Marv arrived at three-thirty. He leaned over his wife. “How you doing, sweetheart.”
Angie smiled. “Tired,” she whispered.
Marv gave Mattie a thumbs up. “That was encouraging.”
Grasping at straws, Mattie thought, but why not?
Dr. Abboud was prompt and came accompanied by a colleague.
“This is Dr. Stein,” he said. “She’ll be taking over Mrs. Du Berc treatment.”
“Physiotherapy?” Marv said.
“No,” Dr. Stein said. “Chemotherapy, I’m an oncologist. Your wife has acute myeloid leukemia. It has spread to her brain, and that’s what caused the cerebral infarction.”
Mattie was just beginning to imagine the journey of recovery for Angie. Yes, it would be incredibly difficult, but they’d do it together. Life would continue to improve from that day forward until, without actually realizing it, there’d be happiness. Now she was back at the bottom of the sinkhole of despair that had swallowed her when she’d received Marv’s first call.
As soon as Angie was strong enough, maybe even tomorrow they would begin remission induction therapy to kill the leukemia cells followed by transfusions of purged autologous stem cells. The chemo would take a week, the stem cell transplant a few days.
“What are her chances?” Marv said.
“The majority of people go into remission after the first round of chemo,” Dr. Stein said. “The long-term prognosis will be determined on how well Mrs. Du Berc responds to treatment.”
Mattie was tired of the medical spin. “Best-case scenario, how long has she got?”
“About twenty-six percent of people with AML are still living five years after their diagnosis.”
A one in four chance of surviving five more years. With luck Angie would live to sixty if you called coping with cancer living.
Mattie had nursed her grandfather through chemotherapy when she was in high school. Basically it slowed the suffering down. In his case, instead of three months it took three agonizing years to die. The debilitating fatigue made daily life a struggle. As a full-time patient he was at the mercy of medical professionals as well as being plagued by discomfort, complications, and bodily inconveniences. Everyday Mattie could see, could feel, he was less alive than the day before until finally every last spark had been extinguished.
She was relieved when he died, for him as well as herself.
BECAUSE OF ANGIE’S condition chemotherapy was administered in the hospital. It was hard to imagine things could get worse, but Mattie was realizing unimaginable things happened.
There were a lot of friends and extended family. Bodine had uncles, aunts and cousins Mattie couldn’t even begin to keep track of. Loving, supportive, compassionate, they were Marv’s lifeline.
When they visited Mattie left. Despite being partnered with Bodine for three years she’d never met any of them. They treated her as part celebrity, part curiosity and definitely not one of the family. The uncles and aunts told her stories of their young nephew; cute, precocious, spoiled. The cousins were competitive or hostile, they seemed to resent Bo’s success and her proximity to it.
Though the rage at the way Bodine dismissed his dying mother had been quelled, she felt like a fraud swapping happy anecdotes about their famous relative when she despised him
As primary care-giver, Mattie put in a twelve-hour shift, eight to eight. She helped feed Angie, walked her in the hall when she was up to it, assisted in bathroom misadventures and fetched and carried.
When visitors came, she excused herself and went for a walk. There was a big park close to the hospital where she could breathe in much needed fresh air and be distracted by nature. Summer was coming on and the park was filled with birds, none very interesting though she saw an Eastern Bluebird and what she thought might be a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.
Tuesday arrived and Bodine didn’t. The following afternoon he showed up at the hospital.
Marv was working and Angie was sleeping after another hellish reaction to the poison they were pumping into her.
“Sorry about yesterday. Clearing customs in New York with the gear and crew was a bitch.”
With long, teased hair and wearing skin-tight, shredded jeans, a black silk t-shirt, and a studded leather jacket, Bodine looked like an alien compared to the people she’d been associating with in the last week. Mattie didn’t know what she expected, but fresh off the stage wasn’t appropriate.
“Whatever.” She’d promised herself she wouldn’t lose it. The best way she decided was not to engage.
“Should I wake her up?”
“She just puked her guts out for an hour and a half.”
Bodine looked at his watch.
Mattie gritted her teeth.
“How is she?”
“We’ll know more in a couple of days when they see if the chemo’s killed all the leukemia cells.”
“Bobby says hello.”
“He’s here with you?”
“Out in the hall. He drove me up from Albany.”
“I’ll go say hi, give you some alone time with your Mom.”
Bobby was one of The Big Four, Bodine’s personal security contingent. He gave her a hug.
“Sorry about Mrs. Du Berc,” he said.
“Thanks, how’s Kat and little Vinnie? Pictures?”
Bobby pulled out his cell phone and showed pictures of his wife and two-year-old son. Mattie had got close to Bobby and his family and had even been invited to Kat’s baby shower.
“Is Katrina pregnant?” Mattie said. The baby bump was obvious.
Bobby smiled, took a last look at his family and pocketed the phone.
“So how’s the tour going?” Mattie said.
Bobby was a pro and wasn’t going to divulge anything about his client even though she had become friends with him and the other members; Franco, Chin and Marlon.
“This is it for The Big Four,” Bobby said.
“It’s a lot of things, but mainly the travel. It’s really wearing thin.”
“What will you do?”
“Work for other rich people, or the government, but close to home. The world’s a dangerous place, our services are in demand.”
“Well, good luck, Bobby. And give my best to Kat and Vinnie.”
“If you ever need some help, Mattie, you be sure to give me a call. And that goes for the other guys in the crew as well.”
“Thanks.” A thousand pounds of muscle might come in handy some day.
Mattie took a bathroom break and when she returned Bodine was in the hall. He looked frantic.
“She’s calling for you,” he said.
Angie was awake and seemed agitated. Mattie soaked a facecloth in cold water, wrung it out and applied it to her forehead.
“Make sure he signs it,” she croaked.
“Don’t worry, Mom,” Bodine said. “I’ve already signed it, but we’re going to work things out.” He took his mother's hand. “I’ve got to go. There’s a sound check at five-thirty. We’re back in the States so I’ll be seeing a lot more of you.”
Angie reached up to hug him.
“I love you, Mom.”
Outside the room, Bodine put his head against the wall and sobbed. Mattie’s resolve melted, and she put her arm around him.
“She looks so wrecked,” he said. “I hardly recognize her.”
“Chemos tough, but things should begin to improve next week.” Mattie hated to give false hope, but what the hell, everybody else did.
“You think so?”
“We’ve got two concerts at Madison Square Gardens and then were off the Philly. I’ll be able to come on Sunday.
“Bo, you need to do this, not only for Angie, but for yourself. You know what I’m saying?”
“Yes, yes, I know,” Bodine said. “I’m just not good with this stuff. I mean she always looked after me and seeing her...” Bobby handed him a tissue and he wiped his eyes. “Thanks for being here for her, Mattie.”
“No problem.” Where else would she be?
BODINE’S VISIT ON SUNDAY ended up being a telephone call.
The next day, Mattie, Marv and Angie waited for Dr. Stein to arrive with the test results to see if the chemotherapy had destroyed the leukemia cells.
“I’m afraid the news isn’t good, Mrs. Du Berc,” the doctor said. “You have leukemia cell mutations that are very treatment resistant. The chemotherapy didn’t eliminate them.” She referred to the clipboard she held. “In fact, it barely reduced them.”
The thing about hope is that you don’t even know you’re hopeful until it’s snatched away. Hopeless, however, is an emotion you’re keenly aware of.
“Does that mean another round of chemo with different drugs?” Marv said.
“Your wife wouldn’t likely survive another round, and in my opinion, it wouldn’t do any good.”
“So what do we do?” Marv just didn’t get it.
“I suggest you take her home and make her as comfortable as possible.”
Mattie hated talking as if Angie wasn’t there, but if nobody else was going to ask she would. “How long has Angie got?”
“A month? Maybe less.”
Marv dragged a large hand over his face. Angie nodded like she knew all the time what the outcome would be.
“I’ll have social services come by and make arrangements for home care.”
Mattie admired Dr. Stein’s no-nonsense approach. There was no way of honey-coating a death sentence, so why bother.
THE DAY AFTER THEY brought Angie home, she asked to speak to Mattie alone.
“You’re finished with Bo aren’t you?” she said.
“Yes.” Why lie? Even if Bo and Ellwyn weren’t all over the tabloids, she was no good at hiding her feelings.
“I’ve had him sign over the house and the property as well as the proceeds from the portion that was sold to the condo developer.”
Angie waited to catch her breath.
“You’re entitled to it. In British Columbia if you’ve lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years the assets that you’ve acquired during that time are divided equally.” She gestured to an envelope on the night table. “That’s your copy.”
Mattie opened the envelope and took out the documents. As well as a title to the house and the remaining three acres, there was a bank draft to $1.3 million.
“That’s too much.”
“No, it’s not.”
“But you’re giving me everything?”
“Not quite. Bo released his solo album, and even the proceeds from this tour, if it makes any money, could be considered as family assets, since they were undertaken during your time together.”
“That wouldn’t be fair. If it wasn’t for Bo, I’d have lost the sanctuary. He saved me.”
“You saved each other. He was just off drugs, his career was in crisis and then you came along. Someone normal.”
Normal? Hardly, but considering the context... “Thanks, Angie.”
“Don’t worry about Bodine, honey. Even if he never sold another album he’d be rich from the royalties, he makes from his time in Seditious.” Angie coughed and congestion gurgled in her chest. The leukemia created abnormal white blood cells unable to fight infection, like pneumonia.
Angie died four days later from another cerebral infarction. Mattie didn’t stay around for the funeral which would be a gong show considering paparazzi had no respect for anyone or anything, living or dead, and fans were little better.
It was over. Time to move on.
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