“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asks calmly.
“I didn’t have the courage” all she can manage.
“You had the courage to bear it all yourself?” he asks again.
“I had no choice” is her simple answer.
She is in pain but she has to go through this conversation. She knew she would have to soon. And that soon is today. She is lying on a bed of a multi-speciality hospital in the heart of the city waiting to be operated on for cancer in her right breast. She had hoped he would get to know after her surgery but life always has plans for us. She has made peace with life’s plan for her. So it is okay. It won’t make much of difference now.
“When did you get to know?” he wants to know.
“On my birthday” she says. He flinches.
“That was just a month ago. What stage?” his voice quivers. He doesn’t want to hear what he fears.
“Third. Not much hope. I don’t want this surgery but nobody is listening. Waste of time and money.” She repeats what she has been telling her family.
“Shut up” he is firm. He closes his eyes for precisely a second. “I need to see your doctor. I’ll be back in a bit.” He hurries out.
She closes her eyes and when she opens them there’s darkness all around. Did she fall asleep or has she passed away in her sleep? What a stupid thought. She can still feel that seething pain that wants to consume her completely. But she has resolved not to let it. She is thirsty. She turns to see who’s with her tonight. Must be mom. Tomorrow is the surgery and she won’t leave her side now. Mom has half died herself. It is difficult for a mother to see her child die. She understands. She has seen her own child die. A tear drops from her eye. No she can’t afford to get weak now. For her family’s sake. She wipes off that lonely tear and tries to get up to take water. She musn’t disturb mom. She has been sleeping very little for past so many days.
As she moves, cracking of the bed wakes him up. He’s at her side immediately.
“You okay? Why are you getting up? You need something?” he is worried.
“What are you doing here? I thought it was mom.” she is taken aback.
“I wanted to be with you tonight. I requested mom and she agreed.” he looks in to her deep, brown eyes and he can see pain that’s not just physical. He wants to hug her. Soothe her. Tell her everything will be fine. But he can’t. He didn’t do that when she needed it the most. He left her to fight with life alone. And today when she is fighting for life, he knows he might be lying. This thought hits him hard. He suddenly feels scared. Scared for himself. Scared of his own life.
“Why you also agree I won’t be around for long? Maybe won’t come out of this surgery alive. You wanted me to spend my last night with you?” she mocks.
“No. I know you’ll live a very long, healthy life and I want to be part of every moment of it from now on.” He promises to her and himself.
She smiles “We both know that can’t happen now. You’ve lost that chance.” Her voice is sad.
He gets down on his knees, folds his hands and says “Life will have to give me a second chance. Else I’ll snatch it. I just need you to promise me you won’t give up. I know I’ve committed a blunder in my life. I know we both had lost our child but I was a coward. I ran away and drowned myself in self pity and rum. But I’ll never leave you alone again. And despite what I did to you, you’ll have to promise me you won’t leave me. Promise?”
She wants to believe him. But she knows she has no time. She turns her face away. For the first time since she has got to know about her illness, she feels sad for herself. She had given up on life when her son had died and her husband had left her. She was just dragging through each day. Even her illness had not shocked her. But now as he sits here pleading her to not give up, she feels helpless. Tears start flowing down. She wants to live. With him. A sob escapes her mouth and he’s on his feet. He comes closer and hugs her.
“Shhhh.. You trust me?” he says.
“Yes” she says as he stands there holding her.
“Then stop crying and stay strong. Nothing wrong will happen. I promise.” he assures her.
This time she believes him. She knows she’ll fight it and they both will have their second chance.