A few months had gone by and Shannon seemed to be back to her old self. She continued on with renovating Helen's place, watching Ben play soccer at school. She was enjoying life again. Everything she was worried about, now put from her mind

After Ben's soccer game they all returned home and decided to have a picnic near the playground. Shannon, Cally, Helen and Ben enjoyed the fun. Cally was being pushed on swing by Ben and Helen going down a slippery dip, getting stuck. Shannon was laughing at them, when all of a sudden she felt like throwing up. She swallowed leaving a bad taste in her mouth.

She got to her feet slowly not wanting to alarm her family. She took some breaths "I'm going back to use the toilet"

"Use the public one honey" said Cally

Shannon was gone, she coughed and swallowed again. She ran inside straight into the bathroom and just as she got to the sink threw up. She couldn't stop, the taste was foul. Shannon looked down at the sink full of blood. She turned the tap on and threw up again. She grabbed the basin as she was shaking.

"Shannon" came Cally voice behind

Shannon caught by surprise, swung around "what.... why aren't you at the playground"

"What's wrong" Cally noticed the paleness and perspiration on Shannon's face.

Shannon shakes her head, but Cally persistant, tried to get closer to the sink but Shannon blocked her view. "Look I just feel a little"

Cally pushed passed, grabbed her mouth and started to cry at the amount of blood. Shannon stepped forward

"Cally please" but stomach cramps grabbed her hard and she fell to her knees hunched in a ball "oh fucking hell"

Cally fell down with her "What's wrong with you, please tell me" as she hugged her sick lover

---

Shannon sat on their bed with Cally not sure what to say

Cally couldn't get the word out, the word she had been so afraid of.

"How could the doctor miss this, of all the tests how could he not see this was going to happen? How could he diagnose this just as asthma?. I'm getting onto the medical board tomorrow and make a formal complaint" she got angry

"No you won't, he didn't miss diagnose me. I...." Shannon closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She looked at Cally "I asked him to give me something to help me breath. I didn't have any tests, I don't need them. I know what it is...."

Cally got up not wanting to hear it and walked from the room.

Shannon went after her, when Cally turned around and flew at her "all this fucking time you knew and you didn't tell me. This has been going on for nearly 4 months and you just let it. What were you thinking, well obviously not about your family."

"Cally...."

"No Shannon." Cally not wanting to hear her say it, or her excuses

"I know I've got cancer.... I just didn't want to make it any harder on you and Ben, so I kept it to myself."

"I am your partner, you don't keep shit like this from me. How dare you"

"Cally I……I didn't want to burden you with this"

Cally slapped Shannon's face. She then burst into tears and collapsed onto the couch.

Shannon sat next to her "I'm sorry I didn't tell you" resting her head against Cally's shoulder

"How would like it if I knew something terrible about Ben and kept it from you. How would you feel?" whimpered Cally

Shannon looked up"Horrible and angry."

"So what do we do now...." asked Cally, wiping her tears

"Well.... I.... we live for today and look forward to tomorrow." Was Shannon's hoarse reply

"That's not very comforting; there must be some sort of medical treatment. Radiation therapy, I mean where is the cancer, maybe they can cut it out. At least give us some hope." Cally shook her head "oh god.....what am I going to tell Ben"

"Nothing.... absolutely nothing" Shannon was adamant

"He's not stupid, he knows you are sick. He asks me all the time"

"I don't care, you don't tell him this. He doesn't need to know things like this at his age. He's so young and innocent and..... and" It all catches up with Shannon and she breaks down. Cally held her and they cry together.

That night they lie in bed talking , holding each other.

"So we agree you see the doctor tomorrow, see what we are up against"

"yeh sure." Shannon gave in, although she did not want to know what she was up against.

---

Cally and Shannon sat in the doctor's office after all the tests had been completed. Cally trying to hold it together after finding out Shannon's had cancer in her stomach, one lung and throat. It was worse than she had ever thought.

Shannon listened showing no emotion

Cally swallowed then spoke up "So doctor what are our options. There must be something we can do."

The doctor looks at Shannon "well we can remove part of your stomach and lung, then begin radiation therapy. This should slow and hopefully shrink the throat cancer."

"So how do I eat, how do I breath." Shannon not impressed with that option

"Well your food would have to be vitamised into a thin paste; you will need to be on oxygen."

"And to remove my lung, how will you do that." Shannon trying to remain calm

"We would have to remove your right breast... and as it's only an implant that shouldn't be a problem"

Shannon looked away, trying to fight her anger "Yeh, of course, it's only an implant to you"

"Shannon...please" whines Cally

"What Cally..... you want me to walk around with only one tit... forget it." Spat Shannon

The doctor trying to get Shannon re-focused "No... of course not Ms Marsden. We would remove both to help the process"

Shannon felt the heat building up within, she wanted to put her fist through something, then the final straw.

"Ms Marsden, you will also have to go off all your hormone medication"

"WHAT... are you stupid. I can't do that." Shannon's worse fear that she had tried to avoid all this time had been conveyed to her and Cally.

"It's the only way we can have a good go at it. The hormone therapy will get in the way of the radiation. Just for a while and then you can get back on to them."

"What would be the point then, there will be nothing left of me." Shannon gets up and walks out

"Cally…. she needs to understand that there is only a limited window of opportunity here. If she is to do this, it has to be now." Confirmed the doctor

"I'll talk to her doctor, thanks again." Cally left, chasing down Shannon

Shannon stormed to the car and waited for Cally to unlock it. Cally wanted to say something but the mood Shannon was in, she let it go

Once they got home they called in on Ben who was staying at Helen's. Shannon explained she was very sick and just need rest. She explained that for the moment he would be staying with his grandma for a few days. Ben not happy but did not fight Shannon on it.

Shannon walked through door to her cabin, pulled off her jacket then threw it as hard as she could at the wall. This cause intense pain in her chest and she cried out.

Cally grabbed her "hey hey, easy... what did you do that for?" picking up her jacket

"I want to feel the misery that's inside me."

Cally closed in on Shannon "honey, we should talk about it"

"about what.... "

"About your options."

"They aren't options Cally. It's them wanting to butcher me, to bombard me with poisons. It's not going to stop the inevitable and you know it. I can't do it. I am not going off my hormones for this."

"Shannon... didn't you hear the doctor"

"I heard they wanted to cut me open, remove my breasts.... these are mine" holding her chest "and discard them like they are nothing. You know what happens when I come off my hormone medication, you've seen what I become."

"And we will deal with that honey" spoke Cally soothingly

"Deal with it, how?.... you can't control my moods..... I will grow a beard and be so wrong again. I can't do it, it's not fair to me."

"I will look after you; I will make sure you don't have facial hair, that you keep your femininity."

"It's not just that. It's all of me... "

"Well how about you think about Ben and I for a moment. Here you are so worried about your identity that you don't even care enough to try and fight this for us. We want you around, anyway we can but all you can think about is how to keep your precious, fucking tits." Cally starting to lose her temper

"Cally... you don't understand" meeting Cally's level

"You're right I don't. Here I am thinking, fuck I'm going to lose the love of my life and our son is going to be devestated all because you didn't want to try. All because you wanted to stay physically intact. Well good for you."

Cally left the cabin and ran to her mother's place.

Shannon showered and then stood wet and naked in front of the mirror just looking at her body. Something she had not done since she had the corrective surgery and now she had to give it all up. Shannon scoffed and looked up to the ceiling as if in pray. "Isn't it bad enough you gave me the wrong body, but now you want to take this one from me, you fucking prick"

Shannon went to bed and drifted off to sleep.

Cally sat in her mum's kitchen. Helen closed the door so Ben couldn't hear his mum crying

"I don't know what to do; I don't know how to make her fight. She is so obsessed about her image there is no reasoning with her. What about me and Ben. We love her so much, why are we not as important."

Helen made them some tea and listened to her daughter's pain

"It's just so selfish. It's like we are not worth fighting to stay alive for."

Helen listened and waited until Cally got out everything she wanted to say. She put her cup down.

"It's taken me a while to cope with Shannon, to try and understand and now I do. She's not fighting for her identify honey, she's fighting for her dignity and everyone has the right to go out the way they want. Shannon didn't get the chance to come into the world the way she thinks she was suppose to, she had to fight for that. She had to fight to keep herself the way others didn't want her to be, and now you want her to stopping fighting for that. You want her to fight for something you want. I know this is hard and this hurts but it's you that's selfish, and you need to stop making it about you."

"Mum" cried Cally "stop"

Helen touched her daughter's tear stained face"Sweetheart.......Shannon is dying and I know this is something you don't want to hear but you have to face up to it. You may only have a few good months with her. If she has all this surgery, you may lose those months just to gain an extra few months. Why put her through that, why put yourself through it."

Cally put head in hands not wanting to hear it, she just sobbed openly "No nooo noooo, it's not fair."

"Cally you need to tell her not to stop fighting to be female. And when she is no longer strong enough to fight, then you have to fight for her. You need to tell her it's alright"

"But I don't think I can be strong, for her and Ben. Mum I'm not ready to lose her."

"No one is ever ready to lose the one they love. I wasn't ready when your father passed away. Be strong now.... fall apart later. I will be here for you; we will pick up the pieces together. Now go, don't leave her side for one moment. You know I will look after Ben."

Cally returns to the cabin and finds Shannon in a silky robe in their bathroom putting bottles of medications into a large box.

"Hey what are you doing?" asked Cally hoarsely, as she leans against the door frame

Shannon didn't look over "I'm getting rid of these tablets. I won't need them. I've contacted the doctor and booked myself in for surgery two weeks from today." Shannon looks over at Cally. She could see Cally had been crying, her eyes still red and puffy "You both are worth fighting for." Shannon continued to put the bottles in.

Cally put the box aside. She turned Shannon around to face the full length mirror. Standing behind her, takes off Shannon's robe and wraps her arms around her waist and looks at her naked lover in the mirror.

"This is what we fight for" runs a hands over her body, caressing her breasts. Cally kisses her neck and rocks her gently "and when you are no longer able to fight for this, then I will fight for it. You might not have been born a woman Shannon Marsden, but I will make sure you leave as one."

Shannon started to cry and face Cally "I'm scared"

Cally hugged and kissed her. "I know..... I've got you"

----

Shannon's health deteriorated quickly over 4 weeks. She had gone from moving freely around the cabin, to being a prisoner in their bedroom, chained to a morphine drip and oxygen mask.

She sat up in the bed with help from Cally.

"You sure you want to do this."

"I want to see him." Shannon gives herself another dose of morphine, and then removes the drip and oxygen mask.

"Shannon don't do that"

"I'm will not have him see me like this." Eyes started to sting

"alright." Tidies up the bed and helps her sit back. "You ready."

Cally opens the bedroom door and calls Ben in "remember, be gentle"

"ok mum" Ben says quietly.

Cally watches as Ben climbs on the bed, his little face sad.

Shannon smiles and opens her arms "what no hug and kisses"

Ben moved into her and hugs her. Shannon winces from the pain. She noticed Cally was about to say something and nodded her out. Cally closed the door and returned to the kitchen.

"Shannon…. When are you going to get better?" Ben asked quietly

Shannon kissed his head "I'm trying honey, real hard. Will you do something for me, now and forever." Shannon tried to maintain a confident tone in her voice.

"yeh" his voice sad

"Look after your mother. Give her lots of hugs and kisses. Always tell her you love her, even when she gets angry with you. Can you do that for me honey?" caught her voice as she stammered

"yeh sure. Will you read me this story" he asked opening up his school book

"I'm a bit tired, but how about you read it and I'll watch."

---

Cally returned to the kitchen with Ben's bag. "Thanks again for taking him. I just can't cope"

"shhhhhh, I understand."

"I hate it, I can't stand watching her suffer. I just want to dose her up with morphine and let her slip away. I wish it was over and then I don't want it to be, I don't want her to leave me."

"You need to hang in there." Helen nodded to the door where Ben had suddenly appeared

"Mum she fell asleep again."

"I'm sorry honey." Cally squats down and hugs him "You will be staying with grandma for a few days."

Ben screwed up his face, tears falling "I don't wannnna, I want to stay with Shannon."

Cally tried to fight her own tears "I know, but…" she looked up at her mum for help

"This is how it is Ben, say good bye to your mum and we go and have dinner."

Ben wiped his eyes, hugged and kissed his mum "I love you mum" Helen takes Ben's bag and they leave..

Cally grabs a glass of water for Shannon. She knew it was unlikely she would drink due to the pain in her throat with swallowing. She quietly opens the door and walks in, re-hooks the drip. She sits on the bed and watches her shallow breathing. She strokes away some hair and kisses her lips gently. Shannon didn't stir.

Cally continues to lie in bed with Shannon just listening to each wheezy breath. Shannon suddenly opened her eyes

"Ben" she called out

"shhhh, he's gone, he is staying with my mother"

"fuck, I had so much to say… I can't believe I....."

Cally soothes her "It's ok…."

Shannon tears fell "I wanted to watch him grow up, I wanted to see him grow into a man." She looks over at Cally and touches her face. Cally grabs her hand and kisses "I wanted to grow old with you."

Cally nodded "well as each minute goes by honey, we are." wipes Shannon's tears and kisses her lips gently.

Shannon started to cough hard and cry out in agony. Cally grabs tissue as Shannon coughs up more blood. Shannon lies back moaning, exhausted from the little exertion

Cally grabs her hand "We are going to be ok, Ben and I. So if you want to go…. Then go."

Shannon looked over at her smiling "so you are giving me permission to die".

Cally rolled her eyes, then kissed her cheek."Like you've ever needed my permission to do anything. All I'm saying is, we will be ok."

Cally rested against Shannon's shoulder as they drifted off to sleep. Shannon stirred first and looked out at the window as the sun tries to rise. Cally looked over "you alright"

"Never knew how beautiful the sun could be when it comes over those mountains. Such a new day, yesterday forgotten, tomorrow not even thought of."

Cally knew these ramblings were bought on by the morphine. "yes honey…"

Shannon with help from Cally removed her oxygen mask. "I want to breathe real air for a while"

"ok…" she then rested back on Shannon's shoulder and listen to the effort it took for Shannon to breathe without the help of the oxygen.

She looked out the window, then suddenly noticed Shannon had gone quiet. Her breathing had stopped, she dropped her head to Shannon's heart and listens to the final beats… then it too stopped.

Cally rested a little while on Shannon before looking up at her. She finally looked peaceful, and kissed her lips, holding it for a moment longer.

Cally prepared Shannon, making sure she looked respectable. She pulled up the sheet under her chin and dropped her lips onto Shannon's for one final kiss. "goodbye my love"

She closed the door and headed to the kitchen

---

Helen was up early and just put the kettle on. Her phone rang and she looked at the clock indicating it was near 6.30am. She sighed, closed the door so Ben wouldn't wake, she answered it.

"ok honey, she's in a better place now. Sure I won't let him out, you deal with what you have to first." Helen hung up and locked the door to the outside world

Ben heard sounds of squealing brakes. He looked out his window seeing a car and a van parked at Shannon's. Ben knew something was up because hardly anyone would visit them. He ran to the kitchen and grabbed the door

"Ben you are up early. Why don't we go back to bed and read."

"no I want to see Shannon, why are there cars at Shannon's place?" He tried to open the door but it was locked

"Ben.."

"Nooooo I want to see Shannon" he screamed in a panic

"No… you"

Ben ran to his room and slammed his door. Helen sighed and sat back down when she heard another bang. She opened up Ben's room only to find he had escaped through his bedroom window.

"oh hell." Helen raced to the door

Ben ran as fast as he could. He could see some people carrying something, then they closed the door and the van started to drive off.

"Shannnnon" screamed Ben at the top of his lungs

Cally on the step watching the van with Shannon's body leave was surprised to see Ben

"Ben.. wait"

Ben ran into the cabin "Ben wait" called out his mother again

"Noooo I want to see Shannon, where is she." He screamed again.

Ben ran to her bedroom but Shannon wasn't there. He screamed for her again, going into each bedroom. His mum stood in main room, tears flowing "baby…. please calm down"

Ben ran back into the bedroom and crashed onto the bed, onto Shannon's side crying his little heart out.

Cally walked in and sat on the bed, her heart broken.

"I want to see Shannon, I want to see Shannon" he cried over and over.

Cally collapsed next to her son and held him tightly "I know...." and cried with him

"Where'd she go, why didn't she say goodbye…. What did I do wrong?"

Cally had no answers, no energy and just cried with him

---

A small group gathered around the headstone as the coffin was lowered into the ground. Cally had her hand around Ben as he watched on. Shannon's parents did not attend the funeral as they still believe Simon had died in hospital, they never knew or met Shannon.

Cally declined lift back with her mother and she and Ben walked along the lake to their cabin. Ben rolled up his pants and walks in the water. He had not said much since Shannon had passed away.

Cally sat against a tree and watched Ben kick at the water. She remembers back to the day she pulled Simon from the lake and revived him. She thought that was the worst day of her life. She chuckles quietly to herself as she thinks 'you've done it to me again'. She wiped a tear and allows Ben to sit in her lap

Cally wrapped her arms tightly around and kissed him. "Hey little man, how you doing?" she spoke quietly

"alright.... Shannon's with grandpa now isn't she?"

"yeh honey, she is. She was very sick."

"I miss her mummy"

"yeh me too sweetie. You know what... I'm going to tell you a story... It's about this lake here and about a little boy around your age, his name was Simon.

the end