He had three months to live. She held his hand as the consultant delivered the news. She gave it what she hoped was a reassuring squeeze.
He proposed in the hospital car park. She did not love him. She barely knew him. What she loved was the idea of herself as a young, tragic widow. She planned her funeral outfit, rather than her wedding dress. It would include some kind of a veil. For the first time in her life, she was interesting.
The wedding was a quiet, dignified affair. He remained seated throughout, bringing her hand to his lips whenever she was near him. His touch, and his lips, were unpleasantly clammy. She smiled sweetly, thinking of the black dress, and the hat with a veil, and her chance to be interesting.
He refused to die. He had been saved by the love of a good woman. She looked over her shoulder to see who he meant. Years passed. He became a legend, a tale told to give hope to others. She ate for comfort, and mentally ordered her black dress in a larger size.
He maintained an invalid lifestyle and checked himself daily for new signs of illness. He reclined on the sofa as she cleaned around him, raising his feet when she vacuumed. Sometimes, he reached out to squeeze her hand affectionately. She batted it away like an annoying fly.
He ate only that which required no effort, cooked until it attained the consistency of baby food. Anything that needed to be chewed was returned to the side of his plate. He fancied himself allergic to most things.
Youth gave way to middle age. She was alone when she received her own diagnosis. The heart defect had always been there. She was a ticking time bomb. She asked how long. The consultant mouthed platitudes.
Lying in bed, stiff and apart from her husband, who had long since forgotten how to touch her, she listened to what could well be the last beats of her heart. She congratulated God on his sense of humour.