The Only Choice. Short Story.

The days of the week are going all skewy, I don’t know why but I keep thinking today is Thursday, it is slightly disorientating.

One of the essays I thought was due, isn’t due till Friday so woo! Finished off the other one this morning, now all I need to do is finish the bibliography. If I could I would so hire someone to do it for me, I hate arranging the bibliography, I know it is necessary, but it is still annoying.
Some big things planned for Monday! Can’t wait personally. My exams also begin that day but that isn’t too important.

On with the show!

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The Only Choice.

It was only a short walk, just to clear his head. That’s all, just a short walk. The wind was cold and bracing, he hadn’t brought his jacket, why would he, he was going back soon. Tree’s swayed and rattled in the breeze as the wind angrily shook the last few leaves from their branches. The leaves he stepped on crunched and cracked, still crisp. She enjoyed stepping on leaves and so did he, after all, it was how they met.

He was in a hurry to drop in an essay and she wasn’t paying any attention and just walked right into him. Tess had later explained how ridiculous she felt, trying to explain why she wasn’t watching where she was going, that she was too busy stepping on leaves. He told her she could have said anything at all, he wasn’t paying much attention to her words. Her hair was a bright copper, gleaming in the weak winter light, her skin pale with a few freckles splattered across her small nose. Two high points of red bloomed on her cheeks then slowly spread as she tried to explain herself. He told her it was fine, really, it was and after a few seconds, they continued on their way.
He stopped, turned and did something impulsive, jogging after her, calling out, “Hey! Wait!” he jogged up to her and smiled shyly, “I didn’t catch your name” “It’s Tess, you?” “I’m Frank. Listen, would you like to maybe go out sometime?” she blushed again and that was the begining.

The first date had begun with complete disaster, the restaurant had lost their reservations and they had to go to a fast food place, it was bright and noisy, kids screaming and running around unattended but they had a good time regardless, talking and laughing. They had planned to go for drinks after the meal but it wasn’t necessary, they stayed where they were and talked and laughed. They were the perfect fit.

That had been nearly ten years ago, they had married quickly, at least, to their parents it was quick, but they knew. It was only after a year of dating when he proposed, on the anniversary of their first date. It was quickly arranged, fast and cheap, she didn’t want a big wedding and despite his insistence that he would happily pay for everything, she refused. It was a small ceremony, only their direct families and closest friends in attendance. The after party was larger, with relatives and acquaintances in attendance and it was perfect. Every had a blast and a little too much alcohol, but it was perfect. He had been looking through the albums the other day, wondering if he should bring them.

They had lived together, happily, since. Their lives were almost perfect and recently, they had been discussing the possibility of having children. Both wanted kids and both wanted to wait until they could provide for their children comfortably and they were fast approaching that stage. They had decided that they would stop using birth control and try for children when the headaches started. They were mild at first, but they worsened quickly, until she spent entire days lying in the dark. Her mother had migraines too so neither were worried, Tess had always thought it was only a matter of time until they set in for her. They happened far too frequently for her tastes, but not often enough to cause alarm. Until they began to get worse, stabbing pain deep in her brain as she lay in darkness, curled in a ball. Sometimes he sat with her in the dark, not saying anything, just being there for her. Secretly it was because he was afraid, afraid of what she might do the make the pain stop. She could not find a pain medication that made any difference and the nausea and vomiting soon followed the pain. Tess didn’t tell Frank about the vomiting trying to convince herself it was nothing, just a tummy bug, that’s all. The first few times it happened she wondered if she was pregnant. They had stopped with birth control but their sex life had taken a turn for the worse after the migraines started, she was tired for long periods afterward, they drained her. Soon the memory loss began, only slight though, and everyone was forgetful, right?  She had hidden these things from him, trying to rationalise away each symptom she had until the day he say she had trouble walking, holding onto things as she walked, not obviously, but every now and then she seemed to find it difficult to stand upright and leaned against a counter or chair. That was when he began to worry. He confronted her about it and, after her tearful confession of the symptoms she had been hiding, he hurriedly booked her in for an appointment. It was fast, but seemed to take all to long. The doctor tried to reassure them, but Frank didn’t buy it. The doctor had arranged for them to be seen quickly and Frank knew he wouldn’t have done so unless worried. Within three weeks they had a diagnosis. Brain tumours, a lot of them. They were inoperable and though they thought they might be able to treat it with chemotherapy and radiotherapy, they were told the chance of survival was slim to nil. It would most likely only prolong her life.

They had discussed it and she refused. She didn’t want to linger, her last few months full of pain. They didn’t give her long to live but they tried. Their last few months filled with many great memories, tinged with the knowledge that she would soon be gone. They had spent all their savings, after all, they didn’t need them for anything now. Her medical bills were taken care of and she didn’t have long left to live, the decision was almost made for them. Tess had tried to limit his spending, arguing he would need the money after she was gone, but he wouldn’t listen, she was more important.

He shivered as the breeze pushed him forward. She was in the hospital now, her final few days and then she would be gone. He needed some air, she wouldn’t miss him, she was asleep for now. He had only gone for a short walk, but found himself moving further and further from the hospital. He couldn’t go back could he? Go back and watch her die. He thought it might break him. How could he watch the love of his life slipping away. Frank began to walk faster, it was only to warm himself up, that was all. He knew she would be there for him if their position was reversed but still he couldn’t slow his pace. He wasn’t strong enough. It wasn’t right. How could something like this happen to them? They were young, in love. They were going to have children and grow old together.

He stopped at a set of traffic lights, waiting for them to turn. Cars drove past, ignoring him. They didn’t care about him, what he was going through, it was no concern to them, they had a thousand other things and more to worry about. He knew their families were would be there for him after she…after it happened. They had all become close before the news and closer after. Still, even with their support he wasn’t sure he would make it through.

The lights changed green, he stared at the little character, willing himself to take a step, make a move, do anything. After a moments pause, he turned and began to walk back towards the hospital. She would be waking soon and wondering where he was. He couldn’t abandon her. He needed to be strong for her, she needed to know she wasn’t alone, that he loved her.

The walls were white and the smell of the hospital was strong and pungent. Antiseptics, harsh and stinging. He paused at the entrance, near the fountain, it was warmer here. He watched the water spraying from the fountain, listening to it’s noise. It was really going to end soon. He sat down on a nearby chair and put his head in his hands, trying not to cry. There would be time for that later. He needed to be strong now, for her. He stood and went to the elevators.

When he entered her room she was still asleep, he looked at his beautiful wife, she was thinner now and obviously sick as her body tried to fight off the disease that was ravaging her but she would always be beautiful to him. He moved his hand towards her, careful to avoid the wires and tubes snaking from her body, it was unlikely he would hit one of them, but he was careful. He moved a lock of her hair, thinner now, the copper colour dulled slightly with grease, but still perfect, he tucked it behind her ear and leaned down, gently kissing her on the cheek. She opened her eyes slowly and smiled.

He sat with her, sometimes they talked but sometimes the silence was enough, he held her hand the entire time and, when she cried he held her and rocked her gently back and forth, they talked of their recent adventures, ignoring her impending death, they both knew it was coming and both had accepted it to some degree, but she was still alive, he didn‘t have the right to make her last moments sad, he couldn‘t stand the thought of betraying her, of her knowing she had been abandoned by him in her last moments. Life was unfair, but he would be here with her until the end, no matter what, he would be here, where he belonged.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 24 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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