She took a rainbow of pills and some Cream of Wheat for breakfast every morning. So much of her life was the same every day in the little white house on a country road. Her dad always told her that routine was one of the most important things to manage her mental illness. The orange pill was the most important one. That was the anti-psychotic that Liz needed to be able to try to participate in reality. Twenty-five year old Liz had been diagnosed with schizophrenia six years ago, permanently derailing her planned career as a photographer for National Geographic.
The red pill was for iron, and the purple pill was a multivitamin. The yellow pill and the pink pill were omega fatty acids and niacin that some silly naturopath in a floral shirt told her dad would somehow help her brain regrow some sanity. The round white pill didn't seem to help Liz any, but it was more to calm her down so that her dad didn't worry so much about her getting crazy. Her dad had always watched her too closely since her mom died of cancer when Liz was only four years old. Liz had vague memories of her mother bald from chemotherapy and recovering from surgery to remove her breasts, but no more. Liz's dad now worked from home as a tow truck dispatcher so that he could be Liz's full time caregiver.
Liz didn't get out very often. In fact, she rarely walked through the front door. Her father was too worried that she would wander away to even let her go lay in the hammock most days. Every morning, Liz was allowed to walk down the long driveway to retrieve the mail from the old mailbox her grandfather mounted at the roadside. It turned out, one morning, the adventure would come to her.
The mysterious letter in the mailbox had no postmark, which was Liz's first clue that something out of the ordinary was happening. No postmark meant that the writer of the letter had to personally place the letter in the mailbox, which would be odd. There was no bus service way out here in the country, and the hound dogs barked like lunatics anytime anyone pulled over, including the regular mailman. Liz and her father would have been alerted if there had been an unexpected visitor to the property. Was the letter writer someone they knew?
This first letter is just to prove to you that you need to believe me.
A planter will fall and break. Don't tell dad yet.
Think of me as your Guardian Angel
The letter was simple, typed and unsigned. Lizard was the nickname that only her parents and grandparents ever used for her. Guardian angel? First letter? Were there going to be more? Was the letter writer going to protect her from a potted plant falling on her head? Liz looked up as she opened the front door. Her dad was working at the rolltop desk in the living room and he didn't look up. Liz shook her head and stuffed the letter in her pocket. Just because she was crazy didn't mean she was gullible. Still, she would keep it from her dad so as to not let him worry. It always broke his heart when the locals mocked Liz for her mental illness.
At dinner, dad was bringing in food from the grill when the hound dogs started barking up a clamor. Liz rose from where she was waiting at the table and looked anxiously through the living room window towards the mailbox. No cars or people were at the roadside. She turned back to the table just to see her father brush the planters outside the dining room door as they came crashing down. Dirt and begonias spilled across the deck by the barbeque.
"Are you okay?" Liz gasped, as she ran to the door to help her dad with a tray of ears of corn. Her father cussed and dusted stray dirt off his overalls.
"I swear, this whole house is falling apart." He smiled at her apologetically. "Did I frighten you?"
Liz smiled and pulled out his chair for him at the table. They ate in silence for a few minutes, until Liz couldn't stand it any longer. Pulling the letter from her pocket, she smoothed it open in front of her father and explained that it had come in the mail that day.
"Dad, look at this. What do you make of it?" Liz pressed her lips together and tried to read her father's face.
He frowned at the wrinkled piece of printer paper. "Liz, I don't know if this is a joke of yours, but I think it should be an early bedtime for you tonight. It was my fault that planter fell."
With that, Liz was sent to take her nighttime meds and get ready for bed. The letter was taken away by her father. Liz grit her teeth as she brushed them. It was maddening to be treated like a baby simply because she had a mental illness she couldn't help having. She resolved to make certain to get to the mailbox tomorrow before her father. He would wait for the mail truck, but she knew that someone had delivered it without aid of a mail truck. It is possible that they were visiting in the night.
First thing in the morning, Liz awoke before her father. She sneaked downstairs and pet the hound dogs, whispering that it was time to be quiet. The moon was still in the sky, even though the birds were chirping their morning greeting as she walked down the long gravel driveway. She could see the letter sticking out of the box before she even reached it, and ran forward to grab it. Tearing it open, Liz found a handwritten note this time.
Now that you believe me, you have to go to the doctor.
I am from the future.
You have breast cancer.
Your Guardian Angel
Liz half walked, half ran back to the house, a chill running down her spine. Who was leaving these clues? Was this some sort of cruel joke? Running into the house, Liz went into the washroom and splashed water on her face. Looking at herself in the mirror, the rational part of her realized how outlandish this must be. She crumpled the letter in her hands and held it over the wastepaper basket. Suddenly, her face in the mirror moved.
"I'm from the future, but I'm the ghost of the version of yourself that died from cancer, Lizard. You have to believe me. It killed your mother, so it's only logical that you need go get checked out. Feel your left breast. You can feel the lump."
Shaking, Liz reached under her nightshirt to palpate her chest, while watching the mirror version of herself stare at her, motionless. This had to be a hallucination. Then she felt it. A dense bump on her chest wall. She had to tell dad. Just then, her dad sleepily opened the door. Liz didn't realize that she was sill holding the wadded up letter in her other hand.
"Mmm... what's this?" He reached forward and took it from her hand before she could think twice. Uncrumpling the piece of paper, his eyes ran across the lines and his tired mouth frowned.
"Lizard," he said, eyes meeting hers. "This is your handwriting."
"I know," Liz said, thinking fast, "I... I didn't think you'd believe me so I made up this story in a letter. Please, I just felt a lump and I need to go to a doctor, that's all. I'm sorry about the silly story."
The ride to the hospital was in silence. Her father had called ahead to Liz's family doctor to make an appointment, but Liz could tell that the furrows in his brown were his worry about her mental health rather than her physical health. She was only 25 year old. Even if her mother had died of the disease, it was still impossibly young to have cancer. Right?
Her family doctor ordered an ultrasound of the lump and took a fine needle biopsy of the mass that the technician viewed on the screen. Liz had known her family doctor her entire life, as she had been born in this very hospital with Jennifer as the attending physician. She felt trusted by this doctor, despite her psychotic illness.
"Let me get my favorite pathologist to bring the microscope cart up." Dr. Jenn said in a kindly voice, before leaving Liz and her dad in the examination room alone. Liz's dad sighed and leaned forward, hanging his head. He looked tired and exasperated more than worried. The minutes ticked by, until suddenly, the door flew open and Dr. Jenn entered the room. She closed the door and leaned her back against it.
"Yeah, it's cancer." She said. Liz's dad sat bolt upright in shock and spat out an expletive. Liz sat on the examination table with wide eyes, her knees beginning to shake uncontrollably. Life would never be the same again.
Merci pour la lecture!
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