I began to cry more, the tears forming salty rivers down my face. His words were making it to my ears but I couldn’t absorb them. I buried my face in Hunter’s lap. He treated me far better than I deserved, even when he was going through so much.
His jeans were soaked and only made my face more wet. I bawled into his legs, wishing everything would go away.
He let me cry and didn’t say anything for a while. After I’d cried myself out, I wiped away my tears until there was only rain water left on my face. I was numb and empty. There was nothing left inside me.
Then his voice got low and took on an edge I’d never heard in it before. “I’m sorry you didn’t get the answers you wanted today,” he said. “Sometimes, things happen to us that we never understand and we worry we’ll never get back to normal. But there is no normal, Lorrie. All we can do is move past the pain and hope that we have someone to stand next to us.”
He stared into the distance, and then shook his head.
“I’m never gonna understand why I have this disease and I’m never gonna know what the future holds for me. For a long time I was scared of that. But I’m not scared anymore. You know why?”
I sniffled, but didn’t say anything.
“Because of you.”
I turned away, trembling. Why did he think it was because of me? I could barely keep myself together.
“Look at me Lorrie,” he said, putting his hand on my cheek. His gray eyes glimmered. “Yes. It’s because I love you. I love you so much that it hurts. We're going to be together for . . . for as long as we can. I won't say forever, because none of us have forever. But I want to be with you right now. And right now. And right now.”
He brushed some of my hair that had fallen over my face behind my ear.
“The only thing I want is to live in every moment I have with you standing by my side. Wherever you go, I wanna be there with you.”
I half-heartedly tried to pull myself up by grabbing the arms of his wheelchair, but slipped back down and fell hard on my butt. I shook my head. Marco had won. I would never know why my mom had been killed. I would keep being haunted. Nothing was going to change.
“I don’t know—” I mumbled, shaking. “I don’t know if I have anywhere to go from here.”
His face locked into intense focus as he stared into my eyes, his own gray irises aflame. He leaned his forehead against mine, his breaths coming in short bursts.
“Yes you do,” he said, his voice rising with every word. “Yes you do, because you have me, okay? YOU HAVE ME!”
With a growl, he leaned forward and put his hands under my armpits. He pulled me up toward him until I was on my knees and my head was on his chest. Then he brought his hands down to the armrests of his wheelchair. His legs flexed to stand up and I gasped, draping my hands reflexively around his back.
He grit his teeth, shaking with effort, and began to rise. His face locked into an intense grimace as he slowly straightened his legs.
Seeing him struggle shocked me into action. I couldn’t let him lift both of us up. Even though my legs still felt weak and my knees hurt, I stood upright.
Together, we came to our feet, his head eventually rising above mine. I buried my face into his chest and his chin came to its familiar spot atop my head. For a moment, we held each other.
Then suddenly, his knees buckled. My arms shot out to steady him. I pulled him to me until we were leaning against each other.
He swayed slightly and I could tell by his breathing that he was struggling hard to stay up. When he shifted more of his weight onto me, I stiffened my legs in response and leaned more into him.
He was heavy, but together we were able to keep him upright.
We held each other. I sobbed into his wet jacket, my heart swelling with hope. Hunter was standing.
I frantically pulled his mouth to mine. Our lips crashed together, the heated wetness of our tongues burning away the cold around us. This close to him, I could still smell his scent. It reminded me of the sweatshirt I stole from him on the wet, cold morning that we had met so long ago. When we broke away, Hunter was still looking straight at me.
“You have me,” he said between heavy breaths. “As long as you have me, you’ll have somewhere to go.”
Hunter had been right. We could save each other. We already had.
“And you have me,” I said, showering his face with kisses. “I love you, Hunter. I love you. I love you. I love you.” When I was done, I rested my cheek against his face, as his warm hand rubbed my back.
We leaned on each other as the rain storm roared around us.
I stood on dirt road running through the middle of the cemetery with flowers in my hand. The sun was poking through the clouds after a brief summer rainstorm. The ground smelled like freshly turned earth. Birds had come out to begin singing again after the brief interruption. The world was full of life.
It took a while for me to find the spot, but in the end I remembered where it was. I stood before it solemnly and bowed my head.
“Hi guys,” I said quietly. “It’s been a while.”
My eyes shot back and forth between the headstones of my parents. They had bought these plots next to each other before they divorced, and with the sudden nature of their deaths that never got changed. I thought it was fitting. Even though they couldn’t be next to each other in life, at least they lay beside each other in death. I wished yet again they had never gotten divorced.
Shuddering, I took a deep breath. “I’m okay,” I told them. “I want you guys to know that. Life has been really hard without you, but I’m okay.”
A hand rested on my shoulder. I turned to Hunter, who was standing by my side, even if he needed crutches. It had been three months since his last MS attack, and he had exceeded all expectations in physical therapy. The doctors were confident he would be walking without crutches again. Maybe even in the next few weeks.
I turned to him and he smiled, giving my shoulder a tight squeeze. I smiled back at him before turning back to my parents’ graves.
“For the longest time I was trying to recover. Trying to get back to normal. But that’s never going to happen for me, really. What happened to you guys is just part of my life now. It took me a long time, but I realized I can still be happy.”
Tears began to fall from my face, but I wasn’t ashamed of them. Some things were worth crying about. I paused to dab at my eyes with my sleeve.
“I miss both of you guys so much. If you were alive, I know we could find happiness in our own way. Even after the divorce. We would have made it work. I know it.”