She woke feeling heavy and puffy-eyed. She
stared at the wall and took a deep breath. If
ever there was a day to stay in bed and hide
from the word, it was today.
She thought about Ben and Ruby as she
showered. She ‘d do her best to hide her illness
from them, but it was inevitable that they
would find out. They lived next door, after all.
But hopefully by then Hannah would have had
the time to create some distance between
them. No more watching the kids or them
staying over at her place. The kids would think
she and Joe had simply broken up. They’d be
hurt for a while, but a little hurt now was
preferable to a lot of hurt later .
And Joe….. Joe will move on too. He might be
angry with her for a while, and sad, but she
knew he would eventually understand she’d
done the best thing for him and his children.
She’d never thought she could love anyone so
much that she would be able to let them go
when everything in her screamed for her to
cling fast. But she wasn’t free to love them. She
had nothing to offer. It was as simple and as
painful as that.
She looked in the mirror as she dried off after
her shower, her gaze dropping to her b0s0m.
Slowly she cupped them in her hands, feeling
the weight of them, the shape of them, trying
to imagine what it would be like to have a scar
instead of rounded flesh. She dressed in jeans
and a t shirt and wandered out to the kitchen.
Her mother was busy juicing oranges.
“Lots of fresh fruits from now on, she said.
“There ‘s a cookbook I ‘ve seen about positive
“That sounds good,” Hannah said.
There was a knock at the door. Hannah glanced
at her mother. Her mother simply looked at her
and Hannah sighed.
“Would you mind? In case its Joe.” She’d always
known it would take more than one
conversation to convince a man as loyal and
loving as Joe to protect himself.
“Okay, I ‘ll get it,” Hannah said with a firm and
She took a deep breadth, with shaking hands
went to open the door.
She retreated a step when she saw he wasn’t
alone. He was standing hand in hand with his
children, Ben on his left, Ruby on his right.
Ruby’s eyes were puffy from tears and Ben
looked as though he’d been crying too. Joe held
her gaze steadily when she looked at him. He
was pale, his gaze was very direct as he said “I
‘ve come to give you our answer.”
“I didn’t ask for one ”
There was a hardness to his face, he said with
fierceness that she’d never seen there before. “I
don’t care. The kids and I have been talking. I
told them your news. ”
Ruby sniffed and wiped her nose with the back
of her hand. Hannah looked at her small,
pinched face, her heart aching.
“You shouldn’t have ” she said in misery.
“They deserve to know, the least you could do
is hear them out.”
Ruby stepped forward and said:
I haven’t said it to you before because I was too
shy, but I want you to know that I love you.
And I want you to get better and I ‘ll do
whatever I can to help you. Keep my room
clean and help with the cooking and go to bed
on time without being asked. Anything you
It was Ben’s turn. He took a step forward, his
hands clutched together in front of him :
I know I was mean at the start, I really want
you to come to Queensland with us, I don’t care
if you’re sick. I love you too…..he said rapidly
the words almost ran together. He stepped
back by his fathers side.
Hannah closed her eyes and tears spilled out.
She heard Joe murmur something, and when
she opened her eyes again it was just him
standing there. She stared at him, her chest
aching with sadness. She whispered “I don’t
want to hurt you. Can’t you understand that?”
Joe closed the distance between them. He
wiped away her tears with his thumbs. Joe
dropped down to one knee and said the words
that brought more tears to Hannah’s eyes…….
“I know you don’t want to hurt me, and its one
of the many reasons I love you. But you’re not
doing this without us, Hannah. No way. That’s
our choice, and we’ve made it freely, and we’ll
camp out on your doorstep if that’s what it
takes to make you see sense. But I’m kind of
hoping it won’t come to that. He reached out
and took one of her cold, trembling hands in
his. I know I love you, even though I never
thought I ‘d feel this way or even want to feel
this way again. I know I want to fight over the
remote control with you and make pizzas with
you. I know I want to make love to you and
wake up with you in my bed each and
everyday. I know I want to stand by yourside
while you fight this battle so we can grow old
“Hannah Napier, will you marry me? ”
She stared into his face, taking in the
proudness of his nose, the strength of his jaw.
“What if I loose? ”
He didn’t break eye contact for a second. “Then
I ‘ll be with you till the end. I ‘ll take whatever
chance I can get, Hannah. If the past two years
have taught me anything, its that happiness
and love are too bloody precious to walk away
from, no matter how fleeting they might be.”
“I love you, ” she said.
“I know. Say yes.”
“Its crazy. We should wait till we know more.”
“Until when? I love you now. I want you to be
my wife now.”
He was too strong. Too sure. Too compelling.
And it was too close to what her heart craved.
“Just say yes ”
The word seemed to form itself on her lips all on
Joe leaned forward from his kneeling position
and wrapped his arms around her waist, his
head coming to rest against her belly.
She couldn’t believe how brave he was, how
determined. And how brave his kids were, how
generous. She remembered the way they had
stepped up and said their piece and her heart
swolled in her chest.
After a long moment Joe pushed himself to his
“Let’s go tell the kids you’ve come to your
senses. Then we need to go buy you a ring.
Ruby offered her Barbie ring, but I figured you
might like to choose your own.”
“You told the kids you were going to propose to
“Of course. Its their family, too, you know. They
have minds of their own, in case you hadn’t
“I noticed. ”
He slid a hand along her jaw and into her hair.
“I love you, Hannah. We’re going to get through
“I hope so.”
He kissed her. “I know so.”
Then he led her out into the street to find the
She woke feeling heavy and puffy-eyed. She