Nick Cameron leaned against the door of his new office in the downtown building into which he’d soon be moving his law practice. The gleaming new desk in front of the still-empty floor-to-ceiling bookshelves sat squarely on the deep blue and beige patterned area rug covering half of the polished wood floor. He chewed his bottom lip. In a way, he would miss the much smaller and less grand room he’d occupied for the past fifteen years. He’d built his reputation there.
He didn’t like to think about the reason he could afford his new digs now—because he’d finally paid off the last of Sarah’s staggering medical expenses. Sarah. Her face obscured everything else in the room. Five years ago tomorrow she’d died in his arms from the breast cancer she’d fought until she finally told she couldn’t fight any longer.
“I’m tired, Nick. Two doctors told us there wasn’t anything else to do.”
He turned his back so she wouldn’t see the agony twisting his face.
“You have to let me go. You have to let me go and get on with your life. There’s Charlie to think of.”
He shook his head. Did she really understand what she was asking him to do? Let her go? Give up the person who’d completed him for a dozen years? She was asking the impossible.
“Nick, look at me.”
He faced her, unable to hold back the tears he’d swallowed for the six years since her diagnosis.
“Promise me you’ll be happy, you and Charlie.”
“Without you?” His voice cracked.
“You don’t have a choice.”
He shook his head.
“Charlie doesn’t really understand. He’s lived with this since he was only two. It’s just part of his life. It’s who his mother is. You’ve got to help him make a new life. He can’t do that if you don’t move on.”
“Stop it!” He whirled around again, his shoulders heaving under an unseen weight. “Sarah, you’re my life! Without you, I don’t have anything.”
“There’s Charlie. He’s part of both of us.”
“Sarah, I can’t. . .I heard about a new doctor who’s had some success when others had given up. I’m going to call him in the morning.”
“No, Nick. No more calls. No more doctors, no more treatments, no more. I’m tired. I’m just so tired.” Her weak voice, soft but unyielding, shattered his soul.
Two weeks later, and at her insistence and with the doctor’s reassurance, he’d flown to Dallas to meet with a new client who might guarantee him a steady stream of income. But in the night he’d waked and known he had go return to Houston. A nurse met him in the hall outside Sarah’s room. “I was trying to reach you.”
Inside the dim room, he heard Sarah’s harsh breathing. Her thin body barely made a wrinkle under the blanket. Leaning over, he brushed the hair back and kissed her damp forehead. She didn’t stir. Carefully he lay down beside her and took her in his arms. Her head fell to his shoulder where it remained until, scarcely three hours later, she gave up the fight.
Just at dawn, he woke Charlie from a restless sleep and told him. The boy hadn’t cried, but Nick had crushed his son in his arms and sobbed.
They’d gone on, just the two of them, in the same house to which he and Sarah had brought Charlie straight from the hospital after his birth. In some ways, Sarah still inhabited the rooms she’d decorated with large love and a small budget. In other ways, her absence caused a palpable ache in his bones.
Now, five years later, he and Charlie had entered a new phase of their lives. Out of debt, Nick could look ahead to paying for college for Charlie sooner than later. Charlie’s life, full of friends, school, and sports, had moved on as Sarah wanted. His own had not. He doubted it ever would.
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