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I pressed my nose against her soft neck, inhaling her sweet, natural scent. The only sound in the dark room was her shallow breathing. We were lying together in my bed, and it felt perfect to me. I honestly could wish for nothing more than to be with her. She was the love of my life and everything I could ever ask for. This moment almost lasted forever. Almost.
The next morning we woke up and went to breakfast at her favorite diner a town over. She would always eat every bite on her plate, no matter the amount of food. She was so thin, I could never understand where she put it all. This day, she smiled, sitting across from me. She picked at her sausage and pancakes. I had already finished my food ten minutes prior while she was still making circles with her fork in her eggs. She tried to force the food down, but I could tell she wasn't hungry. Her eyes were sunken in, despite the hours of sleep we had. I reached over to hold her hand and she looked up at me, apologizing through her gaze. I smiled at her with reassurance, and we left the diner holding hands.
I held her hair as she threw up blood into the toilet the week after that. She sobbed as I rubbed the small of her back with my other hand. I reached my free hand up to wipe the tears streaming down her cheek. She quickly pushed my hand away to throw up again. When she was sure she finished, she stood up and walked over to the sink. I stood next to her and watched her brush her teeth in the mirror, her makeup dripping down her pale cheeks. Her skin lost color every day now, but she was still just as beautiful. I took a wipe from the counter and cleaned her face up. She smiled weakly back at me.
Lying in bed that night, I kissed her forehead and I whispered into her ear.
I'll go anywhere you go, Margaret. I promise, one day, we'll run away together. It'll be just you and me. I'm not going anywhere without you, and you'll do the same.
Two months later, she had turned into nothing. Her colorless skin clung to her body; you could count each of her ribs. I held her so close to me in fear she'd float away. I couldn't lose her. I needed her. She was the only thing in the world that mattered to me.
I no longer had hair to hold as she threw up blood into the toilet. I had a free hand to rub her back, and a free hand to pinch her bleeding nose with a tissue. When she stayed the night, I would wake up to my face in a puddle of her blood from her nose. I would gently wake her to get her cleaned up and have to do laundry at two o'clock in the morning to get the blood stains from the pillow case. She would cry and apologize over and over, but I didn't care. I would just kiss her and laugh. I still had her, that's all that mattered to me.
We went to the hospital almost daily now for her treatments. I would wait hours in the waiting room until she came out, tired and worn. I would bring her right back home and hold her, she'd fall asleep instantly in my arms. The sound of her breathing that filled the room wasn't the same anymore. It was rough and forced, she was struggling. I cried as I watched her fragile body sleep in my arms, anything but peacefully. She couldn't leave me, not yet.
It was as if every day she had the flu. She would cough and nothing could stop her. She would be crying in my bed with a burning fever. I would bring her a cold rag whenever the previous got warm and lie with her, holding her shivering, malnourished body close to mine. She could have five blankets on and she would still shiver. The sight was miserable; it was so hard watching her suffer.
I told her every single minute I loved her. I couldn't let her forget it. She needed to know what she meant to me. She was my world. I couldn't have her thinking she was anything less. She felt like a burden, I could tell, but she honestly wasn't. I wanted to care for her, it was my job.
Months later, her condition was so bad you couldn't recognize her. Her eyes were dark, her skin was white, her head was bare, her body was frail, and she could barely speak when she tried. She was still the same girl I fell in love with. She was still my Margaret. I loved her.
One night, she asked if she could spend the night alone in her own apartment. She hadn't in a very long time, and the thought of her being alone worried me more that anything else. I was so scared. Who would hold her when she was cold? Who would clean her when she was covered in her blood? Who would make her feel wanted? I could see how much it meant to her, she pleaded with her eyes. I agreed that she could stay in her apartment alone, just for the night, and I would be over in the morning to take her to get her treatment at the hospital. A look of worry struck her, but she complied and drove home. It took forever to fall asleep in my empty bed.
The next morning, I was up bright and early. I showered and got dressed, anxious to see her beautiful face. I knocked at her door, but she didn't answer. Why wouldn't she answer? I kept thinking that to myself as I pounded on her door, screaming her name. Why wouldn't she answer? She must just still be sleeping, she never woke up this early.
It was twenty minutes later that I used all my strength to bust down the door to her apartment. I ran inside and straight to her bedroom door. It was locked. I sobbed as I pounded on the door but heard not a single noise inside. I wasted no time and slammed myself against the door. It gave way in an instant.
She looked so peaceful lying there with that note in her hand. The blood from the deep cuts down both her arms had already seeped into her blankets, making them a deep red. Her body looked so small in the sea of tousled blankets. She looked so alone. I walked over so slowly, I felt as if it took me an hour to reach her. I kissed her forehead and my tear hit her cheek. She was so cold.
I wasn't going to let the cancer take me.
I'm writing this from where I am now. It was exactly a year ago today I found her there, stiff and cold in her bed. She didn't want me to watch her die anymore. I'm almost grateful she did what she did, because it hurt more than anything to watch the love of my life disappear slowly, piece by piece each day. I wasn't sure how much longer either of us could take it.
Maybe this doesn't matter now, but I made a promise to her before things got too bad. I promised her I would go anywhere she goes. I promised her we would run away together. This wasn't what I had in mind, but by standing on this stool with a noose around my neck, in a moment I will have kept my promise to her. I don't know where we go when we die, but we'll be together, I just know it.