“You know, I almost laughed the other day.”
Her eyes focused a little, panned over to me. “Why?”
“Well, I was walking through the halls out there, just getting some exercise. Stretching my legs.” I gestured at the door to her room. It was propped open; she told me that she liked watching the nurses bustle about, running on their errands.
Her eyes still looked bright, alive. I loved those eyes, no matter how the rest of her body shrank and withered. “Well, I thought to myself that I could probably walk through the hallways with my eyes closed, by now. I think I’ve memorized the entire layout of the hospital.”
No laugh, but a smile. “You’re spending too much time here.”
What was I supposed to reply? No, honey, I’m going to leave you in this hospital bed, in this room that you’ll never leave? I kept my own smile on my face, although I shook with the effort. “It’s okay. I don’t mind.”
Her hand rose up an inch from the sheet, bony fingers twitching. I reached forward, holding it in my own. Her fingers felt like the claws of a bird. She tried to squeeze, but she had no strength left.
“It hurts, Josh.” She looked up at me, those bright eyes trapped in a failing body. “I love you, but I want it to be over.”
My smile cracked, shattered into a million pieces. “I know,” I whispered back. I kept my hand relaxed as my fingers curled around her, but my shoulders heaved as I fought back the tears.
Sometimes, I couldn’t believe that I could still cry. How many oceans had I shed, sitting in this seat next to this bed, staring down at my love, my light, as she slowly dimmed?
She took a deep breath, and I knew that she was fighting back her own ocean. “Talk to me,” she implored.
I couldn’t refuse. Hell, when had I ever refused her anything? From the moment that those bright blue eyes first caught me, I’d been forever trapped, a willing dog on her leash. I took her wherever she wanted, put everything into helping her, endured embarrassment and pain, so much pain, just to see her smile.
“Okay.” I cast about for something. “I told you how I’ve explored the whole hospital, right?”
“Well, I always knew that the north stairs went to the roof. But it turns out that there’s elevator access, too. The janitor told me, gave me a key. I just put it into the elevator’s pad and push the roof button, and it goes right up.”
“What’s the roof like?” she asked softly.
The tears fought to break free, but I pushed them back, wiped at them with my sleeve. “It’s amazing. I watched the sun come up, the other day. Up there, nothing gets in the way.”
For a moment, I thought of saying something about Heaven, but it all sounded lame and idiotic, even in my head. Instead, I talked of the clouds, how the rising sun painted them in majestic purples, blues, oranges, colors that would never shine so brightly on a screen or canvas.
She closed her eyes, still holding my hand. I thought she might have fallen asleep; with her shallow breathing, it was sometimes hard to tell. But as I pulled my hand gently away from hers, those blue eyes opened again.
I smiled back at her, fighting the flood. “I’m here.”
“The roof.” Those eyes looked up at me, the last spot of brightness, the last memory of the woman I loved. “Take me there.”
“What? I can’t-”
“The wheelchair.” The clawlike fingers pointed. “Please. It won’t make any difference in the end, whether I’m in this damn bed or not. And it sounds so beautiful.”
I knew that I shouldn’t do it, but I’d spent a lifetime saying yes to those eyes, would plunge a knife into my chest for her if she asked. I wheeled the chair over, lifted her out of bed. She weighed next to nothing, like a bird.
None of the nurses bothered us as I wheeled her out. Did they know? Did they see this as rebellion, or mercy? I didn’t care, wouldn’t let them stop us.
For one panicked moment, I thought that I’d lost the key. She giggled, ever so softly, as I frantically patted down my pockets. “Oh, Josh,” she sighed, her voice barely audible. “Oh, how I love you.”
It was tough to see the keyhole with tears in my eyes, but I managed to push the button. The elevator smoothly rose.
The doors opened onto darkness. Six in the morning, the night chill still hanging in the air. I pushed her out, cursed against the rough gravel covering the roof that fought the wheelchair’s advance.
“Are you cold? Do you need me to go get another blanket?”
Her hand reached out, so thin and small. I took it, closing my mouth, just as she wanted.
“It’s perfect,” she whispered.
I sat next to her, holding that hand. I tried to talk, at first, but holding back the ocean took too much strength, and I fell silent. We both waited.
“There,” she murmured, so faintly that the breeze stole the words away.
I looked up, looked at her. I saw those bright blue eyes glistening, tears pouring down her face, soaking into her blankets. She looked up, out at the horizon, and wept.
Seeing her tears, I couldn’t hold back any longer. My fingers squeezed hers, and I sobbed, no longer caring about keeping myself under control.
I wept for our future, the future that had been stolen from us, never to be real. I wept for her pain, for all the suffering, for the knowledge that, in the end, it was of no use. I cried for every wonderful moment we’d shared, clung to those memories as if I could lock them away inside myself forever, wither and starve as I hung onto them for sustenance.
Above us, the sky lightened, the dark clouds painted in deep, vibrant colors. Purple gave way to blue, shifting through red and orange to bright, brilliant gold, glowing with life.
The sun rose.
Thanks for reading! If you want to see more, and can fight the tears in your eyes, check out more of my stuff at /r/Romanticon. Thanks!