Thursday, January 31, 2008

Line Crossing

Hey, all. It's Brillig. You know, Brillig. It's kind of.... um... my first.... um.... attempt at... um... fiction. Yeah...

My assignment was submitted by my dear friend Jenn in Holland and was as follows:

Story idea:

Long time, committed couple living, working, creating in ______________.


Jade- artist, passionate, embraces life, quirky

Sam-professional, detail oriented, grounded, analytical, bright.

Dr. Branson- uh, yeah, the doctor


Jade gets diagnosis of a terminal disease.


Emma Branson reprimanded herself as she realized that she was primping more than necessary before her hospital shift. Sam wasn't going to be there to see her, after all. But it didn't matter, she couldn't stop. Just thinking his name made her heart flutter, and she couldn't help but scrutinize her face one last time before grabbing her keys and heading out the door.

Emma absently attended to her morning rounds, keeping a close eye on her watch. Finally it was 12:30---Sam would have arrived by now. He always cleared his lunch hour on Thursdays to be at the hospital. Berating herself, realizing that she'd purposefully held off on checking in on room 432 until she knew Sam would be there, Emma headed down the hallway. She paused as she reached to open the door. "Keep it professional, Dr. Branson," she whispered to herself. She put on her thick-rimmed glasses, as though they would remind her to be the doctor, and not the woman in love.

These feelings that she had for Sam were completely inappropriate, especially considering that Sam's longtime girlfriend, Jade, was Emma's patient. Jade had melanoma, and by the time she had been diagnosed, the cancer had spread to her lymphatic system. Even though Jade was only 29 years old, there was no stopping the cancer now. Bit by bit, Jade's body was shutting down. She only had a few weeks left, if that. It was Emma's job to make sure Jade was as comfortable as possible through these last days.

Emma walked into the room, and was greeted with the unmistakable smell of nail polish. "Purple today?" Emma couldn't help but smile.

Sam glanced up from his attempt at a pedicure and said, with a grin, "yes, alternated with green. She was very specific today."

These days, Jade was heavily sedated and often unconscious. Emma looked at the limp body, realizing that Jade wasn't even aware of them right now. But when she woke up, she would see Sam's labor of love on her toes.

Emma tried to picture what this odd couple had been like together. She felt like she knew Sam well by now--- he'd spent hours here every week for the last six months. He was young, 30 years old maybe, fun and had a great sense of humor, but mostly he was very business-like: responsible, professional, analytical. From all evidence, Jade was the opposite--- artistic, passionate, quirky. Both had obviously had to compromise, but they also seemed to embrace their differences. Emma realized that part of the reason that she admired Sam so much was because here he was, an important and dedicated lawyer, who made time every Thursday to come and paint Jade's toenails. It was his love and respect for this free-spirited woman that Emma found so very attractive.

Emma cleared her throat, as though that would clear her thoughts, and moved towards Jade to do a simple examination, listening with her stethoscope to Jade's heart and lungs. "Has she been awake at all since you got here?" she asked Sam.

"Just long enough to instruct me on her toenail polish." He smiled sadly. "It won't be long now, will it." It was more of a statement than a question.

"No, it won't be long. Have you made all of the arrangements?" Emma asked quietly.

"She made them. I think she was afraid that I would make it too boring. She was probably right." He laughed. "For instance, she's already made up the invitations for the funeral, leaving a blank space for me to fill in with the date and time. She wants her funeral to have a Hawaiian theme. All of the guests have to wear Hawaiian shirts and tourist-length shorts, though the women can wear mumus if they prefer. There will be a luau complete with hula dancers and ukulele music and a roasting pig, though the pig will be made of tofu, of course."

"Of course." Emma giggled. She couldn't picture Sam in anything but his perfectly pressed suit and starched shirt, carrying his briefcase full of important corporate law documents. A Hawaiian shirt? Emma hoped, though doubted, that she would get an invitation to this funeral.

Sam laughed harder, "Jade made me promise not to tell her family about the funeral plans until after I'd mailed the invitations to everyone, so that they wouldn't have the chance to alter her arrangements at all. Can you picture her mother's face when she hears about this?" Now both of them were laughing so hard that their faces were bright red and tears were streaming down their faces. Emma had only met Jade's mother once, but it was clear from her demeanor--cold and disdainful, and clothing---pressed slacks and a mock-turtleneck with an off-white pearl necklace--- that Mrs. Livingston was not a fan of her daughter's whims.

Somewhere during their fit of laughter, Emma realized that she'd subconsciously removed her glasses and had thrown her arm around Sam's shoulders, and he had put his arm around her waist.

As their laughter petered out, he kept his arm tightly around her and leaned his head on her shoulder. Emma realized that she was rubbing his back gently in a friendly, comforting, and entirely inappropriate way. He lifted his head from her shoulder and looked at her in a way that made her heart stop. She knew he was going to kiss her, and for a moment her conscience wasn't going to interfere. He leaned closer to her and...


Emma's glasses slipped right out of her hands and knocked the jar of nail polish over which, in turn, had splattered nail polish all over the table and floor.

Flustered and furious with herself, Emma rushed out the door to find Suzanne, her nurse, who could clean up the mess. She then locked herself in the supply closet and leaned her forehead against a shelf. "Stupid, stupid, stupid!" she whispered angrily at herself. How dare she let something like that happen--- or almost happen, she corrected herself. The man's true love had been lying, dying right there next to them and she, a focused and determined doctor, had been flirting like a teenager. At only 29 years old, she was the youngest female doctor in this hospital and her whole career had been an uphill battle. She'd finally gained the position---and respect--- that she'd been working towards throughout her whole life and she was now on the brink of throwing it away!

When Emma finally emerged, she went to the bathroom and washed her face, and then found Suzanne and asked if she'd been able to get the nail polish off.

"After a bottle and a half of nail polish remover and three packages of sterile gauze, we got it cleaned up," the nurse smiled. "And Sam wanted me to tell you that he's sorry."

Just with the mention of his name, Emma's head was spinning and her face was hot. She had never felt so embarrassed or ashamed in her whole life. She leaned back against the wall in an attempt to sturdy herself.

"Dr. Branson? Emma? Are you all right?"

"Suzanne, I'm not feeling well. Would you mind calling Dr. Call and asking him to cover for me today? I need to go home."

Emma barely heard Suzanne's "of course" as she grabbed her coat and keys and headed towards the parking lot.

Emma got the phone call that evening. Jade had passed away.

Five days later, a brightly colored floral invitation with an embossed image of a hula dancer arrived in the mail.

(To be continued. Maybe. Or maybe not. Um.... for now let's just say, "The End.")


Thalia's Child said...


ITGS said...

Oh, Brilly, ya done so well! This is just a great way to take a couple of lame ideas. Let's be honest, I could never have written such a story.
I really feel for Emma. Really, I do. But I kind of feel like this Jade would be totally okay with all of it... free spirit and all.

Really, really loved it.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Great job, Brillig! I love what you did here - you really made this your own. And it may be first fiction, but you're such a master storyteller in any case, as SOS shows.

I loved the funeral idea, and I think you're right - Jade would have wanted Sam to go on.

Great stuff! And again, I'm so glad you played!

anno said...

Wonderful. You need to do this more often.

Luisa Perkins said...

Don't you ever, EVER tell me you weren't made to write anything but blog posts again. This was terrific. The devoted nail polishing got me very misty. Fabulous chemistry.

Wholly Burble said...

This was an amazing story--you really revealed a great deal and in such interesting ways. The whole nail-polishing ritual was such a "statement" of love, of Jade's artistic soul AND Sam's sense of responsibility and how much he cherished Jade.

The funeral arrangements . . . oh I could go on--you just really got this story cranked up and rolling!

Darcy said...

No way. I absolutely do not believe that this is your first attempt at fiction. Great story, unique take on the subject and strong writing.