Always
By: Kitten Kisses (Manna)

Always is as dangerous a word as never.

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When you fall in love, the thought doesn't really cross your mind right away. I don't think it crossed mine until I had fallen so far that I would never be able to go back to a time when I didn't like her.

I think at first, it was a sort of admiration I felt for her… but as I got to know her better, we sort of grew closer- I'm not sure how, exactly, it happened- and before I knew it, I was thinking of her at the most inopportune times. Wondering if she was awake at midnight, if she was having trouble sleeping like I was, or if she was sound asleep… dreaming of something that made her happy.

I would picture her smile that, at one time, was a rare sight. I saw her smile more and more, and I found myself wanting to be the one to put that smile on her face. I'm sure I made a fool of myself at least half the time.

Never, not even for a moment, did I think that she would leave me. I wasn't the type to ask her myself, even if the thought had crossed my mind. Her loyalty was one of my favorite things about her, and I knew that it would not ever fail either of us.

When I realized that she was so much of a part of me that, should she go another way, I would be incomplete, I knew I had to marry her. It may not sound romantic to many people, but we're not really looking for someone we can live with- we want that one person we can't live without… and she was it.

I remember the wedding just like it was yesterday- the flowers, the simple, but beautiful decorations. The wedding party… And then, I remember when time stopped for just a few seconds for the two of us, as the door opened, and she paused in the doorway, trying to look confident (but failing), her father on her arm, her eyes nervously meeting mine at the end of the runway.

There are a lot of words to describe that moment… where the groom sees the bride, and they're captivated and spellbound. But the truth is, nothing could have prepared me for that moment. She looked nervous, everyone was staring, and her father looked so proud of his beautiful daughter. The flashes and whirrs of the cameras, the whispers and the hushed exclamations… they were all at the back of my mind. I saw this woman that I knew I'd be spending the rest of eternity with, and I couldn't wait to start this new life with her.

She was… forever.

I wanted her to be that way, always.

That night, we were both nervous and embarrassed, but we made it through in our own good time. I said a lot of things during the wedding vows about "till death do us part"… but that night, I said always. I would always love her, and I would always be there for her- by her side, in sickness and in health. Death was never a part of my equation.

After all the years of learning ax+bx equals c, I had started to think that life was some sort of mathematical equation. Life, love, fortune, fame… it could all be written away with a few letters and numbers. It was all formulated to work a certain way.

You go to school, you grow up, you get a job and get married, you have kids, and you live happily ever after.

When I started working, I think that was when I realized that the equation wasn't always right. I was happy- I had a beautiful wife who always waited at home for me patiently, and who tried her best to make me happy- but so many people I worked with were anything but. All they seemed to do was complain about their wives', their girlfriends', and sometimes even their ex-wives'.

Maybe there really wasn't a happily-ever-after for everyone. Perhaps it was only a luck-of-the-draw type of a thing.

I remember praying desperately that I would be one of those lucky few.

I worked hard to build a life that the two of us could live on and with. I worked long hours for years to try and keep things together. As a man, it was my job to take care of my family. I wanted to do it right- alone.

When she told me that she was pregnant, I looked at my equation. Well, it fit. I had my job- I had been working so hard. But at the same time, I was a little upset. I don't remember everything that happened, but I remembered saying that we couldn't afford it. I would have to work twice as hard to have this baby- to keep the house, our car, and everything else we owned.

After Pan was born, I went right back to work. It was all so expensive… the diapers, the clothes that she outgrew every other week… I loved my family so much, but I didn't want to have to go into debt to support them.

When my baby girl was about two-and-a-half, I came home from work late in the evening to find my wife nearly in tears. I was so tired, I didn't really want to talk, but something inside me seemed to stop me in my tracks. "Is everything alright?" I asked her. "Are you okay?"

Her answer had been nothing like what I had been expecting. She looked at me, then, and I felt my heart ache at the dullness in her eyes, and the tears gathering on her lashes. "I'm lonely," she said, and I knew it had taken a lot for her to admit it. "I'm home all day with Pan, and I never see you anymore. You get home late, you get up early, and you work on most weekends."

And then I remembered the "always". I hadn't said some of the time, after all. That Friday, we dropped Pan off at my Mother's house, and we went out together that night, and every Friday night afterward.

Sometimes I wonder if it saved my marriage. If I hadn't asked her, would she have come to hate me? Would always have turned into never?

When Pan was 24, Videl started to get sick. I was working less- giving me time to spend with her- and nothing scared me as much as sitting in the hospital with my wife, frozen stiff with fear as I wondered what terrible diagnosis the doctors had for us that day.

It's hard to comfort someone when you're even more afraid then they are.

It was cancer.

I was determined to stick through her with it. I had promised to always be there for her, to love her and cherish her, to hold her, and to shield her. I couldn't protect her from this disease, but I would be that pillar that she could lean against.

They said six short months, but she lived ten years.

Maybe she knew that I needed her; that I couldn't let her go. Or perhaps our love held us together, keeping her in this world longer then necessary.

A strange sense of detachment is all I seemed to feel as I watched the dirt slowly fill the hole that housed her coffin. It had been her time, and I had no regrets. She was better now, in her new Home, but always was feeling so far away.

Twenty long years have passed. I'm getting closer to looking my age, and always is still as far away as it was the day I laid her in the ground. I know I have at least another twenty more years to go before I can see her again. I can stare at an old photograph of her for hours, but I've forgotten what her voice sounds like. When I see her on a homemade video, all I can think is, 'That's not her. That's not my Videl…'

It would never be the same as holding her, or hearing her tell me that she loved me.

I wonder what she's doing in Heaven, now, and after a few moments of thought, I laugh aloud; a short, dry chuckle, as I pat the dirt on top of the lily bulbs. She would probably wonder why I was bothering to plant flowers at her grave, when she was most definitely not residing there.

"Dad!"

It's Pan. She's getting impatient, and I stand up slowly, dusting off my dressy clothes that have gotten rather mussed up. It's days like this that I miss my wife the most. That I can't wait until I can be with her again, so I can be assured that we will really be together always.

"I'm coming," I say, walking over to her car. "I wouldn't miss my first grandchild's wedding for the world."

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Author Notes:

I'll be honest with you. I'm feeling rather depressed. So you guys get depressive writing. Isn't that exciting? (Well…not really.)

I had a beloved aunt who died of cancer about five or six years ago. I love her, and still think of her often. They said a few months, but she lived more than a year. She was such a strong, confident, and proud woman, and to see her reduced to such a sick person was so disheartening and heartbreaking. I love you, Debbie.

The ending was SORT OF inspired by "Holes in the Floor of Heaven" (Steve Wariner). If you haven't heard the song, you should at least read the lyrics. The last verse is about a man whose wife died, and he's at his daughter's wedding.

Advanced critique is always encouraged, and I hope that you'll give me your honest opinion on this story. It didn't turn out like I originally planned, but that's okay. I want to know what you really think about it. Thanks for reading!