This is dedicated to my best friend who recently lost her husband. She’s a beautiful woman who doesn’t deserve the hand she was dealt. I love you, Pam…
Not mine…I’m not Stephenie Meyer. I wish I was. Dang it. But, oh well…
Summary: Isabella Black lost her husband in the cruelest way possible. He wasted away and was ravaged by the evil, silent killer, cancer. Five months after his initial diagnosis, he died, leaving Bella with their two young children, John, seven and Grace, five. A year after his death, Bella packs up her home in Phoenix and drives back to Forks, Washington to be closer to her family. Will she finally find a way to pick up the pieces with the help of her family, friends and a green-eyed cop?
Picking up the Pieces
“I’m so sorry, Mr. Black. The tests indicate that you have stage IV pancreatic cancer,” the doctor said coldly, not offering much hope. He almost seemed bored with what he was saying. Asshole.
“How can that be?” Jacob asked, shocked at the diagnosis. He had been feeling off for about a year, but we thought it was just exhaustion. Jacob had started a new job as an independent contractor. He had a lot more responsibilities and it was weighing on him. “Cancer?”
“Stage IV pancreatic cancer,” the doctor corrected.
“Yes, we get that,” I snapped. “What can be done? Are there any treatments? Options, Doctor. What are our options?”
“Mrs. Black, Mr. Black, I’m going to be honest with you,” the doctor, who obviously didn’t care about us, continued. “You have one of the deadliest forms of cancer there is. It’s spread from the pancreas to the liver, spleen and bones. You can try to attack it with chemotherapy, but it would just make your remaining time with your family be uncomfortable.”
“So, this is a fucking death sentence,” Jacob growled. “I’m as good as dead.”
“Jake,” I whimpered, twining my fingers through his large, warm hands. I drew in a breath, looking at my least favorite person in the world: the asshole that doesn’t care that he’s taking my husband away from me. “Prognosis. What’s the prognosis?”
“Less than six months, if you’re lucky.”
I couldn’t tell you anything else the asshole doctor said after that. Less than six months, if you’re lucky. Shit, those words were my worst nightmare. I only had six months left with my husband. He only had six months left with our babies: John and Grace. By the end of the year, I’d be a fucking widow …
Less than six months, if you’re lucky.
It’s not fair. Why? Why did God do this to us?
Suffice it to say, we weren’t lucky. Five months after that initial appointment with Dr. Dickwad, Jake was placed in hospice. My six foot five, muscular husband was now a shadow of the man I married. He lost nearly a hundred pounds and was a skeleton. His russet skin was gray and hung limply over his pronounced bones. His once rich, black hair was gone thanks to the chemotherapy we tried, fruitlessly, to stop the progression of the aggressive form of cancer. My soul mate was dying, with one foot in the grave.
What made things even sadder were the expressions on our children’s faces. They were so confused why Daddy didn’t live with us anymore and he stayed at the hospital. John, our oldest, kind of understood Jake was sick but I don’t think he realized how sick his dad really was. Grace just missed her overgrown playmate and hero of a man who would act like her horsey or be her prince charming or share imaginary tea while wearing feathery, floppy hats and pink lip gloss.
“Momma, can we visit Daddy today?” John asked, eating his cereal.
I shot a look at Billy, Jacob’s dad. He was staying with the kids while I went to check on Jake at the hospice house. I didn’t want my kids to see their dad like he was currently: barely breathing, vacant stare, and low moaning from the pain he was in. “Not today, munchkin.”
“Okay,” John said, shrugging his shoulders. “Can you tell him I love him?”
“I will, munchkin,” I replied, a few tears falling down my cheeks. I turned and leaned on the counter, trying not to lose my emotions. I couldn’t. I had to be strong for my babies.
“Can I go play?” John asked, pushing his bowl away.
“Yeah, Johnny,” I choked out. “Your clothes for school are on your bed. Poppy will take you to school today, okay?”
“Kay,” John chirped, skipping out of the room. Grace was nibbling on her food and was quiet during the whole exchange.
“Grace, are you done, sweetheart?” Billy asked his granddaughter.
“Yeah, Poppy,” she said quietly. He lifted her from the highchair and she followed her brother.
Billy walked over to me, putting his hand on my shoulder. “Bella …” he muttered.
“I can’t do this, Billy,” I stammered. “The doctors say it’s only of a matter of days, if not hours. How? Why?”
Billy wrapped his arms around me, holding me to his chest while I crumbled. I crumbled daily, almost. Being held by my husband’s dad made me feel slightly better because Billy smelled like Jacob: spicy, warm with a hint of tobacco. “Jake hates leaving you, Bella.”
“It’s not fair,” I sniffled against his chest. “We were supposed to grow old together. Not barely middle aged.” I pulled back, wiping my cheeks. “Are you sure you can handle taking John to school?”
“Of course, Bella,” he said, giving me a sad grin. “I did raise Jake, you know.”
“I know,” I snorted. “I’ll be back for dinner. There’s lasagna in the fridge. Just pre-heat the oven to 350 and put it in for an hour.”
“Will do,” Billy replied, kissing my cheek. Grabbing my purse, I clambered into the large truck Jake and I purchased just prior to his diagnosis. He needed it for his job as a contractor. Now, it seems pointless to keep it. Not like I’ll need it as a teacher. I can’t really drive the kids around in it since there’s no backseat. If we drove the kids anywhere, we used my Honda Accord.
“Don’t walk into the hospice crying, Bella,” I admonished. “Be strong. Be strong for Jake. He needs you.” I turned over the truck and drove the forty-five minutes to the facility where my husband was staying until he died. I parked the car in one of the nearby spots. I checked in with the nurse and walked to Jake’s room. One of my favorite nurses was standing outside, writing down information on his chart. “Morning, Pam. How is he today?”
“It’s a good day so far, Bella,” she smiled as she hugged me. “He seems pretty with it.”
“Awesome,” I replied, slipping into his room. Jake was laying on his side with pillows surrounding him. “Hey, baby,” I cooed, sitting down next to him. “Pam says you’re doing good today.”
He just hummed and nodded, looking at me. His black eyes were sunken into his head. They no longer held the sparkle of my husband. He was wasting away. “When was the last time you slept, Bella?” he asked, his voice weak and raspy.
“I sleep,” I argued, arching a brow. No, I don’t. I can’t sleep in my king-sized bed without you. “Are you saying I look awful?”
“No, Bells. You look beautiful. You always do,” he murmured, reaching weakly for my face. I grabbed his hand, pressing it to my cheek. His hand was cold against my skin. “Bells, I want you to promise me something.”
“What, Jake?” I asked, my brows furrowing.
“When I’m gone, keep living your life,” he whispered. “Don’t give up because I’m gone.”
“Jake, stop it. You’re …” I muttered, trailing off.
“I’m dying, Bells. I know I won’t see tomorrow,” he said, smiling wistfully. “God has granted me today, to be lucid, so I can tell you to keep living. I love you, Isabella Black and I will always be with you. I’ll always be with Gracie and Johnny. But, you have to stay alive and happy for me. Promise me, Bells!”
“How can I promise that? The man who gave me all of my happiness is leaving me,” I sobbed, looking at him.
“You’ll find another who will give you happiness,” he said. “I know you’ll grieve for me, but know I am always going to be watching over you. Hell, I may help your new man find you.”
“Jacob William Black! That is not funny,” I snarled, shooting up from my seat.
“It wasn’t meant to be,” Jake said weakly. “Tell the kids I love them and that I’ll always love them, even from heaven. Apologize to Gracie for me. I was supposed to have high tea with her on her birthday. She had a special hat for me. Also, make sure Johnny looks out for his sister. He’s got to be the overbearing man of the house once she starts dating.”
“Jake, stop. You’re scaring me,” I said, racing back to the chair. I took his face in my hands. “Don’t say goodbye. Not yet.”
“Tell Bella to be happy,” he choked out, tears falling onto his cheeks. “I love you, Bella. You were my first love. My only love. I’ll never forget you.”
“JAKE! NO!” I hissed.
“Kiss me, Bella,” he begged. His voice was getting weaker and his skin was getting colder. “I want to remember what your lips felt like one last time.” I choked back a sob, leaning forward to kiss his chapped lips. He sighed contentedly and then …
“NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” I screamed, falling against him. “You can’t go. NO!” Pam ran in and pulled me away, hugging me tightly. “Why? Why did you tease me? Come back, Jake! Please!! Come back!”
And just like that … my world changed.
A/N: I know, sad prologue. But it sets up the story. This is loosely based on my friend’s ordeal with being a single parent after her husband died from pancreatic cancer. It will get happier. I promise. Leave me some!