Karen finished another shandy and stared at the map someone had left behind. It was littered with notes and scribbles from journeys gone by. Thoughts of the adventures this map had provided someone else were a welcome distraction. Penny would arrive soon and Karen needed to figure out how she was going to tell her the bad news. There might be an emotional scene. Karen hoped the public setting would discourage any outbursts but it was no guarantee. She played with the tattered corner of the map and thought about what she would say. She switched to gin and tonic and ordered a Pinot Grigio for Penny.
Karen felt her presence before seeing her. Penny glided into the pub, all smiles and warmth, trusting that Karen’s invitation for an afternoon drink was pure and uncomplicated. She seemed to approach the table in slow motion. The knot in Karen’s stomach twitched as she forced a smile and offered up the full wine glass. Karen’s train would leave early the next morning. The test results were not good and the war waging inside Karen’s body would be over very soon. She didn’t want to be surrounded by loved ones. She couldn’t bear to see them suffer and had booked into a hospice out of town. It was a lovely little place and they were sending a nurse to accompany Karen on the journey.
Nearly all the wine in Penny’s glass had been drained and it was time to get it over with. Karen would rather Penny hated her than pitied her. She stared at the wrinkled map on the table and told Penny she had met someone new – a nurse – and they were moving in together in the morning.