Sunday, July 27, 2014

Free Fiction Sunday: "Bald is Beautiful"

Jennie Meyers is devastated when chemotherapy causes her to lose her hair. She worries about the reaction of her fifth grade students to her cancer. Can they show her how much they care?

"Bald is Beautiful" by Laura Ware is free on this website for one week only.  The story's also available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and other ebookstores.


Bald is Beautiful
Laura Ware

Jennie Myers stared in disbelief at her blue plastic comb full of black hair.  Her hair.
She looked in the bathroom mirror that was partially obscured with condensation from the steaming shower she’d just took.  The side she’d been combing showed gaps where her scalp was clearly visible.
Trembling, she raised a hand to her head and lightly brushed the black hair she’d cut short before starting chemotherapy.  To her horror, the light touch sent strands of black tumbling to her shoulders and the floor.
“Oh, no.” she shook her head and watched as the motion caused more hair to fall.
They’d warned her this could happen.  The doctor had explained the mechanics of it, and the things she could do – wigs, scarves, turbans…but Jennie had hoped it wouldn’t happen to her.
She was afraid to move, staring at the mirror that reflected her white face and the aqua blue tile of the bathroom.  Then Tim appeared behind her, a frown of concern on his face.
“Jen?”  His hands kneaded her shoulders.  “What is it?”
“M-my hair!” she stammered.  Jennie buried her face in her hands.  “It’s awful!  It’s all coming out!”
“Hey, hey,” Tim said, enfolding her in his arms.  “It’s gonna be okay.  We knew this might happen.”
“Why is all this happening to me?” Jennie moaned.  “How can you still want to be with me after all this?  First I can’t have children, then the cancer, now I’m ugly!”
“Stop,” Tim said gently.  He put his fingers under her chin and raised her face up.  “I told you when this all started – you’re not getting rid of me that easy.  I’m committed to you, lady.”
Jennie smiled even as a sob caught in her throat.  Ever since the diagnosis of ovarian cancer had come up, he had been there to hold her hand and do all kinds of silly little things to bring a smile to her face.  Jennie reminded herself how blessed she was to have Tim in her life.
She turned back to the mirror and her smile vanished.  More hair had fallen off.  Biting her lip, she put her hands to her head and brushed at the strands that were left.  They floated off to join the others on her shoulders and the dark blue furry bathmat.
Jennie shuddered.  It didn’t look like her anymore.  Her black hair was one of the prettiest things about her, and now it was gone.
Tim’s hazel eyes met hers in the mirror.  “Anything I can do?” he asked.
Jennie turned from her image and walked into the master bedroom.  The digital clock on her nightstand told her she was running late.  She let her eyes roam to her teaching materials that were piled in a sloppy stack next to the computer.
“I can’t go to school,” she said, almost to herself.
“What did you say?” Tim asked as he entered the bedroom.
Jennie sank down on the tangled sheets on the bed.  She thought of her class of 5th graders, whom she’d been working with for the past three months.
She’d tried to keep her cancer apart from her classroom.  She didn’t want the kids to ask a lot of questions; school for her was a haven from her illness.
Now both worlds were threatening to collide.  Jennie wasn’t sure she could cope with it.
“I don’t want the kids to see me like this,” Jennie said.  “Like a freak.”
“You are not a freak!” Tim said.  He sat next to her on the bed.  “The kids are old enough to know what’s going on.  You sell them too short.”
“They’re kids,” Jennie answered.  “They don’t need to know.”
Tim sighed.  “You want me to call you in?”
“No, I’ll do it,” Jennie said.  She put a hand on Tim’s face.  “I know I’m being silly – but it’s Friday, and I have the weekend to get used to it, I guess.”
“Tell you what,” Tim said.  “After you call your principal I’ll call the office and tell them I’m not coming in.  We’ll go do something fun.”
“Tim, you don’t have to -” Jennie protested.
“I know I don’t,” he said with a small smile.  “I want to.”
Jennie’s hands went to her head, where she felt skin where there had once been thick beautiful hair.  “I really don’t want to leave the house.”
“Okay,” Tim said with a sigh.  “Tell you what, get back in bed and get comfy.  I’ll make all the phone calls and bring my favorite teacher breakfast in bed.  Sound good?”
Jennie thought about arguing but had to admit she really didn’t want to talk to the principal and hear the woman’s sympathetic comments.
“You win,” she said.  “Get the coffee right and the teacher will give you extra credit.”
Tim kissed her.  “Sounds good to me.”
#
Jennie stayed inside the house the entire weekend.  She did her best to avoid the mirrors in the house.  When she brushed her teeth she kept her eyes glued to the sink, unable to bear more than a quick glance in the mirror.
Tim asked her several times about going out – even for a drive (“you can stay in the car!”) but Jennie refused.  She couldn’t bear people seeing her, staring at her.
She didn’t want a wig.  She’d looked over a catalog of them but all the pictures did were scream to her about what she’d lost.  After staring at a page for a few minutes she noticed it was damp.  That’s when she realized she was crying – again.
The weekend seemed to crawl.  Jennie knew she was trying Tim’s patience and a part of her felt guilty about it.  He didn’t complain to her face but once in a while she caught a look of irritation when he didn’t know she could see.
For his sake she tried on several turbans he brought home Saturday afternoon.  They weren’t quite as bad as the wigs – at least she could pretend she had hair under them.
Sunday night came.  Jennie got her teaching materials out and sat down at the kitchen table to go over them.  Tim was washing dishes at the sink.  “You going in tomorrow?”
“I don’t know,” she admitted.  Her hand went self-consciously to her head.  “I guess I have to.  I can’t just abandon the kids.” 
Carla Richards, Jennie’s principal, had come by the house Friday afternoon.  She dropped off a stack of cards Jennie’s class had made, all filled with good wishes and colorful pictures.
Jennie admitted the cards helped.  When she looked them over – something she did several times that weekend – they seemed to lighten her mood a little.
Her eyes fell on one that was a drawing of a blue tank blasting some yellow-green blob labeled, “Mrs. Meyers’ sickness.”  It was from a little red-haired dynamo named Reggie Morton.  He was a handful, but a charming one.
Tim came to the table, wiping his hands on a red and white checkered dishcloth.  “I think it’d be a good idea.”
She bit her lip.  “I’m scared, Tim.  I’m going to look so strange to the kids.  What will they say?”
He kissed her cheek.  “I think you’re selling your class too short.  They’re good kids, Jen.”
“I know,” Jennie said.  “But cancer is such a scary thing – How do I explain it to them?  How do I stand in front of them when I so uncomfortable?”
“You do the best you can,” Tim said.  “You’re a great teacher.  And you’ll do great tomorrow.”
Monday morning came.  Jennie stood in front of her bathroom mirror and adjusted the powder blue turban on her head.  Her reflection seemed alien to her, as if she were looking at some pitiful stranger.
“Ready?” Tim asked, coming into the bathroom.  He was dressed in a flannel shirt and jeans instead of his usual suit and tie.
Jennie frowned.  “What about work?”
“I’ll go in this afternoon.  I’d like to come to school with you.”
She shook her head.  “You don’t have to do that.”
“I didn’t say I had to.  I said I want to.”  He put his arms around her.  “Come on, how many guys say they want to go to school?”
She felt a rush of affection.  “I was so horrible this weekend.”
He kissed her forehead.  “So?  Remember that on Super Bowl weekend and cut me some slack.”
Jennie chuckled.  “All right.”  A glance back at the mirror caused her to sigh.  She was tempted to stay home.
Tim must have sensed her feelings, because he guided her out of the bathroom.  “Come on, ma’am.  I’ll load up your car, and follow you in.”
As Jennie drove to school, she tried not to think about how she looked.  Every glance in her direction from other drivers felt like a stare.  As she neared the elementary school, her palms grew damp and her stomach churned.
Jennie was surprised to see Principal Richards out in the teacher’s parking lot.  The principal, a middle-aged woman with short light brown hair, came up as Jennie parked her car.
“Good to see you, Jennie,” Richards said, giving Jennie a warm hug.
Jennie tried to smile, but found herself struggling not to cry instead.  “Thank you for understanding about Friday, ma’am.”
The principal waved a hand.  “Not a problem.  I told you: take the time you need.”  She nodded at Tim as he came over.  “Mr. Meyers, I’ll let you park here for a little bit if you aren’t staying long.”
“Thanks, Ms. Richards,” Tim said as he pulled out Jennie’s teaching materials from the back seat of her Honda Accord.
“Jennie, could you come to the office with me for a few minutes?” Richards asked.  “Tim knows where your classroom is, right?  He can drop your stuff off.”
“Of course,” Jennie said.  She was puzzled at the request.  Without another word Principal Richards led the way into her small office in the administration section of the school.
She waved Jennie to a chair.  “Coffee?”
“Yes, thanks,” Jennie said.  She really didn’t want the drink, but she was terribly nervous.
With a smile, the principal handed Jennie a steaming mug of coffee.  “I know this must be difficult for you.”
“Yes,” Jennie said.  Her hand went up to touch the turban on her head.  “I have to admit I’m worried about talking to the class.”
“I know,” Richards sat in the chair next to Jennie instead of behind her desk.  “Jennie, I hope you’ll forgive me, but some of the parents asked about you.  I couldn’t lie to them.”
Jennie felt her stomach churn.  “They have a problem with me?”
“No, of course not!” Richards said.  “In fact, they were glad to know what was going on.  Reggie came in on Friday afternoon with his parents to talk to me.  I explained to them about your condition.”
“You told Reggie I had cancer?” Jennie felt a flash of anger.  “Ms. Richards, with all due respect, that was not your call.”
“Perhaps not,” Richards said.  “But Jennie, your students are not stupid.  They already knew you have a serious illness.  And it was far more frightening for them not to know the facts.”
Jennie felt her face grow hot.  “They said they were frightened?”
“Reggie did,” Richards said.  “The class has been quite busy preparing for your return today.  They are waiting for you.”
“What…what are they doing?” Jennie asked.
Richards stood up and took the coffee cup from Jennie’s hands.  “Come and see.  I think they’re ready.”
Jennie followed the principal down the familiar route to her classroom.  A couple of her colleagues passed her with smiles.  Jennie barely saw them.
When they got to the door of Jennie’s classroom, Tim was waiting for them outside.  To Jennie’s surprise, her husband’s eyes were filled with tears. 
“You have to see this,” he said, putting his arm around Jennie’s shoulders. 
“What is it?” Jen asked. 
“You’ll see,” Tim said.  Richards knocked on the door and opened it.  “Everyone ready?”
There was a general chorus of “yes’s” from the room.  Richards turned to Jennie, her eyes bright.  “Come greet your class, Mrs. Meyers.”
Jennie leaned against Tim and holding her breath, stepped into her classroom.
The view of the familiar room and the people in it caused her to stop when she had taken a just a few steps inside.  The scene burned itself into her memory, and would see her through the remainder of her treatment and beyond.
 Twenty-five desks had students in them.  Twenty-five pairs of eyes sparkled.  Twenty-five voices chorused, “Good morning, Mrs. Meyers.”
And twenty-five bald heads gleamed under the classroom lights.

Bald is Beautiful.  Copyright © 2010 by Laura Ware
Published by JJ Press
Cover design by JJ Press

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction, in whole or in part in any form. This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Withdrawal is No Fun

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with ADD - Attention Deficit Disorder.  In order to combat that, I take medication.  This medication is for all intents and purposes an amphetamine.  But instead of making me bounce off the walls, it energizes me and helps me focus.

Because of what it is it is tightly controlled.  My insurance changed slightly recently.  Because of that, even though I've taken this medication for years my doctor is suddenly required to provide pre-authorization before the insurance will pay for it.

Sounds simple, right?  Well, I've been doing without this particular medication since Sunday while my doctor, the pharmacy, and I guess the insurance company all get their act together.

Meanwhile I struggle with the symptoms that come with a sudden withdrawal.  Throw in that I also suffer from depression and anxiety and that my symptoms aren't helping with those conditions and you will understand this hasn't been a great week.

But right now all I can do is take it one step at a time and hope that tomorrow the powers that be will get this straightened out.  Anyway, consider this blog post a getting this off my chest.  Maybe it'll help me feel better.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Back on the exercise wagon?

It has been a long time since I visited the YMCA.  Time seems to slip away and to be honest it doesn't often enter my mind, though I know it would help with weight loss.

Yesterday my husband Don and I were talking.  He pointed out I have downtime between dropping the two young men who live with us off to their respective jobs.  He suggested I take 15 minutes and walk a treadmill.  Not too fast - I'm too heavy and it's been too long - but starting off slow and giving it a shot Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (commitments I have during the year make this more difficult on Tuesdays and Thursdays).

Okay, I said, I'll give it a try.

So after dropping off Young Man #1 to his job I headed for the Y.  After checking in I picked out a treadmill and after picking a lecture on my iPod to listen to, I got started.

Well, I only got up to 1.8 mph on the thing.  Because I have balance issues I hang on to the front rail of the machine, which apparently stressed out my biceps.  I plodded through 15 minutes before happily getting off the thing and heading home for a needed shower.

I am going to do my best to try out this schedule.  I am trying to have a positive attitude while I endure, hoping it will result in good numbers on the scale.  Maybe by going public with this I'll do a better job sticking with it.  We'll see.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Interesting discussion on my Facebook page...

Yesterday I posed a question on my Facebook page which came out of a discussion I was having with my best friend.  The question was, "Is a more powerful federal government a good thing?  Why or why not?"

As I type this there are over 100 responses in the thread.  Only a few from me, the rest from friends who weighed in on both sides of the issue.

I was a little nervous at first.  Would the thread blow up into some kind of flamefest, with people slinging mud all over the place?  I made it clear that I wouldn't tolerate such posts and would take the whole thing down if people couldn't behave.

I am pleased to report that overall, with a couple of exceptions, the conversation has been well-mannered.  The issues are actually being discussed rationally and calmly.  And I am learning and enjoying the back and forth between people.

If only those in power could talk to each other like this, maybe something good could be accomplished...

Sunday, June 15, 2014

My First Free Fiction Sunday...

I'm planning on posting my first free short story on the blog.  My goal is to leave it up for a week and then change it for a new one each Sunday.  Let me know how you like it, and if it's something I should continue!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Test

Testing to see if I can blog from my phone.  This could be fun...

Monday, June 9, 2014

Long overdue updates...

Well, it's been a while since I updated this blog, and I really have no excuse.  One of my goals this year is to get into a regular blogging schedule so that I am keeping this active on a regular basis.

On the writing front, I have some news: my latest novel REDEMPTION is available as an ebook at all the usual sources (Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo).  The paperback version has been delayed due to production issues but I hope it will see the light of day this month.

Also, my short story "Choices" will appear in a special Kobo edition of Fiction River: Past Crime this October.  Check www.fictionriver.com for more information.

My column in the News Sun (Highlands County) is still going strong.  You can read it online at www.newssun.com.  A book with a collection of my earliest columns is supposed to come out later this year.

I am currently working on a couple of projects - a fantasy novel I'm co-authoring and a murder mystery set on a cruise ship.  I am hoping to see a YA Christian novel published this year.

I have plans for the blog.  I'd like to start posting a short story on Sundays for you to read for free for a week.  Then I'd delete it and post another one the subsequent week.  I also plan to spend a lot more time talking about things that I find interesting and letting you know what's going on in my life.

Right now my husband is in Nicaragua on a medical mission trip until Saturday.  If you are the praying kind, pray for his safety and productivity.  I'd appreciate it.

Anyway, sorry for the rambling - just letting you know I haven't dropped off the face of the earth.  I'm still here, still writing, and hopefully some of you are still reading.

Until next time,

Laura