Kirsten fought back tears as she left her niece’s hospital room. Poor little Charlotte! Chemotherapy had stripped the formerly curly-haired darling of her strawberry blonde locks and her bare head rested like a stone on the pillow. Charlotte was barely six, but her eyes reflected suffering beyond her years. Simply remembering the child’s face pained Kirsten; how must her sister feel when she spent nearly every hour of every day caring for Charlotte? Katherine must surely qualify for sainthood by now.
Once she got home, Kirsten sat down to her computer and performed her nightly search for information on Charlotte’s condition. She prayed to find a new protocol, a drug trial, a medical opinion, anything that could offer hope to Charlotte. She came across an interesting site. Although the St. Baldrick’s Foundation didn’t offer a treatment, it raised funds for children’s cancer research programs. And Kirsten felt as though she had to do something besides bringing takeout to Katherine at the hospital.
On the St. Baldrick’s site, Kirsten searched for an event near her and signed up. She started contacting her friends and relatives to ask for their support and invite them to participate. She hesitated over emailing her co-workers, and decided to approach them in person at the office. As she headed for bed, she felt for the first time in a long time as though she was actually doing something positive on Charlotte’s behalf.
Next day, Kirsten put out homemade fliers describing her participation in the event where volunteers will shave their heads to stand in solidarity with kids who sometimes lose their hair during cancer treatment and raise funds for life-saving research. She asked for sponsorships. Several of her coworkers asked questions about the program and Charlotte’s condition. She ran into feature editor Jason Graham near the printer as she went to collect a print job.
“Kirsten, I wondered if you were free for dinner tomorrow evening,” asked Jason. “I know we’ve been crazy with this month’s mag, but it’s done tomorrow morning and you deserve an evening out. You’ve worked like crazy getting ads in this lousy economy besides helping your sister. I think it’s time to take care of you for a change.”
“Look, Jason, You’re a nice guy and a friend. I know you mean well, but I really don’t have time or energy right now to have a social life. I have to start getting next edition’s ads together as soon as we put this one to bed. And Katherine needs me more than ever.” Kirsten wanted to let the man down gently but honestly.
His face clouded as Jason processed her reply.
“I think you’re wrong, Kirsten. I think you need a social life especially now. You need to know that there are people willing to stand with you and help carry the load where they can. And an occasional hour of relaxing company isn’t going to take anything away from your sister. It will recharge you to let you keep going.”
“I’m sorry. I can’t.” Kirsten turned away and headed back to her desk.
* * * * *
Next morning Kirsten found a cup of cappuccino from her favorite coffee shop waiting on her desk. A sticky note attached read “At least you should relax long enough to drink a cup of coffee. J.” She smiled as she inhaled the aroma before taking her first sip. He really was a good friend. At another time, under different circumstances she would definitely be interested in him. But not right now.
She typed a quick “thank you” email and sent it to him before diving into the stack of calls she had waiting. At least none of them were urgent messages from Katherine.
* * * * *
Kirsten hit “Send” and sat back in her desk chair. That was the last of her “Thank You” emails to the family, friends and co-workers who had committed to sponsoring her in the St. Baldrick’s event. With only a week until the big day, she was delighted with the response she had received. She had exceeded her target goal for sponsorships. The only disappointing aspect was that Jason hadn’t committed to a donation.
“So much for his great concern,” she thought. “And I thought he was my friend.”
* * * * *
The waiting area in Chauncy’s Hair Emporium was abuzz with chatter when Kirsten arrived for the big day. Each of the stations was filled as the shop’s staff clipped one volunteer after another. Kirsten looked at the newly bared heads as they went by, and began to get a little nervous. This would be a big change from the soft shoulder-length style she usually wore. Could she go through with it?
There were two participants left ahead of her when she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned to face a man with a shaved head who looked a little familiar.
“I figured I could do more good by getting my own sponsors than by just giving you a donation,” smiled Jason. “And I thought you deserved a little moral support, too. So here I am!”
“You did this for me?” she asked in wonder as she reached a hand to touch the bare skin that had replaced dark waves on his head.
“For you, and your niece, and all of the kids suffering with cancer.”
“I don’t know how to thank you.”
“I’d settle for a dinner date.”
Kirsten stood on tiptoe and brushed his lips with a light kiss. Just then, she was called for her haircut and she slipped past him. When her stylist was done, Kirsten examined the results and turned to Jason.
“Well?” he asked.
“Do you suppose any restaurant will let us in?” she giggled.
“I think any restaurant would be proud to serve such a beautiful and courageous lady,” he whispered as he leaned over to plant a gentle kiss atop her head.