It was thin grey day that stretched over the expanse of the morning; looking out the window I could see the field of the neighbouring school for once quiet and empty on a summer's day. Summer holidays had begun two weeks ago, and I remembered I still had the end of term exams to mark and grade. "Fun, fun music theory" I sighed, flicking through the dauntingly huge pile of papers on my desk for year 8. Grabbing the empty coffee mug I made my way downstairs and found Andria in the kitchen, making tea. "Great, get us one would you?" I asked, putting the mug down. She smiled at me and put a teabag in the mug.
"Long day?" she asked
"Not too bad. You're on top of your paperwork right?" I leant round her to grab a piece of toast, and she caught my arm.
"That's my breakfast, troublemaker"
"Sorry" I put a kiss on her cheek and watched her face glow. We wouldn't be going on a holiday this year; the plan was mostly books, artistic films and toast. "Guess we'll have to keep the relatives out. I want at least one summer with you with the woman Hitler dragging us out to yet another dinner party"
'Woman Hitler' was code for my mother in law Megan who enjoyed asking me and Andy round for dinner with her neighbours, the smug married couples. I didn't think I could stand being asked "so when did you decide to be a lesbian?" even once more. She only forgave Andy for her sexuality a few years ago, and I wasn't prepared to forgive her.
"Well, we'll see" Andy smiled
"Why do you put up with it?"
"Because she's my mother, I suppose. This is nice" she wrapped her arms round my waist and put her head on my shoulder. "It's really soft" I leant behind her and poured myself tea.
"Yep. It's my favourite jumper"
"It smells like you" she mumbled, I let myself a small smile.
"You're teas going to go cold"
I laughed and put my arms round her shoulders, and kissed her gently. "I need to go mark some papers" I smiled pulling away "drink your tea. Your coughs getting worse, I think you ought to drink a lot of hot drinks, and wrap up warm, and…"
"Yeah, yeah" she grinned picking up her mug. I pulled a face and walked to the front room, and had only put the mug down when I heard Andy have another fit of coughing, which seemed so longer and harsher than before.
"Andy?" going back into the kitchen I made her sit down, when the horrible sound finally subsided I said quietly I really think you should check this out"
The doctors surgery was a pale dingy blue, the reception covered with fading wall paper. I smiled faintly at Andy who squeezed my hand. The elderly woman behind the desk looked up at us, and nodded. Andy got to her feet and went towards the door to the examination room, turning to look at me quietly. Smiling brightly as she could. She was trying to make me less afraid. I hated these kinds of places. After Andy had gone into the room I went to the reception desk and asked the woman if I really couldn't go in there with her and she reminded me that they would be taking scans and I could go in when they had finished. Minutes ticked by like centuries. People came and went but Andy remained behind the door out of my sight, out of reach. I could feel time slipping away.
All I could think about was Andy, Andy, and Andy. I'd tried so hard these last few months; she was so tiered, all the time. I remember when we first started dating she'd never stop laughing, her smile was so bright and beautiful it filled up the world around her. It was like somebody had put a filter on the light that radiated from her. "Miss Moorson?" I flinched at the mention of my name, and looked up to see a doctor standing at the doorway of the examination room. "You may come in; I would like to speak to both you and Miss Andria Gates. I got up and went into the room, Andy was sitting on the examination table; as soon as I came in she looked up.
"Charlotte" she said quietly, I could barely hear her. I came and stood next to her as she got to her feet, and quickly held her hand. I could feel her leaning slightly on my arm.
"Miss Moorson, Miss Gates has requested that you hear also what I have to say" the doctor began, I nodded he regarded us both silently for a few moments, withholding the moment. "There are…some abnormalities. The infection has already consumed the left lung and I'm afraid that we believe this may be cancer. There are several courses of treatment…" I listen as the doctors words slowly began to fade out of earshot as the word 'cancer' filled up the inside of my brain, and I suddenly felt very sick.
The sunlight shone through the leaves of the blackcurrant bushes, and made green shadows on the pages of Cather in the Rye. A cricket hummed in the whispering grass and the world seemed completely quiet. I looked up from my book to see who had just asked me the question. "What?" I asked.
"I said, what's your name?" smiled the girl standing over me, smiling brightly. Her toffee coloured curls were held back messily with a black hairband and I was eye to eye with the grass stains on her pale bleached jeans. She looked about my age, then, about 12. "My names Andy"
Three years came and flew past and were gone again. On my fifteenth birthday, I asked my Mom if I could Andy round for dinner. She was the only friend I had to ask, but I was glad it was her. She brought 'O brother where fort art though?' with her and we watched it on the sofa with a bag of Doritos between us. When it got to the end bit where they sand 'you are my sunshine' Andy hummed along, I asked her if she liked it and she turned and grinned at me "yep, that's my favourite song, it makes me feel better. You and that song, that's all I need"
I graduated from university six years later; it was another grey and pale day. The sun was shining out of the audience; Andy was smiling and cheering when I came down from the stage with my diploma. I beamed. Later after I'd shrugged of my relatives for a while we went and got chips and sat on the park bench eating them and laughing. Talking to Andy was never hard. On the way back home she whistled 'you are my sunshine'
I was suddenly back in the hallway of the hospital ward, and remembered everything that I had been trying to make myself forget. Flashback over.
"You can go in and see her now"
They'd put her in a private room, a small white space with pale blue curtains. Her face lit up when I walked in, she didn't sit up this time. She was still beautiful as ever. I'd gotten leave from work to be here right now, the words of sympathy from the staff and my pupils echoed round inside my head. I guess I hadn't really heard what they'd said; I hadn't seen them for such a long time. Andy out lived the year the doctor had given her. The thought made me smile as I thought just how typically her that was, and she looked across at me sadly, and motioned for me to come and sit next to her. The nurse shut the door, and she began to talk.
"How are you doing? Are you eating properly?" she gazed at me kindly even now worrying about me. Don't cry. Don't cry.
"Yes" I said quietly "the nurse said you…well, I'm right here, I came soon as I got the message"
"Yeah, they're making a fuss. Special exception for a visitor not during visiting hours, that grumpy nurse was having none of it, homophobic as anything but Dr Joanes put his foot down" she mumbled, smiling. Even without her hair, she just seemed to fill the room with light, such a faint, pure light. They had to be wrong about her, she couldn't die, and she simply couldn't. "Such a grey day today" she sighed "oh well, I suppose you're here and that's fine" don't cry. Don't cry.
I took her hand in mine and placed a small kiss on her cheek. "Always" I whispered. I was suddenly interrupted as Andy was struck with a sudden fit of coughing; I supported her till she stopped. Don't cry.
"Damn…I said no morphine so I could talk, but even so…"
"Do you want me to get some?"
"No, stay" she gripped my hand slightly leaning back again "please stay. I…I'm so tired Charlotte…"
"OK" she smiled at me, and closed her eyes.
"Sing me a song" my breathe caught in my throat. Don't. Cry. Not knowing why, I started to sing quietly, as I sang, Andy smiled and breathed deeply, putting everything down.
"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine; you make me happy, when skies are grey. You'll never know dear…" I tried to finish, my voice shaking, and realised that Andy beneath my hand lay quietly asleep. She'd gone. I tried to smile, and finished
"You'll never know dear…how much I'll miss you. So please don't take, my sunshine, away…"
A silence settled over the hospital room, after a moment, I lent down and kissed Andy goodnight, and finally allowed the tears to fall now she could no longer see. I let the nurse come in and put the white sheet over Andy's head as I left, I was stopped in the hall by Dr Joanes, who knew. "She'll never be gone, Charlotte, her memory is always there" he reminded me quietly. I sighed, and smiled gently at him.
"Thank you" I smiled