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He Can Only Hold Her

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JULY 2021 


Jessica nervously got into bed beside Jeff, her now fiance, and  gently snuggled up to him. He turned off the baseball game that he had been watching while Jessica had been getting ready for bed and he stared down at her softly. 
“Are you ready for tomorrow?” he asked, leaning down and lightly pecking the top of his fiancee’s head.
“As ready as I’ll ever be, I guess,” Jessica answered, sighing nervously. Truth be told, she was terrified. Petrified even.


Cancer.  That dreaded word. 


Uterine cancer to be exact. 


It had been the last thing Jessica had been expecting when she had gone to the doctor for some abnormal vaginal bleeding a few weeks prior. She still remembered her cancer scare from when she was in her early twenties but never in a million years had she expected to ever actually get cancer since then.
Now her and Jeff were staying at a hotel in New York City the night before she was scheduled to have a hysterectomy. Her kids and Jeff’s daughter had stayed behind in Chappaqua with her younger sisters and parents. Hillary was planning to come to the city the following day to be there for Jessica’s procedure.

Oddly, the fact that Jeff, Jessica, their kids, and their pets had left Los Angeles, taken a road trip, and come to New York to quarantine with her parents at the beginning of the pandemic, had been a strange blessing in disguise.  Of course no one had expected that they would still be in New York a year and a half later and right before she got the diagnosis, Jeff and Jessica had been considering going back to LA as things seemed to be slowly getting better with the pandemic. But Jessica was extremely relieved that they hadn’t made up their minds yet before she went to the doctor and that she could be surrounded by her entire family during all of this. She couldn't imagine going through this journey without having her parents and her sisters by her side. 

She sighed heavily to herself again as she thought about her surgery which was only a few hours away.
“Everything’s going to be okay,” Jeff encouraged, lightly pecking the top of Jessica’s head again. “You’re the strongest woman I know.”
Jessica just nodded. She felt terrible that he had to go through this all over again after losing his first wife to ovarian cancer. He had been a trooper through the whole thing and was being her rock, but she knew it must be hard on him considering everything that he had gone through with Lauren in the past. Luckily they had caught it early and her chances of a full recovery without a reccurence were good, but she was still terrified that something could go wrong during surgery. She had had surgery before for various reasons but this time felt different for some reason. Anything could happen when anesthesia was involved…
“Hey, honey?” Jessica said, tenderly resting her head against Jeff’s shoulder.
“Yeah?” Jeff asked, staring at her curiously.
“If anything were to happen to me tomorrow, in surgery…” her voice caught and she looked down, not even wanting to imagine the possibility. She cleared her throat and collected her thoughts. “If something happens to me, the life insurance paperwork is in my desk drawer in my home office, in LA. Bottom drawer. My parents can help you get the rest of my affairs in order.”
“Nothing’s going to happen and I’m not going to need it,” Jeff said, smiling at her encouragingly. “You’re going to be just fine, okay?”
Considering everything he had gone through in the past with his first wife, he had been surprisingly optimistic about everything ever since Jessica told him of her diagnosis. Whether that was for Jessica’s sake or his own, she wasn’t sure.
“And if you ever want to visit the kids, just talk to James. He’s a very nice man, and he’d be understanding. He’ll let you and Mariah see them, whenever you guys want to. I’m sure of it,” Jessica added, ignoring him.
Over the two years that they had been dating, and over the course of their engagement for the past year, Jeff and Mariah had gotten very attached to Jessica’s kids, and vice versa. Shiloh, Lucas, and Sophia saw Jeff as a second Dad and considered Mariah to be their sister. Bill and Hillary even treated and loved Mariah like she was their own biological grandchild.
“Honey, listen to me.” Jeff took Jessica’s cheeks in his hands and slightly tilted her chin upwards so that she was staring up at him. “Stop talking about this stuff. I’m not going to need the life insurance paperwork and I’m not going to have to discuss a custody arrangement with James because you’re going to be fine . Nothing bad’s going to happen to you tomorrow, I promise. You have some of the best doctors in the world treating you and operating on you tomorrow. I have faith that you’re going to come through this with flying colors. Okay?” He stared deeply into her eyes as he silently conveyed his strength and support.
Jessica just nodded and shook her head to herself as tears pooled in her eyes. She quickly swept them away with the tips of her fingers. Now was not the time for crying. She had to stay strong and think positive thoughts. Jeff was right. She had some of the best gynecological surgeons and oncologists in the world treating her and nothing was going to happen to her. She had to have faith that everything was going to be okay.
“Let’s get some rest. Tomorrow’s going to be a long day,” Jeff said, quietly, gently stroking her cheeks with his thumbs.
Jessica nodded and yawned. She lay down since they had to wake up early to get to the hospital on time the following morning.
Jeff followed suit and lay down beside his fiancee. He wrapped his arms around her tiny waist and squeezed her tightly.
“I am so sorry,” Jessica said quietly as she gently lay her head against the hotel’s soft pillow.
“What are you apologizing for?” Jeff asked while he flicked off the bedside lamp.
“That you have to go through this all over again,” Jessica replied quietly with a sniffle as she started to quietly cry once again, not being able to keep her tears at bay this time. 
“Sweetheart, we’ve talked about this,” Jeff soothed. “None of this is your fault.” Jessica had been apologizing to Jeff constantly ever since she had gotten her diagnosis a few weeks earlier. “What happened to Lauren was horrible and tragic, yes. But you’re not her. This is an entirely different situation. They caught your cancer a lot earlier than they caught hers.” He leaned over and lightly pecked Jessica’s cheek.
Yes, it was horrible that he had to watch a woman he loved go through this all over again, but it had nothing to do with Jessica. She couldn’t have helped that this had happened. “There was no way we could have predicted or prevented this, sweetheart.” He softly whispered in his fiancee's ear.
Jessica just nodded as suddenly her body was wracked with nervous and worried sobs.
“Please don’t cry,” Jeff soothed. “It’s okay. You’re okay.” He held her tightly while she cried, letting her get it all out of her system, knowing that she had been holding everything inside for way too long as she had tried to be strong for everyone. “Shh, it’s okay. Don’t cry, darling.” He gently ran his strong hands across Jessica’s biceps. “And just think. When you’re all better and this stupid pandemic is behind us, we’re going to have the wedding of our dreams, okay?”
Jessica managed to smile slightly in the dark at that thought as she continued quietly weeping.
“Shhh, it’s okay. Everything’s going to be okay.”
Jeff continued whispering soothing sweet nothings into Jessica’s ear as his fiancee quietly cried herself to sleep. 

* * * * *

Meanwhile, about an hour outside of the city, another couple was also getting ready for bed. After checking in on their teenage daughters and the grandchildren, and saying goodnight to everybody, Hillary was changing into her nightgown while Bill was crawling into bed.

“Are you all ready for tomorrow?” Bill asked Hillary, putting on his reading glasses so that he could read a few chapters of his book before going to sleep.
“Mmmm hmmm,” Hillary said, nodding as she rubbed hand cream into her hands. Even though things were much better in their state with regards to the pandemic than they had been a year and a  half earlier and most of the family was fully vaccinated by now, due to ongoing COVID restrictions at the hospital, only Hillary and Jeff were allowed to be at the hospital with Jessica (and they had even had to pull some strings to make that possible) so Bill was staying behind in Chappaqua with Chelsea and the kids.
“She’s going to be fine, darlin’,” Bill drawled, as Hillary crawled into bed beside her husband.
“I know,” Hillary said, cuddling up next to Bill as she pulled the blankets up and around them.

Bill sighed quietly. Since Jessica had told them of her diagnosis, his wife hadn’t wanted to talk about it much. She had gone into command mode, and thrown herself into making all of the arrangements for Jessica’s various doctor’s appointments and upcoming surgery. He knew from their many years together that that was his wife’s way of coping with things. And he also knew that she had had a lot on her plate for the past year and a half between going back and forth between New York and Washington, DC as she tried to help her constituents, the people of New York, through the pandemic and get them the resources they needed while balancing her duties as a Senator during a pandemic with being a wife, mother, and grandmother. And now she had to deal with her beloved eldest daughter having cancer on top of everything else that was going on.
She was staying strong for her children and grandchildren’s sake but after thirty years,  Bill knew his wife well. She was bound to break down eventually and he wished that she would open up to him about her feelings. They usually shared everything with each other. The good and the bad.
But admittedly, they were both still reeling from the news that Jessica was sick and needed surgery and possibly radiation or even chemo after that. They would know more after the hysterectomy.
After making it through the worst of the pandemic, cancer had been the last thing they had expected for any immediate family member to have to deal with. Ever.

Bill’s heart was breaking for his daughter and he couldn’t imagine what she was going through. Selfishly, he was relieved that Hillary wasn’t the sick one but he hated that it had to be Jessica who was sick instead. He would take her place in a heartbeat if he could. He hated that she and Jeff, and their children had to go through this, especially considering Jeff’s past. He shook his head to himself, thinking about how life wasn’t fair.
Why did terrible things always happen to good and undeserving people? And why did this horrible thing have to happen to his baby girl of all the people in the world?

He sighed harshly to himself once again and took his reading glasses off, gingerly placing them next to him on the nightstand. He couldn’t focus and he was too worried about Jessica and Hillary to concentrate. Plus, Hillary was already laying down in bed and closing her eyes. He knew she must be exhausted from everything that was going on and she had to be up very early in the morning, to be driven into the city for Jessica’s surgery.
He  quietly sighed again and turned off the bedside lamp before he lay down and wrapped his arms around his wife’s waist. He gently squeezed her as he heard her breathing start to even out while she was beginning to drift off to sleep. He closed his eyes and decided to try to get some sleep himself. Tomorrow was going to be a long and exhausting day full of worry and waiting.
Jessica is going to be okay, he thought to himself as he continued holding his wife close to him. She has to be.

To Be Continued...