Henry entered Sarah's hospital room, his nerves as frayed as the end of an old piece of rope.
He had taken a minute outside to try to compose himself, but as he crossed the threshold, he realized that nothing could have prepared him for this.
There was Sarah, the woman he loved, lying in bed looking so fragile and weak.
How could he find the right words to say goodbye to her? How was he supposed to come to terms with never seeing her again?
Henry met Sarah's eyes, and she returned a weak smile.
"Hey, Sarah," Henry murmured. He came over to the side of her bed and took her hand in his. He ran his thumb over the back of her hand. "Are you in a lot of pain?"
Sarah gave a feeble shrug. "It's not too bad. Dr. Bradley gave me some laudanum."
"That's good," Henry said. "That makes sense ..." He trailed off, unsure what to say next. It just wasn't right that Sarah had to go through this. And it wasn't right that he was losing her! This was just an impossible situation.
Sarah coughed and cleared her throat. "So," she said, "the Pioneers won."
"I ... uh ..." Henry shook his head, looking around and trying to figure out how to respond to that. It didn't seem right to stand here, talking about something as trivial as baseball, when he was about to lose the person he loved most in the world.
"I asked the nurse," Sarah explained. "Jake pitched a no hitter."
Henry nodded. "That's good, I guess ..."
Henry released Sarah's hand and began to pace back and forth, nervously twisting his hands in front of him. "Listen, Sarah, maybe we should leave. You know, go and get a second opinion. This doctor here isn't doing anything for you. But you're young. You're tough. You'll bounce back. Your body is strong. We could get out of here and go across town to the Negro hospital."
"Yeah, yeah. That's what we'll do. And you'll be fine. You probably just need a better doctor to look you over. Then we'll go home in a few days, and you know what? You know what we'll do? We'll take that vacation to Argentina you've always dreamed of. I don't care what I have to do to make that happen. We'll take a trip and grieve the baby, and then we'll move on and get pregnant again. We'll get past this, Sarah. You and me. We're a team, and we'll get through this together."
"Henry, please," Sarah said.
Henry's eyes brimmed with tears, as he looked down at his wife. She looked so fragile, and yet she appeared so calm, as if she'd fully accepted what was going to happen.
"Henry, I'm going to die. That's just the reality of the situation here."
Henry felt his throat tighten. He couldn't bring himself to respond.
"I've been happier with you than I've ever been before. You have made me feel so special, and you've been the greatest part of my life. I don't have any regrets, and I don't want you to have any either."
Tears trailed down Henry's cheeks.
"I'm sorry, Sarah. I'm so sorry. I should have realized you were sick. I should have been with you. I was off playing baseball and so worried about winning the playoffs, but I should have seen the signs. I should have been taking care of you. It was my job to protect you."
"Shhh. It's alright, Henry. This isn't your fault, and you haven't done anything wrong. I need you to understand that."
Henry gripped her hand again. He didn't know what to say to her. He just didn't know how he should be spending these last few moments. What was important enough to say at a moment like this? He tried to think of something comforting to say and instead found himself repeating the same meaningless words that he'd already said.
"I shouldn't have been so focused on baseball," Henry muttered. "Such a stupid thing to be concentrating on. I should have been paying better attention to you."
"Henry, stop," Sarah said. "You playing for the Pioneers does matter. Remember what you've been playing for. You found a way to unite a town, divided by color. You've brought so many people together. I couldn't be more proud of you."
Henry's chest began to heave. "Don't say that! Don't say that you're proud of me. Not when I've failed you like this -"
"Henry, listen," Sarah interrupted, purpose filling her glistening eyes. "No pain in your wings. No pain without me. What lies ahead is a bright future to see ..."
Henry stared as the final words withered on Sarah's lips. "Fly, Henry, Fly." He brought a hand to her face. "Sarah, I love you," he said softly, brushing his knuckles gently across her right cheek.
Sarah took one last, heavy breath, and then her eyes closed.
Henry stared at her motionless body. "Sarah? Sarah?"
His words faded away, and the room fell so quiet, he could hear his heart drumming against his ribcage.
What had he done to deserve this?
Henry threw himself down across Sarah's body.
For the second time today, he began to bawl.
Sarah was gone!
"Getting knocked down In front of the world really hurts; but the scene of your getting up with dust on the back of your pants ready to go one more round is soothing."
- George Foreman, Olympic Gold Medalist and two-time World Heavyweight Boxing Champion
Printed with permission from George via email. Special THANKS to the Champ for writing this unique quote for me.
From my upcoming book "COREAGEOUS".
YOU ARE READING
Color (Completed)Historical Fiction
WATTYS SHORTLISTED! During World War I, a black baseball player gets a second chance to play ball on an all-white steel mill baseball team, an action that shocks and divides an entire town. Targeted by opponents, his own team, and mysterious vigilan...