Twenty One

He took her hand in both of his, bile rising in his throat as he kissed her knuckles a couple of times, as reality began to settle in grief clutched his heart, he pulled himself closer to her, kissing her cheek avoiding the OG tube that trailed from the corner of her mouth, his eyes swept over her sallow skin, his head fell next to her as chesty sobs escaped him, he covered his face for a moment before looking back up at her, he cupped her face, listening to her laboured breathing, he took a deep breath, holding her hand tighter,

“I’m sorry love, I’m so sorry, it should have been me, you shouldn’t have gone in” he placed his head on her shoulder allowing more sobs to escape, he sat up pushing his hair from his forehead, with blurred vision he removed her wedding ring, a simple gold band, identical to his, “you don’t have to fight anymore Dolly, not if you don’t want to, not anymore, you’re tired I can see it, please just rest now love, stand down, duty done” he choked on his words “Don’t worry about Bayleigh I’ll make sure she makes you proud” he swept her hair away “I bloody love you”
He still couldn’t bring himself to leave, he had made peace with her fate but was still unable to leave her side, just in case, he had watched her come through so much physically and mentally, a flame of hope still flickered inside him that she’ll come round, the doctor had said that the antibiotics were working, maybe she would get through this as well.

Every move she made, every change in her breathing pulled his attention igniting that flame inside of him.

As the evening drew in he remained unmoved, unable to bear the thought of her waking alone frightened and in pain, he knew she would do the same if it were him laid up in that bed, movement in the door way caught his attention, the usual young nurse walked in, his heart dropped knowing what she was about to say before she said it,

“Evening Kevin, time to leave now I’m afraid”

He leaned in to his wife kissing her warm cheek gently,

“You will call though” he sniffed trying to remain calm “if anything happens?”

The nurse nodded placing her hand at the top of his arm,

“Of course we will” her voice almost a whisper she smiled at the young fireman sympathetically “You’re the first on the list”

He looked back at her as he pulled his coat on, her chest rose and fell slowly, the nurse set about checking her cannulas and slipping her arm in to a blood pressure cuff, she nodded to herself making notes on her charts.

He sighed sadly feeling his chest tighten as his eyes welled, he turned quickly and left.

He lay in bed, eyes closed attempting to force sleep on himself, after her three months of admission the boat was starting to feel less and less like home, her print seemed to be disappearing from the place, he rolled on to his side hissing as his bare skin made contact with the cold sheet on the empty side of the bed, feeling lonely he stood quietly, making his way to the kitchen, he set about making himself a tea, a small quiet voice coming from behind him,

“Daddy?” he turned laying eyes on his daughter, rosy cheeked she stood rubbing her eyes “Is mummy home yet?”

“Not yet Boo” he whispered sweeping her in to his arms holding the toddler close to him “What’s the matter?” She didn’t reply, resting her head on his shoulder, he listened to her breathing slowly change as she drifted back to sleep.

He carried her back to her bedroom, covering her with the duvet and slipping her cuddly sheep under the covers next to her, he pushed her hair from her face he left her sleeping.

“She’s had dinner, she’s had a shower”

His voice was monotonous as he handed his daughter to his mother in law, who looked at him with concerned eyes, his skin pale and the dark bags below his eyes had aged him almost overnight, he had almost certainly lost his sparkle, even she had fallen for his charm when Scarlett had first introduced him to the family, she busied herself making cups of tea,

“Kevin, love, are you sure you’re ready to go back?”

His eyes flickered over her as he took a swig from his mug, his throat tightened, and he sighed, he knew he wasn’t ready to go back, it would have been the last time he saw his wife on her feet, albeit she was about to clump Billy but she was full of life, she still had her flame, now she was a husk attached to different machines,

“I haven’t got much of a choice to be perfectly honest, money is getting tight and I can’t put it off forever”

“We can help you Kevin! She’s our daughter and Ruby is our granddaughter, you’re ours as well we wouldn’t see you struggle!”

“I know” he sighed “I can’t put it off forever, they’ve all asked about her and Boo, so I suppose I better go and tell them” He swigged the last mouthful from the mug and placed it in the sink, he gave his daughter a kiss and squeezed her before he left, “Be good Boo”

“Kevin?” she called after him, pulling her son in law in to a tight hug “be careful love, we’ll see you in the morning”

She kissed his cheek, sighing as he walked down the path, his shoulders sagged with the weight of the world.