this is a hurt/comfort story about two remarkable women, whose lives inspired me to retell what i have learned about them for a broader audience. it does deal with a difficult issue, breast cancer, but also of a transcending love.

disclaimers: this story does portray a love between two women, and the issue of serious illness as mentioned above


thanks: to my ever-helpful editor, maureen, who manages through her knowledge and talent

to help make shine even my rough stories


feedback: welcome re. content, form and the message relayed





Part 1



It was a cold day. The wind was especially biting as she made her way into work. Six and a half years she had been coming to work at Memorial Hospital. She was feeling like a pro these days, as she watched some nursing students listening raptly to their instructors on their clinical rotations.

‘Goodness. Seems like a lifetime ago that I was in their shoes. They look so young! And they have so much to learn!’

Marty had been silently observing the students on the floor over the last week. The clinical instructors acted as if they knew everything there was to know about medicine and patient care. Sometimes she couldn’t help but think that these teachers were really out of the loop, not in the front line of any kind of care.

Still, experience with patients would make up the things lacking from these overconfident teachers. Marty believed most of all that the patients were the best teachers.

‘Time to get with it, or I will be setting a bad example for these youngsters.’ She smiled at her friend Debbie who was busy charting morning vitals and talking to another nurse who had just hung an IV on one of her patients. Debbie nodded to her as she listened with most of her attention to the student working with her.

"Are you going to put in a catheter? I’d like to watch and do the next one."

"Sure. Come on. Hi there Marty! How are you today? Must be nice to have nothing to do! Coming in at nine AM!"

"Hey now. I was called in today. As you very well know. It was supposed to be my day off. Short staffed? With all these students, how can the floor be short staffed? And I got assigned the other wing. Not my usual patients. Who made up the assignments today anyway?"

"That would be me. Mary and Paula are out sick, and our unit secretary got pulled to ICU. We do need your help, oh great nurse. Really. Will you dispense the meds down the east hall? They are late already, and the students can’t help out."

"On my way. Any one I should watch out for? I don’t know anyone down there. Who is sick? And who complains?"

"I took morning report. It was a quiet night. A few postop patients, two going for cath later on this morning. the window is sick. The family was called, since she is not doing well."

"What is her Code level?"

"Comfort only. Which is a blessing. She has advanced cancer. But she is feeling little pain. At least Dr. Jones has medicated her adequately. Some of those guys have no common sense. Like she will be addicted or something. It is all about keeping her comfortable."

"Right. See you later. Let me get at this before the patients are all called away for tests. Then things will be only more behind. I see Escort coming now."

Marty pushed the med cart, flipping through the medication lists. All the rooms were occupied, it seemed. She made her way down the hall, unhappy that she knew so little about each patient. Passing medication was always a good time to get an extra assessment done, get a better handle on who needed some attention, who warranted a call to the attendings.

Since she knew none of these patients, she felt at a disadvantage. Still and all, she trusted her judgment, her clinical take on a patient.

She was pondering just these things when she finished 322. So far there had been no surprises, and little that the patients needed. Breakfast was late, and some people grumbled about missing a hot meal when they were scheduled for tests. She reassured them that their meals would be warmed when they returned to the floor. What she did not say was that they could not be too sick if that was their biggest complaint for the day.

324 was looming ahead. There was something about caring for the dying. It took a special personality. And she was well aware of her own limitations in that regard. It bothered her more than she cared to admit, to see hopelessness and pain etched so clearly on faces. Sometimes the patient who slept away their last few days seemed better off by far. Those she did not mind washing and repositioning. Their spirits perhaps had already left their weakening flesh. The ones hardest to treat were those with suffering-filled eyes full of fear, questions and regret, or worse bright with angry at the fate they had received.

324-door was a post op patient, and 324-window was the patient doing poorly. She braced herself to see the dying patient. What she did not expect to see was a young woman in a hospital gown, sitting by the bedside of the cancer patient, holding a cup to the other woman’s lips.

"Here. Let me do that." Somehow her words sounded more harsh and critical than she had intended. The other patient was herself under twelve hours postop, a late day biopsy, and must be in pain. She was not in any condition to be nursing her roommate.

"I’ve got it." The woman smiled up at her kindly. "Mrs. Grant and I have become friends. I’m happy to help."

"You are very kind, honey. God bless you." The woman sipped the warm tea offered to her, and finally shook her head to refuse anymore. "Thanks. That’s plenty enough."

"How about some toast?"

"No. Don’t think my stomach can take it." She whispered almost confidentially to the young woman. "You want my eggs?"

"No. Don’t think I can take it either." The young woman smiled at her warmly. "Is your family coming in this morning?"

"Maybe. Yes, I think he said he was coming in. Maybe I’ll save it for my husband...these eggs. That is a good idea. I worry about Sam. Who is going to cook for him?"

"You are. You know these men can’t find their way around a kitchen if their lives depended on it. "

"Now you are right about that! I best get home. And my bulbs need planting. He won’t do it. Says it’s too much work."

Both women looked up as Marty placed 3 small paper cups filled with pills on the bedside table of the older woman.

"Here are your pills."

"Not going to take them."

"You’re Mrs. Grant, yes? You need to take your medicines. These are blood pressure pills and your heart medication. And pain pills."

"Which ones are the pain pills, honey?" The almost cadaveric patient pushed herself up some, as the young woman beside her reached around to adjust her pillows. "Thank you dearie’

"Those are the pain pills. Those two brown tablets."

"Well, I will just take them. This pain does get to me. Tires me out something fierce. Take the rest away. Tell her, Isabelle. I don’t want them. I won’t take them. I’m dying. What is the point of it anyway? I want to go home. Call up my husband. Tell him to come get me."

"Mrs. Grant, you are weak. How will you manage at home? And your IV’s and catheter?"

"Take them out. I’ve had enough. I want a little more tea and these pain pills. It’s time, Isabelle. I should be home. And I want you to have my bulbs. Will you take them? I’ll tell him to bring them in for you. You love flowers. And we both know I won’t get to them this spring. And he won’t. They’ll go to waste. "

"Yes, Mrs. Grant. I’d love the bulbs. I was hoping to buy some."

"Well, don’t buy them. Not when I have been nurturing these all winter. They are the most beautiful tulips. You can think of me when they come up. "

Marty stood and watched the interaction silently. How could she interfere? When they both seemed to know what was important at a time like this. Mrs. Grant was probably correct. Why stay in the hospital to die? From what she had read, the woman’s cancer of the breast had spread to both lungs and multiple bones. She was on seizure medication for a tumor growing in her brain. She had little time left, weighing about eighty pounds.

Pain medication and comfort care was the sensible approach to her care. Hopefully her family would agree to her returning home.

"Mrs. Grant, I can’t remove your IV’s and catheter without your doctors permission."

"He can be an ass sometimes. But he will listen to me this time. Call him. I knew his mother. I watched him grow up and become too big for his britches. But I am going home to die. He might as well just get used to the idea."

"You are something, Mrs. Grant." The roommate smiled and shook her head, but managed to express approval and agreement with the opinionated woman before her.

"Yes, and so are you. You better take good care of my bulbs."

"I promise I will." She adjusted the blankets around the woman’s shoulders as she sunk back into the pillows, swallowing her pain medication with determination. "Do you need anything else. Mrs. Grant?"

"Say now, who is the nurse here, anyway?" Marty smiled at the young woman.

"You have a lot to do, I am sure."

"And you should get back to bed yourself."

"I just think you like to boss people around. That’s why you went into nursing. Or you get a kick out of these gowns that won’t close in the back."

"Hey now. The color is nice though. Don’t you think?"

"What? This institutional green? You try it on."

The woman climbed onto her bed despite her words, and held out her hand patiently.

"What?" Marty smiled at her despite herself.

"I’m next. What do you have for me?"

"Let’s see. A laxative, a vitamin, a pain pill. Some iron."

"Nothing like taking iron to constipate and the pain pill to finish the deal, and a laxative to counteract the pills. I think I’ll go home as well. Mrs. Grant, may I come home with you?"

She looked over playfully at the older woman but she seemed to have drifted off to sleep.

"Is she all right?" Isabelle whispered.

"Looks all right. I won’t disturb her. You are a very good roommate."

"Her husband is dead. She has no family that comes in to see her. They want to send her to a nursing home. She can’t manage at home. It is tough to be alone like that, at the end. How can you do it? See such suffering all the time?"

"The pain meds help."

"I’m not talking about pain. There are so many lonely people, who suffer all alone."

"Not just here in the hospital though."

"Isn’t that the truth."

"Can I get you anything? Did you want your breakfast heated up?"

"This stuff they call food? No. But I want another cup of what they pass as coffee. This instant brown water. At least it has some caffeine in it."

"Would you like some real coffee? If you don’t tell anyone, I will bring you up a cup of the real stuff they save for the staff. It’s the least I can do, what with you doing my work for me." She smiled sincerely at the young woman.

"Would you? I’d love you forever."

"Does that mean you would like some coffee?"

"Yes it means that. And that you are cute."

Isabelle laughed at the blush that rose up on the nurse’s cheeks. "Well, you are. And I really do want some coffee. And in truth, I’ll do anything for a latte."

"I’ll be back at break time with your coffee." Marty hesitated a moment before exiting the room, unnerved a little at the comment. "They don’t serve latte." she added over her shoulder.

"Well, your loss then," the smiling patient called after her.

Marty bumped into Debbie at the nurses station.

"Hey, watch where you are going! You look like the devil is after you."

"What are you talking about? And where have all the students gone?"

"They went to an inservice about insulin. Thank God. Finally we can get a little breathing room around here. " Debbie looked at her friend with open curiosity. "You alright? The patients OK? You have that know, " she continued at the raised eyebrow she got in response, " the look that says something is about to happen. Someone going to crash? Do I need to call in the backup help? Call some doctor or something? I always trust your intuition, my friend. Now spill it."

"No, everything is alright. I was down in 324."

"Mrs. Grant? Sad little thing. I don’t think she has long. It’s maybe a good thing. I know she is in a lot of pain. "

"Has anyone approached the attending about Hospice Care? Her roommate said she had no real family here."

"Well, from what I gather, no real family who cares one way or the other. That’s a good idea. Better than a nursing home, maybe. See, any wonder I had them call you in from your day off? You are a good nurse."

"Yeah, well thanks for nothing. I was actually going to sleep in today.’

"What? After 6 years of waking at five thirty AM, and reporting here at six forty-five, summer and winter, before the sun comes up, you admit you are getting tired of it all? What the Hell is wrong with you, Marty? And I called you a good nurse."

"Stop snickering. And I owe you one. When is your next day off? I will be sure to call in sick and pray they call you in, instead."

"Hey now! Be nice. But really, sorry to mess up your time off."

"Why not? Better me than some of the other gals. They have family and kids. I don’t really mind. I just like to bitch."

"You do bitch well. One of the best around. But still, Marty, your time off is just as important. And you need to get a life."

"Think of that the next time you call me in from my day off."

"Wise ass. So, are you done with meds? Everyone alright down there?"

"Yes, of course I am done. But I need some coffee."

"Poor baby. You didn’t have time for your usual 4 cups of hi-test?"

"You fall asleep last night reading a joke book, or something? Give me a break. I need some coffee. I was up late reading myself."

"That’s what they all say. I just bet. A single girl like you. Well, if that’s your story, and you’re sticking to it, go on with you. I’ll take second break. And take that useless LPN with you." Debbie added, smiling at the middle-aged woman who just entered the nursing station.

"I heard that. Brat! I just got done bathing 6 patients. I should report you for elder abuse."

"Save it for your husband, Sandy. I don’t want to hear you complaining about being unappreciated. We all know you are worth any other three women."

"Exactly! That’s what I tell that worthless husband of mine all the time."

The women laughed at each other. Luckily, despite staff cutbacks, the third floor med-surg unit staff had remained essentially unchanged. Which was good. All the staff got on well together. And trusted each other. And were there to help out. Morale was higher there than in the rest of the understaffed busy hospital.

"You want me to bring you anything back?" Marty called over her shoulder to the lead nurse.

"No. I will get something later. Or wait for lunch. Maybe I’ll go down first for that exquisite cuisine."

"You have no taste where it comes to food. At least you have better taste when it comes to friends."

"So sue me. I like macaroni and stewed tomatoes. I saw the menu."

"Later, boss."

Sandy and Marty walked down the hall to the east elevators.

"Nice to be working with you again, Marty."

"You can be so charming and so sarcastic at the same time." Marty hit her arm playfully.

"What were you going to do today, before Debbie called you in?"

"Bills and shopping. And the bank. Hard to find the bank open with working dayshifts like I do."

"I’m sure Debbie will be happy to give you night shift. If you ask nicely." Sandy couldn’t stop chuckling at the look she got back at her helpful suggestion. "Just trying to be helpful."

"What is it with everyone today? A laugh a minute. And you know just what I am talking about. When you have to take care of all your own business, and the banks close at 3....."

"Yes, I do know. Even though I have a husband, I still have to do everything myself. I wonder why in the world I married that oaf."

"His money and charm?"

"What have you been smoking, honey?"

"He’s incredible in bed?"

Sandy laughed out loud. "Give me a break. You will make me pee my pants here. Incredible in bed? Like an incredible snorer, maybe."

"Well, there is that."

"You don’t know how lucky you are to have a bed to yourself. I think after 20 years of marriage, a separate bedroom should be part of the deal. I have done my time. I want a nice full sized bed, a quiet room, and to play some soft music, read as long as I want. And no one crowding me, rolling over to snore directly in my ear."

"You would miss him. You know you would."

"And how do you know that, Miss Single Woman I Know Everything About Old Married Couples?"

"What kind of name have you given me now? And for the record, that empty bed isn’t all that glamorous. The concept loses something in the translation, me thinks."

They were in line for coffee and danish. The crowd of hospital employees moved slowly ahead.

"Come on, folks! I only have fifteen minutes for break. I would like to get some coffee." Sandy called out in mock annoyance at the women in front of her."

"Don’t get your britches in a bunch, you old biddy!" Another middle aged woman spoke out, turning around to smile at her friend.

"Oh, no wonder the line is moving so slowly. It’s Helen. I might just as well go back without coffee. This is more hopeless than I thought."

"I can’t help it if the place is packed with students. Just pray they don’t run out of coffee before I get there!"

"Tell me about it." The line inched forward.

Marty smiled at her. "You know, with the crowd down here, someone might get the impression they actually served good food. I think their coffee is the only thing they make right."

"Got that right, sister." Another nurse spoke up. "I thought you had the day off, Marty?"

"Called in."

"That sucks. Why did I go into nursing? I ask myself every time I have to work weekends and holidays."

"You love it."

"I do love patient care. It’s all the paperwork and non-medical stuff we have to do anymore. Having an RN almost precludes working with patients anymore."

"Times have changed."

"What would you know about it, Marty? You have worked here all of six years. "

"Sadly I can see the changes even now. I can imagine what you...old timers see. I’ve heard the stories about postpartum care being two weeks, and dropping grandma off for the family vacation. And all those non-admissions for a rest."

"And keeping the patients here for an extra week or so, to pad the doctors’ incomes!" Some one else spoke up.

"Finally. Coffee." Marty grabbed two large styrofoam cups and began filling them to the brim.

"Who else gets coffee? And hi-test at that? Or are you really in dire need of some caffeine?"

Marty blushed a little. "Oh, one of the patients asked for a cup of real coffee."

"And you are bringing this patient a cup? You are one fine nurse, Marty. Who is it? And what did he promise you?"

"Cut it out. I am just being nice. Mrs. Grant’s roommate. She was so kind to the older woman. Just returning the favor."

"I heard she was nice. She’s being discharged today."

"What’s she here for? I didn’t have a chance to look at many charts on the east wing."

"She had a breast biopsy."

"Why? She is so young."

"Breast cancer can hit anyone. You know that."

"What is she? Thirty something?"

"Thirty four."

"Christ. That’s terrible. What a bummer."

"She has a great attitude. "

"Yes, she does. So all the more reason to give her some real coffee."

"At least she will be sprung today. She can get all the real food she wants."

Marty packed some sugar and creamer in her pocket and put lids on the cups. She grabbed a poppy seed danish as an afterthought, as they were already wrapped in plastic, pocketing that as well. She felt a little nervous about the simple gesture of kindness she was extending to the young patient. Almost a little shy as well. So she was actually relieved to see the empty bed, and hear the water running in the shower. She put the coffee and danish and cream and sugar on the bedside table and made a hasty exit, before the brunette came out of the bathroom.

The rest of the day passed quickly. The nurse’s station was more crowded with doctors, nursing students and family practice residents. It was a familiar chaos in which they all worked flawlessly, and still managed to have some laughs. Humor helped more often than not lighten the often serious problems that confronted them on a daily basis.

It was near three PM and Marty was busy with report. She was surprised to get nudged in the side by Debbie.

"What? Can’t you see I’m one of the few actually working around here?"

Debbie gave her a look. "A patient wants you. Or I would never interrupt you. The way you loose track of what you’re doing and all," she added sweetly.

Marty blushed, much to her embarrassment, knowing it was the brunette even without turning around. She put on her best professional face, and stood to look for the young woman.


"What can I do for you?" Marty followed her out in the hall, away from the nurses station.

The woman turned to face her, and stood silently reading her name tag without answering her question. She looked up finally and smiled warmly at the taller nurse.

"I just wanted to thank you for the coffee. And the danish. That was very sweet of you."

"Sure. My pleasure. They make pretty good coffee."

"Yes, pretty good. But not as good as mine. I owe you a cup."

"No, you don’t really." Marty smiled awkwardly, looking away. There seemed a long pause before she had the courage to meet the blue eyes that seemed to be amused by her. "Are you being discharged today?"

"Why? Will you miss me?"

"You must be glad to be going home."

Isabelle seemed to step back literally and figuratively, sensing the other woman’s discomfort and lack of interest in her teasing banter. She smiled more politely. "Yes. And I hope to see you somewhere else than here. Nice place but I wouldn’t want to live here."

"Isn’t that the truth." Marty looked back toward the nurses station.

"Look, I don’t want to hold you up. Thanks again."

"Take care. "

"You take care of Mrs. Grant for me."

"Alright. I promise. And if anyone brings in those bulbs, I will call you."

"You will? Bet you say that to all the girls."

"What? Oh, well, I...."

"Goodbye Nurse Marty. Don’t forget me now."

"I won’t."

And with that, the brunette walked away.

Debbie looked curiously at Marty when she finally sat back down to chart.

"What was that all about?"

"Nothing. I think I just made a friend."

"A friend? Do you know what to do with one?"

"Very funny. Can I finish up my work now, so I can go home? Or do you want me to stay the next shift as well?"

"No, go home. Please. Tomorrow morning will be soon enough to see your face again. Speaking of seeing your face again, you want to join us girls for a drink? At The Tropicana?"

"No thanks. I have some errands to run."

"See if I’ll ask you again."

"You are just fickle. But I’m used to your ways, boss."


The day ended finally. But Marty could not get Isabelle Giovanni out of her mind. How friendly she was. How kind. How beautiful.

‘She couldn’t have been flirting with me. She couldn’t have been gay? What, do I look gay? I’ve never even thought of a woman in that way. Why am I doing so now? God, what a day. That is the last time I do Debbie a favor!’

It was only three days later that Marty noticed Isabelle Giovanni ‘s name on a chart. She was glad at the thought of seeing her again,to have the opportunity to understand the myriad of emotions the brunette seemed to inspire in her. But at the same time, she felt a sudden moment of dread. Why did the woman have to come back to the hospital so soon? Marty had picked up the chart to review it, when she was called to help another nurse get a patient up from a chair back to bed. Her back protested the two hundred fifty pound man who seemed unable to help himself or the two women who struggled with his mass, his catheter and two IV bags.

Finally settled, and at a quiet moment later in the morning, Marty found the courage to walk down the long east hall toward Isabelle’s room. If the woman looked up, she would say hello, maybe go in. If she did not see her, Marty reasoned, she would just forget the lame idea of visiting her altogether.

‘Why would she want to see me anyway? Not like she knows me, or anything. Or would care one way or the other.’

The suddenly nervous veteran nurse walked slowly down the hall, more hesitant than she had ever been, and paused just out of the line of sight of the bed, almost timidly looking for Isabelle. Marty could finally see her clearly, sitting on the chair by the window, soaking up the sun. The brunette was the only one in the semiprivate room that day. While Marty was busy thinking up some excuse to stop in and say hello, she was suddenly taken with the beauty of the woman. She rather guiltily studied her as she sat, seemingly a thousand miles away, noticing her hair, shining so in the winter sun. And her delicate thin shape. She found herself looking at her profile, the feminine lines of her graceful limbs, attractive despite the hospital gown and IV line.

It was just then that Isabelle looked up, and caught her stare. Marty would have expected anything but how the patient reacted to seeing her there.

Isabelle practically yelled at her in an angry tone.

"What do you want? I thought you were one of the experienced nurses around here. That you’d seen everything. Stop staring at me. Haven’t you ever seen a woman with one breast before?

Just another freak. The place is full of them. Christ, I would slap you if I could reach you. Just let me alone."

Marty was simply frozen in her tracks.

‘Why is she yelling at me? What did she say? She couldn’t know I was admiring her. She must think I’m a ... One breast? Oh no...."

Despite the anger being thrown at her, Marty sensed a need to be completely honest, to let her real interest be expressed, despite her own insecurity. She rather stiffly walked into the room toward the brunette, despite her loud verbal protests.

"Doesn’t anyone around here listen to me? Or are you deaf? What?"

"Hello yourself." Marty gave her her best attempt at a confident smile.

"You were staring at me. You were being rude. I am not in the mood for it."

"Yes, I was. I was just coming to say hi, to see if you wanted any coffee. But I got distracted."

The patient snorted. "Distracted? Great!"

"I got distracted by... how beautiful you looked sitting there." She continued in a softer voice, her heart racing at the audacity of her words and intent. Marty did not know what would happen next, but she certainly would not have anticipated the breakfast tray that was picked up and flung at her, that she was too shocked to avoid.

"God damn it! I don’t want your pity. Get the fuck away from me!"

Marty just looked down at her white uniform, now covered with soggy cereal, eggs and orange juice, with coffee running down her front. She glanced up at the woman who had stood up as if she would physically attack her next. "I can’t believe you did that."

"Believe it. You don’t want to really piss me off."

The nurse took the moment to wipe some splashed coffee off her face, and then wiped her hand on her already soiled uniform.

"Anything else you’d like to throw at me? How about your water pitcher? It might get the stains out, if I soak this in something cold. And I know it was filled with ice not long ago." Marty spoke calmly, too amazed to be angry. Actually she wanted to laugh, if

the entire thing weren’t so insane. In all the years she had worked the floor, no patient had managed to get her dirty...not with urine or vomit or food. Until this maniac. Who looked even more beautiful angry.

Both women seemed to smile at once self-consciously, involuntarily, as anger disappeared as quickly as it had flared.

"God, you are a messy eater. To think I wanted to ask you out." Isabelle shook her head slowly from side to side.

"To think I almost wanted to take you someplace for some latte, at least." Marty spoke with an indignation she did not feel. She continued with a wink, "Since I heard you’d do anything for a latte."

"God, you are terrible at picking up women!"

"Well, I haven’t had much practice. And with this kind of reaction," she said simply, pointing at her uniform, "you can understand my hesitancy to try it often."

"I feel terrible. You look like shit. Do you have something else to put on? I could loan you a hospital gown," she added with a smirk.

"Wouldn’t I be a hit with my patients, with my ass hanging out behind me?"

"You might be. With certain patients, that is."

"Do you think so? Like who?"

"I have heard that women with one breast will go out with very bad dressers. Since they don’t have much selection, given how freakish they look themselves. " All the bravado seemed to disappear from the brunette as she sat back down almost weakly.

"Do you want to talk about it? I didn’t look at your chart. I had no idea. "

"No, I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t know what I want to do."

"After all this," Marty pointed to her uniform again, "you do owe me one. Actually two, what with the coffee and danish, and now target practice. So I want to talk about it. But later. I have a strong desire right now to get out of these clothes."

"Yes, I do have that effect on a lot of women."

"You are crazy, Isabelle Giovanni."

"So you do know my name."

"How could I forget it? I never had a woman hit on me before."

"I was not hitting on you."

"Were too."

"Was not."

"Were too. I’m not stupid."

"I don’t know about that part, but I... do admit to hitting on you."

"Knew it."

"Did it work?"


"My last fling."

"What? Would I kill romance for you, if we were to go out?"

"You know very well I am talking about being ugly, disfigured, sick. Shit! Shit! Shit!"

Marty found herself moving to sit on the bed to look at the woman. And reach for her hand. And silently hold it until Isabelle turned her eyes from the window to gaze at the nurse.

It was the kindness and caring, the affection she saw there that was her undoing, that made her finally cry.

"I don’t want to be crying." She wiped her eyes with evident disgust.

"But you are. Might as well get it all out. I won’t tell anyone."

"Don’t be so nice, will you? I’m really PMS-ing."

"I didn’t notice." Both women laughed at the absurdity of the situation.

"I can’t believe you came to work with all that breakfast on your uniform. " Isabelle smiled finally at her.

"I can’t believe I didn’t offer to share it with you, right off. How rude of me. The eggs are particularly good this morning." As she spoke, she picked up a large lump of scrambled eggs from her breast and offered it to Isabelle with a charming smile. "Will you join me for breakfast? "

"Some other time."

"Then that is a...yes?"

"A yes?"

"That you will go out with me?"

"You must be desperate."

"Apparently I am. Good thing I enjoy playing with my food."

"Good thing I do too."

Marty blushed at the wiggling eyebrows that teased her.

"Talk about being bad at picking up women!"

"Hey, I am good at picking up women." Isabelle slapped her arm.

"Yes, I know. I couldn’t stop thinking about you."

"Hmmm. Will you go get yourself cleaned up? How can I be having a conversation about going out, when you have food all over yourself, and I only have one breast? What is wrong with this picture, I ask you?"

"You can be the one with food all over you next time. And I’ll play nurse and help get you cleaned up."

"And who is going to be the one with one breast? That is just too special."

"Well, you know, that is why we are blessed with two. In case we lose one, we have a spare."

"God, your jokes are worse than your pick-up lines." Isabelle smiled despite herself, her tears, the fear that rolled deep in her gut, when she let herself think about the enormity of the changes in her life, her body that never would be the same. Or the shadow of death hanging over her head, that she had only recently caught sight of. She smiled gently at the nurse who was taking the time to put up with her shit, to care so openly.

"Now you understand why I am willing to go out with women with one breast. With my bad pick up lines, and worse jokes. No one else will have me."

"You don’t mean that."

"Well, how about...I don’t want anyone else to have me... but you?"

"Better. You are getting better at this stuff."

"I have the most amazing inspiration. A woman who goes out of her way to help the sick and dying out of kindness and compassion, and doesn’t even get paid to do so, and also throws a mean food try. Bet you were good in the outfield."

"Yes, I was, actually. Played college fast pitch."

"I knew it. I did too. First base."

"No offense, but you better get changed before I vomit. I don’t think I can look at you another moment."

"I have that effect on a lot of women."

"You are crazier than me."

"Well, we make an interesting couple."

"Maybe we do. Are you dating anyone now?"

"Just you. I think. But go easy on me, will you? I never had a tray of food thrown on me before."

"No one ever ate you before?"

"Now that was a bad one."

"Yes it was. Very bad." Isabelle smiled wickedly at her.

"Nice to see your flirting is back in full swing."

"You do inspire me, Nurse Marty."

Just then another RN came in with her hands full- bandages, tape and Bacitracin ointment, and a new IV bag as well.

"What in the world? Marty? What happened?" She asked in concern, taking in the nurse’s appearance.

Marty looked from one woman to the other, noting the puzzlement and then the annoyance on the nurse’s face at the mess in the room, and the sudden pallor and defeat that showed so clearly on Isabelle’s face, as she eyed the bandages.

"I dropped Isabelle’s tray. And I promised to change her dressings myself."

"You two are friends?"

"Yes, we’re friends. She knows I have a delicate touch. I only pull Band-Aids off fast where there is a lot of hair involved. So she should be safe for a while."

"Go at it, supernurse. I have a lot to do. I won’t mind at all. But get some clean scrubs or something. Before I vomit."

Marty smiled helplessly at Isabelle, and both women started laughing again. "See what I mean? I have that effect on a lot of women."

They both were laughing uncontrollably as the RN left, after depositing her load on the bedside tray. Marty called after her. "Will you call housecleaning to get this mess up off the floor, before I fall in it as well? And loose whatever dignity I have left?"


And so began the tenuous friendship between them that morning. And maybe the beginning of more. Marty came back twenty minutes later, showered and dressed in green scrubs.

She paused selfconsciously as Isabelle studied her.

"You look very attractive in those scrubs. You should get a pair of your own."

"If you think they look good, I will. But only if you wear that hospital gown around the house."

"Why, nurse Marty, do you like my ass hanging out? At this point, I do suspect it is my best feature. "

"I think all your features are the best actually."

"I knew you had potential."

"Potential? For what?"

"For being charming. In addition to your obvious attractiveness."

"Stop it. You are trying to make me embarrassed.

"If wearing my breakfast did not make you embarrassed, you have nothing to worry about from me."

"I don’t know about that, Isabelle."

"Are you worried about getting involved with me?" Isabelle asked, suddenly serious. " I know that it is... hardly fair of me to want to start an affair now , with this cancer diagnosis hanging over me. Talk about the great unknown, but ..."

Marty interrupted her. "I was thinking more along the lines of being worried that I have no idea what I am doing here."

"What you are doing here?"

"You know, going out with a woman."

"You are a virgin?"

"I’ve been with a few men, but..."

"Never with a woman. And you pick one with one breast!"

"I figured it might be easier to get started that way, not to be overwhelmed with two. Start out slow."

"Geez. Here I thought you were getting the hang of flirting and flattery. Don’t write that line down for use at a later time. No. A definite No to that one."

"If you say so. See, I will need a lot of guidance and help as we progress."

"Me too. I seem to have developed some new issues of body image and major disfigurement concerns."

"You sound like a psychologist or something."

"Good thing, since I am. But I can tell you truthfully, what one reads and studies, feels very different when applied to oneself, and not to patients."

"Issues of body image and disfigurement....well, if it means anything to you, I think you are one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen."

"Now you are just throwing BS. I think you are just trying to get into my pants."

"I don’t know what I am trying to do. But I want to get to know you better, Isabelle. And that it is maybe time I find something more in my life. Do you know what I mean? That maybe you are that something more I’ve been looking for."

"See, I told you so. ‘Know’ as in the biblical sense, I bet. All you women are the same!"

"You don’t really think I am just...Are you laughing at me now?"

"Maybe. Maybe it feels good to laugh right about now."

"Hmmm. Well, then you picked a good one in me. There is a lot to laugh about where I am concerned."

"I don’t believe you for an instant. You are bright, attractive, responsible, and you look great in scrubs."

"So you had ulterior motives to make me change out of my uniform?"

"I plead the fifth. And I plead insanity to be having this conversation with you, one days after a mastectomy. When I can be dead in six months."

"God. Is that what they said? Six months?"

"I don’t think they know what they are talking about. ‘Wait for the pathology.’ Nothing else to do. And this waiting is driving me crazy. I already know it’s cancer. And they were in a rush after the lumpectomy. It looked evil. That’s what the ass of a surgeon actually said to me. ‘Angry and evil looking!’ Even the sound of that c-word makes me want to curl up and just go to sleep. Let alone those adjectives in association with it. I want to go to sleep and wake up and pray the nightmare will be over. Shit. "

"Good thing I am around then, to give you something to laugh at."

Isabelle looked a long moment at the woman before her. "You know very well I would never laugh at you. You’re much too nice. But maybe you shouldn’t be starting anything with me. Really. None of this with me can be good for you. What am I thinking? Being selfish to hope someone like you would love me anyway. Or actually want to be with me now. Too bad I didn’t meet you before."

"Before what?"

"Before I got cut up, ruined, broken hearted. Afraid to death. I had great breasts."

"Well, good thing for you I am a professional hand holder. Might be good for something, after all. Make up for my obvious inexperience with romancing women. At a time like this."

"You know, Marty Edwards, you are really very sweet. I just don’t want to break your heart."

"Why? Do you break a lot of women’s hearts? Should I be prepared for it?"

"What? Do I look like a heartbreaker?"


"Maybe? Thanks." Isabelle shook her head, a little put off at Marty’s comments.

"Now, I told you I wasn’t very good at all this. What I meant, if a heartbreaker is a tease and a flirt, someone so stunning, so special, that your life is forever changed by meeting them, that you find you’re thinking about them all the time, imaging what it would be like to hold them, love them, when you don’t have a chance in the world. Well, if that is a heartbreaker... "

"Marty, please. You must know I would never break your heart intentionally. That’s not what I’m talking about. I think you know that. Just that, if you learned to care for me, and then this cancer...If I let you down, by no intent of my own, if I..."

"You do ramble. Now you seem to have guilt issues and inadequacy issues. Typical psychologist."

"You’d think, being a psychologist and all, I would be able to give myself quite the pep talk. Not give in to hopelessness at times, and be so damn frightened."

"I don’t know about you, but talking to myself isn’t quite the same as talking to someone else. Especially when I start to answer myself. And laugh at my own jokes. Honestly, Isabelle, I would be honored to get to know you, even biblically if it were meant to be. I think I am tired of being alone. And despite my inexperience, I sense something unique, special between us. Besides an abiding love for a mess of scrambled eggs. "

"You are something else, Nurse."

"Speaking of nursing, shall we tackle that dressing change?"

"Another clumsy attempt on your part, just to see my breasts. Breast," she added in a more strained voice.

"Come on. Lay down on the bed?"

"At least you are direct."

"Now just stop it. You are making me out to be a ...masher."

Isabelle pushed her IV pole to follow the nurse toward the bed. "Masher? What in God’s name is a masher?"

"A groper? Some horny lust-craved soul?"

"You mean you’re not? Why am I bothering with you at all, I have to ask myself yet again?"

Marty sat on the bed beside her. She hesitated before reaching for the snaps on the gown.

"Here. I’ll do that." Isabelle spoke with quiet determination. "I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours." She looked up with a devilish smile again.

"I think you are very brave." Marty spoke softly. "But, let’s get the show on the road, shall we?" She let her years of caring for patients take charge, and matter-of-factly opened the hospital gown, and slipping on gloves, removed the tightly applied heavy dressing. She cringed inside at the angry red scar, the violated flesh of such a beautiful woman, but let none of the sadness she felt be transmitted to Isabelle. "It looks fine. No infection. It’s healing well."

"Fine is not a word I would choose to describe that act of desecration to my chest. I am struggling to just make myself look at it. To accept it." She looked up from her incision, attempting to make light of what was happening to her. "But that drain, now that is fine." She pointed to a latex tube and an oval bulb dangling down her side, partially filled with bloody serous drainage. "Nice touch, don’t you think? Maybe I’ll keep it. You know, loose one thing, find another? What do you think?"

"That will go in twenty-four hours. You’ll have to find something else to supplement the area, if you insist. But not for a few weeks. Now I’m not into piercings myself. No dangling chains or anything. I do have my standards, after all. But a nice tattoo?"

"God, you are so conventional. You have no imagination. What ever did I see in you?"

"You like a challenge. I can see it in your eyes."

"Yes. And I do pride myself on all my toasters."

"You’ve lost me now."

"Toasters? You are unfamiliar with lesbian humor, it seems."

Marty professionally rebandaged the mastectomy site as Isabelle talked. "So it would seem. Explain?"

"Toasters. You get a toaster for every straight woman you turn. I have a pantry full of them."

"A pantry full? And you get one for me?"

"Not until I make you cry out my name as you come."

Marty took a deep breath, shaking her head at Isabelle, despite the deep blush she felt infuse her face. "You are a confident little thing, aren’t you? Cocky."

Isabelle made an exaggerated effort to lift her covers and look down toward her legs. "No. Definitely not cocky. But I’m very good in bed."

"So you say."

"It’s true. "

"Do you have room for another toaster?"

"Of course. I have a very big pantry. "

"Then we shall see, won’t we?"

"See what?" Isabelle found herself studying the lines of Marty’s strong face, looking at her lips, the flush of her face.

"If you are good in bed, or all bluff."

"Marty, I... You must think I am...."

"I know you are."


"Someone special, that I find very attractive. And I have a confession."


"I bought a cappuccino machine, to make latte."

"But will you know how to use it? That is the million dollar question."

"You’ll have to let me know." Marty stood up, and winked at her. "I have to get back to work. Some other beautiful women are asking for me down the hall."

"Hey, I found you first!"

"Finders keepers, losers weepers. That’s what my mother always said. Later then. I’d best get at it. I’ll check with you before I leave for the day. Maybe I’ll stop back after dinner, if you need anything?"

"I find suddenly I need a lot of things." Isabelle spoke quietly, looking at Marty in the doorway.

"Yeah, me too. I’ll be by in a while to check on you. Eat your lunch. You had no breakfast. And I know that from firsthand knowledge."

"Yes, dear."

"And be nice. There are sick people around here. No throwing anything else. "

"Yes, dear." Isabelle smiled at her, as the nurse waved once and walked off. But her thoughts turned serious quickly, when she was once again alone in the room.

‘What in the world am I doing? I’m insane. I’m being selfish. But she is so nice. I should have met her years ago. Why now?’


Marty found it difficult to concentrate for the remainder of the day. But she did. She managed to stop in after lunch, just to check on Isabelle. And make some small talk. Later a gallbladder patient was admitted into the same room, making the chance of more personal talk slim. She managed to supervise a student putting down an NG tube into the patients stomach and hook it up correctly, to minimize the woman’s nausea and vomiting. She felt Isabelle’s eyes on her often, but focused on the task at hand. Only when she was done, and the student adjusting an IV, did she allow her own gaze to turn toward the brunette. She smiled at her without words.

"Swell job."

"Why thank you, Ms Giovanni. Very kind of you to notice."

"You are good at what you do."

"One would hope so."

"And you are a patient teacher."

"I was taught well. It is the least I can do. And you, Ms. Giovanni, can I do anything for you?"


It was the tone of her voice alone which made Marty blush again.

"Yes, well, I do remember your request from earlier. I will attend to it in due time."

"I do enjoy my toast."

Marty smiled at her, shaking her head at the woman’s audacity.

"Toast it is, then. I will see to it personally."

"I’ll look forward to it. It does go so well with latte. "

"I’ll be sure to bring you some, then, as well."

"I’m counting on it, Nurse."

"Did you have your bone scan yet? I think it’s the last of your tests scheduled."

"Always business to attend to."


"They injected me before. I have to go back down to Xray in an hour. What did they inject, anyway?"

"Nuclear material. That goes to some bones and not others."

"How clever. Does it make me glow in the dark?"

"Some people have reported it..." Marty continued in a soft voice that only Isabelle could hear, until the student had walked past and exited the room. " But I suspect you glow in the dark just fine as it is."

"Some people have reported it..."


"Indeed. Perhaps it’s something you might observe yourself, scientifically speaking. My glow, that is." She wiggled her eyebrows again.

"Did you get a degree in flirting, in addition to psychology? Something on the masters level, or higher, I am sure."

"Why no. This is something that just comes naturally to me. An inborn talent that required no specific tutoring."


"I think you like it."

"I plead the fifth. I better go."

"You’ll be back. Resistance is futile."

"Are you always this incorrigible?"

"No. Only after a mastectomy. It seems to have affected my libido in some unprecedented manner. I am thinking of writing it up for a journal."

"Do tell. See you later."

"You can dream, I suppose."


Marty smiled warmly at the woman in passing , the woman that managed to delight her, and frighten her a little at the same time. Still however improbable all the things that were happening, all the things she let herself feel as she thought about Isabelle, nothing in her life felt so right. She told herself, as she worked on through the afternoon, that they had been brought together for some reason, some purpose. And all of her, heart and soul, believed that the purpose was something good for them both, that what they were meant to share was a gift of some wondrous proportion. With those thoughts, she got her mind back to work.


The dressing changes went easier each time. It puzzled Marty how she had gotten so used to the woman’s blatant flirting, her provocative statements. She could only admire the woman’s spirit. Still it was a spirit that seemed to fluctuate as well to anger and denial and brief moments of sadness. Yet there was always a joke to ease the moment, provided equally by either Marty or Isabelle.

The time they spent on the ward, between tests and Marty’s nursing duties, moments that were packed with an intensity of feelings, were precious to both women. Marty was simply impressed with this woman who occupied so much of her thoughts. Isabelle welcomed the nurse’s playful banter as a respite from the dread deep inside her that would not leave her alone for long. And despite the serious circumstances that allowed her to meet Marty, she was charmed by this all-business nurse, who flustered so easily at her teasing comments. And she was flattered by the almost innocent affection Marty showed her.

Isabelle could see that there were many sides to this strong woman, not the least of which was her courage to pursue the attraction she apparently felt toward her. It had to be

somewhat confusing for the woman. Yet she was there to help her and support her when none of her other friends had made the slightest effort. Again she wondered why she had met Marty then of all times; When she was struggling to maintain her equilibrium.

They talked about so many things. Isabelle learned about Marty’s family, her schooling, her few awkward romances, her solitary life. Isabelle revealed more of herself than she usually did to the nurse who was fast becoming a real friend. Despite being outgoing and friendly, Isabelle had always kept a part of herself well protected, private. Now under Marty’s gentle questioning, Isabelle found herself more than willing to share her past, her goals and dreams, and her fears. And of course, behind all Isabelle’s flirting and teasing, was the fact that she found Marty to be a very attractive woman. Perhaps it was that her features were just the opposite from her own. She herself was dark-skinned and with shiny dark brown hair, filled with loose curls. She had inherited her mother’s small frame and delicate features. Marty was tall, almost Scandinavian in appearance. Her blond hair was thick, shoulder length. Her trim but muscular physique was very appealing to the smaller woman. She found herself studying her often, her facial expressions, how her hands moved while she worked. Marty’s hands were strong and competent, skilled hands that were surprisingly gentle. Isabelle was impressed by the quiet compassion reflected deep in Marty’s eyes, whether caring for her, or one of the many patients that passed by in wheelchairs or stretchers. Marty always had some kind, reassuring or comforting comment to make, some helpful suggestion to offer. She seemed to always bettering a difficult situation by word or deed.

Marty looked up from the current dressing change, having removed the drain at last, and dabbed antibiotic ointment along the open stitch.

"What?" She smiled self-consciously under Isabelle’s inspection.


"What? I can hear the wheels in your head turning. What did I do now? Is the tape too tight? Did I hurt you? The drain seemed to get snagged...."

"No, you did not hurt me. The incision hurts like a bugger, but you did not hurt me. I was thinking how gentle your touch is. I like your hands."

"My hands?"

"Didn’t you ever notice how expressive some hands are, how strong others? How others are calloused and hard working? And some hands so soft, so spoiled. I like your hands in particular."

"And what kind of hands do I have?"

"Healing hands, loving hands, I think. You have very gentle hands. That’s what I was thinking about. And wondering what your hands would feel like touching me."

"Touching you? Like I have been doing what these last two days?"

"You are dense."

"Make up your mind already. Do you approve of me or not? You know, for a psychologist, you are very judgmental."

"Judgmental? How can you say that? I was trying to be seductive and provocative. " She continued on slowly, in a more quiet voice, as if she were talking to a child, teasing the woman who looked at her expectantly.

"You know, I was hoping you would get the hint, that I wanted you to TOUCH me. You still don’t get it. God! Well, I do like a challenge. You know, like if you touched my cheek, my breast, my thigh." Her words were met with a blank look. "Like this." She finally continued, after seeing no apparent comprehension to her suggestion. Very slowly, she did what she had been wanting to do since she first saw this woman. She reached out to gently caress her hair, and trace a finger down her cheek, to outline her bottom lip, and very sensuously slid it down the side of her neck, to just brush the top of a full breast. Her eyes followed the path of her fingers, to linger on slightly parted lips, and a nipple that was visible through Marty’s white top. She finally let her eyes rise up to meet Marty’s and suddenly pulled away, seeing the amused, devilish glint in them.

"Enjoying yourself? I was hoping you would do that. Finally. To demonstrate, of course." Marty smirked at her.

"You are terrible. Feigning naiveté, letting me get carried away with your nearness, sitting on the bed like this with me, so close." She slapped Marty’s hand that reached then for her own.

Marty leaned closer to whisper in her ear. "I like how you touch me. I love your hands, so delicate, graceful. You have musician’s hands. Long thin fingers. Or artist’s hands. Your touch is like... magic, I think. You inspire me to want to touch you. But not here. Not now. I want to touch all of you, look at all of you. You fill me with desire, Isabelle. I have never felt so much, wanted so much before. Teach me how to love you? You are just too beautiful. "

"Stop it, Marty Edwards." Isabelle wiped tears from her eyes again. "Twice in two days you make me cry. What kind of woman are you, anyway? How dare you be so nice? So sincere? How dare you look at me like I am the best thing that has ever happened to you? "

"You are, you know."


"The best thing that has ever happened to me. "

"Give me a tissue, already. I hate to cry. You have to be more bitchy, or I won’t be able to cope. Get that adoring look out of your eyes, right now. Or I will have to kiss you."


"Alright, what? You will be a proper bitch? You promise?"

"No. I want you to kiss me instead."

"Now? I don’t think your..."

"If you would keep your voice down, there wouldn’t be a problem. We are behind a curtain. You drove your current roommate away, to the solarium. We are very much alone. And I very much want to feel your lips. What the hell? I already felt up your breast. Kiss me."

"You are crazy. What if someone? Your job? You could get into..."

"Do all you psychologists always talk so much? Overanalyze everything? All I want is a kiss. Just to see if I like it. Not as if I am asking for your heart. Not just yet."

"It’s a package deal. You know, a feel, a kiss, my heart....can’t have one without the other, I’m afraid."


"Alright, what?"

"I accept."

"You accept what?" Isabelle watched Marty’s hand, instead of her face, as she had spoken the last few statements. A hand that now mimicked her earlier slow caress of hair, face, lips.

She found herself leaning into the palm that cupped her cheek, and closing her eyes at the feather like touch of Marty’s finger outlining her lips. When she felt Marty’s fingers move to her remaining breast, gently circling it and her nipple, she spoke with a suddenly thick voice. "You better stop that."

"Why? You wondered what I would feel like, if I touched you. Don’t you like it?"

"Marty, I like it too much." She reached up and placed her own hand on Marty’s that was sliding lower down her front, holding it still against her. "Now who is being the tease?"

"I am not teasing."

"You are driving me crazy."

"Good. I seem to like driving you crazy. And I still want a kiss."

"It’s not a good idea. Here, I mean. Like you said. Listen to me! I can hardly make a complete sentence."

"Are you telling me no?"

"I thought you said you were never with a woman before. Because you are acting very much like an experienced lover. One who knows what she wants. And knows how to get it."

"Hmmm. Well, for once in my life, I do know what I want. I want you, Isabelle. I want to love you."

"God, Marty. Don’t look at me like that. Or I won’t be able to stop myself."

"Good. I must be doing something right."

"Don’t take advantage of me, in my weakened condition."

Marty smiled a half smile, relishing the sensual being that was stretching inside her, coming alive at the feel and warmth of this woman. "All I want is a kiss. Then I will go home. And see you tomorrow."

"You are being unfair."

"You are the one that has been teasing me all week. "

"I have been bad."

"Not bad enough."

"Marty! What have I created here? "

"Someone feeling very warm and quite intense at the moment."

Isabelle picked up Marty’s hand that rested lightly on her stomach. And raised it to her lips, kissing her palm softly. Marty smiled gently and rose up off the bed.

"Thank you, Isabelle. Sweet dreams. I will see you tomorrow?"

"I’m counting on it. Thank you for being so....caring, helpful."

"That is just the nurse in me. Here I thought you liked the woman in me."

"When I get out of here, out of this hospital gown, I will show you just what parts of that woman I really like."

"What? No hospital gown? Spoil sport!"

"You are such a brat."

"Goodnight, Isabelle. You are such a delight."

"You are crazy."

"Takes one to know one."

Marty leaned in quickly, before Isabelle could protest, and kissed her softly on the lips. Then she was out the door, and gone for the night. Isabelle lay quietly, finally touching her lips where Marty’s had been for that instant, and smiled a silly smile.

‘She is so cute! But what in the world am I doing? Wanting her like this? I’ve lost more than a breast in this place. I’ve lost my mind."




Part Two

Marty removed the dressing. Isabelle’s incision was healing well. It was dry and pink with no seepage. She left the bandage off. After a few lighthearted comments, Marty had to get busy. She excused herself from Isabelle’s company. She felt bad that she could not stay and visit, but they were short an RN on the floor, and worse, she had two meetings to attend. While the one was worthwhile, a review of teaching materials for the new students, the second was pure nonsense. Well, at least it had become a waste of time. Marty had been picked for a hospital committee to review policies for postop care and the writing of yet another clinical pathway. What had started as a solid plan for the hospital’s surgeons had deteriorated into a battle between egos and cost cutting maneuverings, all under the new guidelines dictated by the insurance companies and Medicare rules. They had been over the same points endlessly for the last two months, and Marty had had enough.

Worse was the fact that the meetings took up her lunch hour and often an additional hour of her time on the floor, and forced her to rush to finish rounds and charting. She had enough trouble finishing what must be done without the unwelcome intrusion. And she could not keep her thoughts from wandering to Isabelle. She admitted to herself that she already cared very much for the feisty woman. She worried about what might be needed in regard to the breast cancer. Not a few moments were spent in silent prayer that Isabelle had had a surgical cure, with no signs of metastatic spread of the breast cancer. If Isabelle were lucky, the mastectomy might be the only therapy needed, or perhaps some hormonal drugs. Something to keep the likelihood of the cancer coming back as low as possible. Breast cancer was not so hopeless. There was a decent cure rate, after all.

Everything hinged on the pathology that was due back soon. She had called the lab twice already, hoping the final reading was done. She had been assured that the results would be out sometime that day, and she was anxious to know. She was anxious to be there to help Isabelle process all the ramifications of possible outcomes. Marty had already snagged one other surgeon with whom she had worked with over the years, to explain what current treatment options might also come up in discussions. Perhaps she was intruding in Isabelle’s affairs more than was wise, or welcome. Still she could not prevent herself from needing to know, needing to help her anyway she could.

So she was anxious for the pathways team meeting to be finally over. She sighed at the endless dialogue.

Finally two and a half hours later, she pushed her chair away from the table and exited the conference room, already rushing back toward the ward. Debbie saw her coming, and waved her over.

"About time you got here. I did all your work for you already. Slug."

"If I have to sit through yet another speech of Dr. Andrews about how the insurance companies are playing God, and second guessing his decisions, and all without any malpractice risk..."

"Imagine anyone second-guessing or questioning his decisions! Really! Everyone knows he is God. " Debbie smiled at her friend. "Some people never get over themselves, you know? The insurance changes are here to stay, and we all know that whoever pays the bills makes the rules. We have to adjust to it, after all."

"Whose pretzels? I am starving."

"Help yourself. You always do. " Debbie smiled at her friend. "Go on. Be my guest. I bought them from the hospitality cart. I was hungry for salty starch. I need my daily dose."

"Considering all the junk food you consume, I am surprised you are still a size 8."

"Just all my hard work." Debbie laughed at the disgusted look on her friend’s face.

"And good genes. You make me sick. I have to watch what I eat. Not fair."

"Life is rarely fair. So grin and bear it."

Marty grabbed a handful of pretzels and made to leave the nursing station. Debbie called after her.

"Would you like a beer with those pretzels?"

"Yes. What do you have on draft? No, don’t tell me. I really do want a beer. I have had it today. I am going down to see Isabelle. See if she needs anything. Be right back."

Debbie stepped out of the nursing station to call after her friend.


She spun around but kept on moving down the hall. "What?"

"Come here for a moment."



"You are such a demanding thing. How does your husband tolerate you?" Smiling anyway, Marty walked back to stand expectantly before her.

"I wanted to tell you something. Come hither. "

Marty followed her into the kitchen, puzzled at Debbie’s behavior.

"What? Is my slip showing? Do I have blood on me?"


"Sit? What did I fuck up this time? Or are you finally going to fire me? Thank you, Jesus. "

Marty nonetheless leaned on the edge of the counter that held the microwave and coffee pot. She was getting nervous at the odd behavior of her friend and supervisor. She suddenly had a bad feeling in her gut.

"What is this all about? Is this about Isabelle?"

"Yes. She left against medical advice."

Marty jumped up to grab Debbie’s arm. "What? What are you talking about? What happened?"

"Your favorite surgeon, Dr. Andrews...."

"I just suffered two and a half hours of the man. What did he do to Isabelle?"

"Before the meeting, when you were with the teaching committee, he talked to Isabelle about the pathology. I don’t know what he said, since he waved me off, not wanting my help for once in his life. He was in a rush. Anyway, he dashed off, and it wasn’t fifteen minutes before she was standing at the desk and told me she was ‘out of here’. She looked like shit, Marty. I know you have gotten to be friends with her, and ...."

"What was the path?"

"Not good news. Positive lymph nodes, and worse."

"What could be worse? She’ll need radiation at least. No wonder she left. He can be such an insensitive ass. He probably scared her."

"Worse than that, Marty. The result of the bone scan, and the chest CT scan. I don’t know how much of this you want to hear. I heard him on the phone to Greenly."

"Greenly, the new oncologist? What did he say?"

"He was describing her case, the multiple hot spots throughout the spine, and that there were at least three spots on the chest cat scan. She’s got multiple mets, and they were talking about chemotherapy with some new drugs. Greenly was to come by this afternoon, to get things started."

"I could cry. Oh, Debbie, she is so nice! It isn’t fair! And she heard all that alone. I...I have to leave, Debbie. I’m sorry. I need to talk to her."

"Go ahead. I’ll call in Beth early. She wanted some overtime for the holidays anyway. I’m sure Isabelle needs you more than we do around here today. Whatever you want, Marty."

"Alright. And thanks, Debbie. What a mess. I’ll let you know about tomorrow. I need to see what Isabelle needs. If I can get her to come back, or what. Damn it!"

And with that, Marty slung on her coat,grabbed her keys and left without a look back. She knew where Isabelle lived, from the chart. She herself had looked at an apartment there in that complex a few years ago, but it was a bit pricey for her salary. She was at least glad she knew how to get there quickly with a few shortcuts. In which apartment Isabelle lived she was not sure, but she was confident that she could find her. What she could do to help, soften the terrible blow, was something else she had less of an idea about. But she was determined to try.

The drive to the upscale complex seemed to drag on forever. Marty was lucky she did not encounter any police as she drove, since she ignored the speed limits posted, and a few stop signs. There was little traffic at that time of day. She really did not care. Her only thought was to get to Isabelle. She almost missed a Starbucks as she sped thru an intersection. Seeing the store out of the corner of her eye, she thought a brief delay might be worth just a little smile. At least she hoped.

Parking a few moments later, carrying a large latte, she hesitated before the glass entrance to the apartment building, searching for a list of the residents, and some way to get buzzed in. To her annoyance, there were only apartment numbers, without names. She looked around for someone to help her, only to notice Isabelle herself sitting outside, on a small bench overlooking a pond that was adjacent the building. Isabelle looked so small, so defeated. Marty’s heart melted at the sight. It was such a private moment for the woman, all her hopelessness and fear and sorrow so evident on her face that was turned down, her eyes looking at the dried brown grass and the leaves blowing haphazardly at her feet.

Marty almost decided not to bother her, knowing that nothing she could say would change the grim news, the bad prognosis of such an aggressive cancer. She stood hesitating there, when Isabelle looked up, somehow sensing her presence. Marty walked toward her with a renewed determination.

"Hi there. Fancy meeting you here of all places."

Isabelle did not speak, only looked at her quietly for a long moment. Finally she broke the silence.

"You are a sweet woman, Marty Edwards. But what are you doing here? Don’t you have a job?"

"Not one I care about right now."

"Maybe the hospital sent you to fetch me back."

"No one sent me, Isabelle. I heard you left AMA. I heard..."

"That I am in deep shit."

"I’m so sorry. Isabelle, I’m so sorry I wasn’t there with you, when you heard. I know it’s not much, but... Oh hell, here! I brought you a latte. It couldn’t hurt."

"You came all this way to give me a latte? Why are you really here, Marty?"

Marty sat next to her on the small bench, holding the paper cup of coffee awkwardly. "Isabelle, I ...I care for you. I want to help. I need to help. There must be something I can do. Talk to someone for you. Talk to one of the docs about what kind of treatment might make a difference. We could get another opinion. Have someone else look at the slides. There has to be some way to approach this." She added more softly, "without running away. "

As she spoke, she could see Isabelle’s eyes tear up. It was breaking her heart.

"I’ll take the latte, please. Unless you are having second thoughts." Isabelle said, smiling through her tears.

"No, I am not having second thoughts." Marty reached out for Isabelle’s hand, holding it firmly in her own.

"Not about anything. Not the latte. Not about you and me. Isabelle, I...Crap, I can’t seem to finish a single sentence. Maybe I better drink the latte. Might help get my mind to work."

"See, I knew you were going to tease me with the promise of latte and then back out. Just when I could smell it, almost taste it. You have a cruel streak there, Nurse. And to do this to me, now of all times..."

"What can I do to help?"

She watched Isabelle close her eyes a long moment, and then open them to gaze into her own.

"I am so afraid. I don’t want to die. How foolishly weak of me, hmmm? Well, I need to know I am alive, Marty. I need to cling to life, to beauty, to love. I need to howl at the moon. Do you know what I mean? Shout my protest to any and all that are listening? That I won’t go quietly. I need to scream out...fuck it, i am still alive! I won’t, Marty. I won’t just quit. And if they are right, that I only have a limited time left, then God damn it, I won’t waste it. I won’t waste a moment of it. It’s not wrong. Love me, Marty. Will you love me? And make me forget that I have death nipping at my heels? While you can, while we have this chance... love me, Marty!"

And then she stood, her arm reaching out to the woman who was filled with such raw emotions at her words...pain and sympathy, sorrow, respect and awe for this brave woman, but most of all, a strong evolving love for the beauty and spirit of a woman she did not want to ever loose. The latte was forgotten as Marty let Isabelle lead her into her apartment, and close the door before turning to her, and pulling her into a gentle embrace. They stood quietly, finding some strength, some courage and comfort in each other’s arms. Then Marty kissed her, letting herself feel everything flooding thru her. The soft lips beneath hers were timid, hesitant, trembling with the tears Marty could feel on Isabelle’s cheeks. It wasn’t long before communion grew to need and then passion.

"Where is your bed, my beautiful woman? Isabelle, let’s lay down. Please. I want to see you, touch you, hold you, love you. And you need a new toaster. " Marty wiped Isabelle’s still damp cheeks with her fingertips, and smiled tenderly at her.

"I don’t think I can stay upright. You are making me weak in the knees."

Isabelle smiled through her tears. "Yes, I do have that effect on a lot of women."

"Well, you do have that effect on me, for sure. You are so beautiful. You overwhelm me."

"Come on. Follow me. And Marty, forgive me?"

Marty followed her silently, watching her walk a few steps ahead of her, linked only by their hands. Marty sat on the bed finally, as Isabelle paused, suddenly afraid to proceed.

Marty smiled up at her. "Forgive you for what?"

"For being so selfish. For being so ugly. For asking for your love, when you should save it for someone who can give all of it back to you, for as long as you want."

"Who says I am only going to love you? A stud like me...needs a lot of beautiful women, after all. Trouble are the only beautiful woman I have ever had the honor to meet. And I don’t think I am letting go of this chance with you. You mean too much to me. Fool that I am." She tugged at Isabelle’s hand, pulling her to stand between her legs.

"You are too good for me, Marty. You are too nice, and too kind. And too gorgeous."

"And you talk too much." Marty smiled again to soften her words. She slid her hand slowly under Isabelle’s loose T-shirt, feeling the silken skin of her abdomen, moving slowly around her waist, pulling the small woman closer to her. She let her cheek rest against her breast, listening to the heartbeat beneath her ear. She kissed the flesh near her lips. She found herself confidently unhooking Isabelle’s jeans, unzipping them and sliding them down over trim strong legs, then sliding bikini panties down over smooth hips.

Isabelle just stood before her, offering no resistance, no assistance, until Marty asked her to step out of her pants. And let herself be guided to lay beside Marty on the bed.

Marty’s hand trailed slowly along her calf, her leg, tenderly exploring the woman before her. When her hands reached soft brown curls, the expanse of her abdomen, sliding higher under her top to gently cup her breast, Marty’s lips joined in the task of tasting and feeling the wonder of a woman’s body for the first time.

To Marty, the moment was one filled with awe. There was no fear or uncertainty in her. She was simply moved to know and please the beautiful woman who seemed to respond to her untutored touch, softly moaning as she brushed against her hardened nipple, and open her thighs to the slow caress of moist curls and silken thighs. Wonder filled Marty as she felt and smelled the evident arousal, the want for her that Isabelle could not disguise.

There was no pretense, only need and desire laid bare before her. And she hungrily took up the gift of the woman’s love. She moved her eyes away from the body before her, to look up at Isabelle’s face. It did not surprise her to see her watching her intensely.

"You are so lovely. Thank you."

"God, Marty. Thank you for what? You are the one making love to me."

"Thank you for the privilege of making love with you. I don’t know what to say. I .."

"Do all you nurses always talk so much? Come here and let me kiss you. And don’t stop what you are doing. You feel so good. You feel like hope and tomorrow. Come here to me, in my arms."

Marty leaned closer, to be engulfed in Isabelle’s arms. They kissed a long moment.

"Why do you have so many clothes on? Marty? Don’t you know you are supposed to get naked too? Tit for tat." Isabelle smiled at her gently, teasingly. " Don’t you want to take off your clothes?"

"I’ve been a bit distracted here. I’ll do what ever you want."

"Well, in that case, take off your clothes and get back here next to me."

"Yes, dear."

Marty rolled away, and easily stripped off her top and pants, standing a moment in just her bra and panties.

She reached around to unhook her bra but Isabelle sat up and touched her arm.

"Let me. Let me do that. I want to uncover and discover you."

"Alright. But there is not much to uncover."

"You are so sweet, so unaware of how beautiful you really are. Hasn’t anyone told you? Just how beautiful you are?"

"No. And I never felt beautiful before. But somehow your eyes, your words make me feel that way."

"Because you are. You need someone to tell you that all the time."

"I need you to tell me that." Marty watched her as sure hands unfastened her bra, slid her panties down. She stood naked before her lover, for once in her life feeling alive, uninhibited, free to simply be, to love, to share herself with this amazing person.

When Isabelle’s fingers touched her, softly tracing a path from her neck to her breasts, and cupped her full breasts, and her face moved to kiss her, Marty could only arch into the caress, give herself to Isabelle’s hungry lips and tongue. Then they were on the bed, loving each other. Isabelle moved Marty’s hand back to her apex.

"Touch me. Like you might touch yourself. Like I am going to touch you, my sweet Marty. My sweet lover. Touch me and love me. I want you. More than anything, I want you."


It was just dusk when Marty woke, wrapped in loving arms, pressed against Isabelle, who slept with her head resting on Marty’s breasts, under her chin. Such simple peace filled Marty at the sight and feel of the woman against her. She luxuriated in the warmth of her, the feel of her breath on her skin. She inhaled the scent of her, a delicate smell of shampoo and soap, some faint cologne, the heady smell of their lovemaking that seeped into the sheets, that coated their legs. Marty simply sighed at the splendor of the moment, of the joy of loving Isabelle.

"Why aren’t you asleep?" A voice thick with sleep asked her softly from between her breasts. "Didn’t I wear you out yet?"

"Hello, darling."

"Hello, darling. "

"Go back to sleep. You feel so good. I don’t want to move. I don’t want you to move. Ever. I just don’t want to miss a moment of you, wasted in sleeping."

She felt a soft kiss or two on her breast, and heard a half mumbled "Ok." before Isabelle snuggled closer and fell back asleep. Marty smiled at the amazing turn of her life, realizing that she had not been half alive before Isabelle. She would have missed the wonder and glory of knowing what love was all about, if it were not for this courageous woman she held in her arms. The pleasure and joy she felt loving her, physically, spiritually, she had never experienced before with the few men she had known. The sense of connection that she felt with Isabelle was profound. She knew she could never feel such with any man. Only two women might, if they were lucky, experience such communion. She couldn’t help the tears that came to her eyes, at the beauty of Isabelle, body and soul, and the terrible pang of grief she already felt, knowing too well what was in store for her, that she would lose all too soon what she had only just found. Still she vowed, before she closed her eyes to join Isabelle in sleep, vowed to love this wonderful woman as long as she could, as well as she could. She cradled Isabelle closer before giving herself up to sleep as well.

The next few weeks were like a whirlwind to Marty. And weeks became months. The emotions that filled her were dizzying. She cared so much for Isabelle. The nights of love they shared were

like a symphony of sensations and sentiment. During her days, she dutifully went to work, and tried between her schedule and Isabelle’s own work, to accompany her lover to doctor’s appointments and to sessions of chemotherapy. After much discussion and several consults with the available cancer specialists, both in town and at the university, Isabelle had decided to follow a newer regime of chemotherapy and immune-modulating drugs. It seemed that her cancer was both unusual and aggressive, and had affected not only bones and lung, but liver as well. It would be a hard battle.

Despite it all, Isabelle continued to work. She continued to fight against the cancer that was stealing her life from her. She continued to cling to Marty for her strength and caring and love. It was only after two separate combinations of chemotherapy had failed to shrink her tumors in lung and liver, and her bone pain become intolerable that both women began to lose what hope they had struggled to foster between them.

Some of Isabelle’s pain, along her spine, was helped temporarily by local radiation. Still all the drugs and radiation were themselves taking their toll on her strength. She was weak, nauseated, losing her brown curly mane that somehow transformed into straight limp and thinning hair. She was more yellow than pale. Only her eyes still reflected the spirit of who she was inside. Only when Marty held her, loved her, did she still think it was worthwhile to go on.

As spring approached, however, even Marty’s love and tender passion could not give Isabelle relief from the constant severe pain from which she suffered. It was this pain that wore her down the most, beat the fight out of her. She required more and more narcotics, both pills and a topical patch, to give her continuous pain medicine.

She struggled to put on a brave face when she felt Marty watching her, after a pitiful attempt to eat some supper one night late.

Marty smiled kindly at her, as Isabelle pushed her food around on her plate.

"Is my cooking that bad? Good thing I am wonderful in bed, to make up for my inexperience in cooking."

"That’s what you said about your ability to romance women. Just like your loving, your cooking can’t be beat. I just don’t have any appetite for it."

"I think you are just tired of me, and my cooking."

"No, I am not tired of you. Marty, seriously, I am just tired. Of fighting the good fight. I think I have had it. I don’t want any more treatments. None of them are making a difference. You know that, right? Do you agree?"

"I know we haven’t found one yet that has made a difference. I bet we could still keep looking, try something else until..."

"Until what, Marty? Until I am too weak from vomiting, completely bald and stupid with all the drugs. God, sometimes I can’t even think straight."

"It’s the pain meds, Isabelle. Your mind is fine."

"All the damn chemicals they have injected. It’s all poison, I swear it is, Marty. I can’t do it anymore. "

"What do you want then?" Marty’s voice was soft and hesitant. She could not disguise the fear in her heart at what she knew Isabelle would say, that it was time for her to die.

"I want to be comfortable. I want to be without pain. The only thing that has made me want to stay, even this long, to keep fighting, has been you, Marty. To have more time with you."

"See, I knew you would grow tired of me eventually." Marty couldn’t stop her tears, and just shook her head at herself in disgust. "Baby, I don’t want to lose you. How can I face a day without you in it? There has to be something we can do."

"You knew long before I knew, that it was pretty hopeless from the beginning. Didn’t you? Am I wrong, Marty? To quit? Is it even fair of me to ask you to be so honest with me? Can you answer me truthfully?"

Marty moved to recline beside her lover and friend. They both fit so easily now on the couch in Isabelle’s apartment. Isabelle had lost easily thirty of her one hundred and thirty pounds. Marty just held her gently, as they both cried their grief and suffering.

She finally could talk, as her tears were replaced with a strength she found in reserve.

"We have talked to all the oncologists around. No one has any new suggestions. Except to try higher doses."

"I couldn’t, Marty. The drugs made me so sick. It’s just a living hell. I don’t want to suffer anymore."

"I am so sorry I haven’t been able to help you."

"Marty, you have helped me so much. Just by being with me. It’s the cancer that won’t respond. What now? Did you think you were a doctor or something? Some god like they are, that you could really change a damn thing? It was a good fight, love, but we lost it. Now it’s time to be good sports and concede, don’t you think? Honor before glory? We tried. Can you forgive me, honey? For abandoning you? For breaking your heart?"

"Well, you did warn me. Not like I didn’t see that broken heart coming. Hey, but I am one tough woman. Don’t worry about me. What is most keep you comfortable, to follow your wishes. You know the score, just as well as I do. You can make an educated decision about all this. You have your advanced directives. I will do as you want in this. I will support your choice. What about your family? Is there anyone else you want to talk to about this? Or a minister or priest?"

"No one else can help make up my mind, Marty. And you are my family. You’re the only one whose opinion I care about. You are the only one who will miss me when I am gone."

"Now I know you are taking too many drugs. You know every teacher at your school, all the kids you work with...all your friends, everyone has suffered with you as you have been sick.

That phone of yours won’t stop ringing. No wonder I try to get you to my apartment all the time."

"You just like to have sex in that big waterbed of yours."

"Yes, there is that. But tomorrow, we’ll get you admitted for some better medication. Maybe a morphine pump would help."

"Marty, if that is the only way. But I don’t want any heroics. Promise me?"

"Comfort. That is what we are going for. Pain relief."

"That would be wonderful. Just a night without this pain. I think I might go crazy with it."

"I promise. And maybe we can talk to social service in the hospital. About hospice care. Would that sound good? Do you know anything about hospice?"

"I talked to them the last time I was in. I didn’t tell you. I didn’t want to upset you."

"Isabelle, this is not about me. This is all about you. Getting you well, and if we can’t, then getting you pain free and comfortable. Nothing about me. Don’t even think it. Tell me, what did you find out about hospice?"

"If I could be home here, instead of the hospital...You know how I just love the atmosphere there. NOT. And the food, and the lack of good coffee."


"Exactly. And I don’t want to sleep without you beside me. Unless you don’t mind giving the night shift something to really talk about."

"If you need to be there, and you want me there, I don’t give a flying fuck what they talk about."

"Such language from an educated woman!"

"Well, why mince words? You are all that counts."

"Liar. You are just blinded by my beautiful yellow jaundice. Not many other women have such a glow."

"Baby, you always had a glow. I could see it the moment I met you. Let’s go to bed. I am tired of talking right now."

"You are insatiable."

Marty wiggled her eyebrows. "Yes, I am. You have created a...masher in me."

"My masher."

"My love. Come to bed. Tomorrow we will get you more comfortable. Tonite sleep in my arms."


Two days passed in a blur. A blur of narcotics and anti-anxiety medication and sleeping pills. Isabelle was restless and even more nauseated from the medication that seemed to only dull her pain for a brief time. Worse was the haze it left her in mentally. She felt only half awake, and even less alive. She retched intermittently, and took little by mouth. Marty watched her silently, feeling with her the suffering that would not abate.

Isabelle smiled at her sadly. "What a date I turned out to be."

"Who knew that a woman like you, with all those toasters, would be unable to keep up with the likes of me."

"Yes, but you are insatiable."

"Can you blame me?"

"No. How could anyone get enough of me?"


"Honey, I have to ask you for a favor."

"Anything. You know I would do anything for you. Even go to hell in a hand basket if you asked me to."

"Just what I am asking you to do."


"Go to hell for me."

"What? Not enough that you seduced a nice straight girl and corrupted me with your evil ways?"

"No, that was the heaven part. The hell part is coming up."

"Ask. All I can do is say no. Or try. Seems it is not likely I can refuse you anything."

"Well, there was that time with the handcuffs and whip."

"Yes, there was that. And the bellybutton piercing you wanted me to get."

"You would have looked cute with a bellybutton ring. Not like I asked you to get your nipple pierced, or your clit."

"Ouch. I see your point. If you want me to, I will have my damn bellybutton pierced. Just don’t tell my mother."

"If I haven’t told her that you like me to eat..."

"You are terrible." Marty smiled at her lover, who still managed to tease her, and make her blush.

"Terribly good."

"Yes, you are. You’ve ruined me for any other lover."

"Now you are making me blush. Which is hard since I am so anemic. But, will you help me, Marty? I wouldn’t ask you to do this, if I could stand your jokes another day. But I can’t. I can’t take it. Can you help me end it? End this ordeal, and the suffering? It is time, Marty."

Marty covered her face, trying so hard not to cry. She struggled to calm herself, taking a deep breath.

"I knew this moment would come. This is a hard one. You always save the best for last, don’t you? How about those handcuffs instead? And that body paint you wanted to try? I would rather try those."

Isabelle did not have to answer. She watched Marty sit taller, a serious expression replace the look of playful teasing that she adopted so often when they were together.

"I want to be selfish, Isabelle. But I can’t be. I have been selfish enough, trying to keep you with me. Whatever you want, love. We can do better on the pain meds. I can turn up the pump..."

"Yes, turn up the pump. But I want a kiss. Can you hold me, honey?"

"Yes, I can do both. I wouldn’t let you alone now, not a moment out of my arms. You are so dense, for a psychologist. What did I ever see in you?"

"I was just an easy lay. "

"Exactly. Move your skinny butt over. Make room for me."

Marty laid down beside her on the hospital bed.

"Damn, these beds are the most uncomfortable things known to mankind."

"It is the plastic covering and waterproof pads that make all the difference. Only the best in this hospital of yours."

"And roomy too. Now the siderails have possibilities from this angle."

"Yes. Those and a good set of handcuffs."

Marty reached up to adjust the intravenous narcotic, but couldn’t stop her hand from trembling almost uncontrollably.

"Hey, love, it’s alright. Really. It’s just time. Thank you. Thank you for everything. You have only given to me, the entire time I have known you. Only care and comfort and concern. And love. Marty, thank you for loving me. You have no idea what you have meant to me. No one, no one ever has loved me so much, so well. For a straight girl, you are really something. I love you so. Always save the best for last, or so I was taught. My last fling. My dearest love."

"Isabelle, I..." Marty looked over at her lover, already drifting off to sleep with the powerful narcotics infusing through her. She sighed deeply, wiping her eyes in that private moment.

Isabelle opened her eyes just then, to look long and deeply into Marty’s eyes. Marty spoke softly, caressing her Isabelle’s hair tenderly.

"I have to tell you, baby. You should not be thanking me for loving you. I should be on my knees thanking you for giving me so much. All the joy and pleasure and love you gave me. You are a gift to me. I love you so much."

"You don’t have to say it. I hear it. I see it in the look in your eyes. I feel it in each touch, each caress, each of your kisses. Nothing that words can convey. I know it. Thank you, honey. And this isn’t over, you know. I have not had my fill of you. Some other time, some other place, we will get to finish what we have started this time around. I will mend that broken heart of yours. Give me another chance?"

"Alright. I will give you a few lifetimes to do me right."

"And I will hold you to it. Promise me, Marty."

"What, baby? " Marty watched her breath more slowly, her features settle into a look of peace at last. The pain was finally easing.

"Promise me you will find some other woman to hold you in the night, to love you better than I did. Just until I get another chance, I mean. I don’t mind sharing you...until then. You have such a good heart, so much love to give. Will you? Get over me but get on with your life."

Marty smiled at her only love. "I will try to get over you. And when I do, I will do as you ask. If I can ever find someone as wonderful as you."

"Well, we both know that is impossible. But someone good in bed? Some flirty thing who likes strong bright beautiful women? Someone to share with you the wonders out there? Those beautiful sunsets you love so much?"

"Alright, baby. Just give me a little time. Just a little time."

"Now kiss me, and turn up that damn machine. And hold me. I will see you again. Don’t you give up the good fight. Too many are depending on the likes of you."

Marty kissed her tenderly, trying without words to show all that she felt for her. Then she reached for the pump, and opened it up, to find a better rate of infusion. Isabelle reached for her hand, and just held it in her own, away from the machine. And smiled before she closed her eyes and just stopped breathing. And left Marty in the healing arms of time.

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