"Mom, when was this taken?" Angel asked as she and Keely looked through a photo album.
"That was at Aunt Maureen's old girlfriend Joanne's family's beach house." She leaned over looking at the picture of her and Roger on the beach. They were in the water splashing each other and laughing.
"What happened to her?" she asked looking over at her.
"She… she broke up with Aunt Maureen after you were diagnosed. Your... your diagnosis was too much for her." Keely started before taking her oxygen mask and putting it over her mouth.
"Oh." She said looking over at her.
"She had already watched Aunt Angel die, and with me, dad, Aunt Mimi and Uncle Collins being positive… it was hard for her to face losing you too. An... an innocent little girl who never hurt anyone." She told her trying to catch her breath again.
"It was hard on everyone when I was diagnosed, huh?" she asked looking over at her.
"Yeah, but we got through it together." She told her.
"Mom, I'm… I'm sorry you're dying." She said quietly.
"Angel, you have nothing to be sorry for. I… I lived a good life. Not quite long enough, but I got to do everything I ever dreamed of doing." She took a deep breath looking down at the picture of her and Roger by the fire at the beach house. She was leaning back in his arms and he was playing with her hair.
"You didn't get to dance at the Metropolitan Ballet." She said looking over at her mother.
"That's OK. I've been... I've been loved like no other woman has ever been loved, got to be in yours and your sisters lives for longer than I thought I would and I have had the most amazing friends and family anyone could have. I think I lived a good life considering." She said looking over at her.
"We still need you mom." Angel cried looking over at her mother.
"You have no idea how much I regret having to leave you girls." She started crying too.
"I'm sorry mom." She cried leaning into her mother.
"Me too sweetheart. But… but you'll always have Aunt Alison and Aunt Maureen. They… they would never let anything happen to you and your sister." She told her as her daughter leaned her head on Keely's shoulder.
"But they're not you mom. No one could ever be you." She hugged Keely as they allowed the photo album to fall to the floor. The picture it was on was of Mimi and Keely dancing and singing along to the radio on the beach.
"Mimi, I'm so sorry chica. I tried… I tried my hardest to hold out, but I guess I'll be seeing you again real soon after all." Keely spoke to a picture of her and Mimi that was on the nightstand next to hers and Roger's bed. Her PCP had gotten worse since her visit to the hospital and she found it difficult to move around, so she mainly stayed in bed. The doctor insisted that she continue to use the oxygen mask when she needed, but since she signed a DNR, there was nothing more they could do for her difficulty breathing. Sleeping on and off and coughing was all she did lately and she hated it. There was more she wanted to do with her husband and her daughters, but her disease prevented her from accomplishing any of it. Roger waited on her hand and foot and Angel helped. Randi on the other hand found it hard to be in the same room as her mother as of late. She spent most of her time either with her friends or Mark and Alison. She knew she was losing her mother and she accepted that, but she couldn't sit around and watch her die.
"Good, you're up. Come on." Roger said looking into the bedroom, hearing Keely's voice.
"Come on where?" she asked wheezing as he started helping her out of their bed.
"Get dressed." He was being very vague, which annoyed her at this point in time.
"Wait a minute. What are you talking about?" she asked looking up at him.
"Just get some clothes on. We're going out." He said looking over at her as he sat her up.
"Roger, I… I'm in no shape to go out." She argued before coughing. She struggled for her next breath before taking the oxygen mask to her face.
"You'll be fine. Just, put this on. If you need help, let me know. I'll let the girls know that you're up." He said kissed her head before he left the room. She was left staring at the closed bedroom door, confused. She struggled to change her clothes. Her frail body barely fit into any of her clothes anymore. She wore a baggy t-shirt and loose fitting sweatpants. "Are you ready to go?" he asked re entering the bedroom.
"Where… where are we going?" she asked as he reached down for her oxygen tank, before helping her up from the bed.
"Road trip." He smiled as they left the bedroom. Randi and Angel were sitting in the living room waiting for them. "Randi, get your mom's coat." Roger asked looking over at his eldest daughter.
"OK." She agreed quietly getting Keely's coat out of the closet by the door. "Here, dad." She said handing it to him.
"Roger, where are you taking us?" she asked looking up at him as he put her coat on her.
"Have you always been such a nosy, impatient woman?" he joked looking down at her.
"Have you always been so mysterious and annoying?" she laughed before starting to cough.
"Here." He handed her her oxygen mask to help her to catch her breath.
"Maybe we should stay home dad." Angel said quietly looking over at Roger.
"No, we'll.. we'll be OK. We need to get out of this apartment." He insisted looking over at her before looking down at Keely. "Are you OK now?" he asked as she nodded. They left the apartment and got into a rental car Roger had gotten earlier in the day. They all filed into the car and Roger began driving. They drove for what seemed like forever. Keely fell in and out of sleep more than once before they reached their destination.
"Keel, wake… wake up." He gently shook her awake.
"Where are we?" she asked attempting to adjust her vision to her surroundings. "Is this the beach house?" she asked looking up at the familiar structure. "How?"
"I… I called Joanne. I… I reminded her of that weekend all those years ago and how much it meant to us to all be together here." He explained looking over at her.
"Why are we here Roger?" she asked quietly as the girls slept in the back seat.
"Everyone is meeting us up here. Including Joanne. One last hurrah." He whispered taking the keys out of the ignition.
"Are you serious? Jo… Joanne is coming?" she asked as tears stung her eyes.
"She's here. I've… I've been talking to her over the years and… she wanted to see you." He stumbled over his words as someone came rushing out of the house.
"What about Maureen?" she asked.
"She's fine with it. Apparently they've been seeing each other on and off these last 15 years." He smiled as Joanne knocked on the window on Keely's side. Roger woke the girls up before getting out of the car. He rushed over to Joanne before opening Keely's door and helping her out.
"Keely, I missed you so much." She smiled reaching out to hug her small, frail friend.
"Thank you for letting us use the house Joanne." Roger smiled down at her as the girls got out of the car.
"Don't mention it Roger. I'm glad to do it." She smiled up at him.
"Dad, this place is cool. Is it ours?" Angel asked looking up at Roger.
"No. Randi, Angel, this is our friend Joanne. It's… it's her family's house." He said looking down at them.
"You used to date Aunt Maureen, right?" Randi asked looking over at her.
"Um… yeah. Yeah, wow. I haven't seen you girls since you were babies. That was… obviously a long time ago." She stuttered looking at the teenagers before her.
"Can we… can we go inside?" Keely said before beginning to cough.
"Right. Is, um… is anyone else here?" Roger asked helping Keely towards the house.
"Maureen is inside and the others are a half hour away." She confirmed watching Keely struggle to walk up to the house.
"You're here. Do you… do you need help?" Maureen asked rushing over to them.
"We… we got it. Thanks Maureen." Roger smiled looking over at her as he helped Keely to the couch.
"This place is awesome dad." Randi set her bags down next to the door as they entered the house.
"Yeah, we had an amazing weekend here many years ago." Keely smiled looking around.
"Yeah, beach football, bonfire's on the beach. It was an incredible weekend." Joanne smiled closing the door.
"It was when I realized I was in love with your mother. But I didn't tell her for a while." Roger smiled looking around the house.
"Why didn't you tell her that weekend daddy?" Angel asked looking over at him.
"I was scared to death. I… I wasn't really good with my feelings back then. Your mom scared me." He told her quietly.
"We were both afraid back then." Keely reached up to take Roger's hand looking up at her husband.
Everyone else arrived and they all sat around on the deck talking about old times and laughing. Keely was wrapped in a blanket as she lay in Roger's arms on a lounge chair. It was just before midnight when they all turned in. Roger and Keely stayed in the same bedroom they stayed in all those years earlier. Roger helped her get changed and ready for bed before climbing in next to her. "How do you feel Baby?" Roger asked looking over at Keely.
"Good. Thank you for bringing me here. I… I really missed this. Too bad Mimi can't be here." She whispered looking up at him.
"She is here. In spirit. She'll always be with us. Just like you'll always be with us." He said scooping her up into his arms as she lay on his chest.
"I love you Roger. I always have and I always will." She said looking up at him.
"I love you more than I could ever show you Baby. I just hope I was good enough for you." He said looking down at her.
"You are the best thing that's ever happened to me Roger." She whispered before falling asleep nestled in her husband's arms.
The next morning Roger woke up first. He looked over at Keely who was lying on her back, perfectly still. He reached over to caress her cheek, but she was cold. He placed his hand on her neck, but couldn't find a pulse. Tears rose to his eyes immediately. The horror of what was happening hit him. His beautiful wife had died peacefully in her sleep next to him. She lost her fight against AIDS. He leaned over to place a kiss on her head and whisper in her ear. "You're the best thing that's ever happened to me too Keely. Thank you for everything." He cried before getting out of bed to deliver the news to their friends and family. Everyone filed into the bedroom to say goodbye to their beloved wife, friend, mother, aunt, sister and cousin.
Keely Lynn Davis, one time dancer and lead singer of the rock band Alienated died peacefully in her sleep, her husband and family members at her side. Although she was HIV positive for 20 years, she lived a long and prosperous life. She is survived by her husband Roger Davis, her twin teenage daughters Randi and Angel Davis, her parents Martin and Lynn O'Reilly and a bevy of friends and family who were with her at a family retreat at the time of her death. She will be missed dearly by those who loved her. She was 42 years old.