Chapter Two

Wednesday night. He doesn't have to work, surprisingly enough. He's upstairs, playing with Emmalee, when the phone rings. I'm too busy making sandwiches for the three of us- a popular Wednesday night dinner when it's only me and Emmalee at home- to answer right away. It quiets after two rings, and I assume Michael has it covered.

I go to join them about ten minutes later, balancing two plates in one hand and two cups in the other. It's easier to carry this way, so I figure me and Michael can share.

When I reach the top of the staircase, I see Michael sitting alone at the edge of our bed. He looks troubled; too deep in thought to notice me standing there.


He looks up at me with a slightly hurt expression.

"Where's Emmalee?"

"I put her to bed," he states simply.

"But she hasn't had dinner yet," I remind him, frowning.

He ignores me. "… John called."

I blink, searching my mind for any John I might know.

"Who's John?" I finally ask.

"He referred to himself as the guy you 'hooked up' with last Thursday. He left his number; I told him you'd call him back later."

He holds a post-it note out to me and my eyes drift from his pain-filled ones to the numbers on the paper.

What I'd been doing was angry and spiteful, but I'd never wanted him to find out.

I never really wanted to hurt him.

I stand there, shocked, wondering why the hell I had ever seen justice in betraying the man I love. He lowers his arm, staring down at the floor so he doesn't have to look at me.

"Michael, I'm so-"

"Don't," he interrupts. "Don't apologize." I close my mouth slowly, tears welling up in my eyes.

"It's good," he says after a few moments of silence, "that you're moving on. It… It'll make things easier."


I have no idea what he's talking about. He looks nervous.

"They keep telling me that I should tell you," he murmurs, almost to himself.


"My… support group."

I'm completely bewildered now.

"Support group?"

He nods. "I go every Wednesday. It was cancelled tonight."

He's been lying to me about working. I'm too curious to care.

"What's the support group for?"

He hesitates, but finally just lets it out. "People with cancer."

I wonder why he would go to a support group for people with cancer. He doesn't have cancer.

He can't have cancer.

"Wh-why?" I finally ask, afraid to get an answer I don't want to hear.

"I have leukemia, Riley," he explains in a quiet voice. "Acute myeloid leukemia. They only gave me a little over four months left. Middle of October. Happy birthday to me, right?"

He let's out a small laugh and I stare at him.

He's dying.

He's fucking dying and all I've cared about is getting laid.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner," he continues. "I was scared. I always promised you that I'd always be here for you… Forever and ever… I was petrified when I imagined having to tell you that it was a lie.”

"How long… have you known?"

He glances up at me. "Huh?"

"How long have you know that you have… that you're sick?"

"Oh… Uh… Three months, about."

I nod. That's about the time he started acting differently. About the time he started "working" Wednesday nights. About the time he first disappeared into that locked room.

I'm suddenly flooded with feelings of anger.

"So… you find out that you don't have much time left… and you ignore us? You're always working or sleeping or locking yourself up in that room! You haven't made love to me once, we haven't gone out together… you've barely even talked to me!"

He apologizes quietly. "I'm sorry. I was afraid I would… cry or something… if we got too close. And I've been so tired because of the anemia… I should've told you. I was just scared and…" He sighs. "I was stupid. I'm so sorry."

I finally can't take it anymore. I don't care how angry I am, I need to touch him, kiss him, feel his warm body pressed against mine. I straddle his lap and wrap my arms around his abdomen, burying my face in his neck and squeezing him tightly.

The tears begin to fall when I feel his arms- not quite as strong as they used to be- wrap around me. He sniffles, breathing shakily, and I know he's crying as well. He lets out a sob that I can tell he was trying to hold in and I see the post-it note flutter to the ground out of the corner of my eye.

"Oh god, I'm so sorry," I sob, gripping his shirt so tightly that my knuckles turn white. "I didn't know that you were sick, I didn't know what was going on and I was angry and… and I…"

I don't know what else to say. He rocks me gently without a word and a question I've been burning to know the answer to pops into my head.

"What have you been doing in that room?"

He stops and I look up at the side of his face from where my head's resting on his shoulder. He hesitates.

"A lot of things." I just wait for him to continue and he sighs. "I've been putting together memories of me that you and Emmy can hold onto. But you don't seem to be having too much trouble moving on…"

I lift my head off of his shoulder to face him.

"N-no, I'm not moving on, I'm just screwing around; none of those guys mean anything to me, Michael, I promise. I'm so sorry. I didn't know that you were sick… that you were really doing something good for us… but… three whole months…"

"Well I've done a lot… Made six scrapbooks with little notes and captions around the pictures… Recorded hours of video diaries… Wrapped presents and made cards for birthdays and Christmases for you and Emmalee for the next fifteen years… I even got Emmy a graduation present. I've been writing letters and all of those and the presents have dates listed on them so you know when to open them… I've been working hard."

He smiles warmly, a sadness haunting his eyes. It suddenly really hits me that in just a few months, I'll lose him.

The Michael I love so much will be gone.

Forever and ever.

I cling to him and bawl my eyes out. He holds me tight and rocks me again, crying almost just as hard. We quiet down about half an hour later, the occasional small sob or sniffle breaking the silence.

"I'm sorry," he whispers.

"I'm so sorry," I respond with a sniffle. "I don't know what I was thinking…"

He falls silent again and we just hold each other.

"Are you afraid?" I ask quietly.

I feel him nod, his hair brushing against mine. "Yeah."

I squeeze him tighter.

"The worst part… I don't want to leave you all alone, Princess. You should never have to be alone. I was so stupid to have left you alone for those three months. That's why you'll need to find someone… Maybe not immediately… but after a while…"

I shake my head. "I couldn't… When I said you'd be the only man I'd ever love, I meant it."

He bites his lip and changes the subject. "Were you screwing around… before I started working on all of that?"

I shake my head quickly. "No, of course I wasn't."

He nods and I nuzzle him gently.

"You'll find someone," he whispers. "Just… promise me one thing…"


"Never forget me."