I’m done with my manuscript for BACK TO ME, which I’ve written about on here. I recently entered my first 250 words in a contest, so I wanted to share the entire first chapter here for those who were curious what happens next.
Kate Dalton’s heart raced as she replayed the voicemail, listening for clues hidden somewhere in the deep, Southern tones of Jake Bailey’s voice. She missed most of what he said the first time. She was too busy celebrating that Jake had finally come to his senses and realized he couldn’t live without her.
“Hey Kate, it’s Jake. There’s something I really need to tell you before you hear it from someone else. Give me a call…please.” He was almost pleading at the end.
Her heart sank. Jake was getting married, she was sure of it.
How could he be getting married? A year ago, when they rekindled the relationship they’d had in college, she thought they were finally getting their happily ever after. It had only been six months since they’d broken up. How could he have met someone so fast? He was supposed to come back to her, just like he always had.
Surely Abby would have mentioned if she knew he was dating someone. Whenever they broke up, which had been more frequent than she would have liked over the years, they joked that they shared custody of Abby. They both knew Abby’s true loyalty lie with Kate, however.
Her stomach churned with an odd mixture of excitement and terror as she dialed his number and braced herself for news of his impending nuptials.
“Hey,” he said in an even tone she couldn’t read.
“Hey there, how are you?” she asked, hoping her voice didn’t shake.
“Are you sitting down?” he asked in a tone that seemed a little too serious to be about wedding bells.
“Well, I’m driving. So, yes. What’s up?” Come on. It’s like a Band-Aid, just rip it off and get it over with already.
“I know you said not to call, but this isn’t about us. I need to tell you something.” There was a pause before he continued, “After all these years, you deserve to hear it from me.”
His tone was so sincere. He had something he needed to tell her. She’d always been his confidant. Maybe it had nothing to do with marriage. After all, they’d only been apart for a matter of months.
Her heart fluttered, and she silently reminded herself not to get too excited just yet.
“Okay…” she said tentatively, waiting for him to go on.
“I don’t know how to say this…”
Oh, just get it over with, she pleaded with her mind.
“Kate, I have cancer.”
Suddenly it was as if all of the oxygen was being sucked from her car. Her surroundings went on mute and her whole body felt numb, yet incredibly heavy.
She thought perhaps he should have told her to pull over for this, yet she kept driving. As if continuing on her routine course home from work would somehow keep her world spinning.
“Are you serious?” A ridiculous reply, but she could think of nothing else to say.
Cancer? Jake was the picture of health and fitness. His 5’8” frame was solid muscle acquired through a lifetime of baseball and manual labor with his father’s company. No one could outwork him out on the baseball diamond when they were in college. Heck, they still couldn’t. He was only twenty-nine and he was as healthy as a horse. Or at least she had thought he was.
“Yeah, it’s stage three.”
“Well, what does that mean? What kind of cancer is it?” Kate was asking questions, but she wasn’t really processing any of the conversation.
“I have a tumor in my colon, but they’re going to treat it with chemo and radiation. I’ll be fine. I just wanted to tell you before you heard from someone else. I told a couple of the guys last night.” He said it all so matter-of-factly that she couldn’t believe they were really talking about cancer.
Kate probably should have pulled over, but she was close enough to her house that she reverted into auto-pilot. Compartmentalizing what he was saying, as Kate was prone to do when faced with emotional situations, she began asking every question she could think of. How did he find out? What were they saying? When were his treatments going to begin?
Kate had an uncle who had successfully fought leukemia and she’d spent a couple of years working in a children’s cancer hospital, so she became very scientific about it all.
“Seven years,” he said in response to her question about how long they thought the tumor had been growing.
Seven years? It was practically the entire time they’d known each other.
It wasn’t until they finally hung up, with a promise by Kate that the silent treatment was over and that she was there for anything that he might need, that she finally let it run through her mind. Jake had cancer. Healthy, athletic Jake, who she had spent the past six months trying to convince herself wasn’t her soul mate, had cancer.
As she slowed to a stop in her driveway, she realized she wasn’t exactly sure how she had gotten there. She had done so without shedding one tear though. She wasn’t going to cry because there was nothing to cry about. Jake was going to be fine, he had said so.
If she really believed that though, why did she feel as though she’d been punched in the stomach?
You can find more about this story here.