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There he sat in his favorite armchair. It took forever for him to convince her to keep it in their bedroom.
“Sweetie, there’s just not enough room.”
“Yes, there is. We’ll be fine.”
But that plucky banter ended with her agreement soon enough and quite ironically she used the aged armchair more than he did. Often times she liked to be left alone in it, with a book or her writing. She absolutely hated it when he’d ask about her writing.
He came to the realization that he could finally read them. Where she kept them, he never knew; in a way he regretted never asking her where and in another he felt the same for forever trying to look.
It would only be a quick search. She didn’t have very many places to hide and he was positive that she had kept them in their room. He looked into her closet and under the bed; there was nothing else to look into instead of the drawers full of his research from work. He’d never found anything there.
He seated himself back into the armchair. Above the drawer was a large mirror. It was rather old and archaic, with a floral design carved into the wide frame. This mirror won him his argument, in a sense. He promised her that she can have any other piece of furniture in the room if she allowed him to keep the armchair. And so she agreed, after a short day of thinking. The next day she left for a few hours and returned with the mirror. He decided not to argue despite the fact he abhorred how it matched nothing in the rest of the room.
Dryness encompassed his throat and his vision began to blur. She looked into the mirror for the longest times; often she would sit on the floor and lean it against the wall. Sometimes she would touch her reflection. The most curious part of the mirror was that she’d never use it for vanity. She would simply sit on the floor, staring into her own tired eyes, and he never questioned anything he did.
Memories of her muddled his mind and the tears broke through his barrier of bravery. He pushed his palms against his eyes but he knew that there was no way to dam up the tears once they’ve started to flow.
She looked so melancholy in the mirror. A few times he would sit beside her and she’d smile a genuine smile. He knew her smiles so well that he could easily discern the fake ones from the genuine.
Why didn’t he see it before? Why was he so ignorant? She had been so elusive and isolated lately, living like a recluse. Yes, she liked her privacy, but days would pass before they exchanged words. Why had he never asked why?
The many times they’d sit in their bedroom in silence, why didn’t he hold her in his arms? She would’ve placed her head in the crook of his neck and—
Regret shook him harder, piercing his heart and forcing the tears to escape from his eyes faster than ever. His sleeves soaked up the tears that refused to stop their course.
The last time she was in front of the mirror, she was lying on the ground. Her face looked so serene. He walked in and lay beside her; she pulled his arms around herself, clutching his hand against her heart.
A few moments passed. Underneath his hand he could feel her faintly beating heart. He stroked her hair gently as she began to cry in silence. He watched her roll on her back and into his open arm.
As if speaking to the ceiling, she spoke, her voice flat and unwavering.
“I’m supposed to be dead.”
For a second reality was suspended. She was joking of course, she was…
She breathed deeply, almost struggling. She let go of his hand but he refused to let her go.
“I’m sorry.” She was nearly inaudible.
The night became turbulent as he rushed her to the hospital. She became weaker by the minute. Her eyes would meet his and guilt would overpower his grief. He squeezed her hand in desperation.
Only if he could hold her hand again; the hours passed quickly and he knew nothing anymore but her hand, the hand that needed his warmth. He was soon forced to leave her at the hospital, but he felt completely lost, even back in his armchair.
He never saw her suffer. There must have been something he could have done to help, to make everything better. Only if he had asked her, only if he had just the minute thought that she could possibly have been suffering; perhaps, perhaps he could have saved her….
Her heart kept beating when he left. She gave him that genuine smile as she began to drift to sleep. He could only hope that her heart would keep beating as she slept and she would dream happy dreams.
He would see her smile like she did in his memory.
A familiar high pitch broke through his sobs. He wiped his face on a dry part of his sleeve, lifting himself from the armchair with some difficulty. He felt for the phone in the dark, and hesitated for a moment to answer it. He cleared his throat and pressed the talk button.
Her voice did not come like he had hoped, but a nurse’s; she asked for him; he confirmed that it was.
“Sir, we must apologize…” His hand slowly dropped the phone, but he could hear her utter in her monotonous voice.
“…that we were unable to fully remove the drug from her system…” His mind calculated the result from his statement and quickly filled in the blanks. His heart responded with pangs of despair.
“… and she—”
He hung up the phone as the tears ran their course once again. The mirror remained on the floor: he decided to put it back on the dresser.
He gripped the mirror in anguish, feeling the delicate wood crumble in his palms. The frame fell away from the mirror. The small slips of paper that have forever resided in the mirror fluttered from what was left of the destroyed frame.
Spotting the nearest slip, he held in his fingers and read yesterday’s date neatly written upon it. He unfolded it delicately, as if fearing that it would become dust.
If something terrible ever happens to me, it’s not your fault. It never will be, I promise.