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Samina gaped at the doctor, unsure of what she heard. “W-what? Please, could you repeat that?”

Dr. Felicia Halliday regarded her with sympathy. “It’s just a first diagnosis. We’ll need to schedule an MRI immediately.”

She shook her head, her eyes welling up with tears. “No. It can’t be.”

“It’s too early to say, Samina.” Dr. Halliday’s brow wrinkled pensively. “An MRI results could verify my suspicions.”

Samina closed her eyes, fighting nausea and dizziness. “Verify what, that I have a pituitary disease?” She squeezed her fingers in her palms.

Dr. Halliday paused. She too hadn’t anticipated such a troubling diagnosis from a simple woman’s exam. But Samina complained of frequent lapses in memory, tingling in her limbs and an overwhelming sense of malaise. The symptoms were all too familiar, from a few patients who didn’t discover they had tumors until it was too late.

Samina shook her head in disbelief. First her job and now this, all before her 30th birthday.

“Don’t panic,” Dr. Halliday’s voice broke through Samina’s frantic thoughts. “I will recommend you to an endocrinologist here on staff.” She scribbled on a notepad and tore out the sheet of paper. “In fact, I’ll personally come with you when the appointments are made.”

Samina leaned back when the doctor extended the note. “Please, wait. I–” she summoned a breath and closed her eyes. Everything was moving too fast.

“I know this is tough to take in.” Dr. Halliday watched Samina slowly release her breath. “But we need to determine what this is before it becomes too serious and too late to treat.”

Her body quivered. Samina licked her dry lips and opened her eyes. “What if it is… a tumor, like you said?” Her stomach flipped over. “What if…”

Dr. Halliday sighed. “Let’s cross that bridge once we get there.” She extended the note. “First we visit the endocrinologist. Okay?”

Tongue-tied, Samina blindly reached for the offered note.

Minutes later, she stared listlessly at Dr. Halliday’s script on the paper, replaying her recommendation for the days following. Exercise, a good diet and meditation to eliminate all forms of stress.

She smiled bitterly. Even though she did Pilates twice a day and ate only veggies, there was nothing she could do to eliminate stress. Samina released a breath and pressed the button on the elevator panel.

The elevator slowed and a bell sounded as the doors slid open. Samina stiffened as her eyes fell on the man standing on the other side of the elevator.

Topher Chance.

His solemn gray-green eyes settled on her face and she quickly averted her gaze. As he entered the elevator, she pocketed the note and focused her eyes forward.

They rode the elevator in silence, although Samina could feel the weight of his eyes on her. She made no attempt to speak with him and neither did he.

Once the door slid open on the ground level, Topher shifted to allow Samina passage. In silence, Samina stepped around him and hurried across the lobby. Pausing at the sliding doors, she glanced over her shoulder to search for Topher.

He was nowhere to be found in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city hospital.

Samina’s eyes welled with tears as the realization of her condition hit her like a ton of bricks. She swiftly turned away and hurried out to the parking lot.

“Any updates yet?” Ezekiel asked over the phone that evening. He frowned when Sheena sighed over the phone. “Mom, what’s wrong?”

“Oh, it’s nothing…”

He raised a brow. “Mom.”

Sheena sniffed. “It’s not looking good for your dad’s aunt, Zeke. The doctors say there’s not much time left. Your dad’s a mess.”

“What’s the plan?”

“I don’t know.”

His brow furrowed. “You’re not going?”

“Zeke,” she said, fatigue dulling her voice. “You know we both can’t go.”

“You were close to Aunt Neve. You should go too.”

Sheena sniffed at tears. “I would like to be there but there’s no luck with a babysitter.”

Teeth clenched, Ezekiel turned to face his desk and scanned the messy, disorganized pile of scattered blueprints.  “What about Sam?”

“Samina?”

“Uh-hmm…” Ezekiel ignored the protest in his head that bringing up Samina was a bad idea.

His mother hesitated briefly before responding. “She’s not picking up her phone.”

Ezekiel’s lips pursed. Was Samina purposely avoiding him and his family? He shook his head, dispelling the thought. Samina was much too kind for that petty behavior. “Maybe she’s busy…” he mumbled, more for himself than for his mother.

“I’ll try again later. Anyway, I need to go.”

Ezekiel leaned back in his chair. “Hey Mom, if you can, please go with Dad. He’ll need you there. Even if I have to come—”

“Nonsense,” Sheena scoffed. “You just focus on your work.”

Ezekiel rolled his eyes.

“Thanks for calling, my dear.”

“Love you. Mom.” As a wave of despair washed over him, he rubbed the bridge of his nose.

In the shadows of her room, Samina sat on the floor by her bed with her duvet cover draped over her shoulder. She stared listlessly at the carpet, replaying Dr. Halliday’s diagnosis.

“It might just be a hormonal imbalance. Or a pituitary tumor.” 

Her body trembled and she slanted her gaze to the ceiling. “Is losing my life part of your plan too?” her voice quivered. She pulled the duvet covers tighter around her.

The phone she thought she’d misplaced vibrated under her bed. Samina breathed out a tremulous sigh and retrieved the phone. Her eyes widened at Ada’s name flashing on the screen and reluctantly clicked the green button to answer. “Hello…?”

“You, Samina Wells,” Ada answered in a stern voice. “Have a lot of explaining to do.”

“I’m sorry.” Samina’s lips trembled, aware that she’d forgotten something important. Again.

“Look, if you don’t want to do it, tell me.” Ada snorted. “It’s not like I’m forcing you to be my maid-of-honor. What gives with this irresponsibility?”

Samina clenched her jaw, forcing herself not to snap back at Ada. After all, she had no idea what a terrible day it was for her.

“Is it too much to ask my maid-of-honor to help with the invitations? Do I have to beg you and my fiancé to help me out?”

Samina sat frozen, the tears rolling down her cheeks.

“Are you even listening to me, Samina?” Ada seethed in frustration. “Everyone thinks this is a joke and now even my best friend has decided to take a break from being my best friend.”

Something snapped in her and Samina sat up. “Now wait a minute. Ada…”

“So now you can talk? Go ahead.” Ada jeered. “Do you know how many times have you skipped out on me this week alone?”

Samina summoned a staying breath, her temple throbbing fiercely. There was no reasoning with Ada when she was belligerent. “Let’s talk tomorrow. I’m too tired for your nonsense this evening.”

“Are you kidding—” the rest of Ada’s blustering cut off when Samina disconnected the call.

Clutching the phone, the tears fell unrestrained down her cheeks. Ada’s blistering words felt like a stinging slap on the face.  Ada’s accusation of her being irresponsible bruised her more than she thought possible after almost ten years of friendship.

Her phone rang again and provoked to righteous anger, Samina lifted the phone back to her ear. “For the last time, we’ll talk tomorrow. Leave me alone!”

The deafening static on the other end made her pause and she peered at the screen. Inhaling sharply, she pulled the phone back to her ear. “Aunt Sheena…”

“Um…” Sheena floundered.

Chagrined, Samina bit her bottom lip. “I’m sorry, I-I thought you were someone else.” She grimaced, replaying her snappy tone.

“It’s okay, ” Sheena said wearily. “I’m sorry for calling so late, dear.”

Samina frowned at the older woman’s stilted tone. “Is everything okay?”

“Oh, Sammie dear…” Sheena sighed. “I know we already discussed this and I really respect your decision, but I really, really need your help.”

An hour later, Samina paused at dropping a folded shirt into the duffel bag on her mattress.

Perching on the edge of the bed, she placed the shirt on her lap. “What am I doing?”

She’d already promised Karen that she would refuse the offer to babysit Ezekiel’s girls. She’d made up her mind to move on, leaving Ezekiel and his family to solve their own problems. So why had she offered to watch the girls while Aunty Sheena accompanied her husband to Abbeville?

With a groan, Samina fell back into the mattress and slung a hand over her face. “What am I going to do now?”

<<Chapter 13 || Chapter 15>>

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