Late..., Part 1

(by, 10 September 1999)

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"Late...Part 1"
(`Early-'  Part 3) by

[Thanks for the e-mail responses to my two previous stories 'Early' and 'A 
Little Later', it's nice to be appreciated!]

   Jenny and Derek walked into T.G.I. Friday's.  Jenny and her current 
boyfriend were out to celebrate her 21st birthday.
   Upon entering, they were approached by a girl who was trying hard to be 
swank but who really didn't need all the attitude just to seat them.
   "Yes," Jenny replied.
   "Smoking or non?"
   "Non," Jenny replied again.
   "Okay, follow me."

   The two of them were seated and ordered margaritas.
   "So, 21.  Do you feel any older?"
   Jenny smiled at Derek.
   "No.  I just wish mom could have been here."
   "I'm sorry."
   "It's not your fault.  It's been five years."
   "Still hard to deal with though."
   "Yeah.  I'd give just about anything to see her again."
   Derek paused, uncomfortably, before he spoke again.
   "You never really say much about it.  Do you wanna' talk about it?"
   "There isn't much to say," Jenny replied matter of factly.  She found 
herself distracted by the sight of a woman lighting up a cigarette in the 
smoking section.
   Derek said something, Jenny registered that he was talking but was too 
wrapped up in watching the woman smoke.
   "You still with me?," he said, putting his hand over hers.
   "Oh, uh, yeah.  I'm just distracted."
   "Did you want to talk about your mom?"
   "Well, like I said, there isn't much to say."
   "Must be something.  You've been kind of distant all day."
   Jenny looked at him, sad and reluctant.
   "I don't know if I-"
   "You don't have to talk about it.  I just thought maybe that was what you 
were distracted about."
   Jenny took a moment to check the color of her fingernails and decide 
whether she wanted to go down the road Derek was leading her.
   "Well, I-"
   Jenny was interrupted as the waiter stepped up to their table.
   "Here's your drinks.  Are you two ready to order?"
   "I'll have the Saturday burger," Derek said, "how bout' you, Jen?"
   "I'll have the French Dip."
   "Okay, I'll get that started for you," the waiter said with a smile, then 
turned and walked away.
   Derek and Jenny sat silently for a minute.  Jenny spoke, almost against her 
will it seemed.
   "Well, about six years ago, when I was 15, my mom was diagnosed with lung 
   "Oooh," Derek said with a cringe.
   "It wasn't a huge surprise.  I mean, she smoked four packs of cigarettes a 
day for as long as I can remember.  Anyway, it was a really tough time for 
us.  We were trying to get an entire lifetime of a relationship together in 
whatever time she managed to have left."
   "Oh.  Well, you don't have to-"
   "No, I've started, I'll finish."
   Derek shrugged sympathetically.
   "Go for it."
   "So, she was diagnosed with lung cancer.  My aunt and cousin Sabrina were 
around a lot after that.  The way my mom just kind of wasted away-it was so 
fast and so painfully slow at the same time."
   "Was she in the hospital?"
   "Not until the very end.  She worked until she couldn't barely walk.  She 
told me she wanted to be sure that her insurance didn't stop or they didn't 
fire her."
   "My grandpa died of lung cancer.  He was retired but, man, he wasn't the 
same person at the end that I'd known my whole life."
   "Neither was my mom.  Anyway, she wasted away.  I stayed with her until she 
had to go into the hospital, then I went to stay with my cousin."
   "Sabrina, right?"
   "Yeah.  She lives in San Jose now."
   "I don't know what else to say.  We did a lot of things together toward the 
end there.  We went to the beach and to Disneyland and a bunch of other 
places.  Mom took every bit of vacation that she got at the end.  She hadn't 
really taken a vacation for over 5 years before this happened."
   "I don't mean to ask a dumb question, but didn't they do anything to try 
and help her?"
   "The doctors she saw."
   "They said that the cancer was inoperable by the time she went to see them. 
  She went in because she was having chest pains, feeling dizzy, that sort 
of thing."
   "I see."
   "She had cancer in her lungs and it had spread to about a half dozen other 
places by the time they diagnosed it."
   "Yeah.  I miss her."
   Jenny's attention drifted away in an uncomfortable silence between them.  
She was watching the woman smoke.
   Derek watched her watching for a minute.
   "Hey, I think you ought to take a picture," Derek said, trying to be funny 
and not too offensive all at once.
   She turned back toward him with a sighing laugh.
   "I'm sorry."
   "No problem.  Do you know her?"
   "The lady you were staring at."
   "What were you looking at then?"
   Jenny shook her head.
   Derek looked a little hurt.
   "Am I that hard to talk to?"
   "Why are you asking that?"
   "First I ask about your mom, and I tried hard not to be pushy about it, and 
now I ask what you're staring at and you put me off like I'm looking down 
your shirt.  It's not a big deal, I guess, but it doesn't make me feel too 
confident that you trust me."
   Jenny looked up at him, blushing.
   "Well, I guess I could be a little more forthcoming."
   Derek shrugged.
   "Okay.  I'll tell you why I was watching that woman."
   "You're a lesbian," Derek interjected, smirking.
   "No.  Do you want to hear this or not?"
   "Yes.  Yes.  Go ahead."
   As Jenny was trying to put together a way to explain to him what the 
distraction had been all about, dinner showed up.

More to come-

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