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Carpe Diem

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Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am home again
Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am whole again

Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am young again
Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am fun again

Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am free again
Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am clean again

However far away
I will always love you
However long I stay
I will always love you
Whatever words I say
I will always love you

 

Everything happened so quickly. It hit her with astonishing force, it was beyond her control. That’s what she constantly repeated to herself, and thank goodness she did so because she would still be wondering “What if?”. A date here – but dare not call it a date, “just two colleagues sharing dinner and a drink”-, a timid touch there, a kiss much needed - so painfully needed, like a substitute for oxygen. And there they were, having sex on Patty’s beige carpet on a rainy night.

She couldn’t believe it; it was almost surreal, too good to be true. Three months into the relationship and Ellen moved in, with her cupcake-baking afternoons, popcorn-and-movie nights and Sunday walks in Central Park. It was rejuvenating, a breath of fresh air. However, Patty was afraid she was going to lose her in the end. She always drove away people who cared about her. Until then, the only thing she could do was cherish these moments of pure happiness as if every day were their last one.

Nothing is given to you in this life without a price. And if by any chance it is, it’s ripped away in the cruellest way possible.

First, it was the fatigue and loss of appetite. Ellen dismissed it as a normal consequence of work stress. She had a good metabolism; she lost weight as easily as she put it on, she would be fine after the case was settled.

The following sign, though, they weren’t prepared for.

One sunny Saturday morning, a naked Ellen woke up next to her bleary lover but as she reached over to stroke the blonde’s cheek, she suddenly felt the urge to cough.

“Patty?” she asked nervously.

“Hmm?”

“What’s this?”

Patty merely stared back at Ellen, at the sight of spit blood in her palm. Neither of them wanted to acknowledge the fact that something was amiss.

Then came the vomiting and low back pain for no apparent reason. Until the reason became known and they were forced to face the truth.

 She couldn’t believe it when she heard the words come out of the doctor’s mouth:

“…pancreatic cancer… metastasized to the lungs... I’m sorry.”

She swallowed the lump in her throat and shut her burning eyes tight. It was so unfair. Ellen was young and smart, she had the whole life ahead of her. She was supposed to…

“How much…?” she trailed off in a quavering voice. The doctor frowned in confusion, waiting for a more comprehensible question.

“How much time?”

“Five months.” he stated gravely.

Patty yelped and covered her mouth with both hands to repress the sobs as the sorrow devoured every fiber of her existence. It was to no avail.

From that point on, every time she looked at Ellen, it hurt like hell. She was dying a little bit inside as well. Except that it wasn’t visible. Her pretty girl was the one physically aching and withering and for the sake of her, it should remain invisible.

Sadly, it was beyond her control. If only she could help her, somehow… So extreme was the degree of her despair that she, Patty Hewes, had even prayed to God to relieve Ellen’s pain and grant her some strength, despite knowing. Knowing there were no miracles.

She tried to take Ellen’s mind off of things, it was the least she could do. A one-month trip to Bali was just the ticket, seeing that the younger woman wasn’t bedridden yet. A helicopter pilot, of course, was on the alert 24/7 in case of emergency.

“You have no idea how much I love you. I should have said it earlier.” she confessed one night while they were laying back on the hotel bed and pressed a kiss on Ellen’s once beautiful, shiny hair. Now it was dry and brittle but she wore it down nevertheless. Mainly to hide her sunken cheeks from the outer world.

“Oh, I do. You never had to say it. I could feel it.” Ellen responded, snuggling into her partner’s warm embrace. And just for a second there, her life seemed perfect.

As for the remaining time, they moved to the beach house, basking in the serenity it had to offer. Ellen still managed to crack a smile from time to time, mostly to humor her dearest darling, who was more than simply caring.  

The last three weeks were the worst of their lives so far. Patty couldn’t stand watching her beloved girl slowly disappearing, she considered herself selfish for taking into account her own feelings. This wasn’t about her, so she fought hard to stay strong and give her all the support she needed. After all, that’s what she had been doing her whole life; biting the bullet and sweeping her wrongdoings under the carpet. For once, though, she was not the one to blame for Ellen’s agony.

“Patty, I’m cold-and scared. I can’t breathe. I-I think…” Ellen stammered one afternoon out of the blue, consumed with panic. They had returned back to New York, Patty couldn’t risk being so far away from the hospital now that Ellen’s time was waning.

The blonde moved sideways on the sofa and closed the distance between them to check on Ellen, who immediately buried her nails in the other woman’s skin, her teeth chattering and her whole body shaking like a leaf.

“No, no, sweetheart, don’t be. I’m here for you. It’s okay… I won’t leave your side, not even for a second.” she reassured her as she wrapped her arms around her into a protective hug and pulled her closer. Four months and twenty six days. The only deadline she had ever dreaded had expired.

She didn’t cry when the ambulance arrived.

Nor did she shed a tear when Ellen fainted on the stretcher. It was as if she was having an out-of-body experience, she couldn’t process the sight before her. She had just put on a frozen façade and braced herself for the worst.

“Patty?”Ellen murmured flatly when she woke up on the hospital bed the next morning.

Her partner stirred in the chair and opened her eyes.

“Oh, you’re awake! How are you feeling?”

“I guess I should say better, but that would be a lie.” Patty’s reflexive reaction was to turn away. “Look, I don’t want you to become miserable, ok? Promise me you’ll do your best to move on with your life.”

“I can’t, Ellen… I’m sorry. You are the only person who truly made me happy. Yes, I know this sounds cheesy but, honestly-I don’t think I’ll ever be able to laugh again.” she admitted  in a cracked voice. So it was time they said goodbye. “I have no life without you.”

“Babe, please. Give me your word…”
The younger woman took off her promise ring with shaky hands and put it in the other one’s palm, combing their fingers together. She had had them tailor-made for their one-year anniversary and surprisingly enough, Patty hadn’t made a fuss about it. The same Patty, who had freaked out over a simple “I like you.”. The same Patty, who was now breaking down in front of her, thinking she could use her hair to shadow the tears despite the conspicuous judder of her shoulders.

“Hey… Don’t cry, love. I can finally be free.”
Ellen gathered up every ounce of strength left in her skinny body to lift her arm and wipe the woman’s tears clumsily. She could feel the end drawing near and so did Patty.

Letting out a gut-wrenching whimper, the latter brought Ellen’s fingers to her lips and kissed them tenderly. “I’ll miss you so much. So much…”

“Patty, sweetie-“ the girl coughed, making a whistling sound Patty was sadly too familiar with “-when you go home, check-“she paused to inhale oxygen from the mask “-check the videos-on my phone.”

“What?”

“Just do it. Please.”

“Sure. Don’t worry.”

Ellen forced her lips to form a strained smile in response. “You know, I never thought-I could fall in love-with someone like you-but you too-made me really happy. I’m glad-“she drew in half a breath from the inhalator“-we shared all these moments, good and bad ones. I-I love you.”

Her hand slid out of Patty’s hold and fell limp on the bed. The older woman took a last look at Ellen’s chocolate eyes before the line on the heart rate monitor turned flat and her eyelids closed once and for all.

“Ellen…” she wailed. “I love you too, baby. I always will.”
Patty collapsed on the lifeless body, willfully refusing to let go when the doctor and some nurses hurried into the room. After the sting she felt on her shoulder, everything went black.  

Later the same day, she picked up her things and pieces and sat still on the edge of the bed they had placed her on until her chauffer drove to the hospital.

“My deepest condolences, Ms. Hewes. I-”

“William, don’t… Just-take me home.” she cut in, her words a barely audible mumble.

“Yes, Ms. Hewes.” he nodded humbly and opened the door for his boss. The woman made sure the partition was up before drowning her sorrows in a generous amount of alcohol.

As soon as she entered the apartment, Patty dropped the bags on the floor and ran upstairs to grab Ellen’s cell, struggling to control the tremor in her hands as she searched for the Videos folder. Indeed, there was a new file in there, created four months ago.

She took a deep breath and pressed “play”.

“Hi, babe. If you’re watching this video, I’m assuming I’m already dead. I wanted you to have this to remember the healthy, presentable Ellen. Not the sick one. Well, I’m not exactly healthy right now but, hey, I haven’t lost myself yet. Um… You know, I was planning on proposing to you although I’m not very confident you’d have said yes.”

“Oh, Ellen, I would have, I would have…” she muttered, imagining how breathtakingly exquisite Ellen would have looked in a wedding gown.

“I was waiting for the Peterson case to be over and then I would go buy the ring. Tiffany’s, of course. I had picked it months before. Ah, it was the perfect design for you; small stone, nothing too flashy. Buut, cancer got in the way. Anyway… There’s one last thing we never actually discussed and I believe you have the right to know. I have forgiven you, I mean it. You can get on with your life with a clear conscience. I’m not saying doing what you did was okay, but I’ve put it all behind me. No matter how hard I tried to hate you, I couldn’t keep lying to myself. The attraction was palpable. And when I realized it was also mutual, I plucked up my courage and decided to make the first move because you were too much of a chicken. Yes, you were, do not pout. Damn you, Patty, making me fall in love with you! It hurts to think I’m gonna have to leave you behind, it really does. It won’t be easy for you, you’re not as tough as you appear to be. I know you better than the back of my hand, I can tell you’re in pain…  However, you have to accept the situation and keep going. Please, please, do it for me. That’s the Patty I like, the bitch, the one who’s always up for a fight. So don’t give up this one. It’s my last wish. And stop crying, as I’m certain you are doing at the moment! Wasting your tears won’t bring me back. Go out there and win some cases, live your life. I love you.”   

Unfortunately, Patty was unable to fulfill Ellen’s wish. Shutting down the firm was a necessity; she was too listless to focus on a text and too proud to tolerate the compassionate nods. Her job no longer mattered. Nothing mattered. Eventually, she withdrew to the beach house, numbing herself with bourbon every night and clutching Ellen’s clothes against her chest until she was drained of tears. Given her lifestyle, she would be gone too, sooner or later. At least that’s what she was counting on to end her suffering.

On Ellen’s birthday, she spent the evening on the shore, letting the August breeze soothe her while the ripples were lapping at the pier. A shooting star caught her eye and she wished for the impossible before deciding it was about time she sank in the bathtub once again.

With water still dripping from her hair, Patty toweled her body and threw Ellen’s robe on, cuddling up with the girl’s pillow as she watched the video for the umpteenth time that day. Her lover’s ring was hanging from an elegant silver chain, as close to her heart as possible.

Everything smelled like Ellen.

Everything felt like Ellen. Sweet and soft.

But Ellen wasn’t there anymore.