They heard me coming down the hospital hallway before they could see me. Well, I was making enough noise that they should have been able too. Even his deaf old witch of a mother would have heard the furor I was raising.
“Family only,” the small, Asian nurse tried to tell me for the sixtieth time.
“I’m more family than any hick in that room,” I snapped back, “Just get out of my way, woman!”
I knew he was in room ten. Even if the nurse at the front desk hadn’t told me, I just knew that would be where he was. He was always near a ten of something.
I pushed the door open, I hadn’t dared to look through the window before it, and looked at no one but him.
His mother and father, his two brothers and four sisters were all circling his bed – like vultures, I thought to myself- but I barely noticed them.
I barely noticed the rip in his mothers old and worn over dress. Nor, did I truly notice the scathing look that bore into me from each one of his ‘loving’ sisters. And, only for a moment, did I register the shocked look on his fathers face as he saw the length and breadth of me, in my freshly dry-cleaned suit and Italian leather shoes.
All I saw was him. His precious face bruised and battered, the ugliness of the plastic tubes invading his nose doing nothing to mar the perfectness of his beautiful face.
I strode in amongst his assorted kin and gripped his hand in my own.
“Leave us,” I commanded the room, more than expecting them to put up a fight.
His mothers mouth curled into a snarl of shock as she readied her indignation but her husband, ever more courteous, yet no less hateful, placed his hand on her arm and silenced her with his touch.
I heard his sisters mutter as they left and I felt the wounded pride of his brothers at having been evacuated by a “poof”, but I didn’t care. All that mattered was my everything was lying amongst the pristine sheets of the hospital bed.
I would have followed him to the gates of Hades and back, but he had led me here. Here into the building of death and disease. The building that he might not leave again, but I would. Possibly, without him by my side.
I turned quickly and slammed the door shut behind the last sister to leave. I pulled, just slightly too hard, on the cords that controlled the window blinds and shut them tight.
Finally we were alone.
My mind harked back to the Christmas before. We had spent it in our tiny little flat – the only one we could afford above the river – just the two of us. We were drunk and full after our Christmas meal. I had walked back into the living room and was met with a darkness that was punctured only by the fairy lights on the Christmas tree, the flickering of the scented candles and the fullness of the moonshine streaming in through the window behind him.
He sat, silhouetted by the moon, with his teeth flickering in the candlelight on one knee. I had been stunned into silence, I had always known – or at least thought I had – that I would be the one to propose to him. That I would set the pace of our relationship. I had always assumed that I was in control. And then, well and then he had surprised me, as he often did.
He would do the smallest of chores that he knew I hated. Or he would listen to my ranting’s about the match we played against our rival team. Or he would weep.
I always knew when he cried, even when he tried to hide it from me. He would weep at the most touching of news stories. Whether it was the floods in England or the earthquake in Haiti. He would weep at the programs we would watch about poverty. Or, and this is when he would surprise me most of all, he would weep when two star crossed lovers finally overcame the obstacles between them.
He was my only constant and yet my biggest enigma.
I broke down then, all sense of bravado left me as I hid behind the slammed door and the closed blinds. This was my lover, my best friend and my future husband and yet he lay here, fighting for his life, as I sat beside him and sobbed uncontrollably.
I was supposed to be the fighter; I was supposed to be the strong one.
But here he was, surprising me again.
His family sat outside the hospital room. They didn’t understand or approve of our love, but they respected that it was strong. And, in an act of kindness I thought above them, they left me with their son, their brother and their family, to cry by his side and pray for his well being.
“Say something,” I whispered to my love, “Say something, please, don’t let this be the end.”
•• If this story has offended you then shame, shame on you. ••