It couldn’t be real. Just couldn’t be. Their whole lives lay ahead of them. Decades. Why did the doctor just say she had hours? That had to be wrong. His wife was barely thirty! How can this be the end? It couldn’t be. He wouldn’t believe it.
Two small girls crawled up beside their mother. The older lay her head on her mother’s shoulder. The other stared, watery eyed, and clung tighter to her doll. How could they get by without her? Their own lives had barely begun. They needed their mother!
He needed his wife.
His mother wiped her younger granddaughter’s cheeks and picked the child up to rock her. His two older brothers helped his wife’s mother to sit down beside her son. The young man tried to still be the rock, the foundation of his family. But losing his twin sister was almost too much for a man who had always seen himself as part of a team of two.
A weak voice called his name. It was like an angel whispered something into his ear. He glanced up at her, hardly recognizing the waif she’d become. Gone was the thick hair she so cherished. Gone was the flush on her cheeks. All that remained was papery skin sinking over bone and a roadmap of blue veins. Yet he still saw her as the most beautiful woman in the world, the woman to whom he pledged his undying love, who loved him, who bore their two children. She held a fragile hand out to him.
Without wasting a beat, he scrambled over to her and climbed next to her in the rented hospital bed. She leaned against him and sucked in a rattling breath. Every part of him numbed to the pain of the inevitable. The shock ensured he could still breathe. He had to, for their daughters. He had to take care of them. Their girls. His girls. They needed a mother to love them. Weeks earlier, she’d given him her blessing to find love again and to be happy, insisted she wanted that for him, and for their daughters, wanted someone to love all of them as she had. But he couldn’t betray their vows. He’d love her, and only her, until death did them part.
Then he’d never love anyone else again.
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