Walls sterile white. Curtains draped near his bed and stank from musty antiseptic. His eyelashes had fallen out and his cheekbones poked out from under his dull eyes. He coughed and his skinny body convulsed. His throat lacerated and skin was falling off his face. Clumps of hair lay on his pillow. His face screwed up in pain. The chemicals dripped into his arm. Rachel gripped his hand.
‘Be still my love. I am here for you.’ He looked slowly at her and his body convulsed again.
‘I saw them come for me…the room was spinning around and the cards were dancing and chasing me around the room. They are waiting.’
‘Darling, you are only dreaming. You are going to make it.’ She choked back a tear.‘You are going to make it.’
‘Yes…I am.’ His face contorted. Skin falling into his mouth. ‘I can’t swallow’ His face had sunken in. ‘The pumped me with chemicals all week. Rach darling and if I make it, we won’t be able to have children.’
‘Don’t say that Daniel. We will do it. Don’t think about it now.’
‘But I know how important it is to you to have children.’
‘It is more important for you to survive this.’ She reassured him.
‘I will make it; I have got a lot to live for.’ He squeezed her hand.
‘Yes you do.’ Rachel turned away. His body had been reduced to a third of its original size. He was like a refugee child, under nourished and dying from hunger. He was vulnerable and soft. His firm virile body…where had it gone?
‘What’s up Rach? Are you alright? How are you going with my family?’
‘Don’t worry yourself…all is well.’
‘I really appreciate you being here.’ He whispered.
‘I know lover, I’ll be here for you.’ She kissed his cheek.
She grabbed his hand and stood to go the tears welling in her eyes. She could not contain herself anymore.
Into the room walked Rod.
‘Rach how are you?’‘Oh I am fine.’
‘How is he?’ Rod hugged her to his hard broad chest. She could smell his aftershave and her body opened up.
‘Rod he is not good…he hallucinating.’
‘Where are going?’ Daniel cried out.
‘Babe, I will be back soon. Rod is here to see you…’ She couldn’t finish. Tears just flooded down her face and she walked out to the other side of the wall.
‘What are you doing here Rod?’ She sobbed.
‘I thought you might need support.’ He comforted her.
‘Support? Where were you two years ago when I needed support? You left me.’‘I was mixed up Rach, but now I want to be your lover. Come on we were good together.’
‘Don’t say that, I am engaged to Daniel now. I love him. It is over between us.’
Rod grabbed Rachel’s shoulder. ‘Daniel is dying. He is not going to make it. He can’t give you what you need, like I can.’ He looked straight at her.
‘STOP. I cannot believe your insensitivity. I can’t believe you said that. Where is your compassion? The love of my life is sick and you stand here arrogantly saying he is going to die. Listen, he is going to make it. You don’t know him. He has a strong mind and spirit. He is my beautiful fighter.’ She said smiling through the tears.
Rod pulled her to him again. She could hear his heart pound. ‘Rachel, I am so sorry my love for what I have done to you. I am here for you now.’ He whispered in her ear.
‘I don’t want you to be here with me. Daniel is here. I am with him.’ She pulled away.
It is all in the timing.’ She stuttered through her tears. ‘I wanted to be with you so bad, but you had doubts, you never told me, you never said the words and now I am with Daniel.’
‘You don’t need the words; couldn’t you see it in my actions? Couldn’t you feel it when we made love…how intense it was?’
‘Stop…not another word Rod that is the past. It is over. Now Daniel needs me.’
She wiped her face with her hand to regain composure. She walked to Daniel.
‘You have been crying baby.’ He whispered ‘What is he doing here?’ Daniel could hardly speak and he broke into a coughing attack.
‘Nothing.’ She lied.
Rod walked in. Rachel looked up and the tears began again. She held Daniels hand very hard and looked up at Rod.
‘Please leave Rod.’ She said through clenched teeth. Daniel rolled his eyes back.
‘I am sorry Rachel but can’t leave you. You need me. I am not going to leave you like this.’
Daniel dozed. Then came back to life.
‘Rod, I think you should go it is my place to look after Rachel.’ He managed a small smile. ‘I am sorry mate, but she is mine now…’Anthea Slade 1999
White Walls featured in Anger Management 28-7-09
A short short story written in 1999.