She closes her eyes and sighs, a smile lifting the corners of her lips. I lie there in the semi-darkness, watching her chest rise and fall with the steady rhythm of sleep, and I heave a sigh of relief.
Every night, when she closes her eyes, terror grips my heart. That the next morning, I will wake up, and she will have left me. Not by choice. Never by choice.
Cancer, they said. Incurable, they said.
I wanted to believe otherwise. I prayed for it to be otherwise, but she faced it with a strength that left me floundering. Her eyes remained bright and green whenever she looked at me, even when the dark circles seemed to be leeching the colour away from her cheeks. She let me apply blush to her skin, lipstick to her lips, and hope to her heart. I always wished for it to be enough.
The next morning, when I wake up, she is curled up into me, tucking her cold nose into the juncture between my neck and shoulder. One arm lies over my waist, and I cradle her head, allowing myself this one moment of weakness.
Just one moment, I promise, just as I always promised myself, as I run my hand through the short, brown locks that lie messily on top of her head. It always takes me by surprise, that the long hair I used to braid in intricate twists is gone. But she said nothing about it, so I will say nothing too.
I bring her breakfast in bed, like I had taken to doing. She laughs at me when she wakes up, sleepy and warm, and so alive, when she sees the table beside the bed, laden with as many dishes as I could make, in the hope of tempting a vanishing appetite.
“You know what?” She murmurs later that day, as we lie side by side under the covers, her head on my chest, right over my heart.
“Hm?” I keep the slow pace with which I comb through her hair with my fingers. The air feels tentative, fragile, as if one wrong move would shatter everything.
Her, me, and with it, this world we created for ourselves.
“I’m happy.” She looks up at me, and for the first time in a long time, there is colour in her cheeks and her eyes are soft and warm. “I’m really, really happy to have spent my time with you.”
“We’ve got a lot of time left,” I reply, hating how hollow those words sounded.
She simply shakes her head. “I don’t think so,” she confesses. “I’m really, really tired today.”
That night, she sleeps early. Her hands are cold as I cradle them, close to my heart.
“I’m holding on to you,” I whisper into her messy hair. “It’s going to be alright.”
She closes her eyes and sighs, a small smile lifting the corners of her lips.
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- Holding On To You - 13 Dec 2022
One thought on “Holding On To You”
The choice to keep dialogue to a minimum makes this feels like a very quiet, which just deepens the very peaceful sense of love and pain that’s conveyed here. It feels very real. The first-last line is such a beautiful choice too! It’s a very poignant piece.