WHAT NEXT, MS. ELLIOTT? exerpt
In Seattle, Rachel sat across the desk from Carolyn Page, her counselor. She was nervous as she watched the woman sign off on the final paperwork. Rachel had completed the eighteen- month rehabilitation program the judge had sentenced her to after he'd studied the record from the hospital. He'd asked her if she knew how close to dying she'd come. When she answered that she did, he'd told her he was going to give her this one last chance instead of sending her to jail again.
She'd gone through the six month locked down program determined to win this time and now she'd served the required year of supervised probation in a half-way house. She was free to build a new life, as long as she stayed out of trouble and reported in every month for her urine test.
In southern Oregon Dr. Keith Roberts, M.D., a prominent oncologist, sat facing his patient across his file- covered desk. He hated this part of his job. Especially when it was a patient he respected. This woman had courage and strength. She wouldn't cry. Never had. He'd been treating her for more than ten years, since she'd found the lump in her breast and had the mastectomy. The cancer had come back and he'd told her she was terminal two years ago. She'd put her chin up and let him know whe wouldn't accept it, she'd fight tooth and nail.
"Madeline, I'm sorry but you have to know the reports from the new MRI show it's spreading faster. We have things we need to take care of. Now you have to appoint someone to make your health care decisions when you can't. It's way past time." He reached to hand her the form but she didn't take it.
In Eugene, Ruth wondered how she could survive the emptiness of retirement. The only place she counted was in the school. She'd been a good teacher and she knew she'd given the children a strong base. If she let herself think about the unknowns ahead, the feeling of panic almost made her ill. The big question was still unanswered. What Next, Ms. Elliott?
While she walked down the ramp from the administration office, she let herself think about how strange it would be never to come back after all the years of official visits. This building was just another part of her past.