Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sing A New Song: Sample Chapters

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Sing A New Song
Chapter One

“I’m sorry, Tiffany. We’ve done all that we can do.” Dr. Ettelman spoke those words with great dread.
Tiffany Knightly leaned back in the plush black chair across from Dr. Ettelman’s wide mahogany desk. The sun beamed on her honey-blond curls and heightened her hazel-colored eyes. From her vantage point of three floors up, she could look out the window behind him and make out the business-clad people scurrying like ants to keep appointments.
Tiffany blinked in slow motion. How could the world go on when she had just received the most devastating news of her life?
Dr. Ettelman must have moved from behind his chair though Tiffany did not recall seeing him move. But the next thing she felt were his hands gently squeezing her shoulders. Instinctively she shrunk away from him. He was the monster at that moment.
“Whoosh,” Tiffany finally exhaled the breath she had been holding. Vehemently, she shook her head. “No, Dr. Ettelman, I must not have heard you correctly,” she croaked in a voice she hardly even recognized. She panted hard, feeling as if she was about to pass out from the magnitude of emotions hitting her all at once.
Dr. Ettelman’s face reflected empathy. He was still talking about something. What was he even saying?
“We’ve done all that we could do, Ms. Knightly. Is there someone that you can call?” She heard the hopeful inquiry but robotically shook her head. She needed some alone time to process the news she’d just received, and did not feel like calling anyone.
Tiffany opened her mouth but it hung open. Words were stuck in her throat. Vestiges of all coherent thought left her body. It was as if her mind had disintegrated leaving her powerless to stop the feeling of losing sanity. She screamed on the inside to regain some semblance of control.
Tiffany could barely process the doctor’s words—but he had said it—He had said that she was dying.
No—He must be mistaken— He was talking about someone else.
Tiffany frantically looked around the room scarcely seeing the pictures on the wall. Her eyes rested on his medical degree prominently displaying his specialty. Her eyes zoomed in on the calendar behind her. Today was March 17... March 17... March 17... March 17 was the day she received her death sentence.
Almost subconsciously, Tiffany picked up a picture frame on his desk. There was a girl smiling back at her. In slow motion, she replaced the silver encrusted frame before finally looking into Dr. Ettelman’s sympathetic face. Her tall, lithe frame drooped and she sank even lower in her chair.
She could not be —No— she could not be dying. Tiffany absolutely refused to accept that, emphatically shaking her head in abject denial. Death was too—final.
Dr. Ettelman rushed to provide some measure of comfort. In her heyday, she had been a national icon, but at this moment, Tiffany Knightly was just a patient, like any
other who was the recipient of terrible news. In Dr. Ettelman’s twenty-odd years of practice, it never got any easier to tell a patient that they were going to die. He would see their shock turn into disbelief, and then unmistakable anger would start to form.
“You are wrong,” Tiffany shouted. Her long curly hair slapped across her face as she sprung to her feet. Tiffany’s hazel-green eyes looked almost red with her palpitating fury. She had finally found her voice and it reverberated like a crescendo off the walls. She bent her five-foot-nine frame over the doctor’s desk and demanded, “You did something wrong. Test it again.”
Dr. Ettelman remained calm and professional. Her demand was one he faced almost daily, and it was expected. He quickly assured her. “I have tested and re-tested the specimen carefully, Ms. Knightly. I would not give you this kind of news if I were not absolutely certain. However, you can get a second opinion—if you would like—I know someone I can recommend.”
Like a lifeline, Tiffany zeroed in on his comments. Slowly, the reality of his words registered. Rationale was returning. She was dying. She had lung cancer and the worst part was Tiffany did not even know how she had developed the disease. It wasn’t like she was a smoker.
The symptoms had been inconsequential at first. Tiffany had been on tour and had started coughing a little. The coughing made her voice hoarse, but she was not overly concerned. Then, before she knew it, her little cough had escalated into bronchitis and eventually pneumonia. Just when she thought that she was well, the coughing returned suddenly and with vengeance.
That was when Dr. Ettelman had checked for the possibility of lung cancer. He had found the lump on her lungs, biopsied it and had begun chemotherapy almost immediately. Tiffany had not been a viable candidate for surgery because of where the tumor was growing. Even removing the small specimen for testing had been a serious undertaking.
Evidently, all the treatments had been to no avail. Tiffany grappled with that thought.
The chemotherapy had not proven an effective remedy.
All the radiation, losing most of her hair and feeling ghastly sick had all been in vain. The cancer returned and spread rapidly through her body. She did not know how long she had before the pain and agony would set in or before she looked sick and frail.
Dr. Ettelman prescribed some strong painkillers for her, but they made her feel nauseous, or they put her to sleep, and radiation was not an option. She needed to have all her strength because her life was going to get increasingly difficult, and she had to be able to withstand it to the very end.
Time was all she had left.
Tiffany placed her hands in her hair, feeling the extensions she had put in to blend with her own natural curls—her immediate cure for hair loss. It was time to take them out, she mused.
Swallowing deeply, Tiffany gathered her courage and asked the question uppermost on her mind. “How long do I have?”
Her heart hammered so loudly in her chest that she could hear the beats resound like a drum. It felt like her heart was literally about to explode and splatter across the room. Unabashed, Tiffany allowed the tears welling in her eyes to fall. She felt a moment of helplessness and utter defeat.
Gritting his teeth, Dr. Ettelman handed Tiffany a box of tissues. This was the phase he dreaded the most—acceptance and resignation.
“I do not know for sure. It could be months—the human body has been known to show resilience that remains a miracle and a mystery. But, from my experience, I would say about no more than a year. Do you need to talk to someone?” Dr. Ettelman offered.
“No,” Tiffany assured him, “I will be all right.”
Dr. Ettelman refrained from responding, but they both knew that was a lie. She was not going to be all right. She was going to be six feet under. Under the ground, not breathing, not seeing the sunshine. What was death like? How could anybody know?
Dazed, Tiffany stood to her feet, found her balance, and walked out of the doctor’s office. When she got to the elevator, she vaguely heard someone calling her name.
Tiffany stopped and turned around with stiff, controlled movements. It was Dr. Ettelman’s nurse, and it took everything in Tiffany’s willpower to listen to what the nurse was telling her.
“Your purse,” the nurse huffed, slightly out of breath. She extended the purse towards Tiffany. “You left it in Dr. Ettelman’s office.”
“Thank you,” Tiffany politely responded and took the bag out of the waiting hands. She entered the elevator and gave a slight wave, but she did not want to be so civilized. She wanted to scream or yell like a banshee. Yet, here she was exchanging mere pleasantries about a bag that she could replace with hundreds more.
Tiffany let out a huge breath of air and knew she had to get out of the doctor’s office. She needed some alone time to vent.
Just let everything out.
Her driver, Marlon, opened the town car door when he saw her exit the building, but Tiffany shook her head. She needed to walk and clear her head.
As Tiffany walked, she reflected on her life.
She had unfinished business to take care of before she—
Tiffany gulped, unable to complete that thought. She needed to make sure Karlie

would be all right once she was—gone. Karlie.
How was Tiffany going to tell her daughter she was dying?
Buzz... Buzz...
Tiffany felt the vibration against her hip, and her brain slowly registered that it

was a call from her cell phone. One she needed to answer.
Tiffany dug into her purse and grabbed the device, cringing when she saw who

was calling. “Hi, Winona.” “Marlon called.”
Winona Franks was a woman of few words. Highly efficient to a fault, she had been Tiffany’s manager from the days of her ‘one-hit wonders’ from her six albums. Tiffany met Winona by accident when she was preparing to do a spread with Cosmopolitan. With her long blond tresses, svelte shape and sparkly blue eyes, Winona Young was on her way to becoming a highly sought after fashion model. When the two met, they became fast friends. The only problem was that Winona hated modeling. She wanted to use her brains and not her body to get ahead. Using her earnings, Winona dropped from the modeling scene and went to NYU School of Business. Tiffany later became her top client.
With her business acumen and expertise, Winona had amassed Tiffany a huge fortune, so that she could live quite comfortably for two, even three lifetimes. Throughout Tiffany’s cancer nightmare, Winona had been a rock and a fortress to her. There was only one other person who Tiffany could rely on—a special friend—who not even Winona knew about, but she was not ready to call just yet.
“The news isn’t...” Tiffany trailed off.
“Tiffany? Are you saying what I think you’re saying? Tiffany, please answer me.” Winona’s worry screamed through the phone. Winona knew about Tiffany’s appointment with Dr. Ettelman, and had waited anxious for Tiffany to tell her she now had a clean bill of health.
Tiffany exhaled, hearing Winona breathing deeply on the other line. “I just needed a minute.” Actually, she needed a lifetime to come to grips with her imminent death.
Tiffany shuddered but continued. “I—I—I have a year, Winona. One measly year to— How am I going to tell Karlie?”
“Get in the car and go home, Tiffany. I am coming,” Winona directed.
Tiffany belatedly realized that Marlon was creeping alongside her. She could see the worry etched across his face as his head turned back and forth from the road to where she was now standing.
Tiffany swung her bag in her arms back and forth, like a pendulum while she debated. She felt like just running off into the sunset and disappearing for parts unknown.
“Tiffany,” Winona called out, her urgency evident through the line. “Please I am thousands of miles away, please just get—
“I’m going,” Tiffany dragged her feet towards her car. Marlon put on the hazard lights and quickly got out and opened the rear door for her. Like a dutiful child, Tiffany entered the car. She told Winona, “Don’t come. I’ll be in touch,” then ended the call.
As they drove towards her huge L.A. mansion, Tiffany took in the sights before her. Was it just her imagination, or did the world suddenly seem brighter? The water from the beach sparkled and shone brightly. The leaves on the trees appeared greener. The sun beamed with unequaled brilliance.
“I can’t look anymore,” Tiffany whispered before closing her eyes and leaning back into the comfortable leather seats.
“Did you say something, Miss?” Marlon asked.
“No,” Tiffany supplied and turned her head away from his piercing eyes. Tears rolled down her face. Silently they fell. Tiffany placed her fist in her mouth to keep from
crying aloud. There was so much she had to do, and how much time she had to do it, only God knew.

Chapter Two

How could she tell Karlie she was dying? How could she not? Tiffany asked
herself.
A week had passed since her devastating news and Tiffany had been ensconced in

her room on a self-imposed exile. She still had not generated a good lead-in for telling her daughter the cancer had returned.
Winona had called several times, but Tiffany had needed space. She sent a terse text message for Winona to book her round-trip passage to New York.
When Tiffany got up this morning, she knew she could not let another day pass without telling her daughter the truth. Today, March 24th, was the day she would tell her daughter that she was dying. Karlie had given her space, assuming she had a cold or something and was simply recuperating. Now, Tiffany was about to shatter that thought.
Tiffany paced back and forth, trying to compose the right words. That had been about a half-hour ago, and Tiffany was still hemming and hawing. Her living room, decorated in varying shades of yellow, was sunny and cheerful. Tiffany would read in this room, and look out of the window to view the spacious backyard that housed the pool, and a man-made pond complete with ducks and fish. But the brightness of the room couldn’t make what she had to tell Karlie any better.
“Mom,” Karlie said softly. “You’re going to wear a hole in the rug. Just tell me what’s going on.”
Instinctively, Tiffany lifted her heel to peek. Her Prada shoes did look a little worn. She shrugged. There was a closet full of replacements.
Tiffany stopped pacing and finally looked into the face so like her own. Karlie had the same skin tone, hair and body type. She was a mini-replica of Tiffany herself, except for her honey-brown eyes and slightly fuller lips. Tiffany could see Karlie preparing herself, instinctively knowing that whatever it was, she would not like it.
My own gift from heaven—so beautiful and so precious, Tiffany thought. A single tear pricked her eye and ran down the side of her face.
The antithesis of Tiffany at that age, Karlie was smart as a whip and never gave an ounce of trouble. Her teachers doted on her. Tiffany knew that she lucked out when it came to Karlie.
She just had to do it.
Tiffany steeled herself and collected her thoughts. “Okay, there is no easy way to say this.” She had to give Karlie the straight facts. Wiping her hands on her cream- colored linen slacks, Tiffany sat down and took her daughter’s hands in hers. Karlie trembled beneath her touch.
“Karlie,” Tiffany began, “you know how for the past couple of years I have been fighting this cancer. You know all about the chemo and everything.”
Karlie nodded her head. Fear slowly crept up her spine and chilled her to the core. Karlie broke into tears.

Tiffany started crying at the sight of her daughter’s pain. She hugged her daughter tightly and whispered in her hair, “I am sorry, honey—the doctors tried— they’ve done all they could—“
“No,” Karlie wailed. “You cannot be dying. Do not leave me, Mommy. What did I do to deserve this?” She grabbed her mother, crumpling her linen shirt. “I’m not going to let you go, Mom.”
Tiffany wailed in earnest then. She cried and cried. This was the worst pain she could inflict on a fifteen-year-old. However, Tiffany knew she had to be forthright with her daughter. She needed to prepare Karlie somehow for her impending death.
Karlie pulled out of her mother’s arms and ran into her bedroom. Tiffany let her daughter go, knowing that she herself needed time. She had some tough decisions to make and some dirty linens to dredge up.
Tiffany pulled out her cell phone and quickly speed-dialed the one person she knew she could call. When she heard the voice on the other end, Tiffany’s composure cracked. “I need to see you.” 

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