Sunrise in Coboconk
A mist covered the surface of the water. And we swam at daybreak. Peter tried to be brave. Suddenly he buried himself in my arms, And he cried. Like a baby. He was scared. But not for the reason I thought. “I don’t want to die” was all he said. Over and over. I held him close and rocked him. He tried to show strength. But he couldn’t hide his feelings any longer. The reality of his life was just too close. And his tears came out like a flood. I made a mental note to inform Dr. Willowby privately of this development.
The day after Dr. Willowby’s phone call didn’t allow for a lot of extracurricular activities if you know what I mean. Peter and I had to get quite a number of things done prior to the radiation treatments and we had precious little time in which to do it in. I was hoping to get Peter more relaxed the old fashion way – sex. However, we had lots to do, and Peter suddenly going to pieces wasn’t making things any easier. He was as nervous as a long tail cat in a room crammed full of rocking chairs and I don’t blame him. We drove into Coboconk, Coby for short, with a rapidly growing list of things to get. We got the collarless tee shirts in Norland. Mr. Lemay had them in the aisle for garden supplies. We got six of them -one for every treatment. And shirts with simple button-snaps so you could tear the thing open like Superman if you had to. We also had to find a drug store that stocked Lubriderm for Peters skin and a liquid meal replacement called Boost. I had heard of it, even seen it. But in only small quantities. We had to find someone who sold it bulk. We finally found a store in Miners Bay which was just north of Norland that sold it in bulk. We had three cases of it in the trunk with each case holding 25 drink boxes. I know Peter said this would be a journey that I wouldn’t want to document but it’s not often you have 75 drink boxes inhabiting the fridge. So I took a digital photo of a box.
Peters ability to chew and swallow solid foods could be severely impacted in about two weeks. So I’m going to put him on the scales every day. He’s 182 pounds right now and my job is to see he stays that way. He’s not going to be a happy camper if he has to sit in from the TV and drink from that box with his left and suck on a fudgsicle in his right hand.
Yesterday was so hot. We spent most of the day down by the water. Peter is terrified. I tried to snap him out of by wearing one of my most revealing bikinis. When I walked in front of him he didn’t make one sound. Not even a mildly approving growl. Nothing. So I tried shock therapy. No, not that kind. When we were inside I took my bikini off and stood right in front of him and asked him if he wanted to play. Peter was sitting on the couch and “she” was at eye level. He just shook his head. At least “tab” was interested in me. That was a mildly encouraging sign. At least part of him was paying attention to me.
Later in the evening, I sat on the couch in just my panties and my feet were propped up on a table. I didn’t feel like caging up the girls in a bra so I didn’t wear one. I was fanning myself using an old magazine while I sweated. It was just so humid. Normally, Peter would be all over me like a cheap shirt. But he wasn’t. And I was worried. And it scared me to death. Was he losing interest in me? Did he fall out of love with me? Did he still want to marry me? I made another mental note to ask Dr. Willowby about this too.
As Monday drew closer Peter started to pull himself together. He was back to his old croaky, horny self. He tried to get inside as often as possible. But he seemed to completely miss the concept that maybe I just didn’t feel like it. When I didn’t say yes he got snarly and nasty. Sometimes when I didn’t move fast enough for him he picked me up bodily and moved me out of the way. I had to find out what was going on. I didn’t want to lose him but at the same time, he was starting to scare the hell out of me.
The day came and Peter and I got a really lousy sleep. I was not in the best of moods. Peter tried for an early morning quickie. I tried to let him know I just wasn’t interested at that time. He wasn’t listening. I was so angry at him I slapped him. He turned his back to me and gave me the cold shoulder. A few hours later the alarm clock rang and I told him to get up. He still didn’t talk. We had breakfast in total silence. I was really concerned. If every morning was going to be like this I was going to move back to Blue Cottage. I just didn’t know what else to do.
I dropped Peter off at treatment room 5. I told him I’d see him after the treatment and gave him a kiss for good luck – on the cheek. He had really hurt my feelings. When I got up to Dr. Willowby’s office I guess he saw my expression and came to the conclusion that things were not all peaches and cream. I talked and cried.
“I don’t understand what’s going on. The day after you called Peter and I were swimming and all of a sudden he starts crying and saying “I don’t want to die” over and over. He seems to have lost interest in me, I offered myself to him several times, and last night he almost raped me. I love Peter but I don’t know if I can do this.”
Dr. Willowby sat in a small chair about five feet in front of me. He tried to get all clinical and professional but his humanity was showing and not his white lab coat.
” Nuts! I was hoping this wasn’t going to happen. It would seem Peter has been repressing some emotions. It also sounds like he’s done an online diagnosis. I warned him about bottling up his emotions. I also told him not to do what I think he’s done. From your description, it sounds like he’s gone online to research his type of cancer”
“How do explain his losing interest in sex, me, then almost raping me last night.”
“OK, since you and Peter are engaged that makes you my patient. That means I can’t mention a word of this case to anyone without your permission. So I want you to call me as soon as something like this pops up again. Cancer patients they tend to bottle up their emotions -especially men. Men need to air them out and cut out all this macho crap! The sex drive of a great many cancer patients – again mostly male, almost vanishes. He’s not going to feel like going through the motions with anybody, but the hormones in his brain will still want to show you he’s still got what it takes. He loves you wildly. His mind is saying take things slow and concentrate on the cancer. The Cro-magnon in him wants to mate with you as often as he can and show you he’s still healthy.”
Every time Dr. Willowby said, “you”, he put a lot of emphasis on the word and pointed right at me with stabbing motions. I really wanted to understand Peter.
“If I understand you-you’re saying his brain wants to show me he’s still King Kong but his body is saying “not tonight dear I have a headache.” But I had to slap him. Hard!”
“And you might have to again. And if he gets any more violent call the cops then call me. I’ll tell my service to put your call through really quick. But getting back to Peter, his mind and his brain are not in sync. They should be in about a week. Now for the sex part. Since he can’t perform the way he wants to let him cuddle you. Or sooth you. Or you can let him try to please you with his fingers but that parts totally up to you. Whatever you feel comfortable with. Him seeing a positive reaction from you could do wonders for his libido. Try to let him know that you know he’s going through a rough patch but you still really want him. It’s imperative he feels useful in this relationship. If he starts to feel he’s useless and a burden to you things are going to become more difficult for him.”
Just then was a knock at the door and Peter entered.
Dr. Willowby was visibly upset with Peter. He didn’t get out the chair or shake his hand. He simply told him to take a seat.
“I’m disappointed Peter, very disappointed. I rarely have to say this to my other patients but if you don’t smarten up you can start looking for a new doctor. I tell you not to go online and research your cancer. But from what Cassie has said it sounds like you’ve done exactly that. And I can tell you what I think you found.”
Doctor Willowby got out of his chair and went over to his desk. He lifted a file folder simply marked “OOD – 50 years” from his file cabinet and dropped it on his desk. It made a thunderous crash. “These reports are out of date. Fifty years ago when somebody got a diagnosis of cancer it was pretty well meant a death sentence.” But he slammed his fist on the desk for dramatic effect. “But that was fifty years ago. Hardly anybody dies from throat cancer and certainly not from a stage 2 carcinoma. If you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for you could end up reading fifty-year-old data. Leave the medical research to the professionals.”
Dr. Willowby returned to his chair. Then he leaned forward and looked right at Peter.
“You are on thin ice my friend, very thin ice. Every cancer patient will have mood swings but you don’t forcibly move someone, and you certainly do not under any circumstances try to force somebody to have sex with you. Now, because I heard about this first you get a get out of jail card. But if you ever try either of those things again with Cassie or anyone else the cops will take you away for so long you’ll never get your voice back. And there won’t be anything I can do. I understand what you’re going through. I had throat cancer, stage two, just like yours twenty years ago. I survived through the love of a very patient, understanding wife. You scared Cassie. Very, very badly. If you’re smart, and I think you are, I’d wine and dine this wonderful young lady and apologize like you never have before. I know you can’t perform the way you want. But you can still cuddle, hold hands, sooth her, stroke her hair, and something Cassie will tell you about. Just remember to be a gentleman 24 hours a day. And no wine or spirits for you. You’re on the wagon till I say differently. The only alcohol that should be in your system should be from a cotton swab. Now take this gorgeous young lady to lunch. And you drive home. When you get home start to write a new book. And maybe in a few weeks, if all goes well you can autograph all three of your others for me.”
As we got up leave Dr. Willowby asked me to stay behind.
“OK, I threw some ice cold water on his face. Text me in a few days and let me know how it’s going.”
I wanted to ask Dr. Willowby another question.
“Can I ask you another question? Why are you taking such a personal interest in this case? We’re no different than any other case.”
“Ah, that’s where you’re wrong. You and Peter remind me of my wife and me some twenty years ago. Plus I think you really love that big monkey and he really loves you. I just don’t want to see this relationship go up in smoke.”
As I walked towards the door I stopped and said a very impulsive thing.
“Somewhere, under that white lab coat, is a hopeless romantic screaming to get out.”
“Cassie Carter, you’re beginning to sound like my wife. See you next week, and make a note of any problems.”
Dr. Willowby handed me a list of all Peters appointments for that week. Times, locations, everything we needed.
Before we went home Peter began to apologize for his horrible, scary behavior. He asked what Dr. Willowby and I talked about before he arrived. I told him. Point blank. I said either he straightens out or I walk. I could have mentioned my simplistic version of the diagnosis, my King Kong and the headache bit, but I thought he’d had enough cold water for one day. Besides, I was hungry!
He took me to a little sidewalk bistro. He ordered or at least tried to. I had to help him with that. I was then I discovered how just how helpless he really was. No iPad, nothing to write on. Nothing. When the person taking our order finally moved on Peter let me in on a little secret. He had already started work on a fourth book. From what I could understand it was based on us. He said it was a piece of romantic fiction. I asked when he started it. Peter said he started it the day he met me. Peter prefers to write at night. He says there are fewer distractions. When I asked if I could read some of it he initially said no. Then he changed his mind. “No, I’d really like your opinion. Normally I don’t let anybody but my agent read anything I’m still in the process of writing but I would like a woman’s opinion.” What he said next answered a great many nagging questions I still had. Questions I had about us. “I’d like my fiancée’s opinion.”
I couldn’t help it but I asked him if he any ideas for a title. “Right now I’m toying with two titles.” But he didn’t tell me what they were. He just sat there looking at me. It was a little unnerving.
“Well, are you going to tell me? The suspense is killing me.” He started to chuckle. “I love looking at your face when you’re like this. Your face is gorgeous and your curiosity infectious. You remind of a little kid on Christmas morning.”
I couldn’t stand it anymore. I kicked him. “Peter James Christopher. Are you going to tell me or not? Do you realize that what you’re doing could be called cruel and inhuman torture?” He started to chuckle some more and slapped the table.
“PJC, are you ever going to tell me or are you toying with me too?” Peters’ face took on a semi-serious expression. “Alright. I’m sorry. I just couldn’t help not doing that. I’m working with two titles. One is The Lady Next Door and the other is The Woman From Blue.”
Neither one really grabbed me. I tried to imagine myself in a book store and seeing two books on the shelves with those titles. If I simply saw the title and didn’t see the actual artwork neither one would garner enough interest to make me want to pick it up and give it a quick glance.
“Mind if I make a suggestion? What about The Lady From Blue Cottage? A title like that would interest me enough to pick it up and take a look at it.”
Peter looked like he was thinking. “I like it. It’s short and memorable. It’s on the list.”
Then I asked him how many chapters he had written. “Only twelve chapters” My eyes bugged out in surprise. Then I asked if I could read some chapters expecting a strong no. “Sure. Will three chapters do?”
When we got home he handed me the first three chapters. He went to bed early. I stayed up reading what he had written, then re-reading it. The detail was frightening accurate. Even Mr. Lemay was in it. But Peter had changed his last name to Murphy. When I came to bed he was already asleep. As I looked at him I tried to imagine the monster of the night before. And the longer I looked the monster disappeared.