Melina can’t go out anymore. She’s been housebound for months now, but it’s been more like bedbound the last few days. All three of them (Janice, Melina and her father) know she’s getting worse, but no one wants to talk about it. And of course they don’t, because they don’t want to accept the truth… the truth that Melina is dying.
So with Melina so ill and barely able to move, Janice just sits by her bed and holds her hand. And she talks to her wonderful girlfriend, savouring every moment they have… because any moment might be her last.
They talk about the past. The past they had together when they were young and best friends and did everything together. The past when they were just normal young girls, when life was good and fair and they were actually happy.
One day, Janice sits beside Melina’s bed and holds her hand. Melina is so pale, but her eyes light up as Janice recounts the time they got lost on a day trip to London years ago. And she laughs softly.
“That was so much fun.”
Janice smiles, wishing she didn’t feel like bursting into tears. “Yeah, it was fun.”
One afternoon, Mr Whistler tells a silly joke and Melina bursts out laughing. But then she starts to cough violently, hunching forwards as she chokes up phlegm.
And Janice and Mr Whistler panic, rubbing her back and handing her tissues and reassuring her and Janice knows she can’t be the only one thinking please don’t die, Melina. Please don’t die.
And when the coughing fit is over, Janice hugs a weak Melina and whispers about their holiday to Scotland and the fun they had.
But when Mr Whistler looks at the tissues, he finds it covered in droplets of blood.
“If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?” Janice asks.
She is actually in Melina’s bed, her arm around her shivering girlfriend.
“I don’t know,” Melina says, slurring slightly. “Maybe… the South Pole. We could see penguins and it looks so pretty in the book dad got me.”
Janice smiles. “Yeah, we could go there. We’d fly in a private plane and stay in an ice hotel like they’ve got in Norway. And… and we’d look at penguins and have snowball fights and… do anything we want.”
Her smile fades. She sighs.
Melina kisses her forehead.
“I’m scared, Janice,” Melina whispers.
It’s the middle of the night. Melina is getting worse, and Janice didn’t want to leave her overnight. Mr Whistler set her up a bed on the floor, but Melina let her share her bed.
Janice wraps her arms around Melina, cuddling her close.
“I’m scared about the future. How long do I have left? What will you and dad do without me?” Her voice trembles and Janice knows she is crying.
“Don’t worry about that,” she says, kissing Melina’s teary face. “Think of the past. Think of our time together. Just… Please don’t cry.”
“I love you so much,” Melina says, her voice weak.
Her father and Janice sit on either side of her bed, holding her hands. Her eyes are closed, so she doesn’t know who she’s talking to.
“Thank you for… putting up with me.”
“Don’t say that, darling,” Mr Whistler says, brushing sweaty hair from her forehead.
“We don’t put up with you,” Janice whispers, tears stinging her eyes. “We’re looking after you because we love you.”
Melina smiles, but tears seep from behind her closed eyelids. She squeezes Janice’s hand.
“Thank you… I… I really, truly love you,” she whispers.
Melina is so ill. She can barely sit up. The doctor thinks she only has days left.
Janice lies beside her in bed, holding her hand. Her eyes are red from crying.
“Janice?” Melina whispers. “Can you tell me more about the South Pole?”
Janice kisses her. “Of course I can.”
And as tears start to run down her face, she talks about the South Pole, a place they have never visited and never will, telling Melina about adventures she will never see, and silently cursing fate for doing this to her.
Just how much more time does she have?