Dying to Breathe
The summer we spent together was one I’ll never forget. We were so in love, it didn’t matter that we were only 18 or that Jamie wouldn’t make it to Christmas. In fact, we made our own Christmas. We hung stockings by the fireplace and sat in the summer heat in front of a fire, drinking hot chocolate and singing carols. We exchanged gifts and laughed. I loved to hear her laugh. When it was over, we lay on the couch and talked. We talked a lot during those months. She told me about her childhood and I told her about mine. We shared secrets that we wouldn’t tell anyone else.
I loved her more then I’ve ever loved anything or anyone.
At the beginning of August, we bought a dog. It was a small white dog that Jamie named Angel and it kept her company while I worked during the day. I remember coming home one day and finding Jamie and Angel sleeping on the couch, Jamie’s arm around Angel protectively as if he were a child.
The apartment we bought was a small one, nothing special, a living room, kitchen-dining room, one bedroom and one bathroom. Her dad was skeptical about us living alone, but he knew I wouldn’t try anything with Jamie. We made love once, on our wedding night, but never after that. That one night was so special, I don’t think either of us felt we could have recreated it. Instead, we’d lie in bed together at night in each other’s arms, dreaming of the life we’d love to live together.
Slowly though, Jamie began to fade. The colour in her face faded and she was weaker, but she never failed to amaze me with her beauty and her faith. Some nights though, I’d wake up and find tears on her cheeks, or I’d hear her crying softly in the bathroom. I never mentioned it to her though, I know she was trying to be strong for Hegbert and me, but it was hard for her.
On her worst days she wouldn’t be able to get out of bed. She’d lie there while I read to her from books I’d bring home from the library. She’d rest her head against my chest and listen with her eyes closed, smiling. I loved feeling her breathe. I think it reminded me of the short time we had left together.
On her better days, I’d come home to find her playing with Angel or cooking me dinner. She loved to cook, but some days she couldn’t keep the food she made down. I hated those days. Those were the ones when I began to doubt my own faith, and I’d have to drive. I’d drive for awhile, stopping once to cry in my car before driving home into Jamie’s arms.
She went from bad to worse. By the beginning of September, Hegbert and I had to check her into the hospital. She couldn’t walk, she couldn’t eat, and it hurt her to breathe. I didn’t go to university that fall, I told them I’d start next semester and they held my spot. Instead I spent my days reading to Jamie. I remember how upset she was that we couldn’t bring Angel in and how she’d put up a fight, but in the end, the doctors won.
One day, the doctor took Hegbert and I aside, hoping Jamie wouldn’t hear us.
"She’s getting worse," he said, "we’re all pretty surprised she’s held on this long, but she’s in a lot of pain. If she makes it to Friday we’ll all be pretty happy, but I wouldn’t count on it."
I looked at the calendar, today was Monday.
I took my car out again that afternoon while Hegbert stayed with Jamie. I drove for an hour before stopping on the side of the road. Without turning off the ignition, I lay my head on the steering wheel and cried. I cried for Jamie and what she would never get to do. I cried for everyone in the world who died young. I cried for Hegbert and the daughter and wife he had lost. Finally, I cried for the only girl I would ever truly love and all she was leaving behind.
After I pulled myself together, I started to think. I thought about Jamie and about what she was going through. I made a decision and drove back to our apartment.
The next day I re-thought my decision, making sure it was the right one. I loved Jamie and probably always would, but I had to do this.
I walk into her room, decorated in flowers that I’ve brought her over the last few weeks.
"Hey," I say, stroking her hair with my free hand. She smiles at me weakly and I feel my heart start to break.
"Hi," It hurts her to talk somedays and today is one of those. I kiss her hand gently.
"I’ve been thinking a lot Jamie," I say, softly, "I love you and I always will, but I can’t stand seeing you in pain. I wish I could trade spaces with you, but I can’t and it hurts me to see you this way." She nods, urging me to continue I swallow hard. "I think it’s time," I say, and look away, out the window.
I feel her hand slide onto mine, and she squeezes it gently with the little strength she has left.
"Thank you, Landon, for everything," she says, and I can feel her eyes on me, "but you’re right, I can’t hold on anymore. Please don’t hate me for leaving you." I look back at her, my eyes glazed over with tears. She puts her hand on my cheek, wiping away a stray tear.
"Baby, I could never hate you," I say, my voice shaking. I kiss her gently, feeling her breath shallow and strained.
"I love you so much," she says.
"I love you too," I tell her. She smiles at me gently and I wonder if I’ve done the right thing. With all my heart I want to make her better. She takes a deep breath and closes her eyes. I lower my head to the bed and feel her hand loosen its grip on mine.
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Mariana Sanchez.
Published on e-Stories.org on 06/24/2007.