Chapter Seven
Flashback: A Tragic Truth
Copper burst into the front lounge of the big Santiago home, her brown eyes sparkling with excitement. "Mama! Mama, guess what? They printed my story in the school paper! It's right here! They actually printed it!"
She stopped, frowning as she registered that her mother was not alone. She set the newspaper down on the coffee table.
"Papa?" She said, confused. "Why aren't you at work? Isn't there a deadline on your new film for the end of the week?"
"Yes." Esteban got to his feet clumsily, coming to hug his daughter tightly. "But it is in hand. I am very proud of you, Copperita. You worked so hard to get that done."
"We're both proud as anything, chica." Carmen added, a smile touching her lips, but Copper was perceptive enough to see past it to the clouded blue eyes, and she shook her head.
"Is something wrong?" She asked softly.
Esteban and Carmen exchanged looks, then Esteban sat down on the couch, pulling his daughter down beside him and putting a heavy arm around her shoulders.
"We need to talk to you." he said carefully. "Rosita and Luis too, of course...but I wanted to talk to you first. In private."
"Private?" Copper looked bewildered. "Why? What's happened? An accident? Grandpapa?"
"No, chica, your grandfather is fine." Carmen assured her gently. "It was just a small fall, and your Grandmother called just this morning to say he's definitely on the mend. You must not have concerns about him."
"Then what is it?" Copper raised earnest brown eyes to her father's identical ones. "Papa, why are you looking at me like that?"
Esteban swallowed hard, and for the first time in her life, Copper saw tears in the man's eyes. Fear began to course through her veins.
"Papa?" She pressed. "Tell me!"
"Oh, Copper." Esteban hugged her again. "I love you, you do know that, don't you? That I love you more than anything in the world?"
"Yes, of course." Copper agreed. "But I don't understand! Why are you...what's up? What's the deal?"
"You're no baby." Esteban held her at arm's length, his eyes never leaving her face. "You're fifteen, and you're old enough to understand when Ros and even Luis may not completely. Copper, chica, you know that I've been not so well lately, don't you? That I've had headaches and, well, I've not been myself?"
"Yes." Copper nodded her head. "But you said that was just the stress of this new film."
"Well, your mother persuaded me to go and see the doctor." Esteban's voice shook slightly. "And...and it's a little more serious than just stress."
"How much more serious?" Terror flooded Copper's gaze. "Papa, tell me! I need to know!"
Esteban met Carmen's gaze, drawing strength from his wife's composure. Then he turned back to his eldest child, gently brushing wisps of auburn hair from her face.
"Quite a bit more serious." He said quietly. "This morning I was at the hospital. Copper, I'm not going to insult your intelligence by trying to find ways around saying it. I have a form of cancer - a tumour lodged here, in my brain." He indicated. "'s attached to a major blood vessel and it...isn't operable."
"Papa?" Copper's lips went dry, and she stared at him in horror. "Papa, ¿que dices?"
"They spoke to me in great detail about my options." Esteban continued softly. "I could begin a course of chemotherapy, but the kind of cancer it is is not one which often reacts positively to any treatment. It could even...well, it's potent, and there is a chance it could kill me before it cured me. So...your mother and I have talked, and...and I would rather have as much of the time I have left to be with you and your brother and sister. Either way it would not be more than a year...but I don't want to put myself through chemotherapy, and be in hospital all the time. I want to be here. They...they say they can give me three months for certain. Six if I'm lucky."
"No!" Tears began to spill down Copper's cheeks. "Why didn't you tell us before? Why can't they do anything? Why?"
"It's a very quick growing cancer, Copper." Carmen spoke now, and Copper realised how close to breaking her mother's composure really was. "It's aggressive and it develops very fast. There was nothing else anyone could do to find it sooner."
"But why?" Copper whispered, flinging her arms around her father and sobbing into his shoulder. "Why
"Oh, I wish I could answer that, chica." There was pain in Esteban's voice, and he stroked her red waves soothingly. "It's not a nice prospect for any of us. I have handed over production of my film to someone else, and I don't intend on taking up any more work between now and...well, from now on."
Copper pulled her head away, gazing up at him.
"You don't look sick." She gulped. "How can it be so awful?"
"The damage is inside." Esteban said simply. "Copper, I need you to be brave. As brave as you know how to be. In a few months - I hope maybe I can make it a year, but I don't know - I won't be here any more. There are a lot of things I need to settle before then, and I'm going to need your help as much as your Mama's to do them. My eyesight is none to clear these days and my headaches make it difficult for me to concentrate. I can't drive and I find walking very far a trial, so I might need you to run errands or read letters for me. Will you promise me to do that?"
"Of course." Copper swallowed hard. "I just don't want to lose you!"
"None of us want that, Copper." Carmen got to her feet, coming to squeeze her daughter's hand, but Copper was oblivious of her mother at that moment. "Believe me."
"But there is no sense in trying to pretend around it." Esteban said firmly. "Tonight, I will speak to Luis and Ros - after dinner. For now, I'm tired and I think I will take a nap."
He got to his feet awkwardly, and Copper saw with painful clarity the weakness that had begun to afflict her father's stocky frame. As if he had seen her gaze, he paused, bending to kiss her forehead.
"Whatever comes over the next few months, I will always love you, chica." He whispered. "And I am very proud."

Prologue: July 12th, 1991
Chapter One: A Long Flight
Chapter Two: Family
Chapter Three: A Day Out
Chapter Four: Flashback - Esteban's Quest
Chapter Five: In The Genes
Chapter Six: Confidences
Chapter Seven: Flashback - A Tragic Truth
Chapter Eight: A Tentative Bond
Chapter Nine: Some Truth
Chapter Ten: Flashback - This Is Farewell
Chapter Eleven: The Memorial Garden

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