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I Still... Chapter Eighteen

Setting a tray of glasses and a pitcher of iced tea down carefully, Leighanne sank into a seat beside Brian and smiled across the table at Kevin and Kristin. Baylee lay on the grass beside the table, oblivious to the conversation going on over his head as he pushed a small plastic car back and forth.
"So... What happens next?" Kevin asked as he reached for the pitcher and began to pour. "Are there more tests or do they start treatment?"
Brian cast a sidelong glance at his wife and took her hand beneath the table. He knew it was hard for her to talk about Cassie's illness but the news was still fresh for Kevin and Kristin.
"She's having a chest x-ray and bone marrow biopsy this week," he said, giving Leighanne's hand a squeeze. "After that she'll be admitted for chemotherapy."
Kevin slid two glasses of tea across the table.
"She has to be admitted?" he asked.
"She needs an IV line," Brian replied. "Sometimes they give radiation therapy at the same time..."
He paused as Leighanne's grip on his fingers tightened. Pulling his hand free, he moved closer and wrapped his arm around her waist.
"She'll be in for a while, then?" Kristin asked.
"I guess so. I suppose it depends how she responds to the treatment," Brian replied.
"I should call or visit or something," Kristin said thoughtfully. "Although, I guess her mom is still there - maybe she doesn't want any other visitors. Have you been to see her, Leigh?"
Staring down at the tabletop, Leighanne was silent.
"Leigh?" Brian said quietly. "Honey? Kristin asked you a question..."
Leighanne looked up at Kristin, her eyes red and brimming with tears. Kristin set down her glass and stood up, moving around the table and extending her hand.
"Come on, let's leave the men to talk," she said gently. "I've got a new pair of shoes in the car but I'm not too sure about the color. Want to give me the honest truth?"
Leaning over to kiss his wife on the cheek, Brian whispered in her ear. Leighanne smiled weakly back at him before getting to her feet and taking Kristin’s hand.
Brian turned back to his cousin as their wives walked towards the house.
“It’s tough for her to talk about,” he explained. “I think she’s still in shock about the whole thing.”
“And Nick? Anyone heard from him yet?”
“I haven’t,” Brian replied. “Leigh would’ve told me if he’d been in touch with Cassie. Last I heard, his mobile was going straight to voicemail.”
Kevin leaned back in his seat and swirled the tea in his glass.
“And nobody has a number for Hannah?” he asked.
“Nobody even knows her last name,” Brian replied. “But they’ll be together. I guess if we find one, we find the other.”
“I can’t believe he’s not calling her...”
Brian put down his glass and eyed his cousin across the table.
“Are you kidding me? This is how he operates - leaves one behind and totally devotes himself to the other. He’s on and off like a light switch lately.”
“Yeah, but I thought things were going well for him and Cassie?”
Brian nodded.
“They were trying for a baby,” he replied. “Cassie saw the doctor because she thought she might be pregnant but the test was negative. They took a blood test to be sure and that’s when they found the leukaemia.”
Kevin leaned forward over the table.
“Do they know how long... I mean, is she going to get better?” he asked.
“I honestly don’t know. Leighanne said there are different types of leukaemia and it depends which kind you get... Cassie has the worst kind. AML... It's Acute something... I can’t remember the whole name. The doctor said they’ll know more after the x-ray and biopsy but only twenty percent of patients live five years after being diagnosed.”
Kevin sank back in his seat, defeated by Brian’s words. Five years. And only twenty percent made it that far. Sighing, he ran his hands over his face, letting them fall into his lap.
“We have to find Nick.”

Cassie cast a quick glance at the FedEx envelope on the passenger's seat and gripped the steering wheel tighter. Slowing for the corner, she made her way along the tree-lined street, stopping outside Brian and Leighanne's gates. Kevin and Kristin's SUV was parked in front of the garage and Cassie contemplated turning away before lowering her window and reaching for the intercom. Waiting for a response, she picked up the envelope beside her and turned it over in her hands.
Cassie dropped the envelope and leaned towards the intercom.
"Leigh? It's Cassie."
"Hey, Cass. Come on up," Leighanne replied.
Taking a deep breath as the gates swung open, Cassie eased her foot off the brake and drove towards the house.
Kristin met her on the porch, immediately enveloping her in a hug.
"I'm so sorry, Cassie... We only just heard. How are you?"
"I've been better," Cassie replied, smiling weakly. "I can't tell if I'm tired and sick because of the leukaemia or because I'm thinking about it so much."
Kristin pulled away and eyed her friend.
"Are you getting any sleep?"
"Not really and I'm exhausted all the time. But as soon as I lie down, my mind starts racing. I can't win."
"You seem... Really together," Kristin said, her hand on Cassie's back as they walked into the house.
Cassie shrugged.
"Shock, I suppose," she stated. "So much is happening, it's almost as if it can't possibly all be real, you know?"
Kristin nodded, silently wishing it wasn't all so incredibly real.
As her friends walked into the kitchen, Leighanne left the pot of coffee she had been making and greeted Cassie with a hug. Noticing the FedEx envelope clutched in her hand, she gestured towards it.
"What's that?"
Cassie looked down at the envelope.
"It's from Nick," she replied, holding it out to Leighanne. "Just another surrealism to ad to the pile."
Kristin moved closer as Leighanne pulled a sheaf of papers from the envelope. Together they silently skimmed over the front page. Kristin's eyes met Cassie's, full of questions, as Leighanne turned the page.
"He can't be serious..."
"Who can't be serious?" Brian asked from the back door where he stood untying his shoes. "Hey, Cassie. How are you?"
"I'm okay, Brian, thanks," she replied.
Brian joined them in the kitchen, wrapping his arm around Leighanne's waist.
"What are we reading?"
"Do you mind if he reads it?" Leighanne asked.
"Not at all," Cassie replied. "Really, that's why I'm here."
Leighanne handed the pile of papers to her husband who placed them on the counter and began to read. Reaching the end of the first page, Brian looked from his wife to Kristin and across to Cassie.
"He can't be serious."