The bar owner, who had been slumped in a chair with his face in his hands, raised his head, startled. "Scarlette, you're not well. You have to get some rest, or-"
She sighed and shook her head. "I'm not going to get better, Podley."
"Yes, you will. You must get better…For yourself, for Bobbery."
"Bobbery…" Scarlette closed her eyes, and smiled sadly. "Podley, please…" She took a deep, shaky breath. "Please…H-hand me that paper…"
Podley stood, his head spinning, feeling dazed and shocked. He wanted to believe it couldn't be happening, but it was: Scarlette, the wife of the noble Admiral Bobbery and one of his closest friends, was dying right before his eyes.
She looked horrible. Her hazel eyes were blurry and tired, quickly draining of all their warm light. Her once-rosy complexion was deathly white, her lovely face thin and sickly. Her feathery hair, which had once been soft as air and the color of a flame, was limp and pale.
His stomach in a knot, Podley took a sheet of paper from the desk and handed it to Scarlette. He sighed when he saw that her hand was just as thin and colorless as the parchment.
It had come so fast, hit so hard. Without warning, the lively and lovely Scarlette had become ill and weak, and it seemed that nothing in the world could make her well again.
Podley couldn't even fathom how devastated Bobbery would be when he heard about his wife's suffering. The Admiral was currently out one of his sea voyages, but he was definitely longing to return to Scarlette. He loved her even more than he loved the ocean.
Scarlette reached over to the nightstand and grabbed a quill; it was topped with a cardinal's feather, and she always used it to write letters to Bobbery while he was away. Dipping it in a jar of ink, she leaned over the paper and began to write.
My Darling Bobbery,
I've loved you for many years, and being with you has made me the happiest woman in the world. I want you to know that my love for you is limitless, unparalleled in its depth and strength, as beautiful and pure as the ocean.
Now, unfortunately, our time together is drawing to a close. I'm sick and frail, Bobbery. I'm not going to make it. When you return from your trip across the sea, I'll be gone. But don't despair. No matter what, no matter how far apart we are, our hearts will always be connected. I'll be with you, my Bobbery, even in death, for we are one.
I cannot help feeling worried, though…Not for myself, but for you. One reason I've loved you all these years is that you're a wonderful person, a kind and caring man, and I know this is what will torment you the most when I am gone; I know you'll blame myself when you discovered that I perished while you were away. I know you'll blame your love for the sea.
Please, Bobbery, this is my dying wish: do not forsake your seafaring ways. You are one with the sea, as you are one with me. Do not give up both your life's loves in grief…
Farewell, my darling. My time in this world is drawing to a close. I will always be with you, Bobbery…
Your wife and eternal lover,
She folded the letter in an envelope and kissed the seal.
"Give…this to…B-Bobbery for me…" she wheezed, handing the envelope to Podley. "Tell him…I'm sorry…and that I love him…"
Podley cast a worried glance out the window. "Scarlette, his ship's going to dock soon…He'll be here any minute now. Please, just hang on a bit longer…"
It was too late.
Death descended on the house, wrapping itself around Scarlette and pulling her away. A faint gasp escaped her lips…Her eyes were closing for a final time…
The last thing she saw was the front door burst open, and a glorious beam of golden sunlight fall into the dim room. A figure stood motionless in the doorway.
And as it all went dark, she heard her husband's voice…
Bobbery collapsed at the side of the bed, his face drained of color. "No…" he said hoarsely. "Please…No…"
"Bobbery…" Podley began, but then trailed off as tears welled up in his old friend's eyes.
"It was all my fault. I wasn't here for her. She died because of me…"
His hands shook, and he let them fall into his lap. Podley watched in silent agony. What cruel irony that what Scarlette had feared in her dying hours was coming true…
"I'll never sail again. Never, never, never…"
Give him the letter. Podley's hand twitched towards the heartbroken sailor, but then he stopped.
He just couldn't do it.
All Bobbery wanted was for the pain to go away, for his grief to end. He just wanted to return to his old, peaceful life. Giving him that letter would only bring the horror of losing Scarlette back with full force.
Bobbery had been too focused on Scarlette's lifeless body to notice the envelope in Podley's hands. As the Admiral mourned by his wife's side, the bar owner slipped the letter into his pocket.
Podley kept the letter for years, hidden away in the shadows of his bar.
But not a day passed that he didn't regret his choice.