You wished out loud to see the moon again. So I waited for night to come, then gathered you in my arms.
I took you from the bed, took you from the glowing amber monitors, the oxygen tubes and IV.
I took you from the doctor who spoke in maddeningly neutral tones as he reported your internal systems were shutting down, one by one, as if you were a machine that had broken.
I took you from your two sisters, come from California to be beside you in your final hours. Who lovingly fluffed your pillows and held your hand, while behind your back they fought over who will get which trinkets and knick-knacks in your home.
I spirited you from the room, from the oncology ward, from the hospital. Bundled you in the front seat of my ancient dusty pickup, wrapping you in blankets and my heavy work jacket — the one you once loved to wear because you said it smelled like me in winter and always made you feel safe and warm.
We drove from the city lights and out into the night, ending up at the lake, at the place where, as teenagers, we first made love. Turning off the engine, I slid across the seat and held you. You felt delicate and so small; white parchment flesh, hardly more than skin and bones.
Thirty-one years ago, I asked you to marry me here. You said no. You said we were too young.
We were never married. But in the weeks and months that followed, I asked again and again, until it became a joke between us. Remember? I’d wait until you were good and angry with me, as angry as you could possibly be, then I’d pop the question. Each time, every time, you would spit fury with a different excuse for shutting me down. No two ever the same and each one better than the last.
“Because you are too stubborn.”
“Because you are impossible.”
“Because you have no taste in music or art, and you snore.”
“Because you never listen to a word I say. Whenever I speak, it seems like you’re a thousand miles away.”
“Because there’s nothing about you that isn’t wrong.”
Resting your head against my chest, you watch through the windshield as the moonlight breaks above the treetops, shining a contrail of silver across the dark water of the lake. I breathe in the scent of your hair and listen to your own breath that comes in ragged fits and starts.
“Caroline, will you marry me?”
“No,” your answer comes as a sigh.
“Because you sneak into hospitals at night and kidnap helpless women from their beds. My mother was right, you can’t be trusted.”
Then you turn and gaze at me with those eyes of yours, tiny flickers of gold in pale blue, “A woman would have to be crazy to fall in love with you.”
Your lips touch mine for the last time; as brittle as a leaf in Autumn and so, so cold. You are silent then.
The moon rises and is brighter now, casting the world outside in a ghostly veil of light. Shadows draw back beneath the trees and all is still.
Caroline, I am a shadow and you are the moon. When you are gone, I will disappear in this world. All that is left of me will be lost.
But for now, you are here and I am by your side. I will be with you until the end.
Because I am stubborn.
Because I am impossible.
Because I will love you always.
Nicholas Lee Huff is a writer and small business owner living near Seattle, Washington. He cannot be trusted.