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Reverie: Chapter 34


LIFE FLASHES BEFORE YOU SOMETIMES. In snippets, on a film reel, in a damn commercial if your mother decides to put it out there for the world to see. And, God, did they ever see it.

I remember each of the moments before the coma and, savvy marketer that she was, she made sure there was a clip of me in that coma too. The summer before I found out I had cancer, we celebrated my sixteenth birthday. I was getting my driver’s license. I was going to go to homecoming. I was potentially going to be voted onto the homecoming court. I played tennis, I cheered, I had so many damn friends. I looked like the cute, happy, all-American teenager. With two loving parents who made good money and no siblings, I was spoiled rotten.

When the doctor called with irregular blood results, we didn’t think anything of it.

At sixteen, hormones are all over the place. I was tired for no other reason than my busy sports schedule and maybe some fluctuations due to the birth control I was on.

The doctor ordered more tests. The worst one was the bone marrow biopsy. My mother held my hand. I didn’t scream because I was a Blakely, but I saw the way my mother’s face tightened, how her jaw flexed and felt how her hand squeezed mine. Blakelys felt pain just like everyone else, and we both endured it at that moment.

Every single pain I went through, my mother did as well. I learned very quickly how much she loved me. How much she cringed and broke with each of my treatments.

I tucked that pain away from my parents because I loved them too. I held on to my family when my friends turned away, when they realized they didn’t know how to act around the girl who couldn’t play volleyball anymore, who was in a coma during prom, who was in the hospital for weeks.

I cleared my throat. “It isn’t something I talk about to most people, Jett. Obviously, a Levvetor drug saved my life.”

“Am I ‘most people’?” The question wrenched out of him.

I finally lifted my head and pushed my hair behind my ear to look at him. I had avoided this exact encounter with so many, knowing I’d see the pity or the change in their eyes. I didn’t want any of it. I wanted to be treated exactly the same as I had been before they knew I had cancer. But no one could do that. And Jett wasn’t any different. His azure gaze drowned in pity and sympathy, but there was another emotion there.


“Jett, people don’t want to hear about a disease that tormented me. Cancer makes people squirm.”

“I’ll ask the question again. Am I ‘most people’ to you?”

I sighed and bent the paper in front of me. I focused on lining up the edges and creasing it neatly in two as I said, “I don’t know what you are to me.”

“Well, I’ll inform you then. I’m the guy who screws you into oblivion and then stays to see the sun rise on your skin. I’m the guy who wakes up thinking of you and goes to sleep only to dream about you. I’m your boss, but I’m also your lover. I’m definitely your only boyfriend, and I’m the one who you’ve been contemplating spending your life with even if you don’t want to admit it.”

I crumpled up the folded piece of paper. It had Levvetor facts on it which I didn’t need to know. I already knew that three out of every five of their terminal leukemia patients recovered in some way. Did they go into remission like me? Not always. And mostly, the companies didn’t track patients past the five-year survival point.

I was a statistic, and I was a damn good one in their eyes. None of it mattered if I couldn’t find a way to live with it though.

“Most days, I wake up wondering if it will be the day I start to feel a little more tired, if I’ll maybe get a pain in my bones that will signal the cancer is back. Most days, I’m determined to wake up and avoid every reminder of that looming statistic, the one that Levvetor and all those pharmaceutical companies promote. I’m a damn good stat in their eyes. I’ve survived past their five-year studies, and they don’t even follow up any more. To them, I survived and their job is done. Yet, every single day, I feel like I’m dying. Like I’m not living big enough, well enough, not experiencing enough. So, yeah, I don’t want the reminder from you, or anyone else, that I’m a survivor or that I had leukemia. I want to forget it.”

“Who’s to say I’m going to remind you?” he whispered.

“You’ll remind me every time you look at me with pity in your eyes. And even if you aren’t thinking about my past, I’ll wonder if you are whenever you ask me how I’m doing or how I’ve been feeling. My paranoia will creep in, and I’ll never feel like the invincible girl you saw before they played that godforsaken commercial.”

“I never thought you were invincible. I thought you were naive,” he stated matter-of-factly.

“Well, I don’t know if that’s better or worse than what you think now.” I shoved away from the table and stood. “Does it matter? We should never have come this far. I should have walked away before I started falling in love with you.”

His nostrils flared, but I didn’t care anymore. None of this mattered. He wasn’t going to be my perfect ending because I wasn’t going to get a perfect ending. No one did. We came into the world alone and we would leave it alone. In between, I’d continue to find ways to stave off the anxieties.

“Yes. You should have walked away. I’m not going to baby you and tell you that you shouldn’t have. I’m not a damn prince or a knight in shining armor. I have a business to run, Victory.”

“Then run it! I’m not asking you to do anything else.”

“Yet, here we are: me screaming at everyone to get out of a very important meeting because my girlfriend didn’t care to enlighten me about the video of her deepest secret being shown to the whole office.”

“I had no idea my mother was coming today. You have to believe that. That footage was all her doing.”

“I do believe that, unfortunately.” He rubbed his fingers over his eyes. “You don’t have to sign off on that commercial.”

“I do,” I countered and turned away as I said the words. “Bastian’s right. He knows I can handle this. I should handle it.”

“Bastian had no idea what they were going to show. He wouldn’t expect—” He stopped mid-sentence. His jaw worked, and I saw how his muscles tightened as the truth plowed into him. “You told Bastian.”

I didn’t have to agree or disagree. My silence amplified his rage. It rolled through the room, building like a snowball, like an avalanche, ready to suffocate and swallow us whole.

“You told Bastian! Fuck, woman!” he yelled and his fist flew down onto the table. The crack of bone hitting solid wood didn’t deter him from pounding it again.

“You’re going to break your hand,” I murmured.

“Will that wake you up?”

“Wake me up to what?”

“To the fact that you jeopardized our relationship before it even started. You didn’t come to me about this. You went around me and under me and over me but never to me. You never gave me the option to have an opinion, and you never showed me the respect of telling me what was really going on with this deal.”

“So, it’s about the business now?”

“It’s about everything.” The pain of his stare ripped through me. “You had cancer, Pix.”

He emphasized the word, and I knew it was gutting him. My mother and father got that same look when they couldn’t help me but wanted to, when they wanted to mask their pain and fear but couldn’t.

“I’m still here, Jett,” I whispered. I wasn’t dying any faster than before, I wasn’t any different. I was just me with a past he hadn’t been expecting. He scanned me up and down like he would be able to see the disease, like the scars were visible, like the cancer that had lived deep down in my bones might crawl out and attack. “It’s just me.”

He walked up so close, his chest was a hair’s breadth away. I smelled his cologne, and his exhalation was a whisper on my lips. He lifted one hand as if he was going to hold my face.

Yet, he didn’t touch me, my skin was different to him now. Maybe it was tainted; maybe I was too ruined, too damaged. He curled his hand up and fisted it as he drew it back to his side and squeezed his eyes shut.

“I was trying to get to know you, I was falling for this vibrant being who lived on the edge, not knowing why. And then”—his eyes shot open—“I find you didn’t trust me with some of the most important pieces of your life. You trusted a stranger though. You trusted someone I don’t even trust with my business. You gave him sensitive information about yourself—my girlfriend—and the deal.”

“You make it sound so bad.” I shook my head and tried to process how to meet his argument head-on. “The information was on a need to know—”

“Don’t come at me with some bullshit. I don’t care what it was.” He collapsed into his chair like I’d defeated him, like he wasn’t the most ruthless businessman in all the world. His face had fallen. His downturned mouth and his closed-off eyes made me wonder if we could come back from this. “You were supposed to be the light with no dark. You weren’t supposed to have all the complicated bullshit of reality, Pix.”

“And you were supposed to be able to handle all the complicated bullshit, Phantom.”

He grunted but didn’t look my way. He stood from the table and started toward the door. “Do what you want with the commercial. It’s your life.”

My heart splintered. His words felt final. The darkness that had crept in over the weekend seeped further into my soul. The depths of despair clawed at the surface. Shadows stole in, doubts and fears and things that shook me awake in the night.

He asked everyone to reenter the room and apologized for his outburst as they filtered back in.

I nodded as the meeting continued. I said all the right things. I smiled. I put on the show I needed to put on as the grief swallowed me whole.

My mother stopped me after the meeting. “I’m sorry, Vick. I had to come. Harvey called. I tried to contact you. I tried to see you this weekend. But you didn’t answer or text me back.”

“It’s fine.” My tone was clipped, but I knew I’d pushed her away. I had ignored her so much that this was my fault. My heart wasn’t in it to be mad at her. My heart wasn’t in anything anymore. It was broken, shattered on the ground, smashed to little fragments I was sure I wouldn’t be able to piece back together.

“Honey,”—she cupped my jaw the way I had wanted Jett to—“I love you. You’re hurting, and it isn’t that commercial that hurt you. Maybe you should come home for a few days.”

I sighed and tried my best not to let the tears fall. I looked toward the ceiling. “I should get back to work.”

I didn’t talk to Jett the rest of the day. He disappeared into his office, and I couldn’t find the strength to face him, to know he was done with me, to know we were over.

I went home early that night. I didn’t stick around to talk with anyone. My phone rang once or twice, but I didn’t answer.

I took a long shower. I drank a few glasses of wine. I cried quietly.

I didn’t break though.

I told myself the next day I would get up and go to work with a damn smile on my face even if the boss was my ex. I’d had him and not even really known.

Sleep never came. I tried counting sheep but the only things hopping over a fence were my regrets.

The next morning, I got ready like it was any other day. I put on bright yellow to channel the sun, to illuminate my smile, to appear lighter than my soul would ever feel again. I repeated to myself how I’d known Jett and I wouldn’t last. I told myself I would handle it. But it was like barbed wire had coiled itself around my heart, constricting everything. The blood wasn’t pumping right, the oxygen wasn’t circulating.

As I got onto the train, I felt it. The jump in my heart. The little skitter, not even really a skip. The light flutter that should have signaled to me that something was off. I didn’t pay it any attention. Health anxiety consumed me when I was first told I didn’t have cancer anymore. I conditioned myself to ignore the signs, to curve my mind’s attention away from my body’s symptoms. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that my heart was breaking, the crushing weight was normal.

I remember stepping off the train. I remember how the clouds looked so, so gray. Like the rain was coming. Like the bleakness and the turmoil swirling in them wanted out, wanted to dampen the world and bring us all down.

The first drop was the one that did me in. It hit my cheek harder than a bullet, and I couldn’t take any more pressure.

Witnesses say I looked confused, disoriented as I made my way across the street, that I stopped to look up at the first drops of rain. When the car hit me, I went down without a fight. My eyes rolled to the back of my head before I even hit the ground.


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