I stare at the man I love lying amidst the crisp white sheets of our bed. His brown eyes are quickly losing their luster, and it worries me more and more. He assures me that he will be fine, but his eyes don’t lie. They never have.
He coughs, and I jump. He looks at me and smiles weakly like I’ve just told a corny joke. He reaches for me, and I slide off of the chair and onto my knees beside the bed. He takes my hand in his. He feels cold, and I refuse to think of him as the man he used to be. Tears sting my eyes, but I won’t cry in front of him.
“Quit worryin’ about me,” he whispers, “and get to work.”
I look at the alarm clock and realize I should’ve left the house ten minutes ago. I can’t leave him because I’m afraid something will happen while I’m away. He coughs again, and I almost decide to stay.
A quick knock on the door startles me. “Sorry,” Marilyn says.
I turn around to see Zane’s sister standing in the doorway holding the car seat with Rose in it. She looks like she’s just rolled out of bed, and I can’t help but wonder if I look the same. I haven’t put any effort into anything I do since he was given his death sentence.
Marilyn says, “Why on earth are you still here? Get to work, Sara.” She uses her momma-voice on me as she sets baby Rose beside Zane.
I stand and stare at Zane who is watching Rose kick and giggle in her car seat. His eyes light up for a moment and then beads of tears form in the corners of his eyes. He’ll never get to see his niece grow up to be a beautiful young woman.
I lean over and kiss Zane gently on the forehead. “Kiss me like you mean it,” he teases. I smile briefly and kiss him. Even though he’s weak, he kisses me as passionately as he can which only breaks my heart.
“I love you,” he says.
“I love you too.”
I smile weakly at him and walk out of the room. Marilyn follows me after telling Zane to watch Rose.
As I was slipping on my shoes in the living room, she asks, “How is he today?”
“Not too good. He’s in a lot of pain.”
She nods and a few tears escape her eyes. “He looks bad.”
I don’t want to acknowledge what she says in anyway, no matter how true it is. I gather my purse, phone and keys. I grab the door knob and stop before opening it. I take in a deep breath and say, “Call me if something changes.”
I bite my lip and walk outside into the warm, sunny day. If I could control the weather, it would be storming and lightening. I walk to my car, get inside, and drive to work.
I go through the same routine for two weeks. Marilyn has been great and stays with him while I work or buy groceries. She insists that I get out and do something normal, but there’s nothing normal about my life. I live in constant fear of that one phone call saying that there’s nothing to come home to but funeral preparations.
While I’m out buying groceries, my phone rings, and my heart stops. With shaky hands I fumble around in my purse. It’s Marilyn. I answer it warily.
“He’s tellin’ everyone goodbye.” She’s sobbing, and I drop my phone and sink to my knees in the middle of the store. A ten year old eyes me suspiciously while a young man wearing a blue vest with the store’s name on it, walks over to me.
“You all right?” he asks, worried.
I shake my head no.
“Is there anything I can do?”
I shake my head again. He stares for a moment and then walks away. I can’t cry. I can’t move, but I have to get home. I have to see him. I force myself to my feet, grab my phone and purse, and walk out of the store. I get in my car and drive home thinking about what I will find when I get there.
I throw open the door to our house, and the family’s in the living room. Most of them are crying, and I’m afraid I’m too late. Marilyn pulls me into her arms. I need supporting, but it feels like I’m the one supporting her.
“Am I –“ I can’t finish the sentence.