Not your typical steamy romantic story… but hopefully an interesting one.
His hair was dark brown, the short waves framing his face. His forehead was pressed against the windowpane, his hands balled up into a fist above it. I wanted to get from the bed, cross the room, comfort him. I couldn't. I couldn't move. It hurt to breathe, to talk… but I did so anyway.
"Nicko?" My voice was a rasping whisper, shocking, almost taunting me. A parody of my former self. He turned from the window, quickly wiping his eyes on his turned back cuff. They were stained and no longer stiff with starch. Tired. Like him. Dark circles shadowed his eyes, his face haggard. Still beautiful, but ruffled, wrecked, beaten.
"It's my fault." His voice too was hoarse, breaking as he spoke. He bit his lip, holding himself back.
"No." My voice was weak, not strong, forceful, defiant like I wanted – like I needed it to be. He came closer, kneeling beside the bed, taking my hand in his.
"If I had the money, not just the title… I could get you the medical help you needed… I would disown the estate, sell it all, recind my nobility, if it would make you better." I looked down at my hand, small and pale in his. Perhaps if he had the money… but I did not care. I cared only for him.
"We just had medical elp. The doctor just came, but ever since he did you've been standing there staring after him…" I gathered all my energy and gestured towards the window, "…refusing to tell me what he told you."
"Remember when we were going to be married… when we were planning it… it was to be in two weeks time. I was just looking out in the garden at where we were going to have the party."
"Where we will have the party, when I'm-"
"Better. yes I know. I heard it over and over!" Nicko's eyes were filled with tears of rage, his jaw clenched. "Stop trying to make me feel better! Keep that energy for yourself. You'll need it, defying death-" he stopped, then got up quickly and sat at the edge of my bed.
"Defying death?" I swallowed. I had known all along it wasn't just another cold, a passing malady. He gently, timidly, wrapped his arms around me, and buried his face in my hair.
"I'm sory, I didn't mean to…" His voice trembled. "He says… he says you have consumption. Your symptoms: pale skin, a hacking cough.. the weakness and aching in your bones. He says that it's serious. That…" Again, he stopped. I felt a warm tear fall onto my scalp. "That… you have days… even hours, maybe, to live." He took a breath, pulling himself together, then began again, speaking too quickly, too loudly. "Of course, he's just one doctor- we should get a second opinion. I can sell the horses, leave off a few staff-"
"No. There's only the maid, the cook and the butle left, and they work for hardly anything anyway. There are only two horses left… and you'll need them, without the carraiges. They're also gone, to pay for the last doctor." My practical, economical side spoke out, sheltering the real me underneath.
Nicko tightened his embrace and lifted his legs onto the day bed..
"Youch!" He exclaimed, pulling a hardcovered book from under him.
"What are you reading now?" He smiled, albeit sadly, opening the red cover.
"'Romeo and Juliet'. A tad depressing, don't you think. I much prefer 'As You Like It'- everything works out in the end… and it's funny." I smiled.
"Yes, I do like that too. But, not everything allways works out, does it? And there are some beautiful quotes." He chuckled quietly, happy for a moment. For longer than a moment. The room was pale, beautiful. Ghostly in the cool light. I curled into Nicko's side, reacing towards his face. He frowned, worried at my fraility, but then ginned and ducked his face to mine. Our lips met, his warmth seeping into me. I broke away, grinning also.
"A good one is, 'Thus with a kiss I die.'" The happiness dissapeared from his face, replace by horror. I grinned and shook my head… it seemed lighter, less painful.
"I love you," I smiled. He smiled too again.
"I love you too." He kissed me for the second time that morning. The energy, happiness, light, warmth, joy, beauty and passion radiating from him filled me. I couldn't quite touch his lips, they felt like they were pulling aways from me. His arms felt looser, my body lighter. I sat up, stood up, for the firt time in weeks.
"Nicko! Look!" I spun around to see his reaction. Tears fell from his eyes as he gazed in wonder at my frail, waif like body cradled in his strong arms. I understood. Moving towards him, I kissed his forehead.
"I love you," I sighed, and left.