The Choice by Hilary Taylor

Thirty years! Thirty, mainly happy years, although everyone has some ups and downs don’t they? 

Teenage sweethearts, grown into longstanding love, solid friendship, marriage, family. The usual trajectory – or so she thought. 

Now, she can’t even look him in the eye – doesn’t know what to say- how to reach out to him to offer the comfort she believes he probably needs. God knows, she needs some comfort too! All she can hear as he sits next to her, so close, but miles apart emotionally, is his heavy, ragged, raw breathing. He’s just sitting there staring into space, still as if frozen in time, the only movement a trembling of his hand. It must be the shock; anyone would be shocked by that news. Somehow, though she had imagined that something like this would draw them closer, not drive an enormous chasm between them. They had always shared their thoughts, their dreams, and even when they hadn’t agreed on something, had been able to accept the other’s viewpoint, but this was different. 

This time their argument had become personal, insults had flown between them, each accusing the other of selfishness, lack of empathy, and a lack of love. Really though, there was too much love, if there ever could be such a thing, and the big issue was how that love manifested itself. The news had been given in such a clinical way, no emotion on the part of the Consultant, she supposed that was how he coped with having to deliver news like this. For her part, she felt like she had frozen, that suddenly, her body, and mind were impenetrable. She really didn’t hear the detail of his words, it was just a drone, but she did hear Ben asking questions. All she wanted was to get out of that room, out the building and unhear everything that had been imparted. But Ben kept asking questions, he wanted to know everything, she wanted to know nothing. It was her body, her choice, why couldn’t he see that? It wasn’t that she didn’t love him, it wasn’t that she didn’t want to live! She simply didn’t want to live being ill. The Consultant had said that the treatment would be purely palliative, that it MAY give her a few extra weeks maximum, no guarantees. Her opinion was why put herself through the trauma of Hospital visits, painful treatments and drugs that would make her feel so sick she wouldn’t want to eat, go out, see the grandchildren…….that wasn’t living, that was dying as a prisoner to the cancer. What she wanted was some time to spend together, to make some joyous memories for the family to remember her by, to have time to say Goodbye without the family remembering her as being so ill. Yes, the cancer was going to take her away from them, but she wanted to live every day to the maximum whilst she was able, and make sure they knew how much she loved them. He felt she was being selfish, if there was a chance of the treatment extending her life she should take it, it could possibly even put her into remission, they could have years extra, so he believed. She knew this wasn’t the case, she had distinctly heard the words “only a few extra months at most”, before she refused to hear any more. 

He was hurting, she knew that, whenever they had discussed one of them dying, they had always believed it would be him to go first, his job as a Fireman putting him at a slightly higher risk, so this was never anything they had imagined could happen. 

She had shown no symptoms, hadn’t felt ill, just a bit tired but she had put that down possibly to the menopause, Ben had told her to get her blood tested as a precaution, now here they were. No cure; spread throughout her body, and it was tearing them apart. 

Somehow, she needed to reach out to him, to show him she was thinking it through, not just being “bloody minded”, and that her way meant they could still enjoy the simple things until she was finally called to “the next world”. 

She would be the one to close the gulf between them for now, she would hold him, and provide the strength and comfort he required. Once he listened and understood, she could then move forward, with him next to her giving her the power to “live” out her days as she wanted to. “Ben…….” She said softly, reaching across the abyss. 

Published in Issue #9

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