Chapter Two

Michael was pacing his fifth-floor office, too distracted to work. The separate phone line he had installed for the recipients of Natalie’s notes hadn’t rung yet. He was hoping that at least a couple would respond. Last week, when Nat asked him to post her letters, he noticed that while most were addressed to friends and family, there were several cards addressed to prominent business people and other professional people. Feeling slightly guilty, Michael read the latter group of cards. They broke his heart. Natalie had written thank you notes to doctors, musicians, movie stars, administrators, and others who had somehow touched her life. She was saying her personal goodbyes.

Michael had posted the personal letters – the ones he didn’t read – on his way home from the office last week. For the other group, he added a note with the phone number of the new line before he mailed them. He wanted to make sure that the people in that group knew that these cards and notes were important – maybe not to them, but to his sister. He wanted to do whatever he could to help make Natalie’s remaining time happy. A man of action, Michael was frustrated that he couldn’t really do anything to help. Helping make sure her words reached their intended audience; that was something he could do.

Two and a half years ago, Natalie had been diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension – a condition in which the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the lungs become progressively blocked, weakening the heart until the person eventually suffers severe cardiac arrest. Natalie was immediately put on the registry for a heart-lung transplant, and started drug therapy. Even with the drug treatments, most patients die within five years of diagnosis. To complicate things, Natalie’s blood type, AB-, is among the rarer types, making a donor tissue match difficult.

Last month, Natalie suffered a minor heart attack. The doctors advised her that her heart was significantly weakening, and she should “prepare herself” for what was coming. That’s when she started her letter writing campaign. She spent the past month writing and writing and writing. She was being incredibly brave, which broke Michael’s heart more. She should be railing against God, the limitations of modern medicine – anything. Instead, she had come to accept her fate, and was working to make her remaining time as full as possible. She had quit her job last year to travel to the places she always wanted to see. Now, she was glad she did– traveling was out of the question. Her trips took nearly all her savings, but, as she said with an ironic smile, “I can’t take it with me, now can I?”

Michael willed the phone to ring. It sat there, mocking him. With a disgusted sigh, he strode from his office, in search of coffee. He let his assistant Margaret know where he was going, and instructed her, again, to answer the new phone if it should ring, then page him immediately. Margaret recited the edict along with her boss. She had heard the speech countless times over the last week.

His pager went off as he hit the lobby of the building. He checked the display. Boss, 9-1-1, special phone. His heart seized in his chest, and his eyes welled. Foregoing the elevator, he raced up the five flights to his office. He sprinted to his desk as Margaret was saying, “Here he is now.”

2 comments:

Tara Leigh said...

You've still got me hooked. I really wasn't expecting this when I started it, but your writing is strong and easy to read. On to the next chapter!

ehack said...

This is great Hath, really great!!