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Part I

Chapter 1

“I honestly don’t know how he’s still holding on,” said the blonde woman as she exhaled a cloud of smoke out of the corner of her mouth. She was slender and attractive, and carried herself in such a way that others couldn’t help noticing it. “Medically speaking he should have been dead months ago; all the doctors are baffled. Not that they really care about him. Who would? They just want to understand so they can write it up in their journals. He’d be in a hospital if the family hadn’t objected. It had something to do with insurance, but you know how that goes.”

The blonde woman’s companion slid over to the far side of the booth as subtly as possible to avoid the smoke, which had been irritating her eyes throughout their lunch together, despite the blonde woman’s best attempts to be conscientious.

“Are you still trying to quit?” she asked trying to avoid the cloud of smoke. “I only ask because I’m worried about your health.”

“There are a lot of other things that can kill you. If I live long enough for these things to get to me then I’ll consider myself fortunate,” the blonde woman said and put out what little remained of her cigarette.

“Lung cancer’s still a horrible way to go, there’s lots of pain with cancer.”

“There are much worse ways to die; trust me. If you’d worked at a nursing home as long as I have you’d understand that. Like this guy I was mentioning. I’d take lung cancer over whatever he’s got in a heartbeat.” The blonde woman spoke with a casual detachedness, as if she were worlds removed from the topic.

Her companion seemed to be deep in thought, then said abruptly, “I’ve heard of cases where people have managed to stay alive well past what medical science would expect, and then all of a sudden, usually after something drastic happens, like the death of a loved one, they pass on. It’s like they go on living by sheer will to stay alive.”

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