It was bound to happen eventually. Her body was just too faulty, too weak, too broken.
She woke up in the strange, incomplete hours of the morning, her bedside alarm clock proclaiming that it was five in the morning. What an ungodly time to be awake.
It was the pain that woke her up. Pain reverberating through her lungs with each shallow breath, her eyes watering as she tried not to panic. The steel ropes that seemed to relentlessly constrict around her lungs drove her to the point of panic but keeping her wits about her she gently left the bed, trying not to wake Christopher.
She went into her bathroom, wheezing painfully, a hand rubbing fruitlessly at her chest. She quickly grabbed her rescue inhaler with shaking hands from her cabinet, inhaling the medicine with panicked fervour.
The steel ropes around her chest loosened minutely but her airways still spasmed painfully and she hunched over, trying with Herculean effort to just breathe.
Eventually, the spasms subsided but the aftermath left her weak and still in pain, a sense of dread settling in her because she would definitely be out commission tomorrow and she would have to explain to Christopher why she was suddenly sick.
She had felt it coming on. She always felt it really but after all that time she knew when her body would throw itself into self-destruct mode. Maybe it was allergies, maybe it was the cold, and maybe she ate something she shouldn’t have. Either way, she felt it coming on the way you feel a thunderstorm coming. The air just feels different and you know that there’s nothing you can do to change it.
Her muddled thoughts were brought to a sudden halt when she felt her body shake and lurch forward with a loud and powerful cough, her body trying to expel the mucus it had stored up. Just great.
Several more coughs wracked her weak frame and she was almost brought to her knees by the pain that threatened to drown her. She was catching her breath when she saw Christopher throw himself into the bathroom looking groggy but worried. He was almost completely fine if not prone to bouts of tiredness and irritability in the face of what he refused to admit was a traumatic event. It seemed like his injuries were the furthest thing from his mind when he saw her sitting on the closed toilet, eyes rimmed red and clutching her chest.
“What happened? Are you okay? Is it the baby?” he fired off frantically. In any other situation, she would smile.
“Um,” she rasped. “So I’m severely asthmatic.”
He stared at her in silence, mouth agape and brow furrowed and she tried to smile deprecatingly but it probably looked more like a grimace.
“Surprise?” she tried.
He closed his eyes and sighed long-sufferingly which was very rude in her opinion.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked sounding pained.
“Please help me to bed. I need to nebulized and take a few pills and then I’ll tell you everything,” she sighed, holding a hand out to him.
He sighed but didn’t hesitate in helping her to bed and passing her the things she needed at her instruction. She methodically went about setting about her nebulizer, trying to ignore his heavy and worried gaze as she slipped on the breathing mask to breathe in the medicine vapour.
Once she was done, she sighed and lay back in bed, meeting Christopher’s from where he sat at the foot of the bed looking confused and hurt and worried. She sighed again and patted the bed next to herself.
He slipped in beside her and she tentatively cuddled up to him, fearing he would turn her away but she melted into his side when he relaxed and wrapped an arm around her.
“So,” he shrugged slightly, jostling her. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“At first, I didn’t think you would care. But then we got closer and I was fine so it never came up and then life got crazy with Beth and you left, and then you got shot and I just didn’t see us talking about any time soon. I guess the stress kinda caught up with me,” she said quietly splaying a hand across his chest.
“What aren’t you telling me,” he pressed and she felt his gaze on her.
“Truth is, I haven’t had people respond well to all…this,” she said somewhat sadly. “Beth thought I was faking a few times just to get out of doing things. Annie and Ruby get frustrated every time I talk about being in pain which is, by the way, all the time. I guess I get it in Ruby’s case. Like she doesn’t wanna hear about another sick kid when she already has one but it would be nice to have someone there for you, you know? Anyway, I’ve been accused of faking for attention, of laziness, of not praying enough, of just going out of my way to be a nuisance, and I decided I was just going to keep it to myself. Because no one gets it. Not for long. Sympathy has a very short shelf-life.
“So I kept it from you. I couldn’t bear to lose you because my body won’t fucking work right. And it never will. Chronic illness. Does what it says on the tin,” she sighed.
“So,” she said feigning nonchalance. “Is this where you tap out? This kid might be sick too. I won’t blame you if you do tap out. Everyone else-“
“Yeah, well, I’m not everyone else am I,” he snapped. “I’m not ‘tapping out’.”
“What?” she asked shell-shocked.
“You stayed with me after I almost killed your friends. You stayed with me after I left you and cheated on you. You stayed with me when I showed up half-dead. You stayed,” he stressed.
“I don’t want you to feel like you have to stay just because I’m clingy or whatever,” she mumbled.
“You’re missing the fucking point,” he sighed. “You stayed when I kept coming back to you. I kept bringing my shit to you and you stuck around anyway. We meet each other halfway cause we’re us. Fuck those other people cause I will always come back to you and I’m staying with you because you stayed for me. I’m staying because I love you. Dumbass.”
She looked up at him, her eyes welling with relieved tears and they claimed each other’s lips in a soft kiss.
“Who are you calling a dumbass?” she asked when they parted.
“You,” he chuckled tiredly. “You’re not getting rid of me so you better get it into that thick skull that I fucking love you.”
“I love you too, dickhead,” she cooed mockingly.
They chuckled sleepily in each other’s arms and she absently thought about how the pain in her chest wasn’t so bad.
“Go to sleep,” he urged. “I’m here.”
He always would be.