Word Count 476
A Breathing Flesh
By Ray Shearer
Millie let him know it was all but about over and he should do the right thing and get on with his life. He suspected it was her sister Ellen who planted the seed of divorce in Millie’s ear. He would have no part of it. He didn’t want a life without her. He reminded Millie of the “for better or worse” part of their vows, and absorbed all of the heartache, torment, and grief she brought him with loyal-dog like tendencies.
He was too good to be true, and too good for her, she thought. She was glad he and Ellen were getting along, even if it was just for appearances.
He had never cared for his sister-in-law. Living with one man after another. Now she was living with them. Surely it was the right thing to do. She was family, after all, and Millie needed her-even if he didn’t want her there. Ellen, too, pushed him to begin a new life, join a support group, take a vacation. He encouraged Ellen to heed her own council.
He held Millie’s hand and recounted their first date. She had refused to hold his hand on the walk home. Hearing this, she blushed. He swore he would never let her forget it. How different things were then, how different their lives now.
He recounted their wedding day. She was beautiful. Looking at her now, she was still his beautiful bride and no one or thing would change that, even with her body frozen in the fetal position; their plans, not even a passing thought anymore.
Millie, in her third year with multiple sclerosis, was a prisoner in her body. The insurance had run out and home care was the only option. She needed round the clock attention. Her long-term illness became a family affair. Thus, Ellen had arrived to help assume the responsibility of this cold reality.
These last few months had been almost unbearable. Millie would have good days. She could form words and smile. What followed, not so pretty. This awful affliction was like a vicious dog, relaxing its bite only to get a better, bigger, more painful bite. Like right now-her body drawing closer into itself. Her face contorted. He teased her as he dabbed the saliva from her chin with a Kleenex. The pain he felt, seeing her robbed of her dignity, slipping, little pieces of personality evaporating. So fragile, pathetic: a wingless angel, lost, trying to find her way back to heaven.
Their eyes met. Those eyes, they could melt a glacier. She forced a smile and attempted to speak. He knew through her eyes she wanted to express her affections. He beat her to it. Whispered, “I love you too.
Lowering his head, he softly kissed her lips, while gently lifting the pillow from behind her head, and did the right thing.