“DAAAAAAAAADDDDY! GIVE ME MY GAMBLING CARD! The Atom Machine is hot! Someone just won on it!” we heard Jenny shout over the noise of ringing machines and people cheering.

“And on that note, I think it’s time for another drink,” Claire announced.

IT’S NOT OFTEN that I find myself apologizing to someone, mostly because I make sure I’m never wrong. Just ask my husband. It’s tough for someone like me to realize she was an asshole and made a huge mistake. It’s even tougher to admit something like that out loud, in front of actual people. Armed with a bag full of tricks, I make my way inside the Cleveland Clinic and head to the Oncology Department on the third floor, prepared to do whatever I can to fix things with Claire. I’ve spent these last few weeks thinking about our history together and through the good and bad, funny and insane, one thing always remained constant—the fact that Claire and I were meant to be in each other’s lives. We were better when we were together. I forced her to be more outgoing and helped her realize her dreams, and she taught me how to not be such a hard ass all the time and take a chance on things like falling in love and being a mother.

After asking a nurse for directions, I finally find the chemo treatment room. Taking a deep breath and making sure the baseball cap is pulled down far enough on my head, I walk inside. I see Carter on the other side of the room, sitting in a chair next to Claire reading a magazine. Claire is curled up under a blanket in a recliner, hooked up to an IV that I’m assuming is the chemo. She’s busy doing something on her phone, so I have a second to stare at her without her noticing me. I’m ashamed at myself for not wanting to look at her before because I felt bad or because I was scared. Seeing her now, with a scarf tied around her head and a determined look on her face regardless of what’s happening to her, I am so proud to call her my friend. Where before I only noticed her sickness, the pallor of her skin and the loss of her hair, now I see strength. I see what I should have seen all those weeks ago. A woman who takes whatever is thrown at her and pushes through, determined to survive no matter what. A woman who is the strongest person I have ever known. She survived getting pregnant in college and raising a child on her own for four years, she managed to build a thriving business and make her dreams come true, she took care of her family and she always, always took care of me. She pushed me to give Jim a chance when I knew nothing about love and relationships, she convinced me I was a good mother and she trusted me to be a good friend no matter what life threw at us.

I walk across the room with my head held high even though I feel like the lowest person in the world. Claire looks up at me in surprise when I drop my bag next to her chair and doesn’t say a word as I dig through it for the first item I need. I pull out the piece of paper I printed from the computer this morning, grab a roll of scotch tape and walk over to her IV.

“What are you doing?” Claire finally speaks.

I ignore her for the time being as I tape my sign to the clear bag of fluid hanging from the steel pole next to her chair. When it’s finished, I take a step back and study my work.

Carter gets up from his chair and walks over to stand next to me, reading the sign out loud. “This is probably vodka.”

He nods his head and pats me on the back. “Fitting. Very fitting.”

I walk back to my bag and pull out another sign, taping it to the footrest on her recliner so that it hangs down by Claire’s feet. Once again, Carter walks over to me and reads the sign. “Beware: I have an aggressive vagina.”

Carter laughs and Claire shoots him a dirty look.

“What?” he asks her. “Your vagina is kind of aggressive.”

Next, I pull out a couple of t-shirts, handing one to Claire. She holds it up in front of her, reading the text printed on the front of it in pink. “Itty Bitty Titty Committee—President”.

I hold up my own shirt and she reads it. “Itty Bitty Titty Committee—Secretary.”

The third shirt comes out and I turn it around for Claire to read as well. “Itty Bitty Titty Committee—Director of Foreign Affairs.”

She looks at me questioningly and I finally speak. “Jenny is the only one of us with a big rack. Obviously she’s in charge of Foreign Affairs.”

Claire is trying really hard not to smile through her pursed lips and I feel a little better about my plan.

Carter walks over to her side, leans down and kisses the top of her head. “I’m going to head over to the lounge and see if I can find some coffee. Do you need anything?”

Claire shakes her head and Carter gives me a one-armed side hug before he leaves the room, letting me know that he’s happy I came.

When we’re finally alone, aside from the two other people currently hooked up to their own chemo treatments that are napping on the other side of the room, I stick my hands in my pockets and step closer to Claire’s side.

“I’m just going to cut right to the chase and apologize for being an asshole,” I tell her. Claire crosses her arms across her chest, not saying a word. “I know nothing that is happening right now is about me, I know that, but you’re my person, Claire. What happens to you, happens to me. I’m a fixer, I like to make things better, take charge and get shit done. I have never felt so helpless in my life. It killed me that I couldn’t do anything to make you better.”

Claire opens her mouth to argue with me, but I hold up my hand to stop her. “I know it wasn’t up to me. I know it was out of my hands and I should have realized that all you needed was a friend. You needed me and I wasn’t there for you. I was too scared, too ashamed, too worried about my own problems to think about what you might need.”

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