End of a Love Affair
End of a Love Affair
She was still in bed when he returned from the appointment with his doctor. The nightgown she wore complimented her smooth skin and revealed the soft curve of her breasts. Her eyes were warm with concern.
“How did it go?” she asked.
“Fine,” he lied. “I’ll live to be a hundred.” He bent over and kissed her forehead. “Have you had your coffee?”
“I’ll get it.” He was glad she had waited. It was a ritual. Each morning when she awoke he brought her coffee, turned on the stereo and climbed into bed beside her. Then, as they listened to the music, they held hands and shared their most intimate thoughts. It was the best time of his day.
“So what did the doctor say?”
“That I was in fine fettle for a man my age, “ he lied again.
“Then why do you have so much trouble urinating?”
“Enlarged prostrate. Not unusual for a man my age. He gave me some pills.” The lying was getting easier.
He examined her familiar features. She knew him so well. Did she realize he was deceiving her? If so, she gave no sign.
She looked so beautiful, he thought. Was it possible she was nearly seventy years old? Not many women her age looked as good as she did. Or were his eyes clouded by memory? Did he see her as she had been rather than as she was now?
He thought of what the doctor had told him. A year more or less. The cancer was of a type that spread rapidly. There would be few symptoms at first but the malignancy would gradually worsen and the end, when it came, would be painful. Radiation and chemotherapy could extend his life a bit but it would also extend the pain.
As he sipped the coffee, the memories of their life together were vivid in his mind. The courtship had been rapid and the marriage an intimate sharing of both mind and body. They had been married for over fifty years, experiencing the inevitable ebb and flow of life. In all those years, their love had been constant. Neither of them had regrets. They had lived a full life together.
It had become difficult after she fell ill. Their roles had changed as she gradually became less able to care for herself. He was glad to fill the breach. It had been a joy to tend to her needs.
How would she manage without him, he wondered? She was long past the point of being able to provide for her own needs. Who would step in after he was gone?
There really wasn’t anyone else.
The children could not be depended upon. Of that he was certain. They had their own problems to deal with. It would only be a short time before they put her in a nursing home. They would do it grudgingly, of course, but there was no other realistic solution.
How she would hate being at the mercy of uncaring strangers, he thought. Who would bring her coffee then?
After he finished his coffee he kissed her goodbye, went to the computer and started to list the arrangements that needed to be made.
The next week he was busy putting his affairs in order. He saw a lawyer to be assured the legal aspects were covered, visited a funeral home to buy a burial packet and instructed the bank on what to do with their savings. When he had it all laid out to his satisfaction, he began to plan how he would spend the time left.
During the next few months, they treated themselves to more luxuries than ever before. They took a ferry through the Inside Passage off the coast of Canada and then a leisurely cruise to Mexico. He spent lavishly. No extravagance was denied them.
When she wondered about the money they were spending he quieted her concern with assurances there was plenty left to last them the rest of their lives.
His answer satisfied her. She continued to trust him absolutely.
He concealed the pain he was in and lied about his sudden inability to make love. After all, he said, I am seventy-five years old. We have had a terrific sex life. We have made love more often than we can count. Memories are enough.
On their final trip to Seattle, the pain was so bad he could hardly keep from wincing. Time was running out. He wouldn’t be able to conceal his condition much longer. The pills the doctor had prescribed to deaden the pain were useless. Much as he hated to do it, he cut the trip short and returned home.
The following morning he retrieved a 38-caliber pistol he had bought years before and stowed it in a dresser beside the bed.
On their last night together he held her close, pressed against her naked body and remembering the pleasure she had given him as he luxuriated in the familiar femininity. She was as beguiling to him as when they were young. He kissed her goodnight and they held hands until they drifted off to sleep.
As usual, she was still asleep when he woke up in the morning. He poured himself a cup of coffee and spent an hour on the computer taking care of the final details, including a note to the police notifying them of his intentions. There would be no loose ends.
She was sleeping when he entered the bedroom. He thought of sharing a final cup of coffee with her but abandoned the idea. He wanted to get it over with while he still had the resolve.
He was all she had. There was one else.
He sat beside her and gently pressed the gun to her temple.
She opened her eyes. As the fog of sleep cleared, she gazed at him with love and trust. He had never loved her as much as he did at that moment He must not fail her now.
“Sweet dreams,” he said.
When he pulled the trigger the force of the bullet jerked her head sideways. In moments blood began to seep from the wound and stain the crisp white sheets. Her eyes became glazed and unseeing.
When he was sure she was dead, he put the pistol to his own head. His last conscious thought was of grim satisfaction. He had done precisely what needed to be done.
It was the end of a love affair.