The following morning, Fran and Destiny waited in Charlie’s hospital room for word from Dr. Bennett. Charlie slept comfortably in his bed; monitors and machines kept track of his vitals and administered the treatments to keep him stable. Destiny was curled up, sleeping in a nearby chair. She was still dressed in the outfit she wore on stage for her show the previous night.
Destiny had been uncharacteristically silent since they arrived at the hospital, the events of the night weighing heavy on her in more ways than one. She had fallen asleep after Fran heard her quiet sobs, her body heaving from the tears. Fran hadn’t slept at all since Charlie was admitted, but nodded off now and again as she rested her head on Charlie’s pillow, his hand squeezed in hers.
Fran’s nap was interrupted by a soft knock on the room door before Dr. Bennett opened it. Destiny stirred at hearing the doctor’s voice. She jumped out of the chair, stumbled due to stiff legs, but made her way to her father’s bedside.
“Good morning, Fran. Good morning, Destiny. How are you two holding up?”
“Hi, Doctor Bennett,” Destiny replied, Fran still shaking off her nap. “We’re doing about as well as you might think…” Dr. Bennett looked at both women, the sheer exhaustion showing on both their faces.
“I can have a couple of cots brought in if you ladies would like to get some actual sleep…?”
“That—that would be wonderful, Doctor…” Fran responded, brushing the heavy sleep from the corners of her eyes. “Do you know what happened last night?”
“His O2 levels were very low when they brought Charlie in last night. We noticed it was a struggle for him just to breathe,” Dr. Bennett said, sitting cross-legged in a chair across from Fran and Destiny. “Without scans, I’m not sure what brought on this flare-up of symptoms. It could be lymphoma-related, treatment side-effects, or Charlie’s body being over-tired AND over-stressed.”
“He’s been trying so hard to keep up with the farm. I tell him that his sister will help me, but I think he hates being unable to work.” Fran folded her hands together. “And then Destiny’s concert last night. He didn’t feel well the night before. I know he’s tired all the time. He pushes himself too much.”
“Well, that needs to stop—all of his unnecessary exertion and stress. Charlie’s not a young man anymore and his age will work against him if we’re not careful. We’re going to keep him, at least overnight, for re-evaluation and so we can do a PET scan. Fresh lab work is needed. His blood chemistry was way off last night.” The doctor stood and hugged her. “Try not to worry, Fran. A lot of patients like Charlie get bumps in the road, but go on to recover. I’ll get his PET scheduled as soon as possible and I’ll look into those cots for you two as well. If you and Destiny need anything else, please let me or his nurse know.”
“Thank you, doctor,” Fran replied. She sat down at Charlie’s bedside as the doctor left the room, stroking what remained of his hair. It was two hours later that her gentle touch awakened him. She smiled at him and touched his cheek. “How are you feeling, my love?”
“Did anyone get the number of the tractor that hit me?” Charlie smiled and joked. He knew humor would likely help soothe Fran’s nerves. “As to how I’m feeling; if I weren’t so tired, I’d be out running a marathon.” He looked at his hand with the IV line in it. “I guess this is our life now? Makes for a heckuva date night!”
Fran laughed a bit nervously. Charlie was glad to see a smile on her face; A laugh, albeit a nervous one, still counted. “You’re not getting out of dates that easily, Mister Farmer!” Fran responded. “Except for tonight, maybe. Doctor Bennett wants to keep you here overnight to run some more tests and get a new PET scan on you. It’s your job…” Fran emphasized herself by leaning close to Charlie and gently poking him with her finger, “… to rest. Those are doctor’s orders!”
“You’ll get no argument from me, at least not right now. How’s Desi doing with all this, Frannie?”
“Not good.” Fran huffed, her and Charlie’s gaze shifting to Destiny, who lay asleep on a cot. “She hasn’t spoken much since last night. We shouldn’t have kept this from her, Charlie. It was a terrible decision.”
“Well, we can’t dwell on that now. What’s done is done. We’ll just have to repair the damage and keep her in the loop.”
She lifted his hand to her face and kissed his fingers. “You need to stop pushing yourself, Charlie. You scared us half to death last night.”
Charlie felt overwhelming guilt as he watched the pain and uncertainty etch lines in Fran’s face, then looked back over to where Destiny lay. She was curled up in a ball, the dress she wore last night draped over her like a blanket. “I ruined her set, didn’t I?”
“Don’t worry about that, Charlie. She’d rather have you well.”
“Would you mind waking her for me, sweetheart? I want—no, I need—to apologize to her.”
Fran nodded and stood. She walked to where Destiny slept and rubbed her shoulder. “Destiny? Wake up, sweet pea. Your daddy’s awake and he’d like to talk to you.”
Destiny awakened with a start. She looked around, wide-eyed, and when she realized where she was, her eyes filled with tears. “Is he okay?”
Fran knelt and looked into her eyes. “He’s fine, sweetheart. He wants to talk to you.” She wiped the tears from her daughter’s eyes.
Destiny stood and approached Charlie’s bedside. “Oh, Daddy,” she wept. “I’m sorry. This is my fault…” She knelt next to him and laid her head on the bed. “I’m so sorry.”
“Destiny, this isn’t your fault.” Charlie ran his hand over her long red hair, trying to soothe her. “In fact, I owe you an apology. I wanted to protect you from this, but in doing that, I made things harder on you and your Mama. She wanted to tell you when we found out.”
Destiny sniffled; her eyes met his. “When did you find out?”
“Last year, the week you went away on your retreat.”
“A whole year?! You’ve known about this for a whole year?! Why didn’t you tell me?!” Destiny asked. Charlie noticed an edge of anger creeping into her tone. He reached out and took her hand in his, hoping he could find the words to repair the damage he’d caused. “I’m NOT a baby!”
“Desi, please try not to be angry. If you have to be, I understand, but be angry with me. This mess is my doing. I-I didn’t want my illness to distract you from your studies, or keep you from your music. You’re smart, beautiful, and talented with big plans and ambitions. I didn’t want my cancer to interfere with any of that. Please make me a promise that no matter what happens with me, you’re going to keep those plans… those dreams.” Charlie reached out and brushed a teardrop from Destiny’s face.
“No, Daddy. I’m going to stay here and help Mama run the farm and help her take care of you.” This started a fresh round of weeping. Charlie looked at Fran; his eyes begged for her help.
“Desi,” Fran said, walking up behind her daughter and gently placing her hands on Destiny’s shoulders, “we don’t want you to put off your future. We want you to go to college next year, no matter what happens here at home.”
“How can I, Mama? How can I leave you and Daddy now?”
Fran didn’t know how to answer her. “We’ll discuss it some other time, Destiny. For now, let’s all concentrate on getting Daddy home. Deal?”
She wiped her tears away and nodded. “Okay.” Destiny got up and settled down into the cot where she’d slept.
Two days later, Charlie felt better. The doctor had prescribed medication that helped his strength improve, and supplemental nutrition to support his recovery. Destiny stayed with Polly’s family while Fran kept vigil at his bedside. She didn’t leave him for more than a few minutes when she got up to stretch or walk around.
The doctor knocked on the door; Charlie invited her into the room. She smiled at them and sat in a chair near Charlie’s bed. “Hi folks. I have the results of the testing we’ve done. I’m happy to report you’re still in remission, Charlie. The PET showed no new tumors or activity, and your blood work is working its way down more toward your normal range.”
“What caused his collapse, then?” Fran asked.
“I think a few things factored into his collapse. The first is him not knowing when to quit. Charlie, you need to be kinder to your body. Rest when you need it. Drink a lot of water and keep eating well. The second is likely damage from the chemo and radiation. You’re still a little anemic, too, which will cause additional fatigue. We did a ferritin infusion overnight to help with that. It’s not a cure, but it will aid in your recovery.”
“When can I go home, doc?”
“I’m signing your discharge papers when we’re done here. You can go home when they get you ready to leave. There’s nothing more we can do to make you feel better. Time, and Fran’s loving care, will do much more than we can.”
Charlie smiled at his devoted wife. “She is more than I deserve, but I’m so thankful for her.” Fran blushed a deep red.
“You two are just adorable,” the doctor said with a snicker. “We’ll get you home within the hour.”
“Thanks, doc,” Charlie said. “I guess I’ll see you at my next follow up.”
“Yes, you will,” Dr. Bennett said with a wave as she left the room.
Less than an hour later, Fran and Charlie were on their way home from the hospital. Though they had good news, they still had Destiny to worry about. They knew she deserved answers; Charlie felt guilty about keeping his illness from her for so long. Fran called Destiny before they left to tell her they were on their way home. She expected their daughter to have a lot of questions and some anger. She was justified, too.
Destiny walked home from the Stonewall house next door. Fran’s little car pulled into the driveway as Destiny walked back from feeding Sweetie. Instead of going in, she walked to the car, ready to lend a hand.
“Hi Mama,” she said. “Hi Daddy. Do you need help inside?”
“I’m okay, sweet pea,” he said, but she held onto his arm with a firm grip.
“I’m not letting you stumble or fall.” Together, they walked from the car into the house. She steadied him on the step, taking them as slowly as he needed, and she didn’t let him go until he was safely in his recliner.
“You’re taking such good care of me, Desi. Thank you.” He squeezed her hand before she walked away and up the stairs. “Frannie? Could I ask you to make some tea for me?”
Fran smiled. “You know I will. What kind, love?”
“It doesn’t matter. Surprise me.” Charlie watched as Destiny descended the steps with her guitar in her hand. “Are you going to practice, Desi?”
She shook her head. “No, I’m going to sing for you. I don’t need to practice this one. I know it backwards and forwards.” She sat on the chair near him, strummed her new guitar, and sang the first note of his favorite song. Charlie sank into his chair, closed his eyes, and let the sweet sound of her voice take him to a happier place, one where he wasn’t sick. One where he didn’t have cancer.
Fran sang along to it in the kitchen, as though it was just another song she’d heard on the radio. The teakettle whistled; she took his favorite mug, squeezed a little fresh honey into the cup, and an Earl Grey bag. She poured the hot water over the bag and let it steep for the duration of Destiny’s song. Fran stood in the dining room watching her daughter and her husband sharing a moment. She feared there weren’t many such moments left.
She tiptoed into the room and peered at his face. “Is he sleeping?” she whispered. “I can’t tell.”
Destiny shook her head. “I don’t think so, Mama. You’re just enjoying the music, aren’t you, Daddy?”
A grin pulled Charlie’s face. “You bet I am. Desi, your voice has always been a salve for my soul. I wish I…” He stopped speaking. No, I’m not going there with her. Not yet, anyway. “I mean, I can’t wait to see your first shows in the city. We can talk about going with you. When you move, that is.”
“Really, Daddy? I’d love that!” Destiny beamed with joy, watching his happy affirmation. It was the first time he’d ever offered such a thing. What she didn’t realize was how unlikely it was to actually happen.
Two Months Later
“Daddy, would you help me?” Destiny sat at the dining room table, a stack of college applications spread over the table. “Sim State wants me, and they’re willing to accept all my work at the festival as college credits. It will cut down my prerequisites quite a bit.” She shuffled those papers into a pile, and she picked up another ten-page application for a different college. “This one is offering a full scholarship for four years, but they won’t accept the festival credits, so I’ll spend longer there. And it’s further from home. I couldn’t make it home fast if I needed to. They have a first-class music program, though.”
Charlie sat at the table with her, overwhelmed with the paperwork she had sprawled out on it. “What’s this one, sweet pea?” An application packet as thick as her journal laid in the center of the table.
“Oh, that one’s for an ivy league school. I’m not even going to try for that one, Daddy.” She lowered her head and spoke quieter. “They won’t offer any help, and I know you and Mama can’t afford that school, what with your treatments and all.”
A pang of guilt pricked Charlie in the heart. At almost seventeen, she was having to deal with things she shouldn’t need to endure—a sick parent and financial hardship. “You choose any school you want, Destiny. If you’re accepted, and it’s your heart’s desire, we’ll find a way to make it happen.”
Destiny was very aware of all Charlie and Fran had sacrificed for her. So she shook her head, placed her hands on his, and smiled. “I’m not going to apply, Daddy. I don’t want that school, anyway.”
“Are you sure, Desi? I know you’re a smart cookie. You can go wherever you’d like.”
“Mmhmm,” she said. “Sim State is a good school, right?”
“One of the best, yes.”
“And they’re offering me work credit. I might pick up an extra job downtown during the winter at the diner. The concerts are almost non existent in the winter. No one wants to sing or perform outside during a Plains blizzard.”
Charlie chuckled. “You’re correct, sweet pea.”
“For the record, I would.” She winked at her father. “I’d sing anywhere, any time, and I wouldn’t care if it was snowing, or raining, or hot.”
“That’s because you’re dedicated, Desi. That will make you successful both in school and in life. You can’t lose with that attitude.”
Destiny blushed. “Thank you, Daddy.”
“Have I told you how proud I am of you?” His face beamed.
“Well,” she said. “You and Mama taught me the value of hard work. I know it’s the only way we’ve survived the hardest years. And it’s how you’re going to beat the lymphoma, Daddy. You are going to beat it.”
Charlie swallowed hard. “From your lips to His ears, Destiny.”
“Every morning, and every night.” She stood from the table and kissed his cheek. “Thank you for your help. Sim State is my choice.”
I didn’t do much, he thought with a smile. “You’re welcome, honey.” Charlie stood from the table, tired and achy. “I’m going to lie down upstairs, Desi.”
Destiny didn’t look up from her work, but nodded. “Okay, Daddy. I hope you feel better.”
“Me too, sweet pea. Me too.”
Fran came back from the market, tired but happy. Destiny was still at the table working on her application for Sim State, and Charlie was resting upstairs. She greeted her daughter, but was dismayed to see nothing started for supper. “Hi sweet pea,” she said. “Where’s Daddy?”
Fran huffed and walked to the kitchen. “He didn’t start supper like I asked him to. Is he okay?”
Destiny shrugged, not looking up from her work. “I dunno. He said he was going to lie down, and he went upstairs.”
She slammed the refrigerator door shut and fell against the counter in frustration. Fran muttered under her breath. That got Destiny’s attention.
“Are you okay, Mama?”
“Oh, I’m fine, Desi. I’m just tired.”
Destiny stood and gathered her applications, arranged the papers into a pile, and slipped them into her backpack. She walked to where Fran stood fighting tears, and hugged her.
“I’ll cook tonight, Mama.”
Fran looked up and into Destiny’s eyes. “No, honey, this isn’t your responsibility—”
“Will it help you?”
“Well, yes, but…” Fran couldn’t contain the emotion. “It’s not your worry.” She wept openly with Destiny’s arms wrapped around her. “I couldn’t ask that of you.”
“You’re not asking.” Destiny backed away from Fran to see her tears. “Go upstairs and rest, Mama. I’ll call you both when supper is ready.” Fran nodded, sniffled and mouthed the words, ‘thank you,’ before she turned to walk up the steps.
It wasn’t the first time Destiny had cooked a meal, and what she had cooked before wasn’t traditional ‘supper’ food. But she made it well, and it was her favorite thing—banana pancakes. She pulled the recipe card from Fran’s box, measured the ingredients out and mixed the batter. Then, she took two bananas, sliced them thin, and sprinkled lemon juice on them so they wouldn’t brown. The griddle on the stove got sizzling hot, so she poured the first four cakes, arranging the banana slices on each one.
While the first batch cooked, she walked to the steps and called for Fran and Charlie to come down for supper. Little by little, she cooked the pancakes until the batter was gone. The finished ones rested in a warm oven until supper was ready.
Fran held onto Charlie walking down the stairs. The aroma of banana pancakes filled the bottom floor of the house. Charlie looked at his wife. “Desi cooked that? It smells amazing in here.”
She beamed at him and nodded. “She did. Our baby girl is taking care of us.”
“Enjoy it now, darling. She won’t be home much longer.”
Fran sighed. “Don’t remind me.”
Destiny had finished cooking the last pancake when Charlie and Fran walked into the dining room. “Oh good!” she said. “Just sit, and I’ll do everything.” The table was already set, and everything they needed was placed out: soft butter, pure maple syrup, coffee and all the fixings for it. She pulled the warm cakes from the oven, put them on a platter, and served them.
“Destiny, this looks incredible,” Charlie said. “Did your mama teach you how to cook?”
She blushed. “Just this, Daddy. It’s all I can make.”
They sat together and joined hands. Charlie prayed for their meal. The first bite for Fran tasted different than how she usually made them. “Destiny, how did you make the batter? These are delicious!”
“Just a little vanilla added in. When I made them at school in cooking class, it made a big difference. I got an ‘A’ on the project.”
“I can see why!” Fran grinned. “Is there anything that you don’t do well, sweet pea?”
Destiny thought for a moment. With a sly grin, she said, “I can’t think of anything!” The three of them laughed together.
After supper, Destiny cleaned the kitchen and all the dishes. Charlie and Fran retired to their bedroom early. So Destiny walked into the yard with her song book in her hand and a pencil tucked into her ponytail. Sweetie was still in the pasture, and the dim light of dusk settled over the small half-acre farm plot. Destiny had hit a dry spell with songwriting, so she’d hoped the night air would help to clear her mind.
She had paid little attention to her surroundings until Sweetie’s sharp whinny broke her concentration. When she looked up, the evening’s darkness had settled in around the farm. Crickets chirruped in the fields behind the property, and fireflies dotted the night sky. Soon, she detected the syncopation in the songs of the night’s creatures. She picked up her pencil and jotted down words that came to mind, her concentration on the only home she’d ever known.
Destiny’s mind crept back to the afternoon’s task of college applications, and her father’s illness. How can I leave them? She wondered to herself. I can’t. Daddy needs me. Her pencil fell to the table; the clatter on the metal surface startled her, as though she didn’t expect it. “How can I leave you, Daddy?” she said aloud, talking to no one but herself. Tears filled her eyes, and she wept, so unsure of what the future held for any of them.
Destiny’s alarm clock sounded the next morning; she turned it off and covered her head with her pillow. “No…” she groaned. “I’m not ready to get up.” Nevertheless, she threw the covers from her body and sat up. The clock next to her bed read 5:02 AM.
She walked through the bathroom and into the sitting room in her parents’ bedroom. A quick peek revealed both were still sleeping. She tiptoed down the stairs to shower in the first floor bathroom, a consideration for Charlie, since he had more difficulty navigating the stairs early in the morning.
Destiny started the coffee pot, still wrapped in her robe, and gazed into the yard. Sweetie was still in the pasture, grazing. Or perhaps she’d slept in the barn and was up early; Destiny wasn’t sure. A few moments later, she heard light footsteps padding down the stairs, and a glimpse of red hair like hers. “Good morning, Destiny,” Fran said.
“Good morning, Mama. I was going to let you sleep.”
“And let me miss your last first day of school? Goodness, girl. I hope you’re kidding.”
Destiny gave her a sheepish smile. “Sorry?”
“It’s okay, Desi. Daddy will be down soon, too. He’s been looking forward to this.”
“Mmph…” She sat in the dining chair a little too hard. “I wish he’d stay upstairs until he’s ready, Mama. It’s not that important.”
“You’re not keeping him away, sweetheart. He wants every memory he can have with you.” He’s afraid there won’t be many more, Fran thought.
“Well, I’ll go up and help him.”
“That’s a sweet gesture, and a good idea.” Fran poured a cup of coffee and took another mug to fill for Charlie. Destiny walked up the staircase to the master bedroom.
Charlie was walking from the bathroom, his cane in his hand, when she knocked on the door. “Daddy?”
“Come in, sweet pea.” He sat on the bed and took his robe from the chair. “Happy first day of school.”
“Thanks, Daddy. I came to help you down the steps.”
“I appreciate it, but I think I’m okay this morning.”
“Are you sure?” Destiny studied his face. Now that she knew the truth, she could see the toll his illness was taking on his body. “How about I walk in front of you?”
Charlie nodded. “I’ll agree with that, Desi. You’re a good girl, you know that?”
“Well, you’re my only Daddy, so I want to make sure you’re safe.” She hugged him and took his hands in hers, pulling him to his feet. “Upsy Daisy!”
“Wow, you remembered that, too!” Charlie laughed. “I haven’t said that to you since you were little.”
“I remember everything. My guidance counselor wanted me to go for testing last year. He thinks I have an eidetic memory.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised, Desi. You’ve remembered things from your childhood that most kids forget.”
“Like that book I memorized?”
“Exactly like that.” Charlie smiled; it was one of the best days of his life.
“I want to confess something about that, Daddy,” Destiny said, wincing.
“When you came home, and you asked me if I remembered you, and I said no?”
“You did, didn’t you?” He chuckled and smiled.
“You little stinker.”
She giggled. “I remembered everything.” Her face turned serious, and she looked away from him. “But I didn’t understand it, either. I was so confused.”
“Well,” Charlie said, brushing a lock of damp hair away from her face. “It was hard for all of us. I never expected you to remember me, sweet pea. It was great just to be home.”
“I didn’t want to let any more time pass before I told you…” She bit her lip. Destiny didn’t want to entertain the thoughts she had about his future, or lack thereof.
“I’m glad you did, Destiny. Thank you.” He hugged her close. “Let’s get breakfast, so you’re not late for classes.”
“Okay,” she said. Together, they walked down the stairs; she was two paces in front of him, just in case.
Fran had breakfast cooked and ready by the time they reached the bottom step. The aroma of fresh eggs, bacon, gravy and biscuits scented the morning air. They all sat together as a family, enjoying their meal and small talk.
“Desi, your daddy tells me you’ve chosen Sim State for college?”
She nodded and finished chewing a bite of eggs. “Yeah, for what they offer, it’s the best option. I won’t have to spend longer than three years there with the work credits they’re offering me.”
“I was going to attend Sim State at one point. Then I didn’t.”
Destiny cocked her head and looked at Fran. This was news to her. “Why didn’t you, Mama?”
Fran set her fork down and took a sip of coffee. “My daddy died when I was your age, Desi. My mama and I struggled for years, and college was never an option after he died.”
“I’m so sorry, Mama, I didn’t know!” Destiny got up from the table, walked to where Fran sat, and wrapped her in a hug. “I can’t imagine how much that hurt.”
“It’s okay, sweet pea. That’s why we want you to go to college, even though you‘d rather start your career right away. You’ll have your degree to fall back on. The music business is tough, Desi, but making your way in this world without an education…” Fran sighed. “You don’t want to end up back in the Plains, working on a farm for the rest of your life. You are meant for something bigger than existing here.”
“I thought you loved it here, Mama?”
“Oh, I do, Destiny. And I wouldn’t do a single thing different. But I know you won’t be content to live your life here in the Plains. You are your daddy’s daughter, sweetheart. I know you want to make a difference. I believe you will, too.”
Destiny stood with her empty breakfast plate and carried it to the kitchen. “I have little time before Polly gets here. She’s driving us to school today. I know you’re going to want a picture.”
Fran nodded and smiled. “I do, sweet pea. One with your daddy, and one by yourself.”
“Come here, Daddy,” Destiny said in a sing-song tone. They posed together for Fran to snap a photo, and then she took one of Destiny alone. Pleased with the result, she showed them first to Charlie, and then to Destiny. She wrinkled her nose and made a raspberry.
“That’s a terrible picture of me!”
“Oh, it is not!” Fran said, laughing. “You’re beautiful.”
Polly, who arrived during the photo shoot, knocked on the door. “Des? Are you ready?” Fran waved her in.
“Come pose with Destiny for a picture, Polly!” Fran said. The best friends embraced with big smiles as Fran snapped the picture. “Oh, now that’s a picture we’re going to frame!” Destiny looked and rolled her eyes.
“Come on, Polly, before she takes any more awful pictures of me!” The girls giggled while Destiny hugged both Fran and Charlie. “I’ll be home right after school!”
“Good luck!” Fran and Charlie said in unison.
Destiny and Polly entered the school together, giggling, while they walked to their lockers. Destiny felt a tap on her shoulder. When she turned around, she saw a face she didn’t recognize.
“You’re Destiny Farmer, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” was her simple answer.
“I saw you at the festival, and I thought you were awesome.” He stuck his hand out for her to shake. “I’m Austin.”
With beach blond hair, crystal blue eyes and a muscular build, Destiny was dumbstruck that he was even talking to her. “I’m Destiny,” she said, and then giggled. “But you already know that.”
“I’m new at the school. I was hoping you might show me around?”
Polly nudged her and whispered into her ear. “He’s cute! Go ahead, and I’ll catch up with you in second period language class.”
Destiny, having her best friend’s approval—as though she truly needed it—nodded her head. “Sure, Austin. I think I’d like that.” He reached for her hand; she blushed but felt butterflies in her stomach. “So, where are you from?”
Hand in hand, they began their stroll down the main corridor, through the mathematics and science wings. “We moved here from Sunlit Tides after the school year was over. My dad is in the Army, and this is his new post.”
“My daddy is retired from the Army. He’s been through a lot.”
Austin stopped in his tracks. Now it makes sense. “Your dad is Charlie Farmer?”
“Yeah, how did you know?”
“His survival stories are legendary in military circles. He’s a pretty big deal in the Army.”
“He’s a pretty big deal to us, too.” Destiny beamed with pride. “Do you have any brothers or sisters?”
Austin nodded. “I’m the youngest. My siblings stayed behind in Sunlit Tides because they’re settled into their careers. My oldest brother is getting married next year, so I’m hoping to go back for that.” He squeezed her hand. “How about you?”
“No, I’m it. But we have a horse on our farm. I guess she’s the only sister I’ll ever have.”
“You’re cute,” Austin said with a smile. “So, are you going to college after grad, Destiny?”
“Mmhmm,” she said. “I’ve been accepted to Sim State already, and I’ve been working toward an accelerated program with college credits.”
“Wow, that’s impressive. I haven’t even started looking at colleges yet.”
“Are you considering Sim State?”
“To be honest, I’m not sure. I haven’t thought about it much. I think my dad wants me to follow in his footsteps.” He gave Destiny a shy smile. “I don’t want to sound forward, but…” Austin paused to gather his thoughts. “I’d love to take you on a date. Are you free tonight?”
Destiny blushed deep red. “I am, but my mama might not let me go. She’s pretty strict. Can I tell you a secret?”
“Secrets already, huh?” Austin chuckled. “Sure.”
“I’m only sixteen.”
“And you’re a senior?”
“Now I’m really impressed. I’ll be eighteen in the spring. In May, just before graduation.”
“My seventeenth is in December, just before Snowflake Day.”
“Oh, so you’re only a few months younger. I don’t feel so bad now!” he teased. “I’m serious, though. If your mom will let you, I’d love to take you for a burger downtown tonight.” He wrote his phone number on a slip of paper and handed it to Destiny. “If you can go, call me. And if you can’t, call me anyway.” He squeezed her hand, and they held onto each other until distance broke their grasp. Destiny collected herself and scurried off to her first period class.
Polly stood outside Destiny’s first period classroom, waiting to walk with her to their next class. And, of course, she wanted the scoop on the hunky boy interested in her best friend. Destiny walked through the door, and Polly grabbed her arm.
“Okay, girl, spill your guts.”
Destiny laughed. “There really isn’t much to tell, except…” she stopped and looked around, making sure they were alone. “He wants to take me on a date tonight!”
“Ooh! What’s your mom going to say?”
“That remains to be seen.” Destiny wrinkled her nose. “But I’m hoping she’ll tell me I can. He’s only a year older than me. It shouldn’t be THAT big of a deal.”
Polly giggled. “We shall see!”
Snowflake Day Holiday
Destiny and Austin had been dating since the school year began. Though she tried to fit into the young couple’s lives, Polly fell by the wayside for the first time since she and Destiny became friends.
On the day before Snowflake Day, Destiny invited him to the house to exchange gifts. She sat in her bedroom—Fran and Charlie both required that she keep her door wide open—while she got her guitar and songbook from her bookcase. Austin knocked at the front door, and Fran welcomed him inside.
“She’s in her room. You can go right on up.” There was something about Austin that Fran really liked, something that reminded her of Charlie when they were both that age.
Austin knocked on Destiny’s door and then peeked his head inside. “Anyone home?” he joked. Destiny waved him in.
“Come in,” she said. She had her guitar around her neck, and her favorite chair set up. “I wanted to sing for you because I didn’t know what else to give you.” She strummed her guitar and cleared her throat. “Are you comfy?”
“Yep!” He sat cross-legged on the floor and leaned back on his hands.
She played the opening riff of a pretty ballad, one she had written especially for Austin. As she sang the words, as her fingers plucked the strings of the instrument, Austin’s eyes welled with tears. He sat and listened to each note and hung on her every word, swaying with the music and in awe of her talent. When she finished, she set the guitar on her bed and joined him on the floor.
“Des, that was beautiful.” She’d never seen him get emotional; his reaction to it was natural and raw. Never had he heard anything as beautiful, and it touched him deeply.
“Thank you. I was hoping you’d like it.”
“I loved it.” A smile pulled his face. “Now, it’s your turn.” He dug into his jacket pocket, pulled out a small box, and handed it to Destiny. “Happy Snowflake Day, Des.”
She tore the paper from the outside of the box and opened it. Inside sat a smaller box, clamshell-type made of crushed velvet. She took the clamshell from the box and studied it. She’d never seen one like it before.
“Are you going to open it, or make me suffer?” His eyes danced with mischief.
“I should go slower just to make you wait!” Destiny giggled.
He laughed and grabbed the box from her hands. “Oh, give it to me!” He paused for a moment and laughed. “Close your eyes.”
“Just do it, Des. Please?”
She feigned exasperation and huffed. “Okay.”
Austin got to his knees and sat back on his heels, took the box and opened it. A soft creak from the hinge squeaked; he noticed her ears straining to hear. When he was ready, he said, “Open your eyes.”
Destiny’s eyes opened, and her mouth fell agape, too. Inside the box sat a ring crafted from silver with two heart-shaped stones set within; one was emerald green, the other crystal blue.
“It’s our birthstones, Des. Green for mine, and blue for yours. I know we can’t get married, or even engaged because we’re too young, and our careers might take us down different paths. But this ring signifies a promise to you, Destiny. Someday, I want us to be together forever. I love you.” It was the first time Austin had uttered those words to Destiny.
She wiped tears of joy from her eyes. “I love you, too! Thank you, so very much.”
Together they sat, drinking cocoa that Fran brought to them, holding one another.
The next morning was Snowflake Day. Fran awakened to the aroma of fresh coffee that wafted up the staircase. She gazed over at the space next to her, where Charlie slept in peace. He’d put in a rough night fighting a nose bleed; they were both tired, but Fran needed to get up. She leaned to kiss his cheek. “Happy Snowflake Day,” she whispered into his ear before she covered him.
Destiny was up singing along with the holiday music on the radio, sipping her first cup of coffee, when Fran’s feet hit the bottom step. “Good morning, Destiny. Happy Snowflake Day!”
Destiny yawned. “Good morning Mama. Happy Snowflake Day. How is Daddy today?”
“He’s still asleep, sweet pea. He had a rough night last night.”
Fran flopped into Charlie’s recliner and sighed. “He had a bad nosebleed. It didn’t stop for hours.”
Destiny wrinkled her nose. “Let him sleep, then. Gifts can wait.”
“Yes, but coffee can’t.” Fran laughed as she got up to pour herself a cup.
They sat together and talked for a while until Fran noticed Destiny’s new ring. She picked up her daughter’s hand and admired it. “Did Austin give this to you? It’s lovely.”
Destiny nodded. “He said it was a promise ring.” She cringed; Destiny was never sure how her mother would interpret things. What came from Fran’s mouth next surprised her.
“Remember how we talked about relationships and keeping yourself for your future husband, Desi?”
Destiny covered her face with her hand. “Yes…?”
Fran sipped her coffee. “Now that you and Austin are in a committed relationship, it doesn’t give you license to pursue a physical relationship with him. You’re much too young for that, Destiny.”
Destiny squirmed uncomfortably. We’ve already had this talk, Mama! She thought. “I know, Mama. I’m not interested in that yet. You don’t have to worry about me.”
“Good.” Fran set her coffee cup down on the side table, her fingers twirling a length of hair around them. After a few awkward moments, she stood. “I’m going to wake your daddy.”
Destiny shook her head. “You don’t have to, Mama. Let him sleep. I’ll get dressed and feed Sweetie.”
Fran walked to the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, and gathered items to make Charlie’s favorite breakfast. When Destiny returned, the biscuits were cooling on a rack, and the gravy was nearly finished.
“Sweet pea, would you wake Daddy and help him downstairs for breakfast?” Another pot of coffee was brewing; Fran had polished off the rest of the first pot by herself.
“Sure.” Destiny walked up the steps to the master bedroom. Charlie was already awake and halfway out of bed. “Good morning, Daddy,” she said.
“Good morning, Desi. Happy Snowflake Day.” He held his arms open for her and hugged her. “Is that your mama’s cooking I smell down there?”
Destiny nodded. “She made your favorite.”
“Ah, good!” He stepped into his slippers and reached for Destiny’s arm. “Mind helping your old man down the stairs this morning?”
“I’d love to, Daddy.” She kissed his cheek before they started down the steps. She walked in back of him with a tight grip on his belt.
The three of them sat for breakfast. Fran realized this would be their last holiday as a family before Destiny went to college. And though she would return home for Snowflake Day the following year, it wouldn’t be the same.
Everything was going well until Charlie saw Destiny’s new ring. He reached for her hand and studied it. “Where’d you get this pretty ring, Desi?”
She blushed, and she prayed Charlie would take the news well, minus the talk about the birds and the bees. “Austin gave it to me yesterday.”
Fran nodded at him and raised her eyebrow. “It’s a promise ring.”
Charlie liked the young man who called on his daughter. “Well, sweet pea, I’m happy for you! It’s beautiful, and he has good taste.”
“The stones are our birthstones, Daddy. Mine is blue, his is the green one.” She showed off the ring under the lights until the gems sparkled.
“Well, it’s beautiful. That Austin is a good boy. I like him.”
“That’s because you sit and talk about Army stuff,” Fran chuckled. “We should have had him and his dad over for dinner. But I suppose it’s just as well.”
“They were going to spend it on the base,” Destiny said. “His dad was handing out toys to less fortunate kids today. He was dressing up like Father Winter.”
Charlie remembered fondly the guys who stayed on base to take part every year. He never got the opportunity, something he regretted. “He’s fortunate to have walked into that role his first year at this post. There was always a waiting list.”
Destiny cleaned up the kitchen while Charlie and Fran sat by the fireplace, each holding a cup of coffee. Fran looked at her beloved husband, wondering if this would be his last holiday. He looked tired and worn, but he was enjoying the day. Good enough, she thought.
They gathered around the tree and opened gifts. Everything they bought for Destiny was something she would need at college: sheets, towels, a new cell phone, a small coffee maker for her late night studying, and a capo for her guitar from Charlie.
Fran had already decided not to bother with a traditional meal, so they sat around the fireplace talking and reminiscing about holidays past. Destiny held up her finger and ran up the stairs. “What’s gotten into her?” Fran said, thinking out loud.
“Knowing her, she’s going to try out the capo. I hope what I got was what she wanted.” Charlie sat back in his chair, resting his head and eyes. “I don’t think I’ll last much longer, sweetheart. I’m tired.”
She reached to stroke his cheek. “I know, love. And it’s okay if you take it easy today. I’m not cooking a big supper.”
Minutes later, Destiny bounded down the steps with her guitar. She set it down on the floor behind her and cuddled up next to Charlie’s legs on the floor. “I want to sing a song, Daddy. Maybe it will help you feel better?”
“It couldn’t hurt, sweet pea. And you know I love to hear you sing. Anything particular in mind today?”
She shook her head. “No. I thought I’d make up the words as I go along today. Is that okay?”
He smiled and reached to stroke Destiny’s hair. “It will be perfect.”
She was going to pick up her guitar and play a few notes, but instead, she listened to the pops and hissing coming from the hearth as the wood crackled and burned. She hummed along with the syncopated rhythm that emanated from within the fire, tapping her legs like the drum set at school.
Daddy and me by the fireplace
Curled up together, tapping my drum
Sitting close beside him by the fireplace
Listen to the hissing and the popping thrum
Of the fireplace, so bright and warm
The fire flickers, so we can see
The flames of the fireplace
The place we all want to be
Daddy and Mama by the fireplace
Curled up together, he’s kissin’ her nose
She’s sitting right beside him by the fireplace
Gotta be careful, don’t get too close
To the fireplace, so bright and warm
The fire flickers, so we can see
The flames of the fireplace
The place we all want to be
When she finished singing, she blushed. “I’m sorry, Daddy. That wasn’t my best work.”
“What was wrong with that, sweetheart? I thought it was a cute little song.”
“That’s all that matters,” she said. “As long as you like it, Daddy, I do, too.”
He reached down and patted her shoulders. “Desi, I love that you sing to me because it lifts my spirits. I love you to the moon and back.”
“I love you too, Daddy.”
“I’m going to go nap upstairs,” he said and stood.
“Do you need help, Charlie?” Fran asked, ready to assist at his request.
“No, darling. I’ll be okay.” He walked to the staircase and held the banister as he climbed. Fran heard him mutter, “I’m too old for this,” as he hit the top step, and she chuckled.
Later that evening, Fran sat alone in the living room. Destiny was asleep, and Charlie was laying down. Whether he slept was a mystery to her. He’d become an insomniac of late, and she never knew if he was pacing the floor or knocked out cold.
The fire was winding down to its last embers, and when she peered outside the window, she noticed snow falling at a gentle pace. She rocked in her chair, peaceful and content, a length of increasingly gray hair wrapped around her finger. This moment was the first she’d had to herself—no interruptions or demands for her time—in a very long time, and she was relishing the quiet.
The radio played one of her favorite songs: “Silent Night.” As she listened, her mind drifted back to the past—the last holiday with her father, Jake. Had she known, she would have done all she could to make it special. Tears flowed from her eyes, now faced with another uncertainty. Would this be Charlie’s last holiday? And if it was, did she do everything she could to make it memorable?
“… sleep in heavenly peace. Sleep in heavenly peace.” The song’s last words echoed in her mind. “I miss you, Daddy,” Fran whispered into the still of the night. “And I miss you, Mama. Happy Snowflake Day.”
The fire burned out so only embers remained; she cooled the warm spots with a splash of water, turned out the lights, and walked upstairs to bed to the man she couldn’t live without.
Five Months Later
Tap. Tap. Tap. Charlie’s ring made the heavy, metallic clink on the arm of his wheelchair as they sat in Dr. Bennett’s office. Fran sat beside him with worry sitting heavy on her heart. Tap. Tap. Tap —
“Stop clanging that damned ring!” she snapped, and then cringed. “I’m sorry, love. I guess I’m on edge.”
“We’re both on edge, darling. I can’t take much more bad news.”
She understood the statement. Since Snowflake Day that year, Charlie’s health had deteriorated. Now it was May, and with Fran’s insistence, he sat, waiting for the appointment that would confirm what they both suspected: his cancer had returned.
The doctor entered the room, holding test results from his most recent blood work. “Hi Charlie, hello Fran,” she greeted them. The doctor observed their faces, dreading what she had to tell them. She sat at the desk and opened Charlie’s folder.
“Hi doc,” Charlie said. “I know it’s been a while since I’ve been back here—”
“I don’t mean to be rude, Charlie, but your non-compliance has made my job much more difficult. Why did you cancel your last appointment back in…” she checked his chart for appointment information. “… December?”
“Well, you know with the holidays and all—” he began. Fran cut him off.
“He wasn’t feeling well, and he didn’t want bad news around the holiday.” Charlie scowled at her.
“When did you begin using the wheelchair?”
“Um… last month? Frannie?”
Fran nodded. “Yes. April. He can’t walk more than just a few feet. He’s out of breath so much, standing is difficult for him.”
The doctor closed his patient folder. “You know you’re going to need another PET, Charlie. This time, I don’t expect a good report.”
Though the news was expected, it hit like a ton of bricks. “When can we do the testing?” Fran asked.
Her demeanor softened. “As soon as possible would be best, Fran. If we’re not beyond a certain point, we could force the lymphoma back into remission. But it will take some powerful treatments, Charlie. It will be hard on your body, so the decision would be yours alone.”
Charlie nodded. “Whatever it takes. I need to survive. My little girl is going off to college. I don’t want her to delay her life for me.”
“I understand better than you think,” Dr. Bennett said. “My father died of cancer years ago, before we had breakthrough treatments like these. I’d give anything to have more time with him.”
Charlie wore a solemn expression. “I’m keenly aware of how hard that must have been.”
“He’s why I became a doctor. I wanted to give families more time with their loved ones. You might be in a better position if we’d kept you on track.” She rose to her feet. “We’ll get this scan scheduled right away, and I’ll call you with the results.”
“Sounds good,” Fran said. “Thank you, Dr. Bennett.”
After the doctor left the room, Charlie sat silent in his chair. “I’m sorry, Frannie. I should have been more proactive.”
“What’s done is done, love. We can only move forward from here and pray the treatments work.” He unlocked the wheels on the chair and pushed himself forward enough for her to get behind it. “Let’s go home.”
Charlie only nodded.
Since his condition had deteriorated, Paul and Jenny moved the bed from the master suite to the sitting room off the living room. Fran hung a curtain across the door for their privacy, doing her best to make it feel like a bedroom, and not a makeshift hospital room. It was necessary, because Charlie no longer had the strength to climb the stairs, nor could he navigate them safely.
Five days later, after the scan was completed, a phone call from the doctor’s office confirmed what Dr. Bennett had suspected: the lymphoma was back and had worsened. Destiny was working across the street for a concert; Fran and Charlie had the house to themselves.
He laid on his side, his back turned from Fran, hoping to hide his emotions from her. A deep, ragged sigh hissed from his mouth as he turned onto his back. “I’m so sick of feeling sick, Frannie.”
“Have you decided how to proceed?” She reached for his hand and held it.
“What choice do I have, darling? I have to fight this with every ounce of strength. For her.”
“You know we have to tell her.”
Charlie wiped tears from his eyes. “I don’t want to. She’s just months away from college. What if she backs out?”
“We can’t give her that option. We just enforce it. She’ll be home for Snowflake Day.”
“What if…” Charlie’s voice caught in his throat. “What if I’m not here for Snowflake Day?”
“You will be. You have to fight like this is the biggest mission of your life, Charlie, because it is. And you know I’ll be by your side.” She snuggled up to him, his arm wrapped around her. “I love you. We’re in this together.”
“Frannie, on her graduation day, Destiny said that I deserved better than this. But she was wrong. It’s you who deserves better, my darling. You’ve suffered so much more than I have with everything I’ve put you through.”
“Shush,” Fran said, her finger on his lips. “This isn’t a contest, babe. You don’t deserve the hand you’ve been dealt at every turn. Your leg, the deployments, the lymphoma. Especially the lymphoma. Charlie, you’ve sacrificed so much.” She kissed his fingers with a smile. “I’m honored that I’m the one you chose as your life partner.”
He looked at her with love in his heart. “Frannie, you were always my first choice. I loved you from the first moment I saw you. Our breakups when we were kids? Those were just setbacks. Even your father couldn’t stop our destiny.”
She grinned at his choice of words. “He’d love our Destiny now.”
“That’s one thing he and I will have in common.”
“What’s that, Charlie?”
“Not living long enough to see grandchildren. You don’t know how much that grieves me, sweetheart.”
“No more talking like that tonight. We’re going to fight this. Dr. Bennett thinks we can push it back. I’m hanging my hope on her words.” She kissed his cheek.
“I hope you’re right, my sweet Frannie. Oh, I hope you’re right.”
Destiny’s room was packed up, everything she was taking to Sim State with her sat in boxes, ready to go. Fran helped her with the last of her clothes; together, they zipped her overstuffed suitcase.
Destiny slid off the bed onto her feet; Fran pulled her close and clung to her. “This can’t be happening, Desi. You’re still my baby.” Fran wept on Destiny’s shirt. “How did you become so grown up? Yesterday, I was teaching you to say ‘Daddy.’ Today, you’re a high school graduate, and tomorrow, a college student.”
She held Fran in a firm embrace. “I don’t know, Mama.”
Fran pulled away from her daughter and took her by the shoulders, looking straight into her amethyst-colored eyes. “Always remember how much we love you. Remember everything we taught you. And never forget where you’re from. No matter where life takes you, always remember these three things, Destiny. Promise me.”
“I promise. But you know, I’ll be home for Snowflake Day, Mama. This isn’t goodbye.”
“I know. But your daddy and I aren’t promised tomorrow. I just wanted to say my peace before you spread your wings and fly away from us, Destiny.”
Tears came for both of them, and they flowed freely. “I will call you every night after I get back to my dorm. After supper. Okay, Mama?”
Fran nodded and released her grip on Destiny. “Every night.”
A few minutes more, and Destiny collected herself. “I need to get these things downstairs. Time is running out.” Unable to assist her, Fran walked down the steps to Charlie.
The new treatments worked for Charlie as he regained strength. He used the wheelchair for long walks or when he was very fatigued; their bedroom remained on the bottom floor of the house. He was in his recliner when Destiny carried the first bunch of boxes downstairs.
“You really are a strong little girl, Destiny,” he said. “But be careful on those steps.”
“Don’t worry, Daddy, I’m always careful.” She blew him a kiss, then returned to retrieve the last few items.
With everything ready to go, the three of them sat in silence. Charlie hated they weren’t able to take her to Sim State themselves, that she had to fly alone. This isn’t how it’s supposed to go, he thought. He hated he was too sick to share special moments with her. He watched every move she made, noticing how much of Fran lived within her. Her mannerisms, her nervous tics… those she got from her mother.
Jenny pulled up outside the house a bit earlier than Destiny expected, but she walked in with a camera in her hand. “Family photo time!” she announced, and gathered everyone in front of the fireplace; Fran on one side, Charlie on the other, making a Destiny sandwich. Jenny grinned when she looked at the photo, and then declared she needed ‘just one more!’ The family faked smiles and cheerful faces until it was time to leave. That’s when Fran fell apart.
“Remember what we talked about, Destiny,” she said with great sorrow. “I love you.”
Charlie joined in the chorus. “Give ‘em hell, baby girl.”
Jenny helped Destiny carry her bags to the car while Fran helped Charlie down the steps and to the mailbox. The last goodbyes were painful for them; their hearts ached to watch their baby girl leave the nest. Fran never would have confessed to Destiny. She had her own life to live.
Destiny gave Fran one last hug and a kiss. “Don’t worry. You raised me well, and I’m ready for this. I’ll call you tonight when I get in.”
Charlie held Fran as they watched their daughter get into Jenny’s car. Destiny rolled down the windows and shouted, ‘I love you’, waving as they drove away.
He looked at his beautiful wife, trembling in his arms. “She’s going to be okay, darling,” he said, a gentle hug and a kiss on her forehead.
“Why does this hurt so much, Charlie? She was supposed to stay little forever…”
“Honey, you knew this day would come. But I’d hoped we could have made a road trip out of bringing her to college. Instead, we’re dealing with this… cancer.”
“Let’s get you inside before I can’t help you up the stairs.” She took his arm, and together, they walked to the house.
Step by step, Fran and Charlie made their way up the stairs. He was out of breath by the time they reached the top, but sheer determination saw him to his recliner, into which he fell. A sigh of relief escaped his mouth, and he closed his eyes. “I’m getting too old for this, Frannie.”
She sat in the rocking chair beside him, weeping for everything they were missing. Their little bird had spread her wings and flown away.
Charlie’s condition had steadily worsened since Destiny’s departure for school. He’d had blood tests and a CT scan, as recommended by Dr. Bennett. Fran and Charlie sat in the doctor’s office, awaiting the results of the scan and blood tests.
Neither of them spoke; they held hands in silence, listening to the ticking of the wall clock. A gentle rap on the door startled Charlie, and he jumped a foot, nudging his wheelchair forward a bit.
“Hi, folks,” Dr. Bennett said. She shook their hands and took her seat at the desk. “Charlie, I’m afraid I don’t have good news for you.”
“I figured as much,” he said. “I’ve been feeling rotten.”
“The treatments aren’t working anymore, and we’re out of options. There is nothing more we can do for you.”
Fran felt her eyes swell with tears. “What kind of time do we have?”
Dr. Bennett bowed her head. “Months, maybe two or three? We have no way to slow the progression anymore. I’m so sorry.”
Charlie sat expressionless. “Destiny is due home for the holidays. Am I going to make it?”
“I hope so, for her sake.”
The news was devastating for them. “Well, I guess I don’t need to follow up again, do I?” Charlie said.
Dr. Bennett shook her head. “We can arrange for hospice care when you’re ready. They will keep you comfortable.”
“I’ll call when we’re ready,” Fran said and stood. “Thank you for everything, Dr. Bennett.”
“I’m sorry the news wasn’t better. I wish you both well.”
They said nothing more as they left the doctor’s office.
Fran got him into the car, put his wheelchair in the trunk and closed it. She leaned against the fender, inhaled, and walked to the car door. Charlie looked straight ahead, no expression on his face, no emotion shown. Together, they drove home in silence.
A half-hour later, when they were back home and in the house, Fran broke down in tears. “What do we tell Destiny?”
“We don’t until she comes home, or she’ll leave school and not go back. You know it’s true, Frannie. We can’t tell her.”
“We can’t keep withholding information from her! She has a right to know!” Fran’s sobs got louder.
“Please, honey. I will fight as hard as I can. I’m not dead yet. But she can’t leave school until the semester is over.” His eyes begged her. “Please…”
Fran sighed and shrugged. “I guess two more weeks won’t hurt.”
“Thank you, darling.”
The next day, a knock sounded at the front door. “Who is it?” Fran called out.
“Hospice,” the voice answered.
Fran gritted her teeth. I didn’t ask for you yet! She thought. “Coming!” She opened the door to a young woman in her thirties dressed in a skirt suit. “Hi,” Fran said while holding the door.
“Hi, you must be Fran?” She extended her hand to shake. “I’m Carol. Dr. Bennett referred you to my office. She mentioned you would call when you were ready, but I like to make introductions and inform you of the process pre-need, when it’s much less stressful.”
“Well, that makes sense. Charlie is resting in the other room.” She pointed to the sitting room, closed off by a curtain. “I’ll wake him.” She walked to his bedside and kissed his forehead. “Love, we have someone to see you.” When he was decent, Fran called Carol into the room with them.
“Hi, you must be Charlie,” Carol said. “I’m a hospice coordinator, and I meet with families pre-need, so you know what to expect, and what’s involved in our process. It’s nice to meet you.”
Charlie was less than impressed, but greeted her anyway. “Nice of you to come out,” he said. “So, are you doing an evaluation, or… what, exactly?”
“I’m here to evaluate your home, determine what equipment you might need and get those things for you.” Carol studied Fran’s form. There was no way one thin little lady who looked weak herself could manage his care alone. “I’m going to suggest we start palliative care within the week. We can transition once we reach that point. Our primary aim is to keep you comfortable, Charlie. Our nurses can be on duty for up to forty hours a week, depending on what your greatest needs are.” Carol scribbled something into a notebook. “We’ll bring in equipment for you and turn this room into a safe, comfortable place.”
Fran breathed a sigh of relief. No longer would she have to worry about whether he was getting adequate care. “That sounds nice. What do you think, Charlie?”
“I suppose so. None of this has sunk in yet. I’m still numb.”
Carol took his hand and patted it. “That’s a normal reaction to getting this type of news. We’ll be here to support you and Fran in any way we can.”
“Thank you,” Fran said.
Carol finished her evaluation and left the farmhouse. Fran felt a sense of relief wash over her. But Charlie felt hopeless. She sensed his discomfort and sat down next to his wheelchair, his hand in hers.
“What’s bothering you, love?”
“I know it’s something, Charlie. Please be open with me? We only have each other.”
“It’s just that…” He stopped and sighed. “I’m not ready to give up, but I feel like you are. Carol is, Dr. Bennett is. Frannie, why should I fight if everyone’s given up on me?”
Fran looked straight into Charlie’s eyes. “I will NEVER give up on you. Do you understand me? Never…” She swallowed hard, trying to push the almost constant lump of emotion back into the pit of her gut. “Charlie, you are my life, and I can’t live without you. I’m fighting with you until the very end.”
“I’m happy to hear you say that, darling.”
She sat with him and took his hands. “Babe, I will never abandon you, and I won’t give up. But I need to take care of myself, too. I haven’t eaten right since Destiny left for school. I have given everything I have, and I don’t have much left. That’s why I welcome this help. I won’t have to worry about how I can’t take care of you like you need.”
Charlie felt guilty for being a burden to her. “Oh Frannie, I am ashamed of myself for putting such strain on you, with no consideration for what you need. I should be pampering and spoiling you…” He hadn’t processed his emotions since the doctor’s appointment the previous day, and they were winning. “My gosh, Frannie, I’m going to die.” He leaned forward and buried his face in his hands. “I can’t escape it. At this point, I’ll be lucky to see Snowflake Day and our daughter’s eighteenth birthday…”
“We have to fight this together and pray with everything we have, Charlie. We have only prayer left. He has never let us down before.” She knelt beside his chair and tried to comfort him the best she could.
“I have to see Desi one more time, Frannie. I can’t break that little girl’s heart before her birthday. I won’t!” His ragged sobs destroyed her.
“You will see her, Charlie. I believe it. Believe it with me, okay? You have to be strong. We need to fight.”
He wiped tears from his eyes. “What if I don’t have enough fight for one more round?”
“Charlie, you’re the strongest man I know. You can do it.”
“With you, Frannie, I can move mountains.”
“That’s the man I know and love,” she said and squeezed his hand. Together, they sat, watching the flickering in the fireplace, counting the moments until Destiny came home. The time couldn’t pass quickly enough.
Pose Credits – Cover Photo
Custom Content – Cover Photo
Around The Sims 3
Sims 4 to 3 Hospital Conversion
The Farmer Legacy
Hospital Patient Room Whiteboard
Mod The Sims
Hospital Set by Hekate999
The Sims Resource
Hospital Paperwork and Tests by metisqueen
I apologize for the lack of screenshots for this chapter. Due to time constraints, they were not possible to do well. When I have time, I will update nineteen and twenty with pictures!
Thank you for your understanding!