Fragments of a life not lived

This flash fiction story follows the final steps of the unnamed heroine at the ultimate crossroad of her life: the choice to fight or accept the malignant tumour growing in her abdomen.

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2. Life Two

     She often dreamt of dying. Most frequently, she would die of an arrow wound to her chest. Sometimes she dreamt of drowning in stormy weather, sinking deeper into the black waves until she reached oblivion. The most frightening dreams were those in which she stepped onto a landmine and was blown to pieces.

     Now she faced another type of death, one that haunted her waking life in a far more potent manner than the death in her dreams did.

     When she heard that her swelling abdomen carried a tumour the size of a sweet melon, she wasn't scared. She only felt melancholic, realising that now she would never have children and do the boring things that middle age and credit card debt bring to life. Given the rate at which the tumour grew, her doctor told her that the chances of the chemotherapy working were slim. She would only be postponing the inevitable.

     She declined the option of chemotherapy.

     Afterwards, she made a point of it to go to the beach and swim in the warm current of the Indian Ocean as soon as possible. And if she became too tired to swim or wade, she'd lie on the white sand and watch the surfers bobbing like seals among the waves, waiting for the perfect current to send them towards her.

     How long do I have to live? The doctor gave a vague, but negative answer. Yet she had something to celebrate: she was alive. Life is so short and uncertain.

     She wanted to do something radical to feed the energy of being alive. She remembered the hotel her family used to stay at on the Durban beach front. She should go there again.

     She booked a few days at the hotel. It was expensive.

By bus, Durban was a mere two hours' ride from her home. She took the earliest bus to Durban, wearing her favourite red dress, her overnight bag next to her on an empty seat. The dress hung loose, soft and comfortable over her now-extended abdomen.

     Her bus stopped two blocks away from the hotel. She walked slowly, enjoying the vision of remembered architecture and swaying palm trees.

     At the hotel, she booked into her room before returning to the hotel restaurant. She ordered breakfast at the restaurant, telling the maître d' to put her order on room 504's account.

     She ate slowly, savouring each bite, knowing that she won’t be able to finish it all. The tumour made eating so difficult these days, pressing against her stomach and spine in a dull constant pain. Through the restaurant window, the promenade was getting busier by the moment. The sky was a deep, clear blue, bordered by the white surf and the bobbing seal heads of surfers.

     It was a perfect day.

     After her breakfast, she made her way slowly along the promenade with an oversized beach bag containing a towel, sunscreen, and a book.

     She found a quiet spot on the beach and took out her book from her bag. Behind the dune, the crowds along the promenade could not be seen. She took out her book and deepened her concentration into the story. The shadows of the palm trees along the promenade grew shorter.

     As the high tide ebbed back into the sea, she bathed in the warm water until she was too tired to fight the pull of the sea. Wading back to her place on the beach she saw that the contents of her bag had been emptied on the sand.

     There was nothing worthwhile to be stolen. The hotel receptionist had her key and her purse was in her room.

The pages of her fallen paperback fluttered in the breeze. In the distance, a man was shading his eyes, his body turned in her direction.

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