James took his last breath while holding Emily’s hand. She never left his side, not even to notify family. That last precious intimacy belonged to them alone.
There was just one complication. Pain cinched tightly around her chest. She collapsed on his arm, still gripping his hand.
At their celebration of life, family shared anecdotes and read aged love letters their parents had written.
While on the other side of the lake, there was also laughter disguised by rustling leaves. The sun created a brilliant mirage: James and Emily on a blanket, sharing a picnic. There were no complications now.
The question came from an unassuming therapist with a kind smile. It was always difficult in the beginning, especially when you had to consciously make an effort to be vulnerable. Her husband would not do that. But, she was willing to step off the ledge into the abyss and be transformed in her self and in her life.
“I want to talk with him. I want to ask how he rates this marriage, what he feels and thinks about it. I want to know what he sees as weaknesses and strengths. I want to work out resolutions with him. I want him to put his arm around me again, to be in our marriage with me in a together sense.
“But I don’t want to hear how we don’t work, don’t fit, don’t match, don’t share all the same interests and that there are no ways to resolve our differences.
“We came together as soul mates. We’re soul mates still, but not in the same way. The stakes are higher. It’s more than dating and sharing interests. We’ve been through the hottest part of hell and we might be hanging from a twig on a cliff in that hell pit, but we’re moving forward. We share a history. We’re family. We weren’t that when we first started out. All we had was shared interests and attraction. That doesn’t last when the going gets tough. Our going got real tough and we are here together despite it. Our connection is stronger, if we don’t throw it away.”
Every time he snapped at her, or mimicked her as if she were an imbecile, or spoke to her with malicious contempt, she quickly slit his throat…in her mind.
Once, while driving, she indulged in a glance at his exposed throat while he slept. I couldn’t! She could never live with herself; could never be separated from her children; could not throw away the possibility of welcoming grandchildren into the world.
The feelings dulled in time, but remained her defense against a lover living in a hell that had metastasized and nearly consumed him completely. It would not consume her.
She often sat in her room in a rocking chair that she’d cuddled each baby in. The window revealed an expanse of meadow that contained a rainbow of flowers. Neighboring horses reached for the tender grass over the fence that enclosed their pasture.
“Mom, come have dinner,” her daughter said from the door.
“Will you save it for me?” She often felt hungrier after the sun set, after a day of having eaten nothing since breakfast. She’d lost sixty pounds.
“I’m worried about you.”
She didn’t hear. Beyond the meadow was a road. She awaited his return.