Drea threw one of the couch pillows at the door. It made a muffled but potent thud. The cats, who had crouched low at the sudden explosion of sound, slunk beneath the couch as Drea whirled back to face him. “I came here – I came, even with the ghastly purpose of this place -”
Tim could hear her quick sharp breaths, far more potent than the sound the pillow had made. Her blue-gray eyes seemed almost to snap as she glared at him.
He gathered his own impotent breath, and said, into her pause, “There’s nothing ghastly about it. “
He needed to rest, to prepare for his next breath, and he could feel a coughing spell rising. Maybe it would hold off long enough that he could say what needed to be said, to help her to understand…
When she opened her mouth to speak again, he raised one hand in a waiting gesture, and reached for hers with the other, bringing her gently to the couch where they had spent so many hours – on his therapies, watching television, petting the cats and each other…and talking. Always, they talked.
“It’s not ghastly to me, Drea. I want to be here. This is where-”
“Where you want to die!”
She flung the words at him harder than she’d thrown the pillow; an accusation meant to hurt, the way she was hurting. But Tim didn’t accept her assignment of guilt. He’d never lied to her, and she’d gone to every appointment with him, over the last ten months. She knew; he’d made sure she had books and people to talk to, so that she would know. He couldn’t be responsible, if she refused to believe what everyone and everything had told her.
“Yes, ” he said, simply, a syllable forced out just ahead of the coughing coughing almost choked out by the blood rising from his ruined lungs.
Drea got up, striding away, returning with the box of tissues and the wastebasket, which she placed forcefully, as though that could erase the stark reality of cystic fibrosis. The fury in her eyes was gone, now, replaced by the telltale sheen of tears, and she pressed her teeth so tightly together that her jawline was trembling. She curled herself into the other end of the couch, facing away from him.
He couldn’t stop coughing, and, when there was a small space between spasms, he used it to draw gasping breaths, his entire body straining and starving for air despite the canula in his nose that delivered a steady diet of concentrated oxygen. His lungs were disintegrating into dried and useless chunks – they couldn’t digest enough to sustain him.
Maybe it was as well that Drea sobbed. Tim wanted to, but the coughing robbed him of his own tears.
He didn’t want to leave her. He didn’t want to die -here, or anyplace else.
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