My heart raced as I stood in the master bedroom and glanced in the mirror to adjust my tie.
Ironic, since my heart was the very reason I was leaving the house.
I still remember the way my hand trembled when I called the doctor's office to make the appointment. Imagine Roz of all people giving me advice that actually made sense! Seems like something out of horror movie.
I hadn't told Daphne where I was going and I wasn't planning to. Not until I was sure that everything would be all right.
And if it wasn't? Well, I'd find a way to tell her, but not today. It would only worry her and she'd insist on going with me.
As much as I needed her at the doctor's office with me for moral support, I couldn't bear the thought of her breaking down in my arms when he gave me what was sure to be bad news.
But I forced the thought from my mind.
I glanced at my watch, startled to see how long I'd been standing there; making sure that my tie was perfect. I doubt the doctor really cared about my appearance.
Neither did I, for that matter, but if I left the house in less than stellar condition, Daphne would immediately suspect something.
I left the bedroom and walked down the hallway. The time for the appointment was drawing near and now I was facing the real possibility that my life was about to change forever. What was sure to be left of it that was.
Slowly I walked down the stairs and into the living room where I found my goddess busy fluffing the pillows on the fainting couch.
"Daphne? I... Have to go out for a while." I said, hoping she wouldn't detect the nervousness in my voice.
"All right." She said in that sweet voice of hers.
Casually I moved past her to the doorway. "No place out of the ordinary. Just... out."
"Okay, see you later." She said, just as casually.
I held out my arms to embrace her but she continued to work on the pillows, completely oblivious of my need to hold her...if only for a minute. I should have been hurt if it weren't for the fact that my whole body was racked with nerves.
As I put on my jacket, a million thoughts ran through my mind...
I can't believe this is happening. After all those misspent years of frustration and yearning, I finally find the fulfillment of my dreams, only to have it snatched away.
I glanced at my wife and sighed.
Look at her. She's so beautiful; so perfect. She deserves nothing but happiness. I hope when I'm gone she's able to make a life with someone else.
The thought pained my heart and once again I pushed it away. I had to get out of here and to the doctor's office. If it was bad news, I had to know immediately.
No sense in prolonging this any further.
As I reached for the door handle I heard my name.
I turned to her as our eyes met and for the thousandth time since I'd first laid eyes on her, I was captivated by her beauty.
"Yes, my love?"
"When are you going to change the paper in the bottom of the bird cage? I've asked you three times already."
Seeing how annoyed she was, I couldn't help but smile. Wordlessly I went to her and turned her to face me.
"Niles, what are you-."
My lips met hers in a searing kiss that turned deeper and deeper. I could feel her immediate response as she gasped lightly and wrapped her arms around me; her fingers splaying through my hair, which lately had seemed to be getting thinner by the minute.
When I pulled away reluctantly (only because I needed to catch my breath), she stared at me with a shocked expression.
"What was that for?" she asked.
I smiled and caressed her cheek with the back of my hand. The cheek that felt like silk beneath my fingertips. The cheek I couldn't bear the thought of never touching again.
I kissed her again, deeper this time and then pulled way.
"I love you, my angel."
"I love you too, Niles." She said in a quivering voice. I smiled at the sight of tears in her eyes. When one escaped, I brushed it away before it reached her cheek.
Taking her hands in mine, I squeezed gently and then led her to the front door and kissed her a third time, stopping only to brush a lock of fallen hair from her forehead.
"I'll love you until the day I die." I said softly before kissing her cheek. "Never forget that, okay?"
She opened her mouth to speak but no words came.
"I promise I'll clean the birdcage as soon as I get home."
Wordlessly I walked out of our apartment and to my car and pulled out of the parking garage.
As I made my way to the doctor's office, I realized I had completely forgotten about my fears, which seemed to have disappeared; all because of the woman I loved more than anyone on Earth.
The thought made me smile.
And when I pulled into the parking lot of the Elliot Bay Medical Clinic, I was still smiling.
For as long as Daphne and I had each other, we could get through anything.