Charlotte tucked her knitting into her bag and followed the nurse. When they stopped at the scale, Charlotte slipped off her shoes and stepped on, eyes closed and breath held. Some information it was better not to know.

“You’re down five pounds,” Pamela announced.

“Really?” That made sense, though, seeing that her appetite had been nil for weeks. In the beginning, she’d assumed it was all the stress surrounding the holidays. Then Charlotte had noticed how drained she felt at the end of the day. Lately, climbing stairs seemed to strain her heart and there were all those problems with needing to get to a rest room quickly.

Pamela led the way into the first exam room. She asked a few preliminary questions and took Charlotte’s blood pressure. After making a notation in the chart, she placed it in a slot on the outside of the door.

“Go ahead and remove your clothes and put on the gown,” the nurse instructed before she left.

Charlotte examined the soft blue paper top. It was ridiculous to think such a thing could cover her. She so seldom needed an appointment other than her yearly exam that she couldn’t remember from visit to visit if the gown was supposed to open in the front or the back.

“Hello, Lottie,” Dr. Fred said, entering the room about five minutes later.

So few people called Charlotte by that name, it shook her for a moment. Naturally Dr. Fred used it because that was what Clyde had always called her.

“Hello, Dr. Fred.”

The physician sat on the stool as he read her chart, while she sat higher up on the examination table with her bare feet dangling. Looking down at her toenails, she was embarrassed to see that they needed a fresh coat of polish. Oh my, this was embarrassing. She tried to cover one foot with the other.

“What’s the problem?” Dr. Fred asked. He apparently hadn’t noticed her toes.

Charlotte described her symptoms. Tiredness, she explained, a lack of appetite and energy and that pesky problem with her bowels. The more she spoke, the more alarmed she became. “It sounds like I should’ve come in weeks ago.”

“I agree,” Dr. Fred said sternly.

“I’ve been so busy and then there was Christmas….” Her voice trailed off. Her excuses all rang false, even to her own ears.

After a routine exam, Dr. Fred had Pamela take several vials of blood. When she’d finished, he returned to the exam room. Thankfully Charlotte was dressed and prepared for the verdict.

“Well?” she murmured, not sure what to think. Perhaps all he had to do was prescribe iron tablets and she could go back to her regular life.

“I won’t know anything until I get the results from the blood tests.”

“Do you have any suspicions?” she asked, wanting answers.

“I have a few ideas, but I’ll wait for confirmation.”

“You were like this with Clyde, too,” she said impatiently.

“I’d be irresponsible if I indulged in speculation, wouldn’t I?”

“Well…I suppose,” she said reluctantly.

Dr. Fred chuckled. “I don’t suppose you brought me any of your green tomato mincemeat?”

“You’re shameless.”

“I am!” He peeked inside her knitting bag.

Charlotte slapped his hand and then pulled out a tall Mason jar filled with his favorite pie mixture.

“You’re my sweetheart.”

“As long as I feed you mincemeat,” Charlotte said with a grin.

“I’ll give you a call when the test results are in,” he told her as he walked her to the door.

Although she didn’t have any answers yet, Charlotte felt better during the next few days. For too long she’d ignored her health and now that she’d taken a positive step toward finding out what was wrong, her spirits lifted.

Dr. Fred’s office phoned early the next week; he’d ordered a barrage of tests. One, a colonoscopy, required a trip to HarrisonHospital in Bremerton. Not wanting to alarm Olivia, Charlotte had her friend Laura drive her.

“I’ve had this procedure done myself,” Laura told her when she arrived to pick her up. Bess and Evelyn had come along for moral support.

“We’re going to pamper you,” Bess insisted from the back seat.

“You’re making me feel like an old woman,” Charlotte protested—but not too loudly. Actually, she was grateful for her friends’ presence.

Evelyn snickered. “Charlotte, in case you didn’t notice, we are old women. Now buckle up and stop complaining.”

Although she was given anaesthetic, Charlotte was awake for part of the procedure. She heard the medical staff whispering together, calling over another doctor, pointing to an area on the screen. She wasn’t sure what it all meant and anxiously awaited the verdict.

When Dr. Fred joined his associates, she could see from the look on his face that it was serious. When he did speak, she heard only one word and that was enough to send her world into a tailspin.

Charlotte’s friends chatted on the ride home, but her head was buzzing and she scarcely heard a thing they said. Laura came into the house with her.

“Do you want me to call Olivia?” she asked.

Charlotte shook her head. “No…I don’t want to disturb her. She’s so busy.”

“She needs to know.”

“I’ll tell her soon,” Charlotte promised.

Laura fussed about her for a few moments and then, being the good friend she was, realized that Charlotte wanted to be alone. She hugged Charlotte before she left.

Sitting in her chair, with Harry on her lap, Charlotte reviewed her options. She didn’t expect to live forever, but she felt she had a whole lot of life in her yet. When she was finally ready to talk, it wasn’t Olivia she called but her son, Will, who lived in Atlanta.

“Mother!” Will was clearly surprised to hear from her. “How are you?”

“Just grand,” she lied. “I imagine you’re wondering why I’m phoning you at work in the middle of the day, since this is when the rates are high.”

“The thought did cross my mind,” Will said. How like Clyde he sounded, her son, the nuclear engineer. How proud she was of him and Olivia, too. Suddenly Charlotte found herself trembling.

“Mom, what’s wrong?”

Will always seemed to know when something was troubling her. “I was in to see Dr. Fred last week.”

A pause followed. “When I spoke to Olivia, she said you’d been tired lately.”

“Yes, well, that’s true. I have been.”

“Tired enough to decide you needed to visit Dr. Fred.”

“Yes. You know how he loves my green tomato mincemeat. Normally I would’ve baked him a pie, but this time I just brought him a jar. I had plenty of green tomatoes this year.”

“Mother, you didn’t call me to talk about your pies, did you?”


“What did Dr. Fred have to say?”

“Well, not much. He wanted me to have a few tests.” She pressed the phone hard against her ear.

“Which you did?”

“Oh, yes, he was quite insistent about that. The most intrusive one was this morning. It was at HarrisonHospital.”

“Did Olivia go with you?”

“Oh no, I couldn’t bother her on a Thursday, especially at the end of the month. You know how busy her court schedule can get.”

“In other words, Olivia doesn’t know anything about this?”

“Not yet.”

“Did you get the test results?”

Charlotte felt the tears fill her eyes and was grateful that Harry was lying on her lap. Petting him soothed her and just then, with her fears close to overwhelming her, she needed him.

“Mother?” Will said more loudly this time. “Are you still on the line?”

“I’m here.”

“What did the doctor say?”

She hesitated. “Will, I know it would be a terrible inconvenience to you and Georgia, but I was wondering if you’d mind making a trip to Cedar Cove in the near future.”

“Mother, what did Dr. Fred tell you?”

Charlotte bit down hard on her lower lip. “I’m afraid I have cancer.”


Zach didn’t want this separation, but Rosie had taken the choice away from him. His soon-to-be ex-wife was the unreasonable one. He’d been shocked and hurt when she’d had him served with divorce papers. Basically he had twenty-four hours to vacate the family home. He was stunned that she’d resort to seeing an attorney and setting everything in motion. Yes, they’d talked about it, but that had been in the heat of an argument. He certainly hadn’t expected her to kick him out of his own home.

Since she was obviously determined to go through with the divorce, Zach hoped they could at least handle the whole process in a civilized manner. Nothing he said or did would convince Rosie that he wasn’t involved with Janice. He’d given up reasoning with her. If his wife had so little faith in him, he was better off without her.

Finding an apartment within a reasonable distance of the house, however, had proved to be a challenge. Luckily Janice had been able to help him look; otherwise, he wasn’t sure what he would’ve done. Rosie knew his work schedule better than anyone, and he’d hoped she would appreciate that with quarterly taxes due and the rush of year-end figures he needed to complete for his business clients, his free time was limited. In that hope, he’d been mistaken. Rosie didn’t seem to care.

Zach was trying hard to maintain a positive attitude for the sake of his children. His relationship with Allison and Eddie was the most important thing to him. He intended to remain a large part of their lives, no matter what the terms of the divorce.

“Do you have to leave?” Eddie asked, looking forlorn. His son sat on the end of the bed in the master bedroom while Zach packed up his half of the closet.

“For now that would be best.” Zach refused to drag his children into his problems with Rosie. They were innocent. Rosie was the one he blamed. She’d been acting like a jealous shrew for weeks, although he figured that was just a symptom of her insecurity—an insecurity he’d done nothing to cause.

“I want you and Allison to come over to my apartment with me, okay?”

“To stay?”

This was difficult. “Your mother and I need to work that out. Right now I just want you to see where I live.”

“Okay.” Eddie sounded like he was trying not to cry. “Can I come anytime I want?”

“Of course! My apartment is your home, too.”

Eddie shifted on the mattress and sat on his hands. “Do you still love Mom?”

“Of course I do.” Zach set a work shirt on the stack already in the middle of the bed, then sat down beside his son. He placed his arm around Eddie’s shoulders and struggled for the right words. “Sometime two people who love each other can’t agree on certain things anymore. When that happens, it’s better if they live apart.”

Eddie lowered his head. “Mom said the same thing.”

Funny that they could agree on the rationale for divorce more than they could agree on anything to do with their marriage. They hadn’t spoken much in the last few weeks. All communication had been through their attorneys, which was ridiculous as far as Zach was concerned, since he’d continued to live at home.