And even now

He hesitantly asks a question.  Such a simple question, yet full of earnest.  She groggily answers and confirmation, and within seconds, she falls into slumber.

In the morning, she glances at his curled up form tangled in the covers.  
He's so tired, she thinks.  After a successful rummaging for breakfast in the kitchen, she plants herself in the leather chair at the dining table.  Just last night, the two of them enjoyed a meal together.  He had prepared one of the meals she wished to try the most, and she was delighted.

Probably... she ponders, This is probably my last meal here.  A sense of remorse gnaws at her core, and she pushes herself away from the table and walks back to his room.

Soft, uneven snoring.  She grins, her face close to his while she kneels next to the bed.

Minutes melt into hours, and she finds herself constantly glancing at the clock.  A flutter of happiness lifts her doubt when she sees him shuffling towards the kitchen.

A big yawn and an exchange of words reveals that he is perched between fatigue and sleepiness.  He steps towards the hallway and vanishes into his room.

A half hour later, she glances up from a card written in his writing to dismiss the third alarm on her phone and tiptoes back into his room.

Still lost in dreamland.

Unable to take it any longer, she wades onto the sheets and watches his eyes snap open.  

Oh my God.  I had a dream...  he mumbles, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and failing.  that I was in school...  and I was miserable.  She laughs, placing her hand on his chest and nuzzling into his neck, jesting with him that she probably saved him from a few hours of torture.  And within a few minutes, she realizes that she lost him to sleep's grasp yet again.


And then it is time.  Time to go.  Time to leave.  Time to depart.

And she is torn.  It is a happy day.  It is a sad day.  It is a day when she is unable to discern what storm is brewing within.  

Your question.  I haven't fulfilled it.  Nor have I spent enough time with you this morning.  Panic.

She attempts to keep the spring in her step and the laughter in her voice as he washes his face to get ready.  She looks around his room to take it in, to bury it somewhere deep.  And then they step out the door together.  But the door closes with an emphatic click.

They stop by a quaint little shop for lunch.  She enjoys a large concoction of cream and chocolate for lunch, and he savors a similar confection for breakfast.  They share a few smiles between spoonfuls.  But the smiles seem deflated and quiet.


The car pulls up to the parking spot, and the two step out to grab the luggage from the back of the trunk.  When all of luggage bags are out, the two face one another.  A tight hug.  She closes her eyes, wanting to say so much more than she does, but unable to.  Their bodies detach and their eyes meet.  Both were dreading this very moment, but they lean in.  Pressing, but gentle.  Moving, but not fierce.  Emotional, and sad.  And when they open their eyes and look at one another, they both think the same five words.

Is this the last time?

Dragging her baggage behind her, she looks back at the car and smiles.  He waves goodbye as the doors slide shut behind her.


A day later, she feels brave enough to take out the card again.  Her eyes wander through the small print written by his hand, gliding over the curves of his u's and n's and tumbling over the slightly messy bits.  She notices a few grammar mistakes, and the corners of her lips tug upwards a little.  Taking a breath, she tucks the card back into its envelope and spreads it onto the carpet with six other memories: two cards, an index card, an apple slice-shaped Post-it note, a Gundam figurine, and a small stuffed dog.

It's enough, she tells herself, realizing something.  Few, but meaningful.  And there are others too.  One that will remind me that he didn’t know much about me at the beginning.  One that will inspire me at medical school this year.  One that will keep me warm when it’s cold.  Just the way he did.

Her thoughts flash back to his question on the last night.  His face tilted upwards, not looking at her.  Embarrassed, or shy.  Quiet and softened.

At that moment, I was there, she thinks, But now...

She imagines him laying and staring towards the ceiling, asking the same question, but by himself.  His words are still quiet, yet they are loud in the silence of his room.  So lonely and sad.  Her vision instantly blurs as a dam breaks with the weight of gushing tears.

I'm so sorry, she says, directing her words at the stuffed dog.  Spots on the dog's coat become matted into clumps as her tears slowly glide down, linger on her chin and then pummel down onto its synthetic fur.

He did it last time, so he will be able to overcome it again, she reminds herself, unable to do anything but stay in place.  She smooths the fur and looks into the small dog’s eyes.  Hi, Cream.  She hugs the small thing towards her chest with an everlasting tight squeeze.