Misthaven Kingdom: 2012
Her hand lay limp in his, her face an ashen gray. She was breathing still, barely, but he knew it was only a matter of breathes before she left him for good. Now, in this moment, it didn't matter that he had known the diagnosis and that this day was coming. No amount of preparation could stop the avalanche of grief bearing down on him. First their child when she was diagnosed and now her.
The sun shining in the window felt like it was a mockery of his pain and if it weren't for the fact he was unwilling to let go of her hand he would have moved to close the curtains. They had said their goodbyes. Her with her deathbed requests that he move on and him with his insincere promises that that he would. He had never loved before her and he was confident that he never love after her either.
Listening he heard her breath grow shaky and the rattle in her chest grow more prominent. The hospice worker had called it the death rattle, signifying that despite his tears and pleading with her to hold on and fight harder she indeed was going to leave him. Her hand clutched tighter as she took a breath and his head shot up, eyes moving to her face. She had been still for nearly a day as her body shut down and despite the knowledge he had, courtesy of the hospice nurse, he still felt a tiny spark of hope at the slight movement. As he saw her body tremor though he felt that spark of hope die as she struggled to catch her final breath.
Tears pooled in his eyes as he stared at her chest, willing it to move again. He felt selfish and cruel for wishing her back to the body that had turned on her so violently. He remembered the early days of her illness when they both attributed her weight loss to the morning sickness that came along with pregnancy. So many of her symptoms they had been able to write off as pregnancy symptoms and so neither of them were concerned. It wasn't until she was in her fourth month of pregnancy, when she was having trouble just walking from the living room to the kitchen, that they started to worry.
A trip to the obstetrician led to a trip to an oncologist which led to a diagnosis. Stage three pancreatic cancer that had already metastasized to her liver and her lungs. Days later the doctor scheduled the surgery to take the baby. If they didn't both her and the baby would die and the chemo was too dangerous with her being pregnant. Although they had spent nearly two years trying to get pregnant they had to say goodbye to their child to save her life.
Except now he was sitting here with her lifeless hand in his and there was no wife and no baby. There was nothing except for a lifetime ahead of grief and loneliness.
"Milah. Milah, please baby. Please just come back."
Tears charted their course down his face but tears held no sway over death. No amount of prayers or tears would bring life back to her body. Moving to the edge of the bed he lifted her into his arms, brushing his lips across her sparse hair.
"I love you. How am I supposed to do this without you? I can't even remember a time without you."
It felt like hours that he lay there with her laying lifeless body in his arms, as though time had decided to stop with her. Finally the door to the room that they had shared opened and his parents stood, grief written across their faces as well.
"We heard you but we thought you should have some time with her."
As always his mother made his way towards him, arms outstretched. It was comfort she offered, and he would pretend to take it, but he wanted this grief. It was something he could hold onto since he no longer had his wife.
"I don't even know what to do Mom. How do I go on?"
"You start with getting through today. Tomorrow you do it again. You do it every single day until it doesn't take everything to get through it. Right now it feels like you'll never be okay again. You'll probably never be the same again. But my boy I promise you that you are strong and when you can't be your father and I will be there to help you be strong again."
Tears continued to flow but over the course of the night they abated. He wanted them to keep going forever. It felt wrong not to be crying, like he was doing her memory a disservice because he wasn't wailing and tearing his clothes. The movies always got it wrong. It was when the tears stopped that the pain really started. It blended into a cocktail of guilt and remorse and a thousand different versions of what might have been. The coroner came but he barely took notice.
He heard his parents come and go, although his mother never left his side for long. Still it was like he was outside his body, a dozen versions of the life that they should have lived playing like a movie over and over in his mind. Today he was allowed to grieve but that wouldn't be the case forever. Eventually the world would expect him to go on. His parents were willing to release him from his duties as Prince of Misthaven now but eventually he would be expected to take on the mantle of leading the kingdom. He would be expected to marry and produce an heir.
For now he was allowed to just be but eventually the time would come that he would have to put his grief on the back-burner to do what all royals eventually did. Sacrifice for their country.