CHAPTER ONE

“Madelyn Caster-Douglas?” She looked up as they called her name. She had become used to the locals calling her ‘Mad’s’. Using her full name felt like a remanent of her old life now.

Lifting one butt check then the other before she raised herself from the chair, the blood returned. She kept close on the heels of the nurse. The dull white walls and pale green vinyl floor that always seemed to make that same noise were a familiar sight to her.

The nurse led her into a clinic room; she took in her surrounds different hospital same layout she mentally shrugged as she took in the office desk, followed by the surgical bed covered with white paper, the array of surgical equipment bolted to the walls.

“The doctor will be with you in a minute, love, take a seat, he won’t be long.” The nurse closed the door, locking out the noise.

Madelyn took a deep breath, closing her eyes, blocking everything out as she sat in front of the desk.

“It will be all right, just routine.” Madelyn chanted out loud.

“Miss Caster-Douglas, pleasure to meet you.”

Madelyn turned at the sound of the greeting. The door opened to show a bald-headed man of undetermined age in the usual doctor’s white coat and brown folder with X-rays sticking out the top entered the room.

“I hope you don’t mind Miss Caster, I asked a colleague to sit in on this meeting.”

“Hello Madelyn.” 

She jumped in the chair at the deep familiar voice as another white-coated man entered the room.

“Dr Chives!, What are you doing here!” It stunned Madelyn to see her usual Auckland Doctor here at Queenstown Hospital.

“I’m doing some consultant training down here this week, so when I saw your name of the patient roster I asked Dr Quarry if I could sit in on this. Can’t let this reprobate get all the attractive ones.” he winked at her.

Madelyn grinned, “I don’t mind Dr it is nice to see such a distinguished familiar face.”

“Hmm, I’m not that old young lady.” He snorted at her.

Madelyn felt the smile stretch further on her face. She liked it when the doctors joked around. Because of the disease she had battled for so long, opportunities to engage with people had been few and far between. Many days she had been too ill or fatigued to enjoy anyone’s company. But the last three months she’d made up for that. The cafe introducing her to an entire community of people, a smile graced her lips at the thoughts.

“Well, Ms Caster, I am delighted to make your acquaintance.”  She turned to the other Doctor, running through the formalities of the initial meeting. He went through her past medical history until she could almost feel the blur of the past ghosting over her at the clinical terms.

“So, are you enjoying Queenstown Madelyn.” Dr Chives asked.

“Very much Dr, the opportunity to open the cafe.” Madelyn shrugged her shoulders, trying to blink the water out of her eyes.

“Lets talk Madelyn.” He took her hand in his.

“That sounds ominous.” Madelyn stiffened.

“No, No,” he hastened to reassure her. “In fact, I have excellent news.”

Madelyn held her breath as the Doctor continued to address her.

“Yes, Madelyn, you’re in remission.”

Madelyn smiled, unaware of the effect her happiness spreading across her heart-shaped face had on the Doctor’s. Dr Chives felt his heart melt a little. Madelyn, such a delight, never a frown. She had fought this illness with a positive attitude to give her the news that she was in remission. One he couldn’t miss. It was times like this that made his job.

“Remission? Are you sure?”

“Yes, for right now your cancer free.”

“For right now?” Madelyn couldn’t believe it. Her heart was beating out of her chest.

“Yes, I’ll need to see you in about six weeks for further testing so we can ensure it was not just an elevated reading sequence. But as you’ve been feeling well and tests over the last three months have been consistent, your on your way dear.” Dr Quarry spoke.

Madelyn sat still for the rest of the appointment. The possibilities of being able to continue, grow the cafe, have a life even if for a couple of months the spectre of dealing with leukaemia gone. A spark grew in her mind.

“Is the remission a permanent thing?” Madelyn held her breath for the answer.

“Well, dear… that’s a hard one to answer, nothing in life is permanent, the figures don’t support long-term remission for everyone, we’ll now more in about six weeks.” 

Madelyn didn’t care, it had given her a lifeline, her brain buzzing with thoughts.

“I don’t care Dr, I’ll take it.”

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Madelyn stood in the car park of the hospital unsure how she had gotten there, the glint of the sun off the cars blinding her. The rest of the appointment had gone in a blur. She needed to pick up Max; the thought raced across her brain as she fumbled to get the sunglasses from her handbag.

“You can do this, Mad’s” she mumbled to herself.

She drove the car to the groomers shop. The excuse she had given for leaving the cafe in the capable hands of Daisy, her assistant with no one realising where she had gone.

She’d gotten a chance at not being Madelyn Caster-Douglas, that ‘poor sick girl’ when she had moved to Glen Point three months ago. She was determined that now one here would know about her past, she was Madelyn “Mad’s Caster now.

 The opportunity to create something of her own long term, the possibility’s fizzing in her veins, the delight building through her. She needed to tell someone before she burst out of her skin.

“Max!” the wiggling bundle of chocolate coated just trimmed fur jumped up on her as if he hadn’t seen her for days not hours. His wet labrador nose burrowing in her neck offering her comfort, she snuck her hands into his warm fur rubbing up and down his back.

“I’m in remission, Max.” She whispered into his fur where now one could hear her.

He woofed as if he understood almost bring tears to her eyes.

 “He was most upset when you dropped him off today Mad’s.” Denise the groomer commented as she rang up the bill on the till.

 She must have been more agitated this morning than she had released. Max picked up on most of her moods before she did. He had been her constant companion through this.

“He’s usually so good, one of my best clients aren’t you Max.” Denise lent down to cuddle Max as Madelyn paid the bill.

“Yep, your a sucker for an attractive lady aren’t you Max.”

He woofed in agreement, while licking Denise’s face, his tail dancing around behind him.

“Get on with you your charmer.” She got off her knees, handing Madelyn his led. 

“See you in four weeks, Love.” Denise showed them out of the reception area.

Madelyn looked up at the blazing sun, glints of the water sprang into view between the buildings as she walked the scant distance to the car.

Opening the passenger door, she watched as Max settled himself into the seat, patiently waiting as she attached him to the safety harness.

She laid her head against his, hugging him. Soaking in his warmth and love as he allowed her to pet him all over.

“Its true Max, I’m in remission, we get to stay at Glen Point.” She whispered, looking at the happiness in his chocolate brown eyes.

“This calls for a celebration doesn’t it, how about a trip to the cook shop!” the mournful look Max gave her had her bursting out laughing in shear delight.

“Then the ice cream shop?” His woof of delight at the word ice cream was not unexpected. Her boy sure liked his desserts. Just as well he also liked to walk or he wouldn’t be the trim labourer that got all the ladies.

Madelyn turned the car towards town and the cook shop she had found tucked away in one of the back alleys of the open-air mall in the centre of town when she had first explored the town. It was a secret haven for her and she’d had her eye on a Madeleine pan in the shop for the last month. Well, today was a celebration, she thought, blinking fast to clear her eyes.

Max walked in front of her, clearing the way down the mall. As a five, four foot female she was used to being invisible in crowds, but everyone got out of the way of a dog. She made it down the side ally enjoying the sunlight on her arms. Everything seemed brighter today.

The sensation of something large hitting her side caused her to whimper in fright as she lost her balance, falling to her knees. She felt the scrape of gravel on her hands as she hit the ground with force. Before something heavy pin her legs to the ground.

“I’m so sorry.” The gravel rough voice spoke from behind her as the weight on her legs lifted.

“I didn’t see you there, miss. Here let me help you up.”

Madelyn scrambled to her knees as a large hand clasped her upper arm, helping to draw her to her feet.

“It’s okay accidents happen.” Madelyn looked up into the face of the man who had ploughed into her. He must have been heading for the apartment door she was passing.

“Are you all right?” he looked at her head to toe.

“I’m fine, just a little scraped” she looked down at her knees, the stinging sensation only penetrating her brain as she moved. She looked up as Max barked aggressively at something behind them.

“Here, let me help with you bag.” the stranger held out her handbag while looking cautiously over her shoulder. She could just make out a figure there. The stranger seemed anxious suddenly.

“Thank you, I’m sorry I haven’t asked if you were okay?”

“I’m fine, you made a soft landing for me.” The stranger, his warm smile causing crinkles in the side of his eyes to form, said.

“Well, thank you.” Madelyn picked up Max’s led heading back in the direction of the cook shop. She wasn’t sure why, but she glanced over her shoulder to take a glimpse at the stranger again. 

He was still standing where she had left him, but the man in the shadows had joined him. She didn’t know why, but the newcomer sent a shiver down her spine.