Florence stirred in her bed. She had thrown up several times in Ellis’ truck and although Ellis was dismayed by the act of having to sanitize his floorboards, he calmly helped Florence out of the vehicle and into their loft. The sound of sniffing forced Florence to open her eyes. “What, my sweetheart?” She ran her fingers over the fur around Roux’s head. Roux was a seven year old boxer who was the epicenter to Ellis and Florence’s lives. Laying next to her as a concerned brother would lay next to his sister, Roux nestled his body and nose closer and closer to Florence until he could not any more. Florence smiled and moved herself to be a cocoon around the animal. His fawn coat was so perfectly placed on his body, with white spots and white socks. His eyes were encased in perfect black circles of fur. He was a beautiful being and more like a person, than “just a dog”.
After falling back asleep, suddenly Florence was moved by Roux jumping up to the sound of Ellis coming back in. Florence groaned as her muscles burned. Her joints felt inflamed and hard to move. Her head felt heavy and the pillow had offered little support. She had not drank in a very long time. This must be what a hangover feels like.
Florence dragged herself out of bed to walk to the living room. She tried to be graceful, but this was short lived, as she used her hands to follow the walls down the hallway. As soon as Florence saw the couch, a burst of energy filled Florence’s back and chest to propel her to the couch’s cushions. Ellis laughed behind her from the bar in the kitchen.
“Oh, I didn’t see you there!” She smiled. To laugh would have taken all her energy completely.
Florence tried to turn around and as she twisted her body, Florence saw black air and heard nothing else. Florence fell into the couch.
“Ok, let’s get started.” The male nurse tied off her arm with the blue elastic band. Florence’s arm started to throb. She gulped and tried to swallow the feeling to cry. No tears. She felt the IV catheter enter the crease of her elbow and Florence cringed. She hated needles. She did not hate them for the pain, but for the idea that something foreign was entering her body. Florence felt the saline, a cold sensation rush through her arm and in her mouth, she tasted the familiar medicinal flavor.
“You’re all hooked up! I’ll be back to check on you shortly. ” Before Florence realized, there was medicine from a machine being pumped into her veins and the male nurse was leaving the small, private room. Ellis had opted to wait in the reception area.
Hmmmmm. Psh. Hmmmmm. The machine pumping medicine breathed in, breathed out, released medicine, and continued the cycle again. She remembered her grandfather. The machine was familiar and sounded similar to the silver cylinder oxygen machine he was required to use. Hmmmmm. Psh. Hmmmmm. She had also heard this sound when her grandmother frequented the hospital before… Florence shook the thought. Florence thought of how she couldn’t let negative thoughts breed in her mind. It would only keep her down is what her oncologist had explained.
The mental services, as Florence called them, were offered to Florence in the beginning. However, Florence simply had asked, “Can you just give me some advice on how to handle this?” to the sixty-year-old doctor. This particular doctor was not surprised, as in his twenty year practice, denial was the first step. However, Florence was not in denial, she was moving to the place she was required to be.
Florence’s pattern of thought as she waited in the small brown room moved to her mother. Jane knew about Florence’s condition but had not quite comprehended the magnitude of Florence’s state. Florence did not want certain people involved, and sadly, this meant her mother. In Florence’s mind, Jane was fragile and could easily be broken. Instead, Florence had told her mother about the infusions but had clearly left out the chemotherapy option and the stage of her cancer. There were technical words that only Ellis understood when Florence was initially told, which helped Florence feign ignorance when Jane fired questions on random phone calls.
Back to I’m sorry. This was meant for one person, Florence’s husband, Ellis. She had torn his heart from the inside out, and had he deserved it? In her opinion, no. He also didn’t hold it over her head, he didn’t remind her of those months they barely spoke, and in her ultimate opinion, he defined the word “saint”. She didn’t idolize him, or worship him. She didn’t think he walked on water, and she didn’t make him the center of her life. She simply appreciated him and was grateful for him, because he gave that same loyalty to others she did. Florence Bailey may have acted picture-perfect, and been admired by others around her, but “pictures are worth a thousand words”, as most said. Florence Bailey was an absolute mess and Ellis loved her beyond her chaos.
Drama. It consumed Florence’s life. It was what her mother lived for, what her family knew, and in due course, something she created sometimes. This was never intentional. However, Florence’s idea of intentions was this: Intentions were useless, it’s the results that matter. She felt that her cloud loomed above and she accepted it with grace. Her cloud included, but was not limited to: simply put, loss.
“ Flor, what are you thinking about?” Ellis watched Florence’s gray eyes fixated on the ceiling in front of them.
“Oh!” Catching herself, Florence tried her best to recover. Here eyes always watered when she stared into the space in front of her. She never really fixated on a specific item or view when doing this. She would follow wherever her mind led her in that moment. “Nothing. Just tired.”
“Are you feeling okay?” Ellis tried to skirt around the question he was asking.
“No, today’s a bad day.” Florence was weak and didn’t like to talk about it, as much as Ellis hated asking it. The simple fact was, Florence had cancer.
Florence Bailey was nearing 30 years of age. She stood at an average height for a younger woman, although she was reminded the “younger” would soon be removed before “woman” daily by her mother. Her thin frame made her the envy of most women who would pass her or those she knew, thin legs with the perfect thigh gap that everyone talked about online. She had survived this long as this thin, bony person, so to be the envy was just fine. Why change it now? Her dark coffee-colored hair heightened the vastness of her greenish gray eyes. She worked hard to be the model of a dignified southern lady daily. She always wore her jewelry just so and ensured her makeup was done faultlessly. She wondered often what she would look like without Youtube.com and Pinterest.com; being raised by a mother who was slightly there during her pubescent years didn’t give her guidance on these things. These were her examples for makeup, how to dress, and how to carry one’s self in a corporate atmosphere. She worked in a corporate suite and she just realized there were others who didn’t just envy her, they looked to her for guidance. They admired her. God was the only one who knew Florence was absolutely shaken by this.
Florence Bailey seemed happy for the most part. As she thought of it, she was covertly struggling. It wasn’t visible and would not be. Who would not struggle after her previous year? Apparently, not Florence. When her grandmother died, she admitted to only her walls effortlessly that she had, in fact, mentally checked out. Stopped caring, stopped participating unless asked. Appearances were everything to keep the façade going. If invited to anything, such as lunch or a night out with her friends, Florence went without hesitation and acted excited. She would laugh, smile, say everything was fine, and sometimes even hint that she was excited about life. No one realized she tried not to get involved unless asked.
I’m sorry. It sounded so insincere and her voice crackled. I’m sorry? She tried saying it again, but seemed to question it. It sounded unsure. I’m sorry! It sounded frustrated. Hell, she was frustrated. I’m sorry. This she whispered and then suddenly Florence screamed at the bottom of her throat, aggravated with the apology she clearly would stumble through if, and when, she saw the person who needed the apology. What she must look like when no one was looking or when no one was around. She turned, embarrassed from the mirror. It is not fun for anyone to watch themselves being an idiot, alone, and in their own reflection. This was Florence Bailey, every morning for the past three years.