Acute vomiting subsides five or six hours after a chemotherapy treatment, but can last for up to 24 hours after. The timing of her treatments meant that sometimes she would be in the office during the latter 24 hours.
She would always refuse to go home. He didn’t push it or question her because quite frankly, despite all of their differences, they were alike in some ways.
She had chided him enough that he now pretended not to notice when she would run out of the office. He would avert his sympathetic gaze when she meandered back in, exhausted.
He would make his way to her to continue whatever discussion they’d be having, crouch by her chair, as she would sink down and close her eyes. Her mind still on the job, her body betraying her.
A few weeks in and he could no longer play this game entirely her way.
She dashed out the door. Retuning after 15 minutes, longer than usual. He thought exhaustion probably had her sitting on the cold tiles for a spell, before her legs would carry her back in.
When she returned, he was there by the door. He wordlessly took her elbow and lead her to the back of the office, among the files and microscopes. He watched as her forehead crinkled, was preparing for and argument, but the crinkle fell along with a tear down her cheek.
There was a small foldaway bed, made up with bedding and a pillow. Water, crackers, an empty bowl, presumably in case she felt ill again, beside it on a small stool.
He helped her lay down then sat at the foot of her makeshift bed, settle there with an open file and began to read. She would stop and give her options, sometimes her eyes would remain closed, other times she’d prop up on an elbow, more animated.
This was how they were. A new silent ritual, that occasionally included him gently rubbing her back and shoulders, stroking her hair or pulling off her heels to squeeze and caress her tired feet. He would empty the contents of her stomach from the bowl by her bed, when she didn’t have to time get up, help her lay or stand, cover her when she shivered, and not speak of any of it.
He loved her. And she was letting him.