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That Last Night

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I let my hands run over his face lightly, tracing tiny patterns onto his translucent eye lids and gray mocha cheeks, bones jutting out like branches of a tree. His shallow breathing was monitored by machines next to his bed. Dave was sleeping on the futon in the living room, I wasn’t supposed to be here right now, but I couldn’t stop myself. If he died right now, I wanted to be able to say those three words that I had so long before dreaded. I laid down in the crux of his elbow, allowing my breath to grow in sync with his, and drifted off into the realm of dreams. I dreamed of a life with him. I dreamed of life where life would be celebrated, and death would not be so looming, hanging over our heads like an angry storm.

I woke to the feeling of his fingers trailing over my arm, softly, like flower petals.
“Hey,” his voice rasped, “Nice seeing you here in the morning for a change.” I almost never stayed till dawn, more than that, I never snuck out at night and stayed till sunrise. Surprisingly, I felt no fear. No familiar tremble in my legs snuck into my belly, I was supposed to be here, and I would stick to the end.

“It’s our anniversary. How are you feeling?” I smiled tiredly at him.

“I know; I’m feeling wonderful, better than I have in a long time.” He smiled back at me, weakly, but full of more life than had been present before.
“Where’s Dave?”

“He heard you come in last night and left early this morning. He won’t be back until evening, will you stay?”

“Of course. How does eggs and o.j. sound?”

“Well, I’ve never been a fan of O.J. Simpson, but the eggs sound wonderful.” I laughed, “Now that’s what I live for, right there.”

“I know.” I smiled again. He twirled my hair around one of his fingers.

“Can I brush it today?” he looked up at me with his puppy eyes. This was entirely his day, if he wanted to brush my hair, I sure as hell wasn’t about to stop him.

“Yes. I’ll go get the chair and the brush.” His face lit up like the night sky on the Fourth of July. I lived for that look, it made going through these eight months easier. Jonny had just come home about four days ago; he’d decided to stop the chemo about three and a half weeks because he’d “come to terms” with the prognosis. I was left here to pray that he’d come home alive. I walked to the bathroom (I really had to go) and grabbed the chair that was in the dining room when I came out. Brush in my butt pocket and chair in hand, I went back to Jonny’s room where he was already pulling his head through one of his favorite Slasher t-shirts, his monitors had been shut off and the cord was wrapped up around the base. “You are feeling better aren’t you?” I was completely taken back, he usually never got out of bed.

“Yeah, here sit down; I cleared a spot on the floor for the chair. Come sit down and relax, you were probably scared to death the whole time I was gone.” He looked at me intently, as if trying to see an affirmation in my eyes.

“Yes, and if you ever do that to me again, sick or not, I’ll kick your butt from here to kingdom come; understood?” He nodded enthusiastically. I didn’t have the heart to stay mad at him, so I circled around the bed and sat down on the chair, peeling off my shirt and leaving only my sports bra in place. I flipped my hair over the back of the chair and closed my eyes. His hands ran gently over my scalp, roots to ends, softly like he were brushing an infant’s hair. My curls caught in the bristles, but he always eased them gently out, loving the feel of my thick course flames. That’s exactly what my hair looked like when it shimmered in the sunlight, like copper fire. I wanted to die it black, but I didn’t because he loved it just the way it was. He lifted sections of it off of my neck and gently trailed his fingers over my shoulders as he brushed my hair, one hundred strokes even.

“I’m glad you let me do this today. I love the way your hair curls when it’s brushed, you wear it messy, but if you’d let me, I’d brush it everyday, you look so much prettier when it’s brushed.”

“Really?”

“Yes, and there’s another reason I wanted you to let me do this today.”

“Yeah, and what’s that?” My eyes were still closed, I felt his touch fall off my skin, I waited for a minute before I opened my eyes.

“This is why.” He was down on his knee with a black velvet box in his left hand, the brush at my feet, and his right hand on the top of the box. I choked. I couldn’t make a noise, I could barely breath. “Jay… Skye Olivia. I know my future is kind of unknown right now, and I understand that we’ve both been through a lot these past eight months, but I want to make up for it. I want to make up for those three months I was gone by being with you for the rest of my life. Will you marry me?” I watched as he put the ring on my left hand, ring finger. It was a beautiful, simple, and elegant band with a delicate weave of symmetrical influences of sapphire and crystal, my two favorite stones. It was not a traditional ring, like so many people who showed off lumps of similar rock and gold glowing bands, mine was perfect for me.

I managed to mutter a throaty, choked, “Yes…” and suddenly his sinewy arms were wrapped around me, folding me to his chest. Tears ran down my cheeks, gently, like simplistic rivers of happiness, drowning out the pains of the real world, if only for a moment. I suddenly remembered, three years ago today I made a promise, that promise is the reason why I felt no fear in being here today. That promise is the reason why I said yes. All of it was because of that one promise.





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