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Breathing

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Prologue: Santana

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We only breathe for so long. Do you know what that means?

At some point, some unknown moment in time, we stop. That's it. We stop breathing. For most, that is it, game over. For some, the breath can be pushed back into their lungs, the pulse shocked back into their heart, and they get another go.

That doesn't always happen, though, no matter how hard one tries.

When that breath is gone, and the heart has stopped beating, and there are no more goes, it's over. The end. You can fight and struggle for another breath, unwilling to give in, or you can let it flow out of you like a relaxing sigh. You can try to keep breathing, try to stay alive, or you can accept your fate.

Breathing; you do it all the time, and you don't even think about it. Right this second, you're breathing, you're inhaling and exhaling. You weren't thinking about it, weren't feeling it, but now you are. You are thinking about each breath you take, each inhale, each exhale, how long to hold it, how long to release it, and for this moment, you can't help but focus on it.

It speeds up with your emotions, with exertion, with excitement, and with fear. It slows down when you're relaxed, when you're asleep, and when you're at peace. So maybe that's why some people say a person is at peace when they die. Their breathing has slowed right down to the point of stopping, and with that final breath, they inhaled the last of their life, and exhaled the beginning of what's next.

Maybe it's not game over, maybe you've advanced to another level. Maybe you have to go back to the start and try again. Maybe you've completed the game, beaten the last level, and won. Just maybe, that last breath was your first breath, your fresh start, your renewal, all your hopes and dreams and happiness encased into one breath, making death the sweet release. Or maybe breathing is nothing more than inhaling for oxygen and exhaling what the body doesn't need.

Either way, each breath you take is special. It counts. Could you imagine being told that you only have one hundred breaths left before you die? One hundred breaths and that's it. How long is that? It doesn't seem long. What do you do with it? If you get nervous or scared, you'll breathe faster, so be careful. If you relax, you'll breathe slower, but can you do what you want to in those final moments while staying calm and relaxed?

One hundred breaths. What do you say in those one hundred breaths? Who do you say it to? Who do you hug? Who do you kiss? And who gets to see that final breath leave your body?

When you know how long you've got left, each breath counts. When you know there will be a time where you've stopped breathing and your loved ones haven't, each breath counts. When you know that there lies a day ahead, in the near future, where you'll take your very last breath, each breath counts. So how could you not make every effort to right the wrongs, to say the goodbyes and to leave on good terms?

If each breath is the second hand on the clock of your life, and with each inhale and exhale, it counts down to your end, why would you dare waste them?

Remember those one hundred breaths? Good. Now keep in mind that on average a healthy adult breathes twelve to twenty times a minute. Thinking about it, that's not long at all. If you're caught off guard, then there is surely no way for you to tell everyone everything you wish to tell them before your time is up. You won't get to see everyone you want to, and you won't get to do those things you've put off to do later. If you'd known about it, if you knew ahead of time that at this exact moment you would only have minutes before you stopped breathing, you could. You could prepare.

That's what it was about. That was all of this was about. Preparing. They didn't understand that. They didn't get why you would want to, but you knew. You knew that if you only had one hundred breaths left, you would die without saying the most important things to the most important people in your life.

There's that quote, some things are better left unsaid. Well, in this instance, this was not one of them. Those words you craved to say, they needed to be said. You couldn't hold them in, you couldn't take them to your grave, and you couldn't pretend that you didn't want to say them, because you did.

God, did you ever.

You would shout them from the rooftops if you could. You would put them up on billboards, have them written in the sky, and still let the words flow from your lips. You wanted to say them. You needed to say them, no matter what the consequences were.

Now was your time to say them.

You had run out of options. You had exhausted all avenues. You were at the end of your tether. There was no more. There was nothing you could do. It was time to admit defeat, to accept that at some point soon, in the coming days, you would take your last breath.

But before then, before you left, before you stopped breathing, before you gained your sweet release, you needed to say those words, and you needed them to be heard.

It was never going to be simple, you knew that from the get go. You still didn't know where she was, what exactly she was up to, or how she would ever hear them, but they had to be said. So much had happened, so much had been said and done that neither of you meant, and you wanted to rectify that.

You loved her, irrevocably so, and it was time she knew, before it was too late.

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