A RASPY VOICE WAKES me up. That’s not quite true because I don’t really sleep anymore. My body hovers in that place that’s not exactly sleep and not exactly awareness. After the last year, I’m not sure if I’ll ever get a solid night’s sleep again.
“Yeah? What is it?” I’m instantly on high alert.
“I think it’s time. I want to go to the hospital.”
The words I’ve dreaded for weeks punch me in the gut. But I refuse to let him see it. “Yeah, okay. Let me get dressed.”
“Cate? I think you need to call 911. I’m pretty sure I can’t get up to walk.” He inhales and it’s then I
hear the faint rattle deep in his chest. Oh, god, how will I ever get through this?
“Drew?” I lean over him and press my cheek against his. What used to be firm flesh is now nothing but skin wrapped around bone. My hands latch onto to his shoulders and it’s much the same. All the mass has vanished, stolen by the disease that ravages his beautiful body and soul.
“It’s going to be fine, Cate, I promise. Things will be good. Just call 911.” He struggles to clear his
Always the positive one. I want to yell and scream, stomp my feet and smash things. But I do none of that. I look into his cloudy blue eyes that were once so clear and stunning and only nod. I pick up the
bedside phone and make the call, asking the voice on the other end to tell the paramedics not to use the sirens or flashers and explain why. When they arrive at our house, I lead them to Drew, and then follow the ambulance to the hospital. On the way, I make the dreaded family calls.
Hollow. That’s what I am as I watch them wheel Drew in on the gurney. Everything has been ripped out of me—my guts, my heart, my soul. I bite my knuckle as I stand there. He knows what’s happening. He’s a doctor. He’s charted everything out and explained it all to me, though I’ve refused to believe half of it. Why did he have to be right? My mind only wants to accept certain things. And this isn’t one of them.
When we finally get to a room, he sleeps. The deep purple smudges beneath his eyes are a stark contrast to his pale skin. It reminds me of a time when he used to be so tanned. And his hair, which is downy fuzz grown back from the last and final round of failed chemo, is so different now from the thick mass of messy waves that were always sun streaked, even in winter. In this state, little more than a skeleton, he’s still my perfect Drew. And I ask myself again, for the thousandth time, how am I going to deal with this?
Later in the day, when Drew wakes up, he beckons me to his bedside.
“Cate, you know when I first saw you at that party, I knew you were my one. My it girl. And then you put up such damn resistance to me, I didn’t think I’d ever get you out on a date. But I did.”
I suck on my lower lip, trying not to outright sob as I remember.
The left corner of his upper lip curls, his little trademark that I love so much. It plows into me like a
damn tank and I want to crawl into the bed next to him and cling to him forever.
“I knew if I could get you out on a date, I could win you over. Thank god I did. You’ve been my life,
Cate, my reason for being. I’m only sorry it all turned out like this. This,” and he motions with his hand up and down his body, “wasn’t part of my plan for you. I wanted the whole deal—marriage, and we got that, but I wanted kids, an SUV, a big house, and grandkids, too. I’m so sorry I fucked it all up, babe. But listen, I love you more than my life. And hear me out now. I want you to go home.”
I nod and suck back my tears. “Okay. I’m going to go home and shower, because I’m kind of rank. I
love you too, Drew. More than I can say.”
“Cate, stop. That’s not what I meant. I want you to promise me something, okay? Swear to me right
now.” His voice is firm, much stronger than it has been in days.
“Okay. What is it?”
“I want you to leave this room now and go home, but I don’t want you to come back after you shower. I want you to say your goodbyes to me right here, right now.”
“What!? What are you saying?” My heart stutters in my throat.
“I’m saying what you think I’m saying. I love you so much more than having you sit here by my side for the next few days. I don’t want that. You swore to me, Cate.”
“Drew, I can’t.”
“Yes, you can. Now, go. Turn around, walk through that door, and don’t ever look back. All my stuff is boxed exactly like I asked you to, and you know what to do with it. My parents and yours will be here, along with Ben. But you, you don’t need to be here. I don’t want you to be here. I want you to remember me as I was, when I was healthy, during our best times. Now, look at that door and take your first steps into your new life, Cate. And promise me you’ll live. Just live, Cate. Do it for me.”
One day, on her way home from work as a sales manager, A. M. Hargrove, realized her life was on fast forward and if she didn’t do something soon, it would quickly be too late to write that work of fiction she had been dreaming of her whole life. So, she rolled down the passenger window of her fabulous (not) company car and tossed out her leather briefcase. Luckily, the pedestrian in the direct line of fire was a dodge ball pro and had über quick reflexes enabling him to avoid getting bashed in the head. Feeling a tad guilty about the near miss, A. M. made a speedy turn down a deserted side street before tossing her crummy, outdated piece-of-you-know-what laptop out the window. She breathed a liberating sigh of relief, picked up her cell phone, called her boss, and quit her job. Grinning, she made another call to her hubs and told him of her new adventure (after making sure his heart was beating properly again).
So began A. M. Hargrove’s career as a Naughty and Nice Romance Author. Her books include the following: Edge of Disaster, Shattered Edge and Kissing Fire (The Edge Series); The Guardians of Vesturon Series (Survival, Resurrection, Determinant, reEmergent, and Beginnings); Dark Waltz, Death Waltz, Tragically Flawed (Tragic 1), Tragic Desires (Tragic 2), Exquisite Betrayal, Dirty Nights; and lastly Freeing Her, Freeing Him, and Kestrel—all part of the Hart Brothers Series.
Other than being in love with writing about love, she loves chocolate, ice cream, and coffee and is positive they should be added as part of the USDA food groups.