Read The Lake Report hereRead The Lake Report here
The Weather Network
Feb. 20, 2020 | Thursday
Entertainment News
Writers' Circle: The Gift – Maggie's dilemma
Maggie's dilemma

Hermine Steinberg

NOTL Writers’ Circle

In the previous installments of The Gift, I shared the story of five friends who encountered a magical spirit who gave them an enchanted tea that could transform them to the idealized version of themselves at half their age. They were given three days to decide whether they would accept the gift. This is Maggie’s story.

Maggie needed time to try to make sense of this incomprehensible day.

After months of complaining about back pain, her doctor sent her for a CT scan. Today, she went to the oncology clinic to discuss the results. Maggie stared out the window while her husband, Charlie, spent the entire 20-minute drive to the clinic regaling her with stories about people they knew who had overcome their cancers and lived happily ever after.

She wished he would just stop talking, but she understood that his verbosity when nervous was a way to calm himself down.

Dr. Traper had a kind face and invited them to sit on a sofa. He pulled up a chair and suggested they record the meeting. Most people had difficulty remembering details under stress. He was right.

The only things Maggie remembered was him telling her she had stage four pancreatic cancer. When Charlie asked about treatment options, he talked about palliative care and pain management. Maggie asked how long she had. Eventually, Traper conceded that the typical survival rate after one year was very low. In her case, he guessed it would be a matter of months. “But you never know. Miracles can happen,” he told them.

Maggie looked over at Charlie, who was now openly sobbing. Her first reaction was to reach out to console him. She never felt so alone as in that moment. Suddenly, all she could think about was meeting her friends later that day.

Heading home along the dark silent streets, she was almost certain what happened in the forest was a delusion. The doctor said she needed a miracle and her mind conjured one up. The only thing that convinced her she was wrong was the velvet sachet at the end of the gold cord around her neck. She held it to her nose and that devastating memory returned to her immediately.

It was the day Charlie got a job offer in Calgary. He had been laid-off the year before and had been depressed for months. He came home thrilled to share his good news. But his good news meant she would have to give up her well-paying job, life-long friends, and living driving distance to her two daughters who were in university. That was 15 years ago.

Then three years ago, when he was given a retirement package, he once again unilaterally decided they should both retire and move to this town, where he dreamt of living. Maggie knew Charlie loved her. The important thing, as he continually pointed out, was that they were together. Her mother warned her many years ago that true love doesn’t bind you, but lifts you up. Since her mother passed, those words seemed to haunt her.

Charlie was waiting on the front porch. He took her hand and led her into the kitchen. Dinner was prepared and one of their “special” wines was uncorked. Maggie was touched by his concern and desire to comfort her. But when they began eating, he told her that he came up with a fabulous idea. They should go on “their” dream vacation to New Zealand, have fun for a few weeks. When they got back, they could figure out what to do next.

But it was Charlie who wanted to go to New Zealand. She had wanted to organize a family vacation to a ski chalet in Quebec. And now she couldn’t think about anything she would want more than to spend time with her children and grandkids around her.

Maggie could see he was disappointed. He tried to convince her that they should do something really special. Then, without thinking, he said, “We can go to Quebec anytime.”

Of course, Charlie immediately apologized and said they should sleep on it, talk about it again tomorrow. But Maggie knew what that meant. He probably already had booked the tickets and counted on convincing her – he always did that what he wanted, and was best for both of them.

Her anger swelled. “I’ve found the miracle,” she blurted. Maggie grabbed the velvet pouch. “I received this gift today and I think I’m going to accept it.”

“What do you mean? What is it?”

Maggie told Charlie that he may not believe her but she now was convinced that it was all true. After he heard the whole story, Charlie was silent for a moment and then began to laugh. “You had me going there. I first thought you had some sort of breakdown but then realized this was just your way of telling me you’re pissed off and think I’m being selfish about New Zealand. So now you’re going to do something totally selfish.”

Despite everything that had happened to Maggie that day, all the shock and awe she went through in the last twelve hours, what Charlie said totally stupefied her. She slowly rose from her chair and walked over to turn on the tea kettle. She then faced Charlie. “You think wanting to survive, giving myself a way to avoid facing a painful death, is selfish?”

“You would be choosing a prolonged life that would eventually not include me. Instead of giving your family closure, you would cause confusion and chaos.”

The whistle from the kettle blew. Maggie took out her favourite china cup and silver tea infuser.

“I don’t know what mind game you think you’re playing.” Charlie’s voice quivered. “I don’t believe this tea will do a damn thing but even if it did, transforming would create more problems than it solved. People wouldn’t even recognize you or believe it was actually you.”

“Becoming younger and healthier would be more problematic than death?” Maggie took a sip of the tea.

“OK, OK, we’re both under a lot of stress and saying things that are totally ridiculous. Of course, I wish you could take a magical potion and become healthy.” Charlie stood staring at Maggie as she continued to gulp down the tea. “Is that what you wanted to hear? That nothing is more important than your health and happiness?”

Maggie put down the cup. “It isn’t what I needed to hear you say, it’s what I wanted to believe because that’s what I’ve wished for you all these years.”

Charlie turned his back toward her, trying to contain his frustration. He knew she was afraid, maybe even traumatized by the day’s events. He needed her to see things his way, get things back under control. “Can’t we just take a step back and try to figure all this out tomorrow?” When he swung back around to face her, he couldn’t believe his eyes.

A beautiful young woman with olive skin and raven black hair cascading down her shoulders was standing before him. Maggie’s hazel eyes sparkled.

“I’ve already taken a step back. And yes, tomorrow we’ll start figuring out what each of us should do next. Maybe this is a second chance for both of us.”

To be continued ...