Hey guys - this is how I ended up handing it in. A rewrite, not a sequel, though I've gotten requests for a sequel, and I think I will write one after I finish my Penpals.
"Where were you last night?" Her voice was so soft in the almost darkness. Her face turned to greet me, an orange glow cast upon it by the dancing flames in the fireplace. I knew then, as I had always known, that I could not resist her and fell beside her onto the aged sofa. The dress that she must have worn to our wedding the night prior was wrinkled and stained because of the hours she must have spent in it and its originally white color was now faded, reminiscent of how she had been fading out of existence, becoming more and more a part of this old house.
She seemed much too calm for what had transpired over the past few hours, so I reached for my kit, motioning for her to sit up. Mary had been through this numerous times before and wordlessly bent forward as I pressed the hearing-aid against her back, listening to her labored breathing.
"Did you eat yet?" I asked her and she wordlessly nodded, swaying where she sat until I allowed her to lean back once more. In my mind's eye I could see the fibrotic tissue, making a home in Mary's lungs as she held dearly to the life God had given her. "Are you feeling any discomfort in your chest?"
"Are you going to answer my question?" she asked me, but I didn't need to answer for her to know. The shadows shifted and moved across the walls, life seemingly breathed into them by the fire and I could imagine every dark curtain and corner a witness to what would commence, a phantom audience member, watching as I played my part of the unfaithful sinner flawlessly, silently judging my faulty morality.
"Why don't you put on some lights, hm? You mustn't strain your eyes," I said, eyeing the book beside her. I sounded calmer than I should have.
"Because I don't want to put on any damn lights. It's three-o'clock in the morning," A few short months ago her wrath would have been hellbent, all consuming, but now it was merely a fraction of what it could have been. And I was half the man I should have been.
Everywhere I went I could imagine witnesses, watching as I walked through the streets, from my practice, away from my patients, to the darkened door that was not my home, not where my fiance was waiting for me. Even now I could imagine every dark curtain and corner a phantom audience member, watching as I played my part of the unfaithful sinner flawlessly, silently judging my faulty morality. They waited for the scene to commence, their hateful gaze intensifying with every word I spoke. I could almost hear their incriminations - cheater, adulterer, unfaithful, all of their accusations correct.
"Why weren't you there? Did you forget?"
"Of course I didn't," I whispered, the hearing aid still in my hands, its cold metal slowly warming to my body temperature. I didn't want to think about it, but I could see it playing out in my mind - all of our friends and family waiting until it was obvious that I wasn't coming, at which point they would unsurely stand up and dwindle out of the church. They wouldn't have apologized to Mary, not wanting to humiliate her further, just would have exchanged glances with one another, whispering to each other the 'How dare he's and the 'If only I'd's.
I wondered how long she must have waited there, furthering her father's hatred of me, weeping in the arms of her mother, before she returned home - perhaps to worry about me, or just too tired to care.
Finally, I stood, dropping my medical kit unceremoniously onto the floor and moved to poke at the fire. Even that longed to punish me, its orange tongues licking at my sensitive skin. It was easier if I didn't look at her, easier not to imagine what would happen to her body as time passed. On the outside, not much would change - her weight would drop as she ate less, her exhaustion would become so crippling that she would have to remain in bed, and all would hear her dry cough. On the inside, however, her air sacs would fill with the loathsome tissue, becoming denser and denser as time progressed until oxygen would no longer be able to transfer to her blood stream. I had seen the disease multiple times over my years as a doctor, but this time it was personal.
"So you would rather pine for someone who pines for another? You know just as well as I do how that will end," she said, thin fingers knotting themselves. My silence would have confirmed her accusation, but I was never one to keep my mouth shut for too long.
"I love you, but it wouldn't have been fair to you. I can't just marry you knowing I also love someone else, especially - " I cut myself off, biting my tongue.
"Especially because of my condition?"
"I am a doctor, after all," I whispered, unable to lie to myself that my methods weren't entirely selfless. All her family knew was that she was going to die, but they didn't have to, couldn't, see it as I did. I didn't know how long I would be able to stand it, living in this old house as she died, seeing it from every angle, wanting to love her but also love another.
"Then I don't see the meaning of this," she said, and I turned back to look at her, "We both know I don't have very long. Eight months, a year at most. If he loves you, he will wait as I have waited. You'll take good care of me, I know you will. And I know you well enough to know that you will be faithful to me physically. When I die, you'll be free to do as you choose."
She was once more staring into the fire at my back, its light reflected in her eyes. "I can't promise you happiness," I whispered, sitting before her once more.
"But you can promise me 'Until death do us part'. And we will part. Soon."
Once more, I longed to make her happy, and she saw this before I said anything, so I didn't need to. I listened half-heartedly as she told me what we would tell her family, her story putting me on a pedestal and making me sound heroic. I didn't deserve her love or her admiration, but I would try to make her last days on earth as happy as I could. Because I did love her, despite the fact that it was painful to do so.