Custom Built Page 1

Author: Chantal Fernando

Series: Fast & Fury #1

Genres: Romance



   “I’m afraid the abnormal cells have returned, so you will need another surgery.”

   I stare at my doctor. His kind face used to bring me hope, and now it is delivering the worst kind of news.

   A year ago, my health wasn’t something I had worried about; I was perfectly healthy. Then one abnormal pap smear changed my life.

   I was hopeful that after my last surgery, I’d be given the all clear. But nope. Here I am, listening to my doctor tell me I need yet another surgery. I try to keep myself composed, but the truth is that I’m scared shitless.

   “Is that really necessary?”

   “I’m afraid so. It will only take about twenty minutes. It’s the loop electrosurgical excision procedure and we don’t even have to put you fully under. It’ll be just a local anesthetic.”

   The memory of my last procedure is scarred on my brain. I remember the smoke filling the room, I remember the smell of it burning the cells away. It may have only been twenty minutes, but it is something I never wanted to have to experience again.

   “I remember.”

   He hasn’t used the word cancer yet, but if these abnormal cells continue to return, it can turn into cervical cancer.

   “Bronte...” Dr. James hesitates. “We can keep going in and doing these surgeries every time the cells return, but there are other options, other surgeries. Ones that will allow you to live your life without these tests or living in fear that they will return.”

   “Well, sign me up for that!” No more tests, no more visits to Dr. James, kind face and all. No more fear.

   “It’s a hysterectomy.”

   As he says the words, I feel the air leave me. I’m nowhere near ready for children, but I want the option to have them. “That seems a little extreme, no?”

   “We need to do what we can to make sure you don’t get cervical cancer.”

   And there it is. Cancer or children.

   “Okay, let’s do the surgery. If we need to consider the hysterectomy, then I’m open to it, but only if it’s necessary. Whatever we need to,” I say, swallowing hard.

   I’m not ready to leave this world yet. I haven’t even left my mark on it.

   After I schedule my surgery, I leave to go to work, but my head is reeling from everything. My dad calls me as soon as I get back into my car. “Hey, Bronte, how are you?”

   His soothing voice calms me. Closing my eyes, I rest my head against the seat and take a deep breath. “I’m fine, Dad,” I lie. “How are you? Are we still having lunch this week?”

   My dad and I have always been close, but we became even closer after my mom passed away when I was ten. It’s always been me and him against the world, and I can’t imagine it any other way.

   “Yeah, of course. Are you sure that you’re fine, because you don’t sound it,” he murmurs, calling me out on my lies.

   I’m silent for a few seconds. “The abnormal cells have returned and I need another surgery to remove them.”

   His breath hitches. “It will be fine, Bronte,” he assures me. “I read up on all of this last time, and sometimes they come back, but they always catch them in time. You’re lucky that it hasn’t gotten past this stage.”

   His logic calms me.

   I don’t tell him about the conversation my doctor had with me about the hysterectomy.

   I need time to process that for myself.

   We chat for a while, him assuring me that everything will be fine and that he’s here for me, and we will get through this together, and then I go back to work, like nothing happened.

   I don’t tell anyone else about my upcoming surgery, or about how for a month to six weeks I can’t so much as go in a swimming pool until I recover.

   I don’t tell anyone else anything. I choose to suffer in silence instead.

   Little do I know, sometimes when you hold things in, they have their way of eating you from the inside out.



Chapter One

   “I’m sorry, Bronte,” Nadia says, shoulders hunching. “You know how much the business has been struggling for months, and now it’s barely making enough money for me to cover my own ass, never mind have an employee. I’m so sorry.”

   “It’s okay,” I tell her, forcing a smile, even though I feel like crying. I mean, I knew this was coming. I’ve worked as an assistant for Nadia’s private investigator firm for years now, and I know how hard this decision must be for her. We had spoken about it a few months ago, and to be honest I’m surprised she has kept me on for this long.

   However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. I need this job, and I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do without it. I don’t have any other qualifications, and I can’t afford to go back to college to finish my teaching degree. And I don’t even want to talk about health insurance. Thank God I had my second surgery several months ago. I can’t even fathom what I will do if the abnormal cells come back.

   I know how bad times are for Nadia, though, with us getting less and less work with every passing month. I’d spent this week cleaning and rearranging the office because I didn’t have much else to do.

   I see Nadia more like family than my boss, but I know that she has to do what’s best for her. I understand that—it’s just going to be a shit time for me right now.

   “I’ll pack up my things,” I say, and swallow hard, looking at my desk. I pick up the picture of me and my dad, both of us smiling, his arms wrapped around me. It was taken last year at Christmas, my red lipstick all over his cheek where I had kissed him. Dad has always been my rock, and I know he’d help me if I need it, but I’m too old to be running to my daddy. I need to sort this all out myself and find a new job as soon as possible, before my savings dry up and put me in deeper shit.

   “I’m really sorry,” Nadia repeats, her voice cracking.

   I put the photo frame down and turn to give her a hug. “It will be fine, it’s not the end of the world. I’ll find another job, and hopefully business will pick up for you and you can keep this place running.”

   This might not be what I need right now, a kick when I’m down, already stressed out over my health issues, but you can’t control what curveballs life decides to throw you.

   No matter what happens, I know I’ll be okay. When one door closes, another one opens, right?

   I comfort Nadia, I gather my things, and I leave.

   I woke up this morning employed and fairly optimistic, and now I’m going home without a job and no idea where my next paycheck is going to come from.

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