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Snow falling in December as the holiday season is upon Aspen Colorado. The cold wind blows through the curtains of a man’s home right in the middle of the busy town. People walked the snowy busy streets as the stores were crowded for some last minute shopping.
Gabe Anson set up the Menorah for the sixth night of Hanukkah as his stomach had butterflies for the night’s plans. His parents were coming down from New York to celebrate their family tradition like they do every year, but this year his parents were meeting his long term girlfriend Ashley for the first time.
His brown hair didn’t contrast from his green eyes and he’d dressed in a suit for the occasion.
All of a sudden, there was a knock at the door, and he saw his girlfriend Ashley. She was a pretty girl with blonde hair and blue eyes and she wore a pretty velvet skirt with a pink blouse and a light blue sweater with a heavy black winter coat.
“Hey,” she said cheerfully.
“Hey,” he said quietly, kissing her cheek.
“You seem quieter than usual,” Ashley observed. “I remember you like this when we first met but what’s wrong?”
“You know my parents are coming and it’s their first time meeting you, so I’m nervous,” Gabe told her. “But come in and sit on the couch. I have something for you.”
He reached out from behind his back and gave her a bouquet of roses.
“Oh how sweet of you,” Ashley sighed.
As they walked to the couch, Gabe coughed and Ashley noticed he was limping and his skin was very pale.
“You’ve been limping and coughing for a while now. Almost a year,” Ashley said. “You were perfectly healthy a year and a half ago. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, nothing,” Gabe said, wrapping his arm around her. “I’m fine.”
“No you aren’t,” Ashley said. “Tell me. Why do you seem sick?”
“Okay, I should tell you…,” Gabe began to explain.
The doorbell rang then, interrupting his thought.
“That’s probably my parents,” he said, getting up.
“Wait Gabe,” Ashley said, reaching for his hand.
He sat down.
“You know we’ve been dating for a while and I wanted to know if you’ve been thinking about anything,” Ashley said.
“Like what?” Gabe asked.
“The next step,” Ashley said softly.
Her light blue eyes locked on his face. They sat in silence and stared at each other for what seemed like ages before the doorbell rang again, startling them.
“Come on,” Gabe whispered.
They rose from the couch and went to the door.
When they opened the door, Ashley got her first glimpse of Gabe’s parents. His dad was tall like Gabe with brown hair and a touch of grey. Light green eyes and he looked every inch like Gabe. His mother also had brown hair that was pulled into a bun and her green eyes shone. They both had stern looks on their faces but with their elegant attire, Ashley only assumed they were as nice and wonderful as Gabe.
“Hi. I’m Ashley,” she said cheerfully.
“Oh son,” his father said. “You didn’t tell us your girlfriend was a preppy westerner.”
“Dad!” Gabe cried. “She’s nice and I love her. Don’t be so rude.”
“Well she’s…colorful,” his mom said bitterly.
“Well thank you,” Ashley replied, believing that was a compliment.
All four of them walked into the kitchen and lit the Menorah and said the prayer.
After dinner of potato pancakes, apple sauce and salad were served, Gabe stood, nervousness written all over his face.
“I…I have an announcement to make,” he said nervously.
Everyone looked at him and Ashley looked hopeful, thinking she knew what he was going to say.
“This isn’t easy, but you should know,” Gabe continued.
Ashley suddenly turned serious, not knowing what he was going to say. His parents were all ears with their stern faces.
“I have leukemia,” Gabe said softly.
The snow stopped falling. Everyone stopped moving. The candles blew out. The world and the room was still as everyone stared at Gabe.
He sat down and the room was silent as they ate the delicious meal. Gabe’s shocking announcement left everyone speechless and Gabe couldn’t make eye contact with anyone and said nothing more.
But after dinner when Gabe’s parents went back to their hotel, Gabe finally spoke to Ashley. In his bedroom they sat as Ashley noticed the effects of his horrible disease overtake his body.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” she asked.
“I didn’t want to worry you,” Gabe replied. “I really care about you and for you just to be thinking about the day I’m going to die scared me.”
“Well I’worryied now,” Ashley said quietly. “How much longer do you have?”
“I don’t know,” Gabe replied. “I hope to make it to the New Year.”
Ashley put her hand over his and whispered, “I really wish this wasn’t happening.”
“Me too,” Gabe said.
The last nights of Hanukkah were quiet and on the last night, Ashley gave Gabe his present. The card read: My dearest Gabe,
The years we’ve been together have been a joy. Every day better than the day before. I thought we could spend the rest of our lives together, but we can’t always control the diseases in this world. But remember that I love you. You will always be my lover no matter what happens to us. I don’t want to say goodbye when it hurts me too much to know I will eventually. I love you Gabe. Yours Forever,
“When did you write this?” Gabe asked.
“Last night,” Ashley said. “When I cried myself to sleep knowing our relationship is going to end.”
“It’s not going to end,” Gabe said. “Wherever you are, I will always be right beside you.”
“Easy for you to say when you’re still here,” Ashley whispered.
Her eyes filled with tears and she let it all out as Gabe rubbed her back. They sat on the couch, wishing they could stay in that exact position forever.
When she finally stopped crying, she pushed a gift wrapped box towards him. He opened it and was surprised by what was inside.
“A blanket?” Gabe asked.
“To keep you warm wherever you go,” Ashley said.
As they sat on the couch under the blanket the rest of the night, the only thought they had was how much longer they would have together.
Day after day, Gabe kept getting worse. On New Years Eve, Gabe was coughing non-stop and when he sounded as hoarse as ever, he croaked, “Ashley, come sit next to me.”
She sat on the edge of the couch and as weak as he was, he gently took her hand in his own.
“I need to ask you one more thing,” he continued. “Will you…”
As the clock struck midnight, Gabe stopped breathing and died right there.
“Oh Gabe,” Ashley cried. “Oh my Gabe. Why didn’t life let you finish your thought?”
She noticed his hand clenched tight and when she pulled his fingers free, she found a box.
She took the box and she felt her breath choking in her throat as if she knew what it was. She opened the box and there sat a beautiful diamond engagement ring. There was also a note slipped next to it. Will you marry me?
As his spirit was still lingering within the room, Ashley slipped the ring on and whispered, “Yes Gabe. I will marry you.”