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Under Your Breath I Melt

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Elliot's been at war for the past two years. He sends me letters from time to time, assuring me that he will be home on time. He writes me telling that he cannot wait to be held in my arms once again. He always asks about the girls. He always sends his love to them, to me. He's always the Elliot I grew up to love.
But there is one question I wake up every morning and ask myself:Am I going to see him again? Am I going to live through the pain that is ripping my lungs to shreds, killing me second by second? Who is going to win, the malignancy, or me?
Because of this "petite morte," this little death, I'm reduced to raising my two little girls with my mother, who despises me.


"I'm only doing this for your girls," she reminds me, everyday, every hour on the hour.
I left my house at 17 with Elliot. He had graduated, was off to Harvard. I just turned 17 and I got pregnant. I didn't know who the father was, but Elliot, being the gracious boy was, refused a full scholarship to Harvard and helped me through the pregnancy. He adopted Suzy, making sure that she felt as loved as I had through those nine months.

"She's our little girl," he told me. "Nothing will ever change that."
The look in his eyes when he said that meant the world to me.
So eight years down the line, Eliot told me that he was going to Iraqi. He told me that he would be careful. I looked at him and laughed, asking him how could he guarantee that he could be careful in a war zone. There would be bombs and gun shots and other things that I didn't want to thing about. He just took my face and kissed my cheek and told me that he'd always come back.
Two years later, I'm in the doctors office. I had been having breathing problem. After ten hours and at least a thousand different tests, I had been diagnosed with lung cancer. It was in the final stage.

"Alissa," the doctor said with such grace and eloquence. "We found out about this at the latest possible moment. We're going to try and stop it's spread, but right now, you only have 3 months to live. I'm sorry."
I stood up and looked him dead in the eye.

"You're sorry? How do you expect me to tell my kids? Or my husband who has seen nothing but death these past two years?" I said, tears coming to my eyes.
The doctor placed a firm hand on my shoulder.

"We'll try our best. Right now you need loads of water and rest. We'll start chemo in a few days."
I called my mother. She wasn't thrilled to hear from me, but once we got to talking, she understood.
She let me move in with her so she could help take care of Suzy and Embry, Elliot's biological child. My mom was thrilled to be taking care of the kids. She told me that she didn't care about the circumstances. She said it was just a joy to have them.
We started chemo, and then that's I got the wigs. They started off my normal color, a nice, rich brown. Then Embry got a hold of the catalog, and she started picking them out.

"Mommy," she'd say in her little eight year old voice. "This red would look pretty."
So I got it to keep her happy. She would run around my mother's house in it more often than I would. It brought a smile to my face, seeing Elliot and my little smiling.
Elliot called one night. He sounded so happy, and proud.

"Alissa," he said, his voice deep and husky. "I'm coming home later than expected. They need me to help out with the medic unit more."

"Oh," I murmured.

"You know I love you," he assured me. "I'll be home as soon as I can. Give my love to the girls."
He hung up.
I placed the phone back on its cradle and started to cry. I didn't know what had come over me. All I knew was that I was mad. I had two months to live. Elliot shouldn't be over there. He should have been with me, by my side, while I was dying. He's left me here to die, to go fight in a war THAT WE SHOULDN'T EVEN BE IN! He's left me, out children, alone.
I couldn't breathe. I started to get dizzy, and my vision blurred. The next think I knew, all I was seeing was black.
I heard Suzy's voice, soft, rational, calming. She was telling 'Mammy' that her mom was on the floor, not moving. My mother, Suzy and Embry's Mammy called the ambulance. She then came to my side, and held my hand.

"Alissa," she whispered. "It'll be okay."
I woke up in the hospital. IVs were sticking everywhere in my arms and there were tubes stuck up my nose. I was in pain. All I could focus on was the fact that Elliot would never come home. He was to addicted to the war. He didn't care that he might never say goodbye. He didn't care that missed him more than anything.

"Alissa," my mom soft whisper came from the chair next to my hospital bed. "Elliot is coming home."
I looked at my mother. She always knew what to say to make someone feel better.

"Thanks mom. I may be dying, but I'm not stupid," I managed to croak out.
She laughed, stroking what real hair was left on my scalp.

"He's coming home," she said.
The nurse, at that moment, came in and gave me another dose of morphine. It knocked me out before I could ask my mother every question on my mind. All I truly wanted to know was: Is Elliot really coming back?


"Wake up sunshine," said a deep and husky voice.
My eyes instantly fluttered open. I say his face for the first time in two years. I drank in every single feature, his dark grey eyes, his defined cheekbones, his boyish smile. Everything hit me like a shockwave to my head.

"Elliot?" I whispered.

"Hey sunshine," he smiled. "I hear you and health aren't having a good relationship."
I started to laugh, but ended up coughing instead.
Elliot bent down so he could place a gentle kiss on my lips. It was romantic and sweet. It made my heart flutter and brought a single tear to my eye.

"I've missed you," I croaked.

"I know," he said, his lips only an inch above my face. "I missed you too."
At that moment, I could feel my heart giving up, my lungs trying to stop working. I fought the urge to have my whole body shut down right then and there.

"Elliot," I whispered because that was all I could manage. "I-"
He shook his head softly.

"You don't have to say it." he said.

"I....Love.....you."I breathed.
Elliot placed a gentle kiss on my forehead. I gave him one small, weak smile, and then I closed my eyes for the last time.





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