Moving On by Shannon Hart, author of Until the End of Forever
I checked my watch for the tenth time and sighed. What is taking her so long? The ice in my peach iced tea had already completely melted and the white coaster with the restaurant’s logo below it was dripping wet.
I finally heard the sound of Hannah’s Louboutin heels stomping all over the parquet floors as she seemingly hurried back to our table.
“My God, the line in the bathroom was so long, you’d think they were giving out free food or something!” Hannah said, as she sat down in the seat she had left for at least a half an hour.
“Hannah, I really have to go by 2:30. I can’t be late for this meeting,” I said, probably for the eleventh time since we got to the restaurant.
“Oh lighten up. It’s not like they’re going to fire you for being late once.”
“I’m serious, Hannah. I can’t be late for this. This is like the most important meeting in my entire career! If I blow this, I’ll never get that promotion and you know how much I want it.”
“I know, I know, you said that already. This will be quick, I promise.”
She kept saying that, but in the entire hour we were there, she never managed to even start the actual conversation.
Well, it’s not like she really had to start. I already knew what the conversation was going to be about. She didn’t even have to hint. I knew she wanted to talk to me about Nate.
Or rather, she wanted to talk to me about not thinking of Nate. About moving on with my life and stop living in the past. Just like what Sophie tried to tell me last week over coffee, and what Becca tried to convince me to do when we went jogging two weeks ago. One by one, my friends were trying to convince me to move on.
I didn’t want to talk about moving on again, but seeing as that I had already dodged this gruesome conversation with Hannah for about a month now, I figured I should just get it over and done with. Fast, painless, like pulling off a band-aid; exactly how it went with Sophie and Becca. I’d just smile and say, “I have moved on, really. It’s just not as fast as other people. But I’m fine, I swear.”
Hannah took a deep breath, as if she had to prepare herself before delivering the big speech.
“Look, there’s no easy way to say this, so I’m just going to go ahead and say it,” she said.
I nodded, mentally rehearsing my “I’m fine” line so I could be more convincing. Maybe I wasn’t convincing enough to Sophie and Becca, which is probably why they had to send my sister Hannah down to do the job for them.
“I know Sophie and Becca have spoken to you,” she continued, as I smiled, telling myself I was probably psychic or something.
“Yes, yes they have. And if you’re here to tell me the same thing, don’t waste your breath. I’ll just repeat whatever I said to them. I am moving on. It’s probably just not as fast as other people. But I am. I’m fine. I swear.”
I expected Hannah to roll her eyes. I had already envisioned her shaking her head, disapproving and not buying into what was clearly a big fat lie. But she didn’t. She did shake her head, but it was different.
“No, no. I’m not here to tell you to move on. I’m here to tell you not to. Nate needs you, Grace. You can’t move on just yet.”
I wasn’t used to people telling me I shouldn’t move on. From the day that the news spread – that Nate backed out of our wedding two nights before, claiming he decided he wasn’t ready to commit and didn’t even love me all that much after all – all my friends and family have been trying to tell me to forget him and just move on. Some were more extreme that others: my parents offered to let me stay with my Dad’s brother in Leeds so I wouldn’t have to be on the same continent. Nate’s own sister Marissa, who Skyped me from Sydney, said he wasn’t even worth the heartache. Oh, and let’s not forget my high school boyfriend Jack, who (jokingly) offered to have him “terminated."
So why was Hannah, my own sister, whom I shared flesh and blood with, telling me to do otherwise?
I looked around me, wondering if I was being filmed on some cruel reality TV show or something.
“Is this a joke?”
She shook her head. She looked serious. I don’t recall ever seeing her this serious.
“I don’t get it.”
She bent down to grab something from her bag; a white envelope, bearing the initials NW on it.
Just seeing those two letters side by side gave me goose bumps all over. Nathaniel Woodward. Nate. My Nate. Or “used to be” my Nate.
“I’m breaking so many laws by doing this, but I have no choice.”
She opened the envelope so slowly that the suspense almost killed me. A million questions rushed through my head. What is that? Why is this breaking the law? What is she trying to show me? The voices in my head just wouldn’t stop asking no matter how much I tried to tell them to shut up.
“Nate went to Dr. Peterson about six weeks ago. He complained that he was feeling extremely weak, and at one point couldn’t get out of bed. Dr. Peterson suggested to him to do some blood tests, some scans and…” Hannah paused. She looked to her left and right, then moved forward before saying very softly, “Gracie, the results weren’t so good.”
I felt a stinging pain in my throat. While I often wished that Nate would drop dead on account that he humiliated me by canceling our wedding, I sincerely never meant it to be literal.
“I didn’t even know he was seeing Dr. Peterson. He was going by his first name, Samuel, and I didn’t realize it until Dr. Peterson had me pull up his file last week.”
“What does this mean? I mean, what exactly are you trying to tell me here, Hannah? Is he like… dying or something? I don’t understand any of this…” I said, shaking my head repeatedly. What was I supposed to think of all this?
“I need you to listen to me carefully when I say this, Gracie,” Hannah blurted out. Then she shook her head and said, “They found a tumor in his brain.”
I started feeling chest pains myself. Either that or someone stuck a blade right through my heart. Whichever it was, I was having trouble breathing.
“I know this is a lot to take on and I know it’s easier to hate Nate for what he did to you. But I think he needs you right now. He moved all the way here from Australia for you. He doesn’t have anyone here except for a few friends that didn’t take your side.”
My head was spinning uncontrollably. I had to tightly grip the edge of my seat just to keep myself from falling out of the chair.
“I hated him for what he did to you too, but I couldn’t help but notice that the dates of his appointments and when he got all the scan results back – they’re all around the time things became rocky with you guys. In fact, here…” Hannah took out a piece of paper and tried to show it to me. It just looked like a white page full of scribbles because my eyes were so blurry from holding back tears. I couldn’t read a single thing that was on it. “This note Dr. Peterson made was from July 7th. That was the day, right? That was the day he called it off? Gracie, it’s not that he didn’t love you…”
“Stop!” I suddenly shouted. I couldn’t take it. Hannah kept talking and talking, and I couldn’t digest everything she was saying. “Please, stop talking. Just… for a minute. I need to process this.”
Hannah pulled back. She sat up against her chair and folded her arms across her chest.
I checked my watch. A quarter past two. I was definitely going to be late.
I wanted to scream. I didn’t know how to wrap my head around this whole Nate situation. He had a tumor growing in his brain? Did he have cancer? So, he might have left me because he knew he was sick, not because he wasn’t ready to commit? And after all this time of hating him, I was supposed to go back to him and be his support system through one of the most difficult situations in his life?
What exactly was I supposed to be feeling for him? By the looks of it, Hannah seemed to think I should be feeling compassion for him. She probably expected me to dramatically exit the restaurant and run off to Nate’s place to wrap my arms around him and tell him all was forgiven. She was pretty dramatic like that. I had no doubt that exact scene played through her head ever since she asked me to have lunch with her. But was I able to do that?
More than anything at that point, what I felt was disappointed. Sure, compassion was lurking around, banging on my head telling me I should just forget about my pride and go running to him. But I couldn’t suppress the disappointment because all this just meant that he didn’t trust me enough to share it with me. Either he didn’t think I’d be strong enough to stick around, or he didn’t think I loved him all that much – both scenarios made me sound like the weak link in the relationship.
“Grace, I know you need time, but if the tumor turns out to be malignant, time is something he probably doesn’t have a lot of. I know you still love him, that’s why you haven’t been able to move past hating him for leaving you. So, open your heart to him again and be there for him. He needs to have some sort of positive reinforcement in his life right now. It really helps. He’s in a hospital room completely alone. The only people who have been seeing him are the nurses, Dr. Peterson and me. He can’t go through this alone, Grace.”
I brushed the tears away from my face. The thought of him alone in the cold and unfriendly hospital bed surrounded by needles and surgeons pushed those tears right out of my eyes.
I checked my watch again. Half past two. I was late, but I decided I didn’t really care anymore. This was so much bigger than some silly promotion.
“When do you know for sure how bad it is?” I finally asked.
“Any time now. We’re waiting for the results from the biopsy to come out.”
--Check back for Part 2 of Moving On next week! Do you like this story so far? What do you think will happen? Leave a comment to let us know. Thanks! We love hearing from you!