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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Write in the MYSTERY genre (04/05/07)

TITLE: A Promise
By Lana Straub


Staring down at the cold, stone floor, she thought of all the days that had come before this day. All the days that had led up to this day. She wondered how she had gotten here. She wondered, but deep down she knew. Everyone assumed that desperation had driven her to this point, but that wasn't it. Desperation had nothing to do with it. Neither did despair.

She thought back to the summer three years before this dreadful day in August. Back to the time before this cold, gray dark barren room. She thought back to that warm day in May when they first met. A salty tear met her cheek as she reminisced about the bittersweet days of Andrew.

Andrew had gone into the university medical center for his routine yearly checkup. Dr. Barnes had found some strange lumps under his arms that he felt needed a second opinion. She remembered the nervous thirty-five mile drive to the specialist. It was a drive of almost silence.

In a small voice, Andrew almost whispered to her.

"Heather," he drew a deep breath. "If it's cancer, I don't want to die like my mother did. Promise me you won't let me die like that."

"What are you talking about?" She replied. "You're fine. You'll be just fine."

He pulled the gray Explorer to the side of the road. Carefully unhooking the seat belt, he turned and tightly grasped her left hand.

"I'm serious." He looked deep into her eyes. "If Dr. Mitchell says its cancer – I want you to help me die with dignity, not shriveled up in a smelly hospital bed watching each breath leave me with the sputter of the blood pressure machine. I won't die like that. You are the only person I have left in this world. Don't let me die like that."

Several salty tears ran down both her cheeks.

"I won't." She promised. "I'll do whatever you ask."
The doctor's prognosis was not good. Tests revealed that Andrew had stage four renal cell carcinoma, rare in young adults, probably passed onto Andrew by his mother. Invasive treatments could prolong his life a few years, his quality of life diminishing with each treatment. Andrew was told to get his affairs in order. He probably wouldn’t live to see Christmas.

The ride home was full of stillness. So still that Heather could cut her cold February breath with a knife. In the blink of an eye she had found out she was losing the love of her life. Losing her soul mate to a disease she could hardly pronounce. It was unfair. She knew what he would ask of her. She knew what she had promised to do. She wondered if she were strong enough to fulfill her promise. Heather looked at Andrew, wanting to break the silence, wanting to say anything that would undo this day. Undo his cancer. A single tear fell from his right eye. She kept her silence.

The next few weeks were a blur. He became bitter and silent. He grew distant. Andrew was preparing to leave.

One Friday afternoon after Calculus class she got a phone call from him.

"Heather sweetheart." He smiled on the other end of the phone. "I want to spend the weekend with you. Come away with me to the mountains."

"Are you sure?" She questioned his kind words.

"Yes." He replied. "I know I've been a jerk, and I'm sorry, but I really need you right now and I'll explain it all in the car."

Andrew explained everything as they drove away from the city. He recounted every agonizing detail about his parents' cancer deaths that his twenty-year-old memory could bring to the surface. He reminded her that she was the love of his life. He couldn't imagine her watching him waste away. He wanted her to remember him in his vitality. He asked her to remember her promise.

The weekend was the most wonderful of her life. And then it ended.

A loud clunk jarred her back to the present time. The cell door slid to the left. Heather’s lawyer appeared in the doorway.

"They are waiting for us." He said in his deep still voice.

Slowly she was led from her cold gray cell up the winding steel-gray staircase into the morning sunlight. As she looked into the clouds overhead, she saw Andrew's face appear in the white puffy canvas. He smiled, winked, and blew her a kiss.

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This article has been read 679 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jeanette Oestermyer04/12/07
This one really got to me. I thought they might have made a mistake in the diagnosis. Whew.

God bless
Nathan Perkins04/12/07
It was certainly a surprise ending. I'm not sure I understood what happened at the end. I suspect that you needed a longer story to meet all of its potential. It was a great story but I think you can improve it by including more detail as set up.
Connie Pilston Shoemaker04/13/07
Nice. But what happened? Couldn't he have fallen off a cliff on his own? This could definitely be more. Enjoyed it!
Jacquelyn Horne04/13/07
oh, how sad! Good writing skills here.
Patricia Casey04/17/07
Difficult circumstances and story that you told well, in Jesus' Name,