The professor was no sentimental fool.
For every cause of joy, there would be pain. It had always been this way, and he knew his life would be no exception, not even when he had his own beautiful saint to love. For every day in his life that she changed, for every day that she made good and happy, he knew there would be a corresponding effect, that one day life would inevitably come to collect.
He knew this.
He believed in this.
But such was the power of love that he refused to let this govern him.
He loved her, and she him, and he began to live according to these two principles. His work, his attitude towards other people, virtually every aspect of his life reflected the changes loving Diana wrought in him, and the results were as he expected.
He had colleagues ridiculing him, saying that whereas his essays once delivered great insights, they were now nothing but a disastrous mix of spiritual gibberish and emotional rubbish.
Professor Matthijs de Graaf has clearly lost it, one peer scathingly wrote in his review, to even dare think we would let him get away with quoting the bible in a scientific journal.
A number of invitations had also been rescinded ever since knowledge of his relationship with Diana came about, some of them politely worded while a few had been openly malignant and bordered on libel.
It is my responsibility to protect the reputation of my university and ensure the well-being of my students. If I have you lecture them, I might as well have the Devil corrupt their souls.
Added together, the incidents should have taken a toll on the professor, but it did not. Not once did it make him regret his decision, and he knew it would always be so. For when one faced the stakes that he did, the trivialities of life ceased to matter, and one learned to appreciate what truly made each day worth living.
And for him, it was her.
The way she was always there, waiting and smiling to welcome him home.
The way she took him in her arms and loved him without fear or hesitation.
All of these things and more were the reasons he loved her and why, later on, the status quo was no longer enough.
He was at the airport in Frankfurt, waiting for his private jet to be refueled, when he found himself stopping in his tracks. Before him was the display window of a famous jewelry chain, and catching his eye was a pair of platinum bands lying in a bed of white silk.
The last time he bought a ring, the professor thought, his life had fallen apart soon after.
Was there any reason to think it would end differently this time?
The question lingered in his mind even well after he had boarded the jet, and it persisted in haunting him even as he made his way to the back entrance of his home.
Because he had arrived two hours earlier than expected, he was hoping to surprise Diana. But as soon as he made it near enough to hear and see her moving about in the kitchen, it was the professor who had a bombshell dropped on him instead.
One moment she was by the stove, cooking and humming as her hips swayed in gentle rhythm.
My Girl by The Temptations, the professor managed to identify in spite of being distracted by the way her butt had started wriggling, almost as if it was begging for a spank.
He was about to go in and do just right that…when history repeated itself.
And life threatened to fall apart once more.
Diana suddenly rushed to the sink and started throwing up.
He managed to get past his shock and already had his phone whipped out when, just as he was about to dial 911, he heard the retching sounds stop. His frantic gaze snapped back to her, and the first thing he saw was her pale face as her fingers fumbled for the phone lying on the countertop.
She was calling someone, and he tensed, somehow unable to make himself move as he waited for his phone to ring.
But it didn’t.
Instead, he heard her start to speak, voice wobbling as her shoulders started to shake in silent sobs.
“This is Diana Leventis. I thought I’d leave you a voice mail in case…”
He watched her inhale, all the while thinking, this was it. He knew it in his guts. This was life coming to collect.
“Anyway, it’s, um, Day 24. The nausea’s still bad, and the vomiting…it’s gotten worse.”
And so it was.
“I think I’ll go ahead with the kidney checkup you mentioned, and if the side effects still persist…we’ll do it your way. We’ll change medications then, but—”
He heard her voice break, and his own chest caved in with it.
“Matthijs…he still doesn’t know, and I’d like to keep it that way. Please. Him knowing won’t change my condition, but what it will change is him worrying about me even more…and I just…I just don’t want him to have any reason to push me away again.”