(Not so fictional. Congratulations, Tiffany! We’re both very happy for you.)
Susanne crowded her shoulders around her neck as the wind whipped in through the collar of her coat. Through the door, she could hear footsteps drawing closer, so she didn’t ring the doorbell again.
Catherine opened the door with a half-frenzied look on her face. “Hi,” she said with an exhale. “Sorry, running late for work.”
“You have to work tonight?” asked Susanne. “I saw you earlier today. I thought you were off.”
Catherine frowned. “No, unfortunately. Brian had an appointment this morning and I couldn’t get back to sleep after that. It’s hard with little ones. You know how it goes.”
Susanne thought of her son and nodded. “Here you are,” she said, holding up a plastic bowl full of spaghetti. “I made it yesterday, but I missed you before you left.”
Catherine took the bowl and smiled. Brian pitter-patted up in his superman pajamas and stood by his mother’s side. He held a toy street bike in his hand. “Look, Brian,” said Catherine. “Susanne brought you some more yummy food to eat. Isn’t she sweet? Can you say thank you?” Brian clung to his mother’s leg and moved behind it slightly. He held the toy close to his chest. Catherine smiled. “He’s still shy and still not talking.”
Susanne waved at the young boy. “Sometimes it takes them a little longer to come around. Don’t worry, once he gets going, he’ll never stop. How did the doctor visit go?”
“Good,” said Catherine. “The results from last week didn’t find anymore cancer. They don’t have to do chemo.” She patted her son on the head and ruffled his blonde hair. “We just go back once a month now for more scans.”
Susanne felt her throat tighten and tears well into her eyes. “Oh Catherine,” she said. “That’s wonderful.” She looked at Brian who kept his eyes on the toy motorcycle. “I’m so happy for you.”
Catherine’s face strained. Susanne could see the stress and relief, happiness and pain and every mix of struggle that existed in the tensing muscles of her face. “Yeah,” she said in a whisper. “Yeah.” She glanced at the clock on the wall. “I’m so sorry, Susanne, but I am running late.”
“Oh!” Susanne said. “No, please. Go. Enjoy.” She waved and backed away from the door.
“Can you say bye-bye, Brian?” Brian opened and closed his hand slowly for a wave. Catherine smiled. They bid each other goodnight and Catherine closed the door.
When Susanne got home, she cried. She cried hard for the child that was now safe and for the relief from the vicarious feeling of enduring her own son fighting cancer. She cried and blew her nose and hugged her own son close when he asked her what was wrong, although she never answered his question. The tightness in her throat and chest wouldn’t let her. That night, Susanne celebrated. She bought wine for herself and whiskey for Bob. She made brownies with peanut butter chips and cooked them two minutes less than she was supposed to so that they came out extra gooey. She lit candles and played music while she made dinner for her family. She even had a small bit of whiskey for herself in the process.
After the evening was over, and the two lay in bed together, Bob finally asked. “What was the deal with tonight?”
Susanne felt the tightness in her throat again and the tears in her eyes, but she forced the words out. “Someone got their baby back today.”