General Flash Fiction posted September 3, 2010

This work has reached the exceptional level
A story of struggle and survival and friends

Life Worth Living

by Judith Ann

Chester and Grace have been in love for sixty-five years and married for fifty-five of them. In all that time Grace never saw tears streaming down her man's face, until today. "Chet, honey, we will get through this," she said in a feeble attempt to console him.

"Gracie Ann, how could this happen?" The couple resorted to their pet names for one another when dealing with difficulty, and this certainly qualified as one of those times.

"Chet, let's go home and talk. We will figure out what to do, but first I need familiar surroundings, not these cold white walls and antiseptic window coverings."

Chester and Grace drove home from Doctor Spencer's office in silence. Chester unlocked the front door, and holding it open for Grace, watched her step over the same threshold he had carried her across years earlier. Tears still poised to spill.

Over coffee, the couple discussed their options. "Chet, I am 75 years old. How I live my last months or years matters. If I agree to undergo chemo therapy or radiation treatments, I will most likely be sick, very sick. Is it worth it?"

"How can you ask that? Of course it is worth it, you're worth it," he said. "I will take care of you. We can do this together." Chester began presenting his arguments to Grace; it took hours to convince his love to begin the treatments, but eventually, she acquiesced.

Three weeks into the regime, Grace knew she could tolerate the medications. She was not near as physically ill as she had first expected. She was weak, but felt blessed to be fairing so well.

One morning, three weeks into the chemotherapy, Chester was in the kitchen making coffee when he heard the cry. At first he wasn't sure where it was coming from, but soon recognized Grace's voice. He ran up the stairs and found his precious wife leaning over the bathtub; scooping up handfuls of hair, her beautiful long red curls clung to the white porcelain.

"Gracie Ann, the doctor said this would happen. Don't you remember?"
"Yes, but I guess I didn't really believe it."

Chester gently helped Grace off the floor. He peeled the red locks from her fingers when she began to cry again. Chet looked up and saw her staring in the mirror.

"My hair, I look like a freak. How can I step outside?" Grace was inconsolable. She realized that it wasn't so much the hair, but her life; it was changing so rapidly. Death seemed to be looming and now she was even losing her looks. Spying bald patches on her head, she felt like giving up. Grace never considered herself vain, but she did try to look presentable for Chet.

The doorbell rang breaking the spell and Chester, thankful for the diversion, yet fearful company would set Gracie off again, headed for the door.
"Marguerite, oh, Gracie Ann will be so pleased to see you. You are a gift from God." Chester ushered her inside and called to Grace. "Marguerite is here to see you."

Grace stood at the top of the stairs. One look, and Marguerite, best friend for 20 years, instinctively knew what had just happened.

"Chester please put on a pot of coffee; Grace and I have some catching up to do."

Relieved, he excused himself and left Grace in Marguerite's care. Leading her friend back to her bedroom dressing table, Marguerite dug the stylist shears from her bag and instructed her friend to sit down in front of the mirror as she proceeded to trim the remaining tresses. Deftly she drew down a stylish strand of curls across her friend's forehead. Then she reached back into her bag and pulled out the most remarkable scarf. It was colorfully decorated with butterflies and daisies, Graces favorite summertime decorations. She wrapped the scarf around Grace's head, tucking in a few stray strands but leaving the red curls frame her forehead and cheeks. Immediately Grace's face exploded into a smile and she looked back from the mirror.

Marguerite presented her friend with a large bag filled with dozens of colorful babushkas. "Your friends made these and they hope to see you at church Sunday, wearing one. They worry about you and have been praying for you with every scarf they crafted. You are loved and missed, my friend."

Sunday morning Gracie Ann and Chet arrived at the church as the service was just beginning. Entering the sanctuary and wearing one of the wonderful scarves, Grace stopped and gasped. There in front of her she saw a sea of colorful heads wrapped in the wonderfully stylish scarves. Grace may have lost her hair, but she found true friends make a difference.

Flash Fiction contest entry


Thank you Snopaw for this beautiful picture titled Sandbox Butterflies. This is just what I envisioned on one of the headscarves in the story would look like.

This story is based on a true life incident which I was privileged hear about.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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