With leaves fluttering and the trees swaying in the wind, Mara lay silently on his chest, listening to his heart thump rhythmically against her ear.
She had her left hand over his stomach and her right hand on his head, her long fingers running in and out of his hair.
She felt his left arm tighten around her back and his fingers slowly and lazily caress her ribs. It tickled and aroused her at the same time and she sighed wishing it didn’t have to end like this.
She was also grateful that their last day together was one that she would re
-play and relive over and over.
His breath warm on her forehead almost lulled her to sleep and she determinedly fought against the possibility.
How could she sleep when these were the last minutes of their time together? She wanted to savor every second, have it imprinted in her brain for future purposes, if there was a future where she was going next.
She knew only the memories of their time together would keep her warm when the cold nights came calling and when she missed his scent so bad that it hurt.
The thoughts of what it will be like caused her hand to clench on his shirt and a painful moan escaped her throat.
“What is it, baby?” He asked in concern, his hand rubbing her side as one would when trying to calm down a baby.
“It hurts so much,” she couldn’t lie to him and neither did she want to. She snuggled even closer to him which was a hard thing to do seeing that there was not even space for air to pass through between their bodies.
He tightened his hold on her, communicating his understanding of what she meant by her answer.
“I know, I know.”
Mara wanted for this not to be happening, for it not to be even a possibility but she was also pragmatic and real with herself.
She knew what she was getting into when she decided to stay. Like she was fond of saying, falling in love is accidental but staying is a choice, she had fallen for him, a man who made her believe in life again. Her only regret was the pain that she had caused him and which he would continue to feel after she was gone.
She had known that theirs would be a tale of star-crossed lovers but she chose to stay nevertheless. It was better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. Or so she had convinced herself.
However, she hadn’t anticipated that it would be this hard when the time came to part ways.
She could feel her essence diminishing with every tick of the clock and she was angry that there was nothing she could do about it. She only prayed that he wouldn’t remember her as she was now; so weak and about to float away with the wind, leaving nothing of herself, only his memory of her.
He had been her anchor in this world, a safe haven when everything she had previously known had ceased to exist and she needed a new home. Even without knowing anything about her, he had welcomed her, shielded her and allowed her to grow and later wither within his world.
He felt her sigh again.
He couldn’t remember how his life had been before the day she had shown up at his doorstep, soaked to the bone and shivering despite the warm weather. He had taken one look at her and asked her to get inside where he had shown her a bathroom and supplied her with warm clothes.
And without knowing, he had also given her his heart. He had given her a roof over her head, and she had given him a home.
He hadn’t known that people could communicate without words and that a simple action of welcoming a stranger into his house would end up being the best and the most painful decision he ever made.
And now here she lay, her heart weakly beating against his chest and her breath warming his skin, minutes away from saying goodbye, forever.
Forever seemed insignificant in comparison to what he knew would follow her departure. They had discussed what would happen, she had made it sound simple but he knew that it was anything but.
Slowly by slowly, Mara had watched her light dim but he still held hope that they would find a way to bring her back. She had had to give up some of her functions so as to prolong her stay with him but the clock had been ticking all along. Now they were at the end and no amount of willpower, prayers or tears could keep her here with him any longer.
He felt her breathing slow and he involuntarily panicked. He had thought that he would be ready to let her go when the time came, but he had been wrong. He would never be ready to see her go. He, however, knew that he couldn’t show fear or doubts.
They had been through this and he had made her a promise; he would not shed a tear when the time came and he was determined to keep it.
“I will always love you,” Mara said, her voice weak and she knew that her time here had finally run out. With the last of her strength, she raised herself up and looked at his face. She wanted to have a look at him for the last time, to have his eyes as the last thing she saw before she closed hers.
I will always love you, he wanted to say but the words felt pointless. Nothing could explain what he felt at that moment, no words could convey the extent of his emotions.
He saw the last of her fade away and she slumped onto his chest. Her grip on his hair loosened and her breath, previously a steady warm flow, was no more.
He will never remember for how long he lay there, her lifeless body against his, tears blurring his vision and his fingers digging into his flesh.
He will never remember fighting with the waiting paramedics when they tried to take her away.
He will never remember finally getting up and carrying her in his arms to the waiting ambulance that had brought them here and accompanying her to the hospital.
What he will remember is the sound of her laughter, her face and the feel of her skin against his, and he will miss her so much that his chest will hurt.