I waited for her outside the coffee shop. You know that one on Broadway and 5th? It has that crooked sign with the flickering lights that usually spell “Coff Shop”.
She always got a kick out of that. She said it would’ve been a good name for a cigarette store.
So that’s where I waited for her. My favorite Converse hugged my lanky feet. My jeans were probably too tight, but I didn’t mind. They were black.
They matched my shoes.
Mrs. Peterman walked by with her Doberman. I smiled and gave Henry a couple of pats. He was a good boy.
“Where’s Diana today?”
“On her way, Miss Peterman. She had an appointment this afternoon.”
She furled her brows. “Oh?”
“Yeah. We’re gonna find out what’s going on with the…” I couldn’t finish the sentence; the words just stopped right at my gums.
She patted me on the shoulder nearly the same way I had done to Henry, as if she could sense the fear I had tried to hide under my breath. “That big C is a big sea of crap if you ask me! That girl is way too young. I’ll say a prayer…” Her voice trailed off as she started to walk away. Henry gave my jeans a couple of licks before following after her.
The sun was starting to fall asleep. I could see him slowly drifting into a blanket of clouds, resembling an egg yolk resting in the center of the whites.
That’s when I saw her. She was coming around the corner like that girl in the folk song. Except that was a mountain I think.
She must have weighed the same as she had in the 4th grade. Back when we were just babes. Back when the word ‘radiation’ referred to some kind of toxic waste superheroes had fallen into before they got their powers. Back when ‘chemo’ meant that weird game with the numbers our parents would play in the casino sometimes.
The funny thing is, she was stronger than any of those superheroes. She had stared her fate right in the eye and said, “I don’t think so. Not today, no way. Uh-uh.”
And she was beautiful. I didn’t care about the wig. I didn’t care about the change in her voice. I didn’t care about any of it.
I cared about her.
She made her way towards me with a sort of carefree aura about her. I can only describe it as the way a child frolics through an open field on the first day of summer break. She moved with the wind and the wind moved with her. The sun seemed to perk up from the clouds if only for a moment, to get a peek at his new competition.
She kissed me on the cheek. It was the first time her lips had touched my skin in weeks, maybe months. It sent a sort of wave through my body that settled in my gut. It reminded me of our Senior Prom, years before the storm.
She went away during the second round. I mean, she was here but… she wasn’t.
“Whatcha doin, knucklehead?” Even her voice had returned. Mostly.
“Just… waiting for you.” I shifted my feet and looked down at them the same way I always had when I was nervous. “Everything go alright?”
“A-okay.” The smile that adorned her face reminded me of life before it all went down. “I’m gonna be fine, hon’. Just fine.”
She wiped the tears that had escaped my eyes. This was it. Sure, there’d be a checkup in three months. And another in a year I was sure. But in that moment, we had it all.
“You look so deep in thought. Tone it down, Mr. Serious! Don’t worry. Everything will be alright. I’m good!”
She was the one going through it all yet there she was comforting me. I was selfish.
“You’re not selfish.” She read me like a comic book — another one of her powers. “Seriously. You’re allowed to feel too, Patterson.” She framed my cheeks with her porcelain hands and stared into my blues. She was the only one in the world who didn’t call me Patrick.
I studied her face searching for any sign of doubt, any speck of fear or uncertainty. But there was none.
And that’s when I knew — the storm really was clearing.
“You good, Pat?” Her question was simple yet wise, far beyond the 23 years of her life.
“I’m good, Diana. I’m… more than good.” I then looked at my hero with an admiration that would never be matched. “I’m A-okay.”
Josh Hilton is a lover of words, especially fiction. He resides in Northern California and can often be found outside enjoying the rays of the sun while writing his next story.