It was a small sliver of sunlight that woke him. He pulled the blanket up over his head, drowning himself in its protective warmth.
Out of habit, he reached toward her side of the bed. The empty space hit like a punch in the gut. He inhaled deeply, hoping to catch a trace of her fragrance. There it was, that intoxicating blend of jasmine and another scent he couldn't put a name to. It was her scent.
The sheets soaked up his tears as they flowed freely. Who said men don't cry? He'd cried enough to flood a bath tub the past few days.
"I can't do this, Lord. I don't know how to live without her. Why? Why did you take her?!"
Memories came rushing in at record speed. The initial pain that had landed them in the Emergency Room. The tests. The unthinkable diagnosis. And then...not even a week later...gone.
He grabbed hold of her pillow, ignoring the ring of his cell phone on the bedside table. A brighter, bolder stretch of light forced its way into the room, reminding him it was one more day. One more day without her, another day alone.
The doorbelt chimed in the distance. Once, twice, and a third time. He stared at the wall, willing the sound to stop. The loud and insistent knocking that followed told him someone wasn't going to give up easily. No matter. They'd eventually leave.
"Hey buddy, are you okay?" It was the voice of his best friend.
"What are you doing here?"
"I let myself in. I've been calling and calling, and you're not picking up or returning my calls. I was getting really worried," his friend said as he made his way into the bedroom.
"Just go. I need to be alone."
"I'm sorry, but I can't do that. How about some breakfast? My treat."
The mention of food made him queasy. "No food."
"You've got to eat. Let's take a walk down to the pier and get some coffee. We can talk. Or not. Whatever you like."
"I'm a mess. Haven't showered since...well, you know. Just go."
"I'm not leaving. Shower first if you want. You've got to get up. This isn't good for you."
"Why are you doing this? I'm not good company. Go home."
"Listen, you're my closest friend. I know how badly you're hurting. Because I'm hurting too. I'm scared for you. She was an amazing woman. The best. The void she left, it's huge. So I'm staying. We're going to walk through this together."
"You have work. And your own life to think about. Go home and be with your wife."
"Not a chance. This is where I belong right now. Come on, get up. I'll make coffee. Then we'll decide what to do...about breakfast...about your life."
"Why are you doing this? I'd rather you leave."
"Not a chance, buddy. It's what friends do. They lay down their lives for each other."
"I don't think I can do this. I don't know how to have a life without her."
"I know, buddy. I know. We'll figure it out together."
"A friend loves at all times."
"There's no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends."
Copyright 2015 by Julie Cowell.