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Tomorrow and Tomorrow (Bantam Spectra Book)by Charles Sheffield
And if time cannot be granted?
When Drake finally received a clear medical diagnosis after months of secret terrors and false hopes and specialist hedging, Ana had less than five weeks to live. She was already in a final decline. Suddenly, after twelve marvelous years together and a future that seemed to spread out before them for fifty more, they saw the world collapse to a handful of days.
It had begun simply--more than simply. It had begun with nothing, a red car in the driveway when he did not expect one. Ana's car.
He had been passing the house almost by accident, on his way from a teeth-cleaning appointment to a meeting at the new concert hall. Like everyone else, Drake had complained about the acoustics, and the hall managers had called him in to be more specific. The grace period for construction changes without extra charge would end in less than thirty days, and they were worried.
Well, he could be specific, very specific, about bass absorption and soggy midrange sound and resonant high frequencies. But Ana should not be home. She had a rehearsal in the afternoon. She had told him when she left that she planned an early lunch with the pianist and clarinet player, and she would not be home until about six o'clock.
Car problems? The Camry had been balky for the past week.
He parked in the drive and went inside, noticing the puddle of water on the blacktop and vowing for the hundredth time to have it resurfaced. Ana was not in the kitchen. Not in the dining room or den or living room.
He felt the first twinge of anxiety as he ran upstairs. His relief when he saw her, fully clothed in blue jeans and a tartan shirt and peacefully sleeping on their bed, was surprisingly strong.
He went across and shook her. She opened her eyes, blinked, and smiled up at him.
He bent forward and kissed her lightly on the lips. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, love. Except I feel so tired."
"Did you stay up late?" Drake had been downtown to hear a performance of one of his own recent works, and glad-handing his public afterward had kept him out until after midnight.
Ana shook her head. "I was in bed by ten. I've been feeling this way a lot recently. Weak and feeble. But never as bad as this."
"It's not like you. Why don't we give Tom a call?"
He had expected her to say it wasn't necessary, that all she needed was a little more relaxation--Ana, between singing engagements and teaching, drove herself hard.
To his surprise, she nodded. "Would you call him for me?" She lay back and closed her eyes. "I just want to lie here for a little longer."
Drake had worried from that moment on, even if at first no one else seemed to. Tom Lambert was a close friend as well as their family doctor. He came over the same evening, grumbling about what other patients would say if they thought he made house calls.
He examined Ana for a long time. He seemed more puzzled and curious than concerned.
"It could be simple fatigue," he said when he was done. He accepted a small Scotch in a large glass and added lots of ice. The three of them were sitting in the den. Tom raised his glass to Ana before he took a sip. He sighed. "All I can say is, if it is anything, then it's something that I've never seen before."
"Do you think we should just forget about it?" Ana asked. She was sitting on the couch with her feet tucked under her. Drake, studying her now rather than simply accepting her presence, decided that she seemed thinner. "You know, take two aspirin and wait for tomorrow."
"Forget about it?" Tom sounded shocked. "Of course not .What sort of doctor do you think I am? I want to send you to a specialist."
"Of course." Ana's tone was teasing She and Tom had had the argument before. "Today's typical physician: can't possibly tell you what's wrong with you unless you see at least four other doctors--who of course all get their fees. If you people were musicians, nothing would be written for anything less than a quintet."
"Sure. And if you people were doctors, you'd only perform with hundreds of people watching. Anyway, don't change the subject. I want you to see a specialist. I'm going to make an appointment for you to see Dr. Kevin Williams."
"But if you don't know what it is," Drake protested, "how do you know what sort of specialist she needs?"
Tom Lambert seemed slightly embarrassed. "I said I'd never seen anything like this, in my own practice. But it doesn't mean I don't have ideas. Kevin Williams specializes in diseases of the blood and lymph systems. He's head of a group at NIH. He's a friend of mine, and he's damned good. Don't worry, Ana."
"I wasn't going to. I don't believe in it. Drake's the worrier in the family."
"Then don't you worry, either, Drake. We'll get to the bottom of this." Tom nodded, and when he spoke again it was as though he was talking to himself. "Yes, we will. And we'll do it quickly."
Tom did his best. Drake never doubted that for a moment. Ana saw Dr. Williams the next day, then there came a bewildering succession of other doctors and tests in the following two weeks. Ana's teasing remark to Tom was an understatement. Drake counted twelve different physicians, not counting the individuals, many of them also MDs, who administered the MRIs, IVPs, myelograms, and multiple blood workups.
Tom said little, but Drake knew in his heart that there was a big problem. Ana's lassitude continued. She was definitely losing more weight. She had been forced to cancel her teaching and her near-term concert engagements. One morning she was sitting at the kitchen table, pale winter sunlight slanting through onto her fair hair. Drake noticed the translucent, waxen sheen to her forehead and the pattern of fine blue veins on her temples. He was filled with such dread that he could not speak.
The grim biopsy result, when it finally came, was no surprise. Tom delivered the news himself, one drizzly evening in early March.
"An operation?" Ana, as always, was calm and rational.
Tom shook his head.
"How about chemotherapy?"
"We'll try that, naturally." Tom hesitated. "But I have to tell you, Ana, the prognosis is not too good. We can certainly treat you, but we can't cure you."
"I guess that's it, then." Ana stood up, already a little unsteady on her feet because of muscle loss in her legs. "I'm going to bring coffee for all of us. It ought to have perked by now. Cream and sugar, Tom?"
"Uh...yes." Tom looked up at her unhappily. "No, I mean, cream, no sugar. Whatever. Anything is fine."
As soon as Ana was out of the room he turned to Drake. "She's in denial. That's natural, and it's not surprising. It will take awhile for her to adjust."
"No." Drake stood up and went across to the window. The last heavy snow of the winter was melting, and fresh green shoots of spring growth were poking through. A few more days would bring bloom to the snowdrops and crocuses.
"You don't know Ana," he went on. "She's the ultimate realist. Not like me. Ana's not in denial. I'm the one that's in denial."
"I'm going to prescribe painkillers for her," Tom continued, as though he had not been listening. "All the painkillers she wants. There's no virtue in pain. In a case like this I don't worry about addiction. And I'm going to prescribe tranquilizers, too...for both of you." Tom looked toward the kitchen, making sure that Ana was out of earshot. "You might as well know the truth, Drake. There's not one damned thing we can do for her. Forget the chemotherapy. If it buys more than a few weeks for Anastasia, I'd be surprised. I feel that medical science is still in the dark ages about this disease. As a doctor I have to worry about you, too, Drake. Don't neglect your own health. And remember I can be here, night or day, whenever either one of you needs me."
Ana was coming back. She paused on the threshold, holding a tray of cups, coffee pot, cream and sugar. She smiled and arched an eyebrow. "You two all done? Safe for me to come back in now?"
Drake looked at her. She was thin and fragile, but she had never been more beautiful. Beautiful and brave and loving. At the idea of living without her his chest tightened. He felt as though he could not breathe.
Ana was his life, without her there was nothing. How could he ever bear to lose her?
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