hallway

It was like a scene of a melodrama series; the heroine clad in a thin hospital gown that engulfed her frail body, lying down on the pallet of a MRI machine.

Except this wasn’t a melodrama and Samina was no heroine.

The cool air brushed her skin, goosebumps dotting her forearms. Samina felt the tremors run along her spine and slowly released a breath to calm herself.

“Stay as still as possible, Samina,” the doctor instructed over the intercom, his gravelly voice filling the silence of the examination room. “Close your eyes and try to relax.”

Even though she couldn’t move her head, Samina knew Dr. Felicia Halliday accompanied the aged neurologist and was oddly comforted by her presence.

As the engine hummed as the pallet eased into the cove of the MRI machine, she resisted the urge to curl in her fingers.

Later on, as she fixed the last button of her blouse, a knock interrupted the silence.

“Come in,” Samina said softly, lowering her hands to her lap just as the door opened.

Felicia Halliday stuck her head in and gave Samina a gentle smile. Then she stepped inside, this time without her coat. “How’re you feeling?”

Samina scanned her doctor’s inscrutable face. Fear gripped her throat and she worried the hem of her blouse. “Am I… okay?” she strangled out.

A line appeared on Dr. Halliday’s brow and her light-brown eyes assessed Samina’s face before replying. “We thought it’d be better if I relay the news, Samina…”

Samina held her breath, dreading the news.

“It is a tumor in the pituitary gland.” Felicia’s face softened as Samina inhaled sharply. She moved to Samina’s side and placed a hand on her sagging shoulder.

Though she’d researched the slim chance of a misdiagnosis, Samina felt the wind knocked out of her. She’d desperately prayed to be part of the 0.0001% who was misdiagnosed.

Eyes blurred with tears, recalling the words that sounded like a death sentence.

“We will have to operate,” Felicia’s words sounded like muffled echoes in her ears.

“When?” Samina felt the tears fall, heart gripped with anguish. It seemed foolish to hope that a surgery could change the cruel turn her life had taken, but she still hoped against the overwhelming despair.

Felicia gripped her shoulder. “As soon as possible.” The firm confidence in her tone pulled Samina’s gaze to her face. “You’ll beat this, Samina. With God’s help.”

Samina felt her throat tighten. God’s help?

At Samina’s silence, Felicia sighed. “We can schedule the surgery for next week. The sooner the better.”

Samina bobbed her head. If there was any likelihood of beating this, she had to take the chance.

“You’ll need to bring someone with you. A guardian.”

Her eyes widened in shock, her breath caught in her throat. She couldn’t imagine telling her parents or siblings about this, when she barely believed it herself. “B-but I’m thirty years old,” she strangled out.

Felicia’s expression softened in sympathy. “It’s part of surgical protocol, Samina. You’ll need someone to be with you after the surgery.”

Sheena fidgeted in her spot on the sofa, her gaze occasionally traveling to the clock propped on the end table as she wondered what could possibly be delaying the ever-prompt Samina. Her brow furrowed at the sound of thumping footsteps upstairs.

“Girls!” she bellowed in the empty parlor. “Less noise, please.”

As their footsteps halted, the doorbell sounded.

Sheena hurried to the door and pulled it open.  “Thought you’d cancel—” she paused at Samina’s drawn expression. “Honey, what’s the matter?”

Samina merely gave her a shaky smile. “Nothing…” she clutched the purse in her hands.

Though unconvinced, Sheena ushered Samina in.  “I hope I didn’t pull you away from anything important.”

Samina shook her head and turned to face Sheena. “It’s alright.” She followed Sheena to the couch, perching on its edge as if it was the first time she’d visited the house.

Sheena promptly reached for Samina’s hands. “I know I’ve said this before but I pray that God blesses you for sacrificing your time for us.”

Again, Samina only smiled that trembling smile and Sheena noticed a glimmer in her eyes.

“Honey, is—”

The girls’ loud stomping upstairs and Sheena huffed a breath. “Those two are so awake this morning. I should’ve known Zeke’s famous French toast would cause me more harm than good.”

Samina merely looked down at their joined hands.

Sheena raised a brow. “You sure you’re alright? You look exceptionally dull this morning.”

The only response was a jerky nod.

“This is no good.” Sheena scooted closer, coaxing Samina to look up. “What’s the matter? Your mom giving you a hard time again?”

Samina shook her head. “I-I’m…” she inhaled sharply and lowered her head.

“Oh dear.” Sheena heard the strangled sob and scooted even closer, wrapping one arm around Samina’s shoulders. Her chest tightened as Samina leaned into her, muffled sobs underneath her hand. Confused and worried of the cause for Samina’s distress, Sheena could only rub her back and whisper soft comforting words.

All too quickly, Samina’s sobs halted and she tried pulling away from Sheena’s embrace.

“Not so fast,” Sheena berated her softly and tightened her hold.  Her heart ached with guilt as Samina released a shuddering breath. “I’ve been a very selfish woman. In fact, I was irresponsible for pushing this on you.”

“Aunty…”

Sheena shushed her. “You already have a lot on your plate. I know how stressful job hunting can be. And don’t even dare try lying to me, young lady. You’re a terrible liar, ever since elementary school. Remember all those times I caught you lying to protect Zeke?”

Samina sighed.

“Honestly… You two were quite a pair.”

Samina’s body tensed against Sheena.

“Always getting into trouble because of one another,” Sheena continued with a wistful tone. She often wondered when Ezekiel would make her a happy mother and pick Samina. Though Ezekiel’s marriage to Winsome produced her darling Beulah and Adelaide, she still wished for Samina to be part of her family, finally…

“Aunty,” Samina began hesitantly. “Will you be going back soon?”

Sheena managed a smile. “Yes, soon. I plan to return within the week.” Her eyes scanned Samina’s wary expression. “Don’t worry about staying with the girls. With Zeke here, they’ll be fine.”

Samina’s brow furrowed. “I don’t mind being with them.”

Sheena squeezed Samina’s hand. “Of course you don’t, sweetheart. But let me take care of everything now.” She caught the glimmer of tears in Samina’s eyes. “Now tell me. What’s going on with you?”

Again Samina ducked her head. Except this time, she released a shuddering breath before speaking. “Life… it’s just a little too hard right now.”

Her jaded response sent shivers down Sheena’s spine. “Is… it the job?”

Samina shook her head, a wry smirk lifting the side of her mouth. “Besides that… it’s like everything’s going wrong. With Ada’s impossible attitude and…” she sucked in a breath, releasing it slowly.

Relief surged through Sheena’s body. She chuckled softly. “I see.”

With Samina peeking up at her with those watery eyes, Sheena squeezed her hand. “She just has a bad case of nuptial anxiety. Happens to any bride, and one day, dearest one, you’ll understand what she’s going through.”

Something akin to disappointment flickered in Samina’s eyes and Sheena pulled her closer. “It will be your turn soon enough. I’m sure of that.” She patted Samina’s back, feeling every bone against her palm.

“Aunty…” Samina protested in a weak voice.

“Shush.” Sheena kissed Samina’s temple. “I dream of the day when you’ll walk down the aisle dressed in white and meet the man of your dreams in front of the altar.” Sheena smiled while picturing the man she hoped would stand waiting for Samina. “What a wonderful day that will be.”

To this, Samina only sighed against Sheena’s shoulder.

Sheena patted her back and held her at arms’ length. “Now put that smile back on and let’s get some food in you. You’re too skinny for my liking.” She released Samina and moved to stand.

When Samina remained seated, Sheena chuckled and grabbed Samina’s hand, tugging on it to help her stand. “You’ll be right as rain once I feed you my special porridge. Come on now.”

She pulled Samina to her side and draped her arm over her shoulder. “No more crying, okay?” She smiled when Samina managed a nod and led her to the kitchen. “Now, tell me more about the wedding plans. Maybe I can help.”

<<Chapter 21 || Chapter 23>>

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