnosis, the chances were high that each of her friends would misuse cherished time on things that didn’t matter now.
Katrina admired her town in the valley, remembered her past, and, drying her face, chose to enjoy every moment, not because she would die, but because they might. She was on the verge of tears again. Katrina closed her eyes and breathed deeply, exhaling slowly. She knew the time for talking would come, but she would read up on thanatology to learn how to prepare herself, her family, and her friends. She felt cold tears roll down her cheeks and into the corners of her mouth. There would be plenty of time to mourn, for sadness, and for their own passions to take over, but for now, Katrina decided, what mattered was the present.
WE&P by EZorrilla
Special thanks to A Jackson.