“Are you there, my love?” she whispered into the darkness. His footsteps hammered in the early morning silence.
“I am,” he whispered back, his footfall slowing to stop somewhere just beyond the edge of the darkness.
Alise struggled to rise from the bed but found herself paralyzed.
“My love,” she croaked. “I…I…I’m afraid I cannot rise to meet you.”
“That’s okay,” he said back to her quietly. He breathed heavily from his spot across the room, but he did not draw any closer to the edge of the bed where even now his wife lay dying.
Alise took a deep breath and let her head fall softly to the side of the warm pillow beneath her head. Her faded blue eyes searched the darkness for his face, but all she could make out was shadow. “Have you come to kiss me goodbye?” she asked hopefully.
He met her question with a long silence before finding the words.
“I am come to tender you my goodbyes, yes.” He told her wearily, the words trailing off into another bloom of awkward silence. Only her heavy breath issued a sound between them.
When her breathing had slowed she spoke again. This time her words were much weaker, almost far away.
“I have always loved you, you know.” She told the shade as she began to slide into the darkness. “Even from the beginning. Even when you did not love me.”
He sighed loudly, but did not speak, so she went on.
“Even when you looked for her, and even when you found her. Even then I loved you.”
“I know,” he said after a long pause. She head him fidget anxiously. “But you are going somewhere that I cannot, my love.”
For a long while, neither one of them spoke. Alise struggled to find her breath, which was coming even shallower and more erratic now. She shivered, and her emaciated frame trembled beneath the thick, woolen covers. When she tried to speak again, she found that her voice had left her. The room began to spin as she slipped away from him.
“Goodbye, my love,” he whispered as he evaporated into the darkness of the hall beyond. “Pourriez-vous profiter du paradis pendant que je reste ici dans cet enfer.“