Broken Promises

She looked at him, amazed, with pure joy. It was as if she’d seen him for the first time. For her, he was like a luminescent spark appeared after rubbing two rocks together for countless minutes. Her eyes admired every single bit of the man she knew so well.

She was leaning towards him in her bed, her frail body almost trembling with emotion. Her glance traced the wrinkles around his eyes, and down his cheeks, recognising every single mole. After all, she had memorised his face for her whole lifetime. She could still see the beauty he emanated.

He was desperately clutching the frigid metal rail of the bed. His lips were formulating words of adoration and trust. She was his anchor.

He was wearing his best outfit, ironed freshly with care by his experienced hands. The elegant black suit had only been worn on one occasion before: their wedding. His hair was jelled back with care, and his glasses shone under the fluorescent hospital lights. He always wanted to look at his best for her.

Tears lined his eyes but never rolled down his cheeks, for he would blink them away profusely. He needed to be strong for her. He lost track of the words he expressed as she lifted her back off the mattress to acknowledge the distance between their bodies from a closer angle. He was sitting on a plastic chair placed right next to her, with half of his ageing frame leaning onto her bed for support. The walking stick lay next to his feet.

She was smiling, despite the fact that each inhaled breath was so excruciatingly long and painful that her shoulders would almost lift above her ears. She took no notice in her laboured breathing, and kept her smile. She couldn’t stop gazing at him, just like a little boy seeing the sun rise for the first time.

Gripping the bedrail with his calloused fingers, he pulled himself up to stand. Her hand immediately flew to his arm, holding it with longing and urgency. Was she afraid he would never come back? The truth was, she no longer found reassurance looking at the ring on his finger. It used to signify eternity and timelessness, but now time was catching up. The ticking in her mind lingered like a depressing reminder: tick, tock, tick, tock…

She didn’t want that clock to stop.

“I’ll warm up your soup,” his voice was tinted with sadness as he glanced at the microwave across the room. “I’ll be fast, don’t worry.” It sounded like he was trying to reassure himself now. He stumbled slowly towards the microwave with a bowl in his hands, leaving the walking stick next to the bed. His muscles pulled and ached as he tried to cross the room with more urgency: he had never liked to keep her waiting. Not at the age of eighteen, and not at the age of eighty-seven. Age was no excuse.

Opposite her, the silhouette of her husband inching towards the microwave made her realise how fast time had passed. She used to think that someone with such a kind heart would never grow old, would always preserve the energy to wonder at beauty. She slowly leaned back against the pillow. Her breathing was softer now.

He came back with the soup, his eyes looking more tired than before, but his pupils were still surrounded by the same cerulean love he held for her. She tried to open her mouth to speak, but her words never made a sound. He urged her on with new desperation.

“You’ll get better don’t worry. I know you will.” He repeated the sentences without pause, as if they were a lullaby. He would say them until they came true.

Deep down he knew it was not going to happen. He almost hated her for falling so sick without him. At the age of 40, they had promised each other that they’d have died together, because none of them could live without the other.

But something about the way her eyes looked at him now, told him the promise would be broken.


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