Jessica Stanley is actively dying. She struggles to get out of her hospital bed each day, unwilling to give in to the inevitable. Slowly but surely, though, her body is breaking down its own muscle to survive. She is consuming herself. Skin stretches over bone. The only part of her body that is blossoming and growing is her abdomen. Her tumor does not know it, but soon its life will also be at an end.
Death has a look. It is stretched and thin. It is brittle and soft all at once: brittle bones, hair, skin, nails – and a soft look in the eyes at sundown, like a veil between the living and the dead. Ms. Stanley's veil is more opaque each day.
"The plan is still the same, Doctor Swan. Right?"
"Yes, it's still the same."
She plans to get stronger before starting chemo and radiation.
She'll never start chemo and radiation. We both know. The knowledge lives in her veiled brown eyes. We speak in code that exists between the doctor and the dying.
"That's good," she says.
I hold her hand. I smile.
"Those small pills you give me are like magic. They make me feel better. They are the only thing."
"I'm so glad."
"My daughter. She's coming tomorrow. I want to rest so I'm awake when she visits."
Her daughter is seven years old, full of life and energy. The nurses say she dances around her mother's hospital room.
"Would you like something to help, then?" I ask.
"Some of the Ativan, maybe?" she suggests.
"I'll tell the nurse."
"Thank you, Doctor."
Death keeps people awake even as they lose their energy to exist. Death starves people for rest, starves them for food, and leaves its inhabitants anxiously seeking respite even as they fight to live another day.
Death. I wonder if I'll run from it. Will I welcome it with open arms? I gently close the door to room three-oh-three. I don't have to think of death again, until tomorrow.
I shower off the sadness and the worry. Warm water revives. I take pleasure in the pinking of my skin. I feel the life underneath the surface and I'm glad. Shaving, shampooing, drying and dusting, slipping on lingerie. Cozy in a robe, I tiptoe down stairs. Red wine is waiting. So is Edward.
"Feel better?" he asks. He kneads my shoulders with large hands. My home is dark and comforting. Stainless steel shines under dim light. A kettle is on. Gas glows blue beneath.
I sip burgundy. I nod. I settle into a chair Indian style.
"Would you like some dinner?" he asks.
I shake my head. Dinnertime is long past. "Just a snack maybe," I suggest.
"You're wasting away," he sighs, his hands running down my arms. His mouth is at my neck. He inhales and it sends shivers down my spine.
"You're concerned with my weight? Really?" I ask.
A nose runs down my neck. A hand finds it's way underneath my robe.
"You concern me."
"Which part of you is concerned?" I wonder, turning my head and placing my lips over his, letting a hand stray behind me and over his crotch.
My robe is slipped from my shoulders; my chair is pulled from the table. His fingers skim over satin and lace.
"You consume me," he rumbles.
I can't help but giggle. It's clearly the other way around. It feels so good to laugh that I go with it. Edward doesn't let the small sounds get in the way.
My bra is carefully unhooked and I'm pushed up against the smooth tabletop, like my breasts are what's for dinner. Hard hands slide my panties lower. His mouth closes over my neck.
Eternity is just a kiss away.
My nights are my dreams. My nights are my temptation. My nights are the security blanket that keep me sane.
Mike Newton's family talks about the future. They are so focused on it, that they hardly see the man in the bed.
"So, this medicine…" Tess Newton says as she studies the notes she's taken over the course of the last few days. "We won't know if it's worked for a few months?"
"Weeks," I correct. "Just weeks."
Mike doesn't necessarily have weeks. He's lost fifteen percent of his body weight in less than one.
"And if this medicine stops working, his platelets will go even lower?"
"They can't get much lower than they are now," I explain.
"If it works, though, he can come home."
"I don't know that it will work. He needs progenitor cells in his marrow, and at the state of his illness -"
"It could work," she insists.
The dance of the dying is more complex when family is present. Mr. Newton looks on with wide, veiled eyes. We don't need to speak. We know, Mr. Newton and I. I squeeze his hand before I leave his room.
"Three and a half years," Alice explains. "After that, Alaska." She spins in her office chair and sips her green tea.
Her husband, Jasper is a surgical resident. She waits out his residency and looks towards brighter, Arctic horizons.
"I'm thinking something integrative, something more upscale." She sweeps her hand in front of her, like she can see it all now – instead of the beige office wall.
"Upscale?" I ask with raised eyebrows.
"You know what I mean," she insists.
I know what she means: boutique oncology. Death for the rich. It comes with high-end wigs and acupuncture, with essential oils and exotic plants.
"What about you, Bella?"
"I haven't thought about it."
I have, though. I can't explain where my head is at. There is something here that I'm just on the edge of… something close. And I'm needed. Alice and I, and all of the oncologists here are needed.
"No one can do this forever," she insists.
That, at least, is true.
Nighttime, in Edward's arms, his breath in my hair. "You are my life now," he whispers.
I wrap my limbs tighter. I don't want space between us. I need his hands to make me come alive. I need him to light these dark times I have away.
"I'll love you forever," he breathes as he rolls a nipple between rough finger pads.
There is no forever. Not for me.
"No forever tonight," I insist.
"Just now," I request climbing astride. There's no lingerie tonight. I want skin on skin, slipping against satin sheets. Men in this position don't often argue. Edward is no different. His hands grip my hips, pressing our bodies together where it counts. Forward, up, down, we both groan as he fits inside.
I slide; he pumps. I press thighs, he grabs my ass.
"Come here," he demands.
I fall forward and his lips catch mine. He sets the pace. His biceps flex as he rocks me forward. Faster, harder… I sweat, I tingle. He tugs my hair; I arch my back.
His lips close over my breast.
Eternity is just a kiss away.
A/N: Um... No beta, no pre-reader. This is dark and stark and probably not for everyone. This was getting in the way of my current fic, so I wrote it down to clear my head. I'm an open book, really. I love vampires and I work in medicine because I'm obsessed and in awe of death.
If you're looking for something light and fluffy, check out the mash-up I'm writing with FictionFreak95 and Troublefollow1017. It's a fun little fic about a teenage adventure with the three kids from our fics: There is a Light, Edward Cullen, Dick for Hire, and Fridays at Noon. http : / / www . fanfiction . net / s / 7757948 / 1 /
I'm working on Bare Naked, Bone Deep and hope to have the next chapter out soon. Believe me, this won't get in the way. This I could write in my sleep.
xxx, ~M (bdc)