New York City was illuminated by its skyscraper lights when Beyoncé waited by her phone. It was late, but this international call really mattered to her. And, up until now, nobody knows she made it.
Meanwhile, Newcastle, NSW was illuminated by its sunlight. The call's recipient, Chelsea James, 15, was in her bedroom when her mum got a heads-up: will Chelsea be able to answer her mobile in about 10 minutes? Somebody important will be calling it.
Chelsea had terminal cancer. Unlike other 15-year-olds, she couldn't braid her hair or tower in her first pair of heels: intense chemo/radiation when she was very young meant her hair never grew back and her height was never taller than that of an eight-year-old. This was to be her third intimate encounter with Beyoncé — but her most poignant. Chelsea had that morning been told she had two weeks to live, after a decade-long cancer battle. The call was for the two women to say goodbye to one another.
Four years previously, Beyoncé had spotted Chelsea, then 11, in the crowd when she was on stage in Sydney. At the time, Chelsea had just a one per cent chance of survival. The final few wispy strands of hair on her head blew serenely in the wind machine as Beyoncé changed the words to Halo, singing: “Chelsea, I can see your Halo – I pray you won’t fade away.” There wasn’t a dry eye in the house and the video went viral, reducing Ellen Degeneres to tears when she played it on her show.