The incessant noise of the machines would have been annoying to any other patient. However, to a man of Emmett's sunny disposition, the succession of bips and hums meant that he was still alive, and for that he was immensely grateful. Another day in this world was an opportunity to be treasured, to be appreciated.
As usual, the first person he saw was his darling wife, Zoé. The years had been generous with her—although he might be a little bit biased, she had aged well, the thin lines around her eyes adding character to her beautiful face. The light touch of her hand still stirred his body and made his heart thump with barely restrained love. Their story wasn't an epic love story full of twists and turns: it was an everyday love, built with a lot of bickering, a healthy dose of lust and a lot of respect. She was brave, his Zoé. He knew that after he was gone she would suffer, but she would go on … for their girls, for herself … Because she was life and that's what he loved the most about her. For her he had a charming smile and a flirtatious wink … even though both of them knew that nothing would come of it.
Next, he saw the teary face of his dearly loved daughter, Aimée. Aged twelve, she was already a beauty and Emmett was sorry that he wouldn't be around to scare off the boys (and girls!) who would soon be chasing her. A bit far behind, stood Dorothée, his eldest. At seventeen, she was bookish and shy. Emmett still remembered how broken little Dorothée had been, how hard they had worked to draw her out of her protective shell … but it had been so rewarding. The children of his heart were Emmett's pride and joy—he was absolutely oblivious to the slightly irritated faces of his co-workers, neighbors or even mere acquaintances when he bragged about what he judged to be his girls' achievements (grades, teacher's comments, drawings—the list was endless) or besieging them with photos of Dorothée and Aimée performing the most mundane tasks— awe inspiring feats if one bothered to ask Emmett (which no one did). He hugged them with the ferocious love of a departing father, eager to convey too much in such a simple gesture.
Jane, his mother, sat by the window. She was the only one who hadn't made her peace with his impending death. She was viscerally mourning his destiny, but he didn't really blame her, for he was a father, after all. He tried to cheer her up, to convince her to celebrate his life, but she couldn't possibly understand … not without knowing his past, the one he had concealed from her. He loved her too much to hurt her with something as horrendous as the truth, so he kept quiet and dried her tears.
Looking around, Emmett thought that dying of AIDS wasn't so bad if one had had the time to truly live.
I have lived.
I have loved.
What a gift the past ten years have been.
And he closed his eyes.
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