The Call Of The City – Episode 36

daily serial the call of the city the people's friend

She didn’t need to be worried, not yet.

Juliet had been telling herself that for a week, ever since her GP recommended she have an MRI to check for a brain tumour.

Juliet had gaped at her in astonishment. When she’d mentioned persistent headaches and mood swings, she’d expected to be offered a vitamin supplement for the menopause, not a scan for a tumour.

The possibility was terrifying.

“It’s just a precaution,” her GP had said with a small, reassuring smile. “But I like to be careful. The fact that you have headaches that worsen throughout the day and wake you up at night is certainly a warning sign.

“As are the other symptoms – lack of concentration, irritability, drowsiness . . .”

“But they could be symptoms of anything,” Juliet had said a bit desperately, and her GP had nodded.

“Yes, of course. It’s just important to check.”

When the envelope came in the post with the appointment at the Neuro-oncology Center, Juliet saw that Grace had noticed it.

It had taken her niece the best part of a day to work up her nerve to ask if Juliet was OK.

And, of course, she said she was. The last thing she wanted was Grace worrying about something that might not even be real.

Because, as she kept reminding herself, this was just a precaution.

Yet, as Juliet left for her MRI appointment, she felt terrified.

She’d never had any serious health problems before, and this one was throwing her for a loop, especially because it reminded her of her parents’ illnesses: her mother’s cancer and her father’s stroke.

The antiseptic smell of the hospital, the endless waiting, the uncertainty, the clawing sense of fear in her stomach. Her palms felt icy and damp, her heart thudded with painful beats.

She was actually having a panic attack – not because of her own situation, but because of the memory of her parents’.

“Miss, are you all right?”

A young man seated next to her looked concerned.

“Yes. Sorry.” She took a few deep breaths, and then dabbed her forehead with her handkerchief.

This was ridiculous.

Thankfully, after a few minutes her breathing and heart rate became normal again, and she sat back, grateful to have regained control.

She could handle this. She had to.

She experienced another attack of nerves when it came time for the MRI; Juliet looked at the huge machine and thought it would feel like being electronically entombed.

“You’re not claustrophobic?” the technician asked as she stared at the yawning tunnel.

“Not generally, no.” Juliet forced a brittle smile. “I’m just a bit nervous.”

“Most people are. It can be quite overwhelming. But it shouldn’t last more than thirty to sixty minutes.”

That felt like a lifetime.

Juliet hesitated, wishing suddenly that she’d told someone about this. That she had someone here to help her through this.

Grace would have come, no question, even though things had been a bit strained between them.

Juliet knew that was her fault. She was too touchy about her sister, because she felt so guilty.

She shouldn’t have snapped at Grace, and she should have apologised. Somehow she hadn’t found the words, and now it felt too late, just like with Meg.

History repeating itself.

Now she was here alone, as she always was, because she was too proud and scared to let anyone in.

When would she learn to change? When would she be strong enough to seem weak?

“Ready?” the technician asked brightly and Juliet nodded.

A few minutes later she was in the machine, trying not to tense as it whirred to life all around her.

She hoped to heaven that she didn’t have a brain tumour, but if she did, she vowed, she’d make things right with Grace, and with Meg.

She’d stop being so cowardly and proud and tell them both she was sorry.

She didn’t know if Meg would want to hear it after all these years; maybe Grace wouldn’t, either. But she’d try.

And if you don’t have a tumour? a voice asked. If this is all a fuss over nothing?

It would be far too easy to return to the status quo. Keep everyone at a safe distance. Yet what was the point of that?

Ever since Grace had come to live with her, Juliet realised how much she’d missed over the years. Was she really going to keep those she cared about at arm’s length just because she always had?

As the MRI whirred and clicked around her, Juliet wondered if this wasn’t a blessing in disguise. A chance for her to be different and show the people she loved that she did care. If she could just find the courage to do it.

To be continued . . .