Updated: Dec 1, 2021
She saw him through the glass pane. Tangled up in catheters and bandages alike, there he lay, heartrendingly handsome and evidently fatigued. She practiced her smile one last time before knocking on the door. His tired, anguished face always lit up when he saw her walking towards him, as if, in that moment, all the pain melted away.
"How are we doing today, pretty brown eyes?", she asked in her cheeriest voice.
"Much better now that you're here, beautiful", he said, with that gorgeous smile only he could smile. "I was worried you'd be late, I had to put the flowers in water. Go get them, will you? Right by that table there."
"You know you're just piling on to the burden of the very gracious people at the hospital here, right? You don't need to get me flowers everyday. You should be getting royal treatment currently, not me", she complained only semi-sincerely as she walked over to get her purple orchids out of the vase.
The truth was, which he knew as well as she did, that she loved them. Almost as much as she loved him for keeping true to this little ritual he had initiated ever since the day they met for the first time, at the florist's. The hardest part though, was striving to not tear up every morning as she looked at him pluck away one petal to keep for himself before handing over her favorite flowers. It constantly amazed her how he would move entire heavens just to see her smile, and she believed she owed it to him to be strong for him.
"You're the queen of my heart, so technically you should always be getting royal treatment", he said, with his stupidly charming beam. "Anyway, you know you love it, I know you love it. Must we play this game every morning? I'm a patient, you know? You shouldn't tire me out like this."
She furtively wiped away a tear. It was absurd how he could make her feel so loved, and then break her heart, all in one breath. But she knew love seldom makes perfect sense. "Okay, okay. I give up. You're the boss. Thank you, I love them." With a quick peck on his cheek, she said, "Don't get me all blushed up now. I'll go check in with the doctor."
It had been a little more than two months since that fateful day that changed their lives. That morning was no different than any other; they exchanged schedules for the day first thing in the morning. Made plans for the evening. Even decided where would that week's date night be. She felt a little more in love that day than usual, with their four-year anniversary coming up. So she went over to surprise him, donned in his favorite dress, with this favorite breakfast. Only, when she got there, she found him on the floor, unconscious. The doctors could not figure out what happened, and for the first few weeks, he had remained comatose. Even when he did gain consciousness, no number of tests could figure out what went wrong, neither could they explain why he still wasn't well.
She found the doctor in the hallway, and he waved her over.
"Morning, Doc! Any news?"
"I'm afraid not. We're planning on performing all the tests again, just in case we missed something. Hopefully, I'll have something for you by tomorrow. I'm sorry."
"Please, Doc. Don't apologize. The entire team here has been so generous, we're very grateful for all that you're doing."
"Of course, that's the job. Although I must say my staff is extra motivated in this case", the doctor chuckled as he saw two nurses giggling away to his ward.
"I only hope we'll be able to get him out of here before this 'motivation' results in my singlehood", she managed a weak smile.
She looked at the flowers in her hands struggling to hold back a cry. She was tired of this new, morbid morning routine they were forced into, and with no answers in sight. All she wanted was to be back at her place, watching The Notebook, with him pretending he wasn't tearing up and her falling more in love with him than ever. With a faint sigh, she made her way back into his room.
"Nothing?", he asked without looking up from his book.
"Nothing yet. Don't worry, it's only a matter of time."
"I'm not sure how much I have left, but sure they can take all the time they want", he laughed.
"I thought we agreed on you not being a wisecrack, idiot. You know it's not funny. One more and you'll have it for real", she retorted, visibly indignant.
"Okay, okay. Is it too late now to say sorry?"
"Justin Bieber. And yes, it's too late to apologize, it's too late."
"Ah, Timbaland. I haven't gotten around to this one in a while."
Usually, the first few days of any budding relationship have sporadically timed awkward silences and nervous laughs. But these two differed in this aspect like with everything else about them. They dedicated their first few weeks to exchanging playlists and discussing music, a passion they ardently shared. They'd break into song in the middle of conversations, leaving everybody around them amused, but also, a little more hopeful about love.
"Okay now, be a good kid. I'll be back in the evening. God, why did they have to schedule the presentation today, I think I'm going to be sick", she said, getting ready to leave.
"Don't worry, boo. You'll be great, I know. And even if you're not, they'll just fire you, and the you can spend all day with me", he said, grinning deviously.
"Now now, I wouldn't want to hamper your chances with all the pretty nurses here by hanging over your head all day", she laughed. She loved how he always managed to take the pressure off, even if just for a second. It was one of the many things that drew her to him in the first place all those years ago.
"Aw, you know I only have eyes for you, babe. Off you go now. The pretty nurses are coming", he joked.
She absentmindedly made her way to the lift, thinking about how their lives had changed in an instant. She did that a lot these days, thinking about life, and all its injustices. Why criminals and perverts got to live on while the angels of the world were struck down with sickness, she could never understand. She truly believed he was exactly that for her, her angel. She never felt as safe anywhere than right by his side, never so loved as when she was with him. Thinking about nothing and everything, she was just about to step outside the hospital when somebody from the ward staff caught up with her.
"Ma'am, please come with me immediately. There's an emergency", he said panting.
She ran up the staircase with him, panic-stricken and terrified. She pushed past people to get into his room, only to find him smiling - waiting for her smugly.
"Come closer quick, I need to tell you something."
She stepped closer so he could whisper into her ear.
"You look crazy beautiful today, I still can't believe I got this lucky. I love you, my sweetheart."
"YOU ABSOLUTE MANIAC! WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU!? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW SCARED I WAS!?", she was trembling with fury.
"If nothing saves us from death, may love at least save us from life. You taught me that. Far be it from me to go against Neruda and live another day without letting you know how much I love you", he said with the sincerity and innocence of a child.
She looked at him, completely perplexed for a second. She could not imagine ever loving anybody as much as this man in front of her, quirks and everything. He made her crazy, but he made her crazy too. She broke into a smile eventually.
"Okay, Pablo. Only because that was too great a line to be mad at, and because you're adorable, I'll let this slide. But next time, just use the phone, okay? You almost gave me a heart attack."
"Good thing we're in a hospital then, no?", he laughed.
"You really are an idiot. I'll see you in the evening. Don't do anything I wouldn't approve of." She gave him a big hug, and with a quick kiss, left for her office.
With only fifteen minutes left for her presentation, she was doing a final revision, when her boss stepped in.
"Everything ready? You know this is a big one, we have to close this today."
"Absolutely, all set. Rest assured, we will add this client to our roster by the end of today."
"And that attitude is precisely why you'll always be my number one!"
"Haha you're too kind, thank you."
"And, if you don't mind me asking, how is he now?", her boss asked delicately. Everybody at her office had known him for years, and loved him almost as much as they loved her. They knew how difficult this time had been for her, and had been immensely supportive. The only reason why she was still coming to the office and handling her workload was because he insisted on it, knowing how much work ethic meant to her.
"Unfortunately, the same. They'll carry out more tests and hopefully we'll know more soon", she sighed.
"You know we're all here for you, right? I really wish you'd take your sabbatical. All of this will be waiting for you when he's better."
"We've had this conversation, boss. I really appreciate it, but I need this right now. It's a good distraction for a few hours everyday. And you know he'd just end up feeling guilty and worse if I left now just for him."
"Yes, I remember talking to him about it when I went to visit him last. He's really precious, that one. You two make me believe in magic again. Anyway, you kill it in there. I'll be waiting with the champagne."
Just as her boss stepped out, her phone buzzed. She opened her notification to see a picture he had sent. He had somehow gotten the nurses and the ward staff to fashion makeshift placards out of used medicine boxes, reading messages like 'You go, girl!' and 'Do great, champ!'. In the center of all those smiling faces of the hospital staff, he beamed with his thumbs up and his eyes full of love.
It never ceased to astound her how he could make the grandest gestures for the littlest things in her life. Never before had she seen anybody so devoted and giving to ensure another person's bliss. The fact that he still continued the same as before, despite the misfortune that had befallen him, made her wonder what she had done to deserve such unconditional, unfaltering love. She shot back a quick reply and made way to the conference room smiling, now assured nothing could go wrong.
"Three cheers for one of the best associates this firm has ever seen. Hip hip hurray!"
The entire office had assembled into the conference room now. Champagne was poured and music was cranked up, and the ambiance was festive as Christmas.
Her boss bid everybody quiet down for a moment.
"A toast. She was only a fresher when I first met her. Today, she has closed the biggest account we've had in a decade. And I'm certain within a record time too. They couldn't have made up their minds faster. Please raise your glasses to our shining star!"
"Hear, hear!", they all exclaimed.
Amidst all the celebrations and congratulations, it took her a while to get back to her phone in her cabin.
19 missed calls. 12 unread texts. All of them reading - "Come immediately. Emergency."
She tried calling the doctors and the staff back, but received no answer. She hurriedly left for the hospital, trying to brush away the sense of trepidation that was building up by the second. "He's an idiot. Some pranks should be illegal, by law. He's going to have it this time, the inconsiderate ass."
She ran up to his room, desperately looking around for familiar faces. She saw a crowd of the hospital staff gathered outside his room, and pushed her way through inside.
She saw his bed. And him. Lying down. Covered with a dreary white sheet. Doctors and nurses, disconnecting the catheters, stopped midway when they saw her.
"We tried reaching you. It was all so sudden and quick, there was hardly any time. It was a cardiac arrest. We tried our best, but there was nothing we could do. He passed a little less than an hour ago."
She stood there, aghast. She wanted to say something. Do something. Scream or cry till her lungs gave out. But her body was incapable of any sound or movement. She stood there, her eyes fixated on that shape beneath the sheet, the love of her life, the only person who could ever stir her soul, or steady it, now gone. Forever.
A nurse handed her something bringing her out of her trance momentarily.
"He had told us about this weeks ago. He was going to give it to you on your anniversary. I'm so sorry."
She looked down to see an ornate box with a note. She opened the box to see hundreds of purple orchid petals, some dried up and some fresh. But all of them meticulously preserved. And in their midst, a beautiful, platinum band with a single diamond. The ring of her dreams.
The world went deafeningly quiet for a moment. Her breath caught in her throat, and she felt like she was going to drown. Sink, in this river of inexplicable sorrow and grief. She hesitated for a second, and then opened to read the note.
My darling loved one,
I keep reminding people to believe in the magic of the universe. Little do they realize I can only say it so easily because I found mine. My soul, having wandered aimlessly for most of its life, has been aching for the light that you are.
Wherever you may be, whatever you might be doing, there will always be magnets in my bones for the iron in your blood. In your eyes, I will always find gravity; and in your scent I will always smell love.
I guess, what I'm trying to say, and what I want to spend the rest of my life telling you, or at least try telling you, is that, there could be a sky full of stars, and all I'd try to find would be you. My atoms love your atoms, that's the kind of celestial chemistry we have. And even if you ask me after years, if I still love you after all that time, I'd say always, because every cell in my body tells me, that you're my happily ever after.
Do me the honor of making me the happiest man in the world, and I'll try to spend my life making you the happiest woman in the universe. Amidst these petals, one for each day I've known and loved you, I hope I could make the first of your many dreams come true.
She finished reading as a single tear dropped onto the paper. She got up, pulled off the sheet, and looked at his face. His handsome, loving, kind face. She kissed him one last time, and slid the ring on her finger.
And then, like a wounded animal, she let out her first cry.