tagMatureNew Beginnings

New Beginnings


"Allison, where'd you get those bruises?"

"What? What bruises?" she said trying to look at her backside.

"On your back and the back of your leg," her friend said.

She walked over to a mirror in the girl's dressing room and turned her back to it and looked over her shoulder.

"That's weird," she said before looking at the large bruises she knew weren't there the day before. Or at least she didn't think they were. There was a large bruise in the upper middle of her back and two on her upper right leg.

She looked and again and turned so hard she nearly fell over causing both girls to laugh.

"Okay. It's just that you had one on your left side a few days ago, and now you have these."

"Wow, that's so weird. I don't remember seeing them, and I have no idea how they got there. But thanks for letting me know. You're always looking out for me, huh?"

"Hey, I told you I got your back," her friend told her.

She laughed then said, "I just had no idea it was covered in bruises."

Allison Van der Waal was 14, and her best friend, Abbie Dalton, loved her like the sister she never had. Both of them were on the swimming team at their all-girls school in a suburb of Seattle, Washington, but swimming didn't cause bruises unless someone was doing belly flops, and Allison didn't do belly flops. Ever. She was the best, most graceful swimmer on the team.

Allison had previously lived in an upscale part of the city of Seattle and moved to her current home at the start of the school year when her mother, Margaux, had been let go as an anchor for a local Seattle news station.

Her mom had been told it was all about things like budgets and the new program manager wanting a 'clean slate' than it did her age, but at 52, she knew. It didn't matter that she was one of those rare, genetically-gifted women who looked twenty years younger than she really was. This was about age, pure and simple. The proof was in the pretty, virtually inexperienced, 27-year old blonde the station hired to replace her.

Then again, perhaps age was a kind of secondary reason, even though they couldn't say it outright as the station would be liable and get its pants sued off for discrimination and wrongful termination. Margaux was sure the new girl would be willing to do her old job for a lot less money, and from a strictly business point of view it made a lot of sense. From a personal standpoint, it had been a crushing blow for her after having weathered the storms of a bitter divorce just two years before.

More than a few viewers had emailed or called the station complaining about the change, and although Margaux didn't read many of them, one of them in particular had touched her. A man, who was angry as hell she'd been let go, told the station manager she was the only reason he watched the local news. He also mentioned she looked younger and prettier than 'the bimbo' they'd brought in to replace her.

She knew that wasn't true no matter how good it had temporarily made her feel. And yet, even at 52, she also knew there wasn't a strand of gray in her raven hair that fell to to just below her chin and framed her gorgeous face, the skin of which was still naturally tight and wrinkle free; a face with high cheekbones and soft, full lips, beautiful brown eyes and a perfect, white smile that still dazzled on and off camera.

Evidently, it wasn't dazzling enough to keep her job or her husband of nearly 20 years faithful to her. Three years ago, she'd come home early unexpectedly one day to find him in bed with a woman barely old enough to vote.

Though shocked, she'd somehow managed to stay calm and quietly told the girl to get dressed and her husband to get out.

As badly as it had hurt her, then 11-year Allison had suffered the most, as Margaux refused to make her cheating husband out to be the bad guy. For a little over two years after he moved out, her daughter had been withdrawn, sullen, and had barely spoken to her mother, blaming her for the divorce never suspecting the man she worshipped had been the betrayer.

Had her father not finally manned up and come clean and told her the truth during this summer's visit, that might never have changed. To his credit he had, and once the truth was known, Allison returned home and through a lot of tears, apologized for the way she'd treated her mom who'd done nothing but love her and remain faithful to her dad. Since then, she'd gotten her daughter, and their relationship, back.

During the time of so much turmoil, she may not have had a husband or her marriage, but she did have her daughter, and no matter how strained things had been at home, she'd also had her career. That and her daughter were the two things she loved more than anything else on earth, and one or both of them had been enough to sustain through it all.

At least that's what she told herself many times when she lay awake late at night so lonely she thought she might die. She hated feeling weak, and it certainly had nothing to do with missing her ex-husband. It was that Margaux was a caring, giving woman who'd loved being married, and now, at her age, she wondered if she'd ever even love again let alone find someone who'd love her the way she dreamed of being loved.

But somehow she'd make it until morning when she could start another day at the station where she felt she was someone who made a difference, and to some degree, was maybe even a kind of pillar in the community. A small pillar perhaps, but a face people knew and had grown comfortable with over the years.

And then just as suddenly as her marriage had ended, so had her career as she found herself walking out of the station house for the last time carrying a cardboard box of stuff. She'd hurriedly tossed anything of value to her into it, and as she looked at the jumbled mess inside of it, the that box seemed like a kind of metaphor for her life. Small, compact, and now in total disarray.

Just as her mom couldn't bring herself to badmouth her former husband, Allison couldn't bring herself to love her father the way she once had. After the big revelation, things were strained between them to say the least, and Allison began finding excuses to avoid seeing him until he quit asking.

The saddest thing of all is how she not only didn't care, she was mostly glad to have him out of her life. Looking back, the one and only thing he'd left her was a desire to never end up with a man who would tear her heart out the way he'd torn the hearts from her and her mother.

Since then, swimming and her mom had been Allison's life. She was a very solid student, but academics took a distant second to her life in the water or just hanging out with either Abbie or her mom, who'd become her other best friend since 'The Great Confession'.

For now, as she dismissed any concerns about the latest, unexplained bruises on her body, she had swim practice and needed to focus. But she was just so tired—again.

"Okay, so you don't know where the bruises are from. Fine. We'll worry about that later," Abbie said. "We need to get to the pool or we'll be swimming penalty laps."

"Yeah, sure," Allison said. "Let me just rest for a sec, okay?"

"What? You're tired at 3 o'clock in the afternoon?" Abbie teased. "Do you have a boyfriend I don't know about or something?"

Allison tilted her head and gave Abbie that, "Yeah, right," look but didn't say anything.

"Okay, but if you're not in the pool in five minutes, I'm coming back to drag you in myself. Unless Coach finds you first, and if she does, heaven help you!" Abbie told her as she pulled on her bathing suit and headed out to start practice.

When the swim coach asked where Allison was at 3 o'clock sharp, Abbie told her she was right behind her. That didn't set well with the coach who made a point of starting practice at exactly 3pm—on the dot.

She went back into the locker room and called Allison's name.

"Van der Waal? Where are you? Let's get a move on here! It's three o'clock and you're on my time now so...."

Allison was slumped over on the floor in a heap, and the coach immediately checked for breathing and a pulse as she grabbed her walkie-talkie and called the office for help. Within two minutes an ambulance was on the way, and ten minutes after that Allison was in the back being rushed to the nearest hospital while the school called her mother at home.

As badly as the divorce and being let go at work had hurt, they paled in comparison with the fear Margaux felt as she drove to the hospital. She knew Allison had been tired lately, but she was a teenage girl, and all her friends who had teenagers told her they were always tired. At least in the mornings. Getting them to bed before midnight was always a challenge, but Allison had always been a morning person who enjoyed getting up so she could swim, and that made these recent incidents of fatigue very troubling.

Margaux had thought about taking her to see a doctor several times but kept putting it off. Her insurance was good for another six months, a part of the severance package the station offered her, but she'd just never had the energy to make the appointment. And now here she was driving to a hospital after learning her daughter had collapsed and been found unconscious. If this was something that could have prevented had it been caught earlier in a routine exam, Margaux didn't know if she could ever forgive herself. For now, she put such thoughts out of her mind and did her best to deal with the constant snarl of traffic that was everywhere in the city as she inched along in the bumper-to-bumper nightmare.

A little over an hour later, she pulled into the parking garage and literally ran to the front desk. Out of breath, she did her best to ask about her daughter.

The woman at the counter smiled and said, "Oh, you're the woman on the evening news, huh?"

"Yes. No. I mean...please just check on my daughter, okay?" she panted.

"Oh, sure. Um...yes. Here we are. Allison Van der Waal. Room 204. Upstairs one floor and it's the second room on your right."

Margaux hurriedly thanked her as she dashed for the elevator then waited for what seemed like forever as it slowly moved up to the second floor as she took several slow, deep breaths to calm herself. She stepped out and strode down the shiny, tiled hall and saw Room 202, and then she heard her daughter's voice.

"Oh, okay," Allison was saying to someone as she walked in.


"Honey, are you okay?" she said ignoring the doctor and the nurse standing next to her daughter.

She bent down and hugged her and asked again, "Are you okay?"

"Mom, I'm fine. I just got a little dizzy. That's all."

"Dizzy? What kind of dizzy? How long has this been going on? What else has been...."

"Mrs. Van der Waal?" she heard a voice say.

She stood up straight then looked across the hospital bed and saw a very good-looking, younger doctor standing there smiling at her.

"I'm Doctor Rhodes," he said as he extended a hand above Allison's abdomen.

Margaux shook it then said, "I'm sorry. I was so worried about my daughter I forgot my manners."

"I understand," he told her.

"So...what is wrong with my daughter?" she asked.

"We're waiting for test results. We drew blood, but since it wasn't life threatening, we really couldn't do anything else until we got parental consent."

"What else would you like to do?" she asked now getting very concerned.

"We need to see what the blood tests tell us first. It could be something as simple as anemia."

"Or...?" Margaux asked.

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves, okay?" Dr. Rhodes told her.

"Could we maybe talk privately?" Margaux asked.

"Mom! I'm not a child. If something's wrong, I want to know so just discuss it in front of me, okay? Allison insisted.

Margaux nodded and the doctor began talking.

"We don't know for sure anything's wrong yet," Dr. Rhodes said. "But if you want to know best-case/worst-case scenarios I'd say anemia is the best case. As to the worst-case, well, it could be quite a few things with some form of leukemia being near the top of the list."

"Near the top?" Margaux asked.

"Yes. Anything is possible to include something as serious as a brain tumor, but...."

"Oh, my God!" Margaux said as fear welled up inside her again.

"Mom! Please! Get a grip!" Allison told her. "I don't have a brain tumor."

"No, you're right, honey. I'm sorry," her mom said knowing her daughter had no more idea what might be going on than she did. "Has anyone called your father yet?"

"No, and I don't want him here," Allison said bitterly.

"That's fine, but we do have to let him know," her mom said.

"Okay, fine, but I'm not talking to him."

Dr. Rhodes was trying very hard not to get involved in yet another family squabble, and Margaux noticed how he was looking out the window.

"I'm sorry, Doctor. I don't want to drag you into our personal lives, but I'm divorced and well...it's complicated."

"No it's not," Allison said. "He was screwing some bimbo in our house and you came home and...."

"Allison!" her mom said feeling deeply embarrassed for the first time in many years.

"Well, it's true. He's a total pig, and I don't want to see him."

"Allison? What is wrong with you?" her mom said.

"See, you're already less worried about me being sick," her daughter said with a smile. "And there's nothing wrong with me. I just can't stand the sight of my father anymore and you need to quit pretending nothing happened. I spent two years blaming you for it when it was all his fault."

"That's water under the bridge, sweetheart. It's over. So can you maybe try and let it go?"

"I am, Mom. I really am. I just can't. Not yet anyway. I feel so betrayed that every time I think of him I just get really angry!"

Margaux put her hand on her daughter's shoulder then said, "I understand, honey. I know all too well myself, as a matter of fact."

She saw the look on Allison's face that told her she understood her mom was the one who'd been so badly hurt and it softened markedly.

"When someone we love lies to us or hides something from us, we all feel betrayed. The only thing we can do is to make sure we're not doing the same thing to the people we love."

Her mother's words resonated with her daughter who'd largely come to the same conclusion since learning the truth.

"Anyway, do you need anything?" Margaux asked her daughter.

"No. I'm fine," she said reassuringly while knowing she wasn't.

Dr. Rhodes was clearly uncomfortable and waiting for a moment of quiet where he could ask a question.

"Mrs. Van der Waal? Could I talk to you privately for a moment?" he asked.

"You can say it front of me," Allison said, smiling brightly at the gorgeous, much-older doctor.

"It's not about your test, Allison," he told her. "I just wanted to ask your mom something."

"Well, she is single, if that's what you were wondering," the pretty 14-year old said with a smile.

"Allison Van der Waal, what in God's name has gotten into you?" her mother asked now feeling even more embarrassed.

"She is a very beautiful woman, but that's not what I wanted to talk to her about," the doctor said as he and her mom went to step outside.

He turned then said to Allison, "And if I may say so, you clearly got your mothers looks so you will be too, in a few more years."

Margaux understood the look her daughter gave the handsome doctor. It was one that told her she was well aware of just how good-looking he was and getting a compliment like that from a man like him was a very big deal for a girl her age. Then again it also would be a very big deal for a woman her age as she realized just how attractive he was.

As they stood outside a few feet from the room, Dr. Rhodes said, "There are some very large bruises on her body. Are you aware of that, Mrs. Van der Waal?"

"Not specifically. I mean, I've seen bruises on her several times lately, but nothing significant. Why?"

"Well, it's not really my place to ask, but when we see this kind of thing we're required to report it. Just in case."

"What? You mean to child services?" she said barely able to stand.

"Yes. Well, it depends. Unless you know of someone who's causing the bruising, it gives me real cause for concern—medically speaking. I'm only asking you privately after hearing the way she spoke about her father. It's none of my business, but is there any way he might have...."

"What? Her father? No. Never. Absolutely not," she told him emphatically.

"Okay. I'm very relieved to know that on the one hand, but as I said, on the other it concerns me greatly."

"Why is that?" Margaux asked now very worried.

"Bruising, especially bruising that severe, is often a symptom of something more serious, and in this case, with Allison's fatigue and loss of consciousness, I can't help but be concerned about some form of cancer. Most likely a...."

"Cancer? Oh, my God! What kind of cancer?" she said not realizing he was about to share his opinion with her if she'd let him.

"If there's a shortage of platelets in the blood, then the body is more susceptible to bruising. I did a quick check when I was examining Allison and found what appears to be a swollen lymph node under her left armpit. So we really need to get the results of the blood tests before we can really say what's going on, but I can't help but think this could be more serious than anemia."

"How...how dangerous is it? I mean, if it is...leukemia?" Margaux asked feeling like she might throw up.

"That depends on the exact type. There are four primary types and each one has a different 'cure' rate with cure being defined as a five-year life expectancy."

"Five years? Oh, my God...." Margaux said again feeling like she was about to throw up.

"Again, let's not get ahead of ourselves. I will say that while I don't want to either give a false sense of hope or worry you, leukemia is now almost always a very treatable and often curable disease."

"Almost always?" she asked picking up on that immediately.

"We can discuss all of that later—if necessary. Come on. Let's get you back to the room and I'll go see where we are on those lab tests," he told her.

"So did you ask my mom out?" Allison said the moment they walked in.

Doctor Rhodes laughed when Margaux cringed.

"No, not this time," he told her. "Besides, I'm sure your mom has plenty of handsome men she doesn't look at as being a kid like me."

"Um, you are not a kid," Allison told him very authoritatively.

"Not to you, of course," he told her as he glanced over at Margaux and smiled.

"I think Doctor Rhodes just said I was old," Margaux quipped trying to only pretend to be offended when the comment actually hurt.

"No. Not at all," he quickly said. "I wasn't kidding when I said you were a very beautiful woman, Mrs. Van der Waal. I just didn't want to assume I guy like me would be of any interest to a woman as beaut...."

"Doctor Rhodes? Excuse me," a nurse said after stepping into the room. "I have the lab results back."

He smiled at Margaux again then told her, "My tablet is on the blink so until the hospital gets it fixed or gets me a new one, I'm pretty much dependent on our wonderful staff like Ms. Gilmore here."

The young nurse blushed as she smiled and handed him her tablet.

He smiled back at her then took a quick glance at the nurse's tablet then gave it a more thorough look.

"Okay. Thanks. That's all I need for now," he told her. She smiled then turned around and left.

"So? What's the verdict?" Allison said just like a young adult.

"Well, for starters, you have a very high white cell count," he told her.

"Which means?" Allison asked knowing that was bad even though she didn't know why.

"Well, it means we want to do a few more tests to include a bone marrow test."

"That hurts, doesn't it?" she asked.

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