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Authors: Jim Cangany

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Wish Upon a Star

BOOK: Wish Upon a Star
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Book Three in the North Star Trilogy

Wish Upon a Star

 

By

Jim Cangany

 

 

Uncial Press       Aloha, Oregon
2014
 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and events
described herein are products of the author's imagination or are
used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any
resemblance to actual events, locations, organizations, or persons,
living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

ISBN 13: 978-1-60174-193-6

Wish Upon a Star
Copyright © 2014 by Jim
Cangany

Cover design
Copyright © 2014 by Judith B.
Glad
Photo: Crestock image by eeinosiva

All rights reserved. Except for use in review, the
reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any
form by any electronic, mechanical or other means now known or
hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of
the publisher.

Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution
of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement,
including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the
FBI and is punishable by up to five (5) years in federal prison and a fine
of $250,000.

Published by Uncial Press,
an imprint of GCT,
Inc.

Visit us at http://www.uncialpress.com

 

This book is dedicated with love and
respect
to all the caregivers out there.
You're not
alone.

As the adventures of Annie and E.J. come to an end
and they find their happily ever after, I want to thank the people who
helped my wife, Nancy, and me during her bout with breast cancer.
From her doctors, to her nurses, to our co-workers and our friends,
thanks to you, our own happily ever after is only a bike ride
away.

I also want to thank my fabulous editor, Judith Glad,
who took a chance on me when nobody else would. You made my
dreams come true, Jude. I am forever in your debt!

One

I crested a climb and checked my heart rate. The digital
readout on my handlebar-mounted computer read 179. Almost my
max. Taking slow, deep breaths, I freewheeled down the curvy
descent. With each bend in the road, my heart rate slowed until it
was back to a manageable one hundred fifty-four. Once the road
flattened out, I resumed pedaling, intent on setting a new personal
best for this route.

Like a kid in a candy store, I'd ridden these Northern
California roads the past few weeks with unbridled joy. In fact, I
hadn't missed a day on the bike since Annie and I had returned home
from the Australian leg of her concert tour.

Of course, the constant high I'd been on since the
Save-the-Date announcements had gone out was making record-breaking
rides easier than a walk around the block. We'd finally put the
rumors about our wedding date to rest two days ago. October
Thirteenth was the day—my favorite month and Annie's favorite
number. I was actually going to marry the girl of my dreams. I
couldn't resist a smile as my speed ticked up another mile an hour.
Maybe dreams do come true.

My phone vibrated.

Probably just G wanting to know when I'm coming back to
Indy.

Ignoring the text, I upped the pace to a solid twenty-five
miles per hour. Not a minute had passed by when the phone vibrated
again, this time accompanied by a call ringtone. With a growl of
frustration, I pulled over and dialed up the voice mail message.

Hi love. Call me back as soon as you get this, please. I really
need to talk to you right now. Thanks, bye
.

Annie's voice sounded wobbly, as if something had upset
her big time.

She knew I didn't like to be bothered when I was on a ride
so, with a mixture of curiosity and concern, I hit the return call
button. She picked up before the first ring was over.

"E.J, I need you to come home right now."

"I'm only thirteen miles in, but I'll finish as soon as I can.
Give me—"

"Cut it short. Now." She sniffed and drew in a long breath.
"Please?"

A sudden chill settled over me. This felt bad. "What's
wrong?"

There was a long pause filled with Annie's labored
breathing.

"Annie, talk to me. Are you okay?"

"No." Her voice was barely above a whisper.

"What's—"

"I have cancer."

Two

The road was a yellow-striped blur as I sped back to Annie's
house. It might have been a world record-shattering speed, but I
wasn't checking the computer. Records weren't important anymore.
I turned into the driveway and made a final sprint to the house. With
a single, practiced motion, I brought the bike to a stop, dismounted
and left it next to the kitchen door.

"Annie!"

I scanned the room while I unbuckled my helmet. There was
no response, but the door to the veranda was open. The cleats of my
riding shoes clicked against the granite tiles as I rushed
through.

She was sitting on the lawn, about fifty yards from the
house. Her back was to me, but her head was bowed and her
shoulders were shuddering. In seconds I was at her side. I got down
on one knee and placed my hand very lightly on her shoulder.

A torrent of tears burst forth, shaking her from head to toe.
She took my hand in a vise-like grip and pulled it to her heart. I
dropped to both knees and wrapped my other arm around her,
stroking her hair and rocking her as hot tears soaked the sleeve of
my jersey.

I didn't say a word. I just held her and rocked her. As the
adrenaline rush wore off, my brain kicked in. Cancer? How could
Annie have cancer? She was young and healthy. She ate right and
was a triathlete, for crying out loud. She didn't smoke or drink to
excess. This couldn't be right.

Her tears had slowed to a trickle when she looked up at me.
Through puffy, bloodshot eyes, she gave me a weak smile. "We seem
to do this crying on each other's shoulders thing a lot, don't
we?"

A laugh escaped, breaking through my panicked, frightened
soul. "Yeah, guess we're good at it." I looked at the trees on the far
side of the manicured lawn, unsure of what to do or say.

Annie has freaking cancer!

"Would you like to go inside? Maybe I could get you a
drink."

She bit her lip, blinked a few times and nodded. Using the
care and gentleness of a doctor holding a newborn, I helped her up
and walked her back into the house. Her gait was slow and unsteady.
With my arm around her waist, I guided her to the living room couch.
Once I got her seated, she started shivering. I wrapped her up in a
cotton throw and went to the kitchen to brew some herbal tea.

When I returned, she was curled up in a little ball, her chin
on her chest. I handed her the tea and sat across from her on the
coffee table. She brought the mug to her nose and breathed in the
aroma.

"Mm, chamomile, thank you." After a sip or two, she handed
the mug back to me. In the year and a half I'd known her, I'd learned
not to push her when something was on her mind, so I waited,
silent.

"Well then." She took a deep breath. "About my phone call.
Oh God, this can't be happening. I don't even know where to begin.
I... I..."

Her eyes were getting watery again. In an attempt to head
off another crying jag, I took her hand and massaged the palm. She
closed her eyes and leaned her head against the couch.

"If you're not ready to talk about it, that's fine. I'm not going
anywhere."

I'd finished with one hand and was in the midst of
massaging the other when she opened up.

"I first felt a lump in my right breast shortly after we arrived
home, but between the post-tour high and Christmas coming up, I
put it out of my mind. It was after the New Year that I decided to see
somebody. I told myself it was nothing, a cyst, maybe. So I chose not
to say anything to you until I knew something definite.

"I had a mammogram a few weeks ago, and it was
inconclusive. Evidently I have dense breast tissue. When the doctor
insisted I have an MRI, I began to fear the worst. But seeing you so
excited about announcing the wedding date, I just couldn't bring
myself to say anything.

"Last Thursday they called me with the MRI results and told
me to have a couple of spots in each breast biopsied." She blew out a
long, ragged breath.

"I was still holding out hope they'd be benign cysts when the
doctor called with the results a little while ago. That's when I got
hold of you."

I nodded.

"She called it bi-lateral invasive ductile carcinoma." Annie
opened her eyes and looked into mine. "E.J., I have cancer in both
breasts."

Time stopped as my mind seized up.
How
?

Annie reached for her tea.

I intercepted her hand and drew her to me more tightly than
I'd ever held her before. The familiar coconut scent of her shampoo
loosened the frozen cogs in my head.

"Okay." I swallowed. "We'll beat this thing."

Annie didn't say anything. She just wrapped her arms
around me and hugged me back. Minutes slipped by, the only sound
coming from the ticking of her wristwatch and our own
breathing.

After a while she stirred. I handed the tea to her. She
drained it in two quick gulps. "I'm too young to get cancer, E.J.
What'm I going to do?"

I borrowed a page from her book and gently took her chin
between my thumb and forefinger. "Not I, Annie, we. We're in this
together. Got it?"

She gazed at me, going beyond the surface to the part so
deep down inside me only she could see. The worry lines on her
forehead eased a touch and she gave me a quick nod. Only then did I
release her.

"That's my girl. Now, have you spoken to anybody
else?"

"No, just you."

"Don't move." I gave her a pat on the leg, and ran to her
office. In a minute, I was back with pen and a notepad. "We have to
let people know."

"Absolutely not. If there was ever a time I needed my
privacy, this is it."

I put the paper and pen on the table. "Annie, trust me on
this. There a lot of people who care about you and will want to help
you. And will keep this private. But they can't help you if they don't
know, okay?"

She picked at a tissue until there was almost nothing left
before she gave me her decision-is-made nod. Once she did, we got
to work. Within an hour we'd compiled a list of business associates
and friends and started calling them. Since we didn't know much, we
kept the conversations brief.

Annie didn't want visitors, not even her manager Samantha,
or her band leader and musical director Beth. "I'm not ready for that,
yet."

Three hours' worth of phone calls later, the job was done.
My ear hurt and my head was throbbing. Annie looked like a paper
towel that had been used one time too many: ashen skin, glassy and
bloodshot eyes, disheveled hair.

I hated myself for doing it, but I couldn't hold off asking
about notifying her mom. A native of France, Annie's mother had
divorced her father and returned to her home country. Annie had
only been twelve at the time. Given the circumstances behind her
parents' split, her mother was nowhere near the list of her favorite
people.

I'd met her mother briefly during the European leg of the
tour—but I hadn't gotten to know her well. "Annie, do you want to let
your mother know?"

"I need to make that call, but I want more intel first. I'm
supposed to meet with a doctor on Tuesday. I'll call her after
that."

It took a little coaxing, but I got Annie to nibble on a panini
while we channel surfed and tried to decompress from the strain of
making the calls. After a few attempts at conversation fell flat, I
simply held her close, figuring she'd talk when she was ready. When
her eyelids began to flutter, I got her upstairs and into bed.

I turned the light off and got under the covers. She was lying
with her back to me.
That's odd
. She always faced me so she
could give me a goodnight kiss. I reached out to massage her
shoulder. The moment I touched her, she flinched. She was crying
again.

I scooted closer to her and tried my best to hold her.

"I'm frightened, E.J.," she said through the sobs. "I'm so, so
frightened."

I was witless with fear. My North Star, my guiding light, had
breast cancer. What were we in for? Did this mean chemo? God, I'd
heard horror stories about that. About people getting so sick from
the chemicals that they had to stay in bed for days, fighting unending
waves of nausea. And what if treatment didn't work?

Would Annie die?

I shook my head to drive away the negative thoughts. Annie
needed someone to lean on. That was me. I needed to be strong, her
rock. As I lay there, holding her close and stroking her hair, I made a
silent pledge that no matter what, neither she nor anybody else
would ever see a sign of weakness from me.

BOOK: Wish Upon a Star
6.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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