When we arrive at the hospice but heart feels so heavy in my chest like I can barely move from the weight of it. Thankfully Max’s strong arms help me out of the car and tucks me protectively into his side while holding me up at the same time. I’m grateful that the clouds are in sympathy with me this morning and have removed the beaming sun from my sight.
The dull gray morning sky matching my own heart. There is no color or life in it right now, only gray sorrow. The nurse smiles a small sympathetic smile at me as we arrive. I sign us both in and I’m taken aback as I look at the empty box asking for Max’s surname. He smiles sadly as he looks down to see my dilemma. He gently takes the pen from my hand he scrawls efficiently the surname ‘Proditor’, before making his signature mark next to mine.
We walk down the hall towards the room that is going to be the last place I ever see my father and I can try to strengthen myself using all the support I feel coming from Maximus. When I enter the room the doctor just nods at me. “I’ll give you a few moments to say goodbye. Then I’ll be back.” He instructs and I feel the stinging behind my eyes. After he leaves I almost collapse over the bed hugging my father to me as best as I can as I cry quiet tears.
“Would you like me to wait outside?” Max’s concerned voice asks as he moves closer.
“Is that okay? I just want to say goodbye to him. But then I’m going to need you back in here when the doctor comes back.” I plead desperately. He nods solemnly then his eyes look shocked for a moment as he turns his head towards my comatose father.
“What is it?” I ask alarmed by his expression and a look of fascination comes over him.
“He can feel you.” He admonishes in complete awe. I gasp as I understand that Max can hear my father’s thoughts. Max shakes his head sadly at me. “It’s not like that. His mind is like yours, a dream of emotion and feelings. Not actual images or words. But there is something there I can’t quite see.” He says ruefully.
“Oh Papa. I’m so sorry. How can I do this to you?” I plead devastated. Max looks at me sadly.
“What does mon Coeur mean?” He asks me sadly. I start to cry deep wracking sobs. I take a deep breath as I hold my father’s hand.
“It means ‘my heart’.” I confess through my tears. “It’s what he used to call me.” I trail off as I try to wipe away my tears with my free hand. Max wipes away a stray tear from his eye as he seems to be battling with something internally.
“McKenna. You have to know it’s just his soul trying to connect with yours. His body, this shell is finished. He’s ready to move on.” Max pleads urgently as his hand rests on my shoulder. I cry harder as I lean my head down against my father’s chest trying to suppress my tears. I shake my head in defiance struggling to find a way to keep him with me. Max exhales in defeat.
“Would you trust me enough to leave me alone with him for a moment?” He asks reverently. I look up at him in wonder. I nod trustingly as I move off the bed and towards the door of the room. Max smiles reassuringly as his eyes fill with tears. I’m waiting outside the room for the longest few moments of my life. I can hear Max’s voice on the other side of the door but I can’t hear what he’s saying.
“McKenna.” I hear Max call out and I step back into the room. My eyes fill with tears as I see a pair of warm hazel eyes staring at me from the hospital bed.
“Oh my God.” I gasp out in shock as I run to the bedside barely able to see through my tears. “Papa.” I coo as I gently caress his face. His head tips as he really looks back at me for the first time in almost twenty years. His beautiful smile breaks out on his face and my heart almost bursts with happiness. I’m barely aware that Max has slipped out of the room as I faintly hear the door close.
“Hush mon Coeur. We don’t have much time, this is stolen gift brought to us by grace and love.” My Papa’s voice pleads softly. His voice is musical despite not being used for so long. I take a seat on the bed next to him and try to stay my tears so I can absorb this moment to hold onto it forever. He nods and smiles at me as I understand what he’s saying. This is only temporary; he’s still going to leave me today.
“How can I let you go?” I plead urgently. My French accent choking on my shallow breaths. He smiles brightly at me as his hand reaches up to wipe away my tears.
“My beautiful strong girl. You’ve been alone for so long, and I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for you.” I start to shake my head at his pleas but he just looks at me sternly as he places a finger over my lips to stop my protests. “A father’s one job in life is to protect his child, and I couldn’t protect you from the most unimaginable evil to walk this Earth. I will never forgive myself for that. You needed a father and the one you had couldn’t protect you. Even the Father of all was nowhere in sight when you needed him.”
His words choke off as tears stream down his cheeks from his eyes that match mine. There is so much love in those eyes that it overshadows his regret and pain. I purse my lips together to stop myself from crying through his words as I just try to commit each syllable to memory. He’s completely healed, and smiling at me the way I always wanted him to.
“You better believe I’m going to tear heaven to the ground with my bare hands to try and protect you from what eternity has waiting for you. I will reign a fire of wrath unlike anything they’ve ever seen before.” He declares angrily. I feel a sharp pang of guilt for ever confessing my fate to him. It has burdened him all these years without him being able to do a thing about it.
“I will not let you burn mon Coeur.” He vows ruefully. I shake my head at him.
“I’ve missed your smile.” I tell him sadly. His face falls as he looks at me ruefully. His hand cups my cheek.
“Not as much as I’ve missed yours. It’s my favorite sight in all the worlds, through heaven and the stars.” He tells me proudly as I smile sweetly at him. I don’t want to talk about heaven or hell, I just want to stay here in his smile and his eyes filled with so much love and pride.
“I always knew you could hear me papa, you’re my heart as much as I’m yours.” He takes a deep breath as he looks pained for a moment. “Papa?” I plead he looks at me sadly.
“You were aptly named my gift from God.” He says proudly as his face looks pained again. “Through all these years your strength kept this body alive, but it’s time to let it go mon Coeur. I will always love you and watch over you. Even if it seems like you’re alone never forget that.” He pleads as he takes another deep pained breath.
I caress his face gently. “Knowing that has given me this strength you’re so proud of Papa. I don’t want to let you go but I’m not selfish enough to keep you here like this. You deserve peace.” I plead out through my trembling lip.
His arms wrap around me tightly as I hold onto him for dear life. “My sweet little wing there is so much I need to tell you but I fear our time is up.” He whispers in my ear. I start to cry uncontrollably as he tries to breathe deeply. “Listen mon Coeur, the outcast, he can save you.” He breathes out painfully as he falls back to the bed. His eyes are fixed on mine as he pleads in a desperate whisper.
“But first.” He chokes as I try to get him to stop talking. He shakes his head defiantly. “First, you must save him.” He gasps out before his breathing comes in shallow gasps as his eyes release a single final tear. I cry out in pain as I lose him for good. The doctor rushes into the room at the sound of my cry and the alarms going off.
He looks at me pleadingly. “Miss Alvarette. I can’t in good conscience try to resuscitate him.” He says mournfully. I just nod understandingly as I cry deep painful tears of loss. My heart is in pure bittersweet agony as the doctor switches off the machines and monitors. I feel a strong pair of arms lift me from the bed.
I tuck my head into Max’s chest as I cry for the longest time in his arms. I want to tell him what he did for me was the most incredible gift anyone could’ve ever given me. Yet I can’t seem to break the surface of this ocean of sorrow to even breathe let alone speak. My head falls back in defeat as I’m cradled against him.
After who knows how long my tears stream into silent rivers traversing down my face as I pull myself out of Max’s arms to walk back towards the bedside of my father’s body. I lean over him carefully and place a gentle kiss on his forehead. “I’ve never despised heaven more than I do right now. I’ve never envied the angels before now. And I’ve never been truly angry at God before this moment. After everything that has happened, taking you from me forever is the one action I will never forgive him for. Priests talk about us seeking His forgiveness, but what about Him seeking mine? They don’t deserve you, but I hope you find all the peace and love you deserve, mon Coeur. I will miss you more than you can ever know.” I stand back up and my knees stumble a little from weakness.
I feel the strong arms around me as I turn to face Maximus. He looks completely distraught as his face run with tears looks down at me with so much compassion. I let my head fall against his chest feeling completely defeated by everything. He scoops down and picks me up to carry me from the room. I vaguely see the nurse—Margot— wipe away a tear as she sees me being carried out of the hospice.
I try to ignore the sympathetic looks I receive from other visitors and staff as I turn my head to bury it in Max’s chest. I’m barely coherent as he loads me into the car to drive me home. After he carries me inside he looks down at me seeming to await instructions. He looks so lost. I point up the stairs towards my bedroom.
As he lays me gently down on the bed I manage to kick off my shoes and reach out to pull the pillow against my chest and face to muffle my crying. I can hardly believe I haven’t run out of tears yet. I feel like I’ve cried a river today. After a few more hours my tears finally run dry. My face feels swollen and sore and my eyes sting like I have cactus needles stuck around the edges of them.
I feel my bed dip as the pillow I’m trying to suffocate myself with is pulled from my grasp. I’m pulled as well against a strong warm chest with a strong beating heart beneath it. “Please forgive me McKenna.” His voice pleads in the twilight. I’m confused by his plea as I lean back to look in his eyes. He looks utterly devastated.
“What for?” I ask hoarsely surprised at my own voice and dry throat. Max reaches for a water bottle beside the bed for me and takes the lid off gently bringing it to my lips. I swallow gratefully as realize just how parched I am.
“I thought I was doing a good thing healing him so you could really say goodbye, but you’re more devastated than I’ve ever seen someone before. I don’t know what to do to help you.” He begs me. I inhale sharply as I look at him. I reach up to caress his face. I let my other hand secure his arms around me again.
“You’re helping just by being here.” I whisper reverently. “As for what you did for my father.” I trail off speechless. He looks desolate as his eyes find the ceiling. I reach up to plant my lips softly on his jaw. His sharp intake of breath makes me smile a sweet smile at him. “I will never be able to repay the greatest gift anyone has ever given me. How you could heal two hearts the way you did today and not think you have any grace left in you astounds me.” I confess sadly.
He looks stricken by my words. “You helped two souls say goodbye to each other. My soul will never see his again. The feeling of being able to really say goodbye to him is something is something I will never be able to fully explain to you. You proved to me today that angels really do exist.” He scoffs lightly at my confession.
“I’m not an angel.” He declares mournfully. I grab his face forcefully.
“Your mine.” I tell him seriously. I bring his face to mine to desperately express my deepest sincerity through our kiss. His breathing becomes ragged as he breaks away from me. The fire burning hungrily in my belly tells me that I am well and truly done crying for today. I latch onto his bottom lip with my teeth as I run my hands up to the back of his neck to grasp his hair tightly.
He groans as with pleasure as he takes my mouth in his claiming it as his. “Are you sure?” He asks urgently against my ear as his tongue traces the line of it. I grip him tighter as I let my nails dig into his biceps trying to pull his body closer to mine.
“You healed my soul, now I need you to heal my body. Make me forget the sorrow.” I plead desperately into his ear. His entire body responds mine as if it had been waiting all his existence to hear that command. I fall asleep safe in his arms completely wrung out as the night surrounds us again.