This is an older short story, I think I wrote it at Father’s Day or something. It’s with my character Damen and the death of his wife. Warning: there will most likely be many feels.
All characters belong to me.
I stay up long hours of the night researching medicines, treatments, surgeries, anything I can do to help Caroline. My eyes threaten to shut even as I keep drinking black coffee. No, I can’t go to sleep, yet. I need to find something, anything, that can help her.
“Daddy?” I turn at the soft voice, my vision blurring as my eyes turn away from the bright computer screen to peer into the dark room. They adjust after a moment and see Eryn standing in the doorway. I blink twice.
“Eryn, what are you doing awake? Don’t you realize how late it is?”
“I couldn’t sleep. I had a bad dream.” I sigh. How can I refuse her now? She’s only four. I hold my arms out to her and she comes running into them, climbing up onto my lap. I lean back in my chair and hold her close, resting a hand on the top of her head.
“What kind of bad dream, darling?” I ask in a soft voice, less to comfort her and more because my weariness is catching up with me.
“It was about Mommy,” she murmurs. That was no nightmare, then. It’s reality. Mommy isn’t here, she’s at the hospital hooked up to a life support system. I never told Eryn, this. All I told her was that she’s staying at the hospital overnight for more tests, not that she had taken a turn for the worse.
“Everything’s going to be all right now, Eryn,” I tell her, stroking her hair. “I know you miss Mommy, but Daddy is doing all he can to make sure she gets better soon. Once she does, we can all go out together and do something fun.”
“Like eat ice cream?”
I chuckle softly. “If that’s what you want to do, then yes. We can all eat ice cream together.”
She smiles and wraps her arms around my neck. “Daddy, when can I see Mommy again?”
“Tomorrow, perhaps,” I say. “If you’re good.”
“I’ll be good.”
I hug her close, my eyes drifting shut. Who am I kidding, I’m not going to get anywhere with my research if I kill myself trying to stay awake. I turn off the computer and stand, picking Eryn up, and carry her upstairs with me.
I lie down in my bed with her, figuring she doesn’t want to be alone after having a bad dream. Who can blame her? I don’t want to be alone either. She’s already fallen asleep again. I gaze at her fondly as my eyes drift shut. I hope she dreams of eating ice cream together with her mother and I. It was a lie to make her feel better. And to make me feel better.
* * *
“I’m sorry, Dr. Black,” the nurse told me, and instantly my heart sank. I already knew what she was about to say next. “She’s not going to make it.” She’s not going to make it. After everything I’ve done to save her, after all those long nights I stayed up searching for something to help her. She’s not going to make it.
I press my fingers into my eyes, trying not to show any emotions. “How much longer do you suppose she has?”
“She would be lucky to make it through the night, let’s put it that way.”
I sigh. All of my efforts were in vain. “All right,” I murmur. “I’ll call her family and get them here as soon as possible. Her mom is looking after Eryn anyway.” The nurse nods and walks away. I pull my phone from my pocket and dial the number for Caroline’s mother. Our words are brief. She understands perfectly what’s going on.
I slip the phone back into my pocket, my hands shaking, then slowly go into her room. She’s there, lying on the bed, hooked up to life support, yet the heart monitor shows her pulse is dwindling. She’s a shell of her former self. Her skin is so pale, her body so thin and fragile. Even her golden hair has lost its shine.
I walk over to her side and lower myself into a chair, gently taking her hand in mine. “I’m sorry,” I whisper. “I’m so sorry.”
“Why?” Her voice is weak, but still as sweet as ever. “What do you have to be sorry for?”
I gaze at her for a moment and swallow back a lump in my throat. “Because I lied to you. I told you I would save you. And it was a lie.”
“Damen, don’t be so hard on yourself. You tried your best.”
“But it wasn’t good enough,” I say. “It was all in vain. What was the point of it all if I couldn’t save you in the end?”
“I don’t pretend to know how these things work, Damen, but I do know that everything happens for a purpose.” She tilts her head slightly and opens her eyes. Once an intense blue, now they’re glassy and dull. “And don’t you dare give up once I’m gone.”
I blink. “Give up…?”
“I’ve seen you give up on things you were passionate about before, only for them to end in failure. You went to a bar and drank yourself stupid. You told me that I was your only reason in life to live. I can’t be your reason anymore, Damen. You have another reason, now.”
She sighs and closes her eyes, whispering, “Eryn. You’re her father after all. Remember all those stories we would make fun of, where the wife dies and the father is abusive to his kids because apparently he was only nice to them because he loved her?”
I flinch a little. “I remember. I would… never do anything like that.”
She smiles. “See that you don’t. Because once I’m gone, she’ll become your reason for living. Understand?”
“I do,” I murmur. I squeeze her hand gently and press it to my lips, kissing it softly. “I promise, Caroline. No matter what happens, I will always take care of Eryn and give her all the love she needs.” I chuckle bitterly. “She needs more love than before, but that’s okay. What love I have left for you can go to her.”
“You can still love me even when I’m gone,” she says, her voice growing softer. “There’s nothing wrong… with loving a dead woman.”
“Caroline?” I gaze at her for a moment, then quickly say, “I love you so much, Caroline. Th-thank you… for everything.”
She doesn’t respond for the longest time. But her lips move silently, mouthing the words, “Thank you.” She goes still, a smile on her lips. It takes me a moment to realize that she’s slipped into a coma. That’s it, then. She’s gone. I just have to wait for her heart to stop, now. I could just take her off life support, but I can’t.
I lay her hand down beside her and call for the nurse. I don’t want to stay any longer. They can watch her heart stop, but as far as I’m concerned, she’s already died. As the nurse comes in, she tells me that the family is here. Too late.
I stand shakily and go out to find them waiting by the door. Her parents and her younger sister, who’s holding Eryn. I walk over to her slowly and hold my arms out. She passes Eryn to me and I hug her close.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper. “Mommy… won’t be joining us for ice cream after all. But it’s okay. I can still… take you out myself. You can have a double scoop. Any flavor you want. It’s going to be… okay.”
Tears sting my eyes. I grip her tighter, suppressing a sob. “Daddy? Are you okay?”
“No,” I say. I’m not going to lie to her anymore. “Daddy isn’t okay. B-but… he will be. Because I have you, Eryn.” I kiss the top of her head. “I love you so much.” We’ll be… okay.