“Sure,” Lucia said quickly, slipping her phone from her dress pocket.
Anya reached out and held Sunny’s hand tight in her own. “What can we do for you? How can we help?”
“Honestly? Just treat me as normal as you can. If I only have a few days left before I can’t feel anything anymore, I want to fill them with good memories. To experience everything I can.”
“That’s why you’re getting married?” Kira dabbed at her eyes with a tissue, smearing her makeup. “I thought you could no longer resist the power of the giant D. I’ve seen the way Hawk fills out his leathers. Looks like he’s smuggling beer cans down his pants.”
A startled snort escaped from Sunny as she allowed the healing power of laughter fill her.
“Jeeze.” Anya gently elbowed her friend.
“No, no, it’s fine,” Sunny said as she continued to giggle. “She’s not wrong.”
Lucia put her phone away. “I let Hawk know he’s got the all clear to share your diagnosis with the guys.”
“I also had to talk him out of hunting you down. He is crazy about you—emphasis on the crazy.”
She blushed and bit her lower lip before saying, “Well, I’m pretty crazy about him as well.”
“I must say…” Mrs. Florentine, who hadn’t stopped touching Sunny since she made her confession, rested her hand on Sunny’s knee. “I knew, from the moment that I saw you two together, that you were meant to be.”
“I wish I’d given in sooner.” Sunny swallowed hard. “God, I’m so tired of crying all the time. I must be dehydrated by now. I’m just so scared. I’ve felt fear in my past, legit terror associated with real threats. My mom brought some super scary drug dealers into our house when I was a teenager. I know what it’s like to wake up to find someone on top of you in the middle of the night that you didn’t invite there. This fear is worse.”
Lucia made a pained noise. “Oh no, Sunny, did he hurt you?”
Sunny shook her head. “No. See, in that situation, I could scream, and I was relatively sure someone would come help me. And they did. Now? Now I can scream as loud as I want, but no one can help me. No one can save me from this thing growing in my head, and I’m scared to death.”
“I understand how you feel, truly.” Mrs. Florentine sighed. “When I was diagnosed with breast cancer over thirty years ago, I thought I’d be sick with the constant fear consuming me.”
“You had breast cancer?” Sunny slowly shook her head, trying to remember some mention of it. “I had no idea.”
“Not many people do. It isn’t something I hide, but I also don’t go around announcing that the breasts I have now aren’t the ones I was born with,” Mrs. Florentine said with a small smile. “Breast cancer killed my mother and my aunt, so I didn’t take any chances once I was diagnosed with stage III cancer in my left breast. I decided to have them both removed entirely. I got reconstructive surgery a few years later so I could fill out my favorite dresses again.”
“Stage III?” Kira sat back onto the purple sofa. “That’s serious.”
Turning back to Sunny, Mrs. Florentine took her hand again. “When I was diagnosed, I was sure it was the end of the world. After all, I’d seen my own mother waste away from the illness. Not to mention, the medicine back then wasn’t like what we have today. I was told my chances at beating cancer were slim, maybe five to ten percent. They gave me less than a year to live. What are your odds? A sixty-five percent chance that you’ll walk out of there healthy and whole? Compared to the ninety percent chance I had that I was going to die, I’d say your odds of having a long life are looking pretty good.”
Feeling a little more hopeful, if drained, Sunny nodded. “When you put it that way, you’re right.”
“Positive thinking.” Mrs. Florentine earnestly gazed into Sunny’s eyes. “Positive thinking will get you through this in better shape than worrying will. I know I sound crazy, but the power of positive thinking is real. You may need to learn this lesson on your own, but I want you to at least try to surround yourself with as much happiness as you can. It’s not that you’re not allowed to be sad, but try to see the beauty of the world around you instead of your own internal struggles. Our grief can overwhelm us, make us dead on the inside before our bodies are even in the ground. I believe that love, laughter, and joy are essential for our mental health. So, when you’re in a moment where you could have unproductive or morose thoughts, try to ground yourself. Experience the privilege of being alive.”