On the side table in the hallway, a vase filled with pink roses, greeted me as I unlocked the door, and walked in. They swayed every so slightly as I bent over to smell them. There was no scent, and when I reached through them, I felt a cold spot and a slight prick.
“Lyle, Lyle,” I called, hoping that I would see his face again. If he had been here, he would have rushed to me with a laugh, picked me up, and hugged me until my breath left my body.
There was no answer. The hallway was cold and silent. There were no footsteps on the stairs and no friendly smells coming from the kitchen. He was gone.
The ghost roses didn’t enchant me, when I remembered I was alone. Alone with the little memories of waking up to coffee in the morning and of the little kindnesses throughout the day.
He hadn’t wanted to leave. The cancer eating his body, one cell at a time, took away his enjoyment of eating. He wasted away, until he was bone, in a hospital bed. The pain claimed him finally.
I was alone except for the ghost roses. I left them there on the side table.
The recriminations. Why didn’t I figure out he was ill? Why didn’t I take him to a doctor? Why had he refused to see one? Every day he held me and said that everything would be okay.
He didn’t know that he was dying. He knew that we would be okay. A tear slipped down my face. I tasted the salt, then wiped it away. I grabbed a tissue and wiped my face, then blew my nose.
I felt a touch on my back, where he used to touch me when I cried. I couldn’t cry now. I had to be strong. I couldn’t walk into the light to him. Not yet.
There was blood on my finger. I rinsed it off in the sink. Then turned around. He was there, holding out his arms. I ran to him. “What?” I squawked, joy welled inside me. “But, you’re dead.”
He walked me back to the front hallway, and handed me a pink rose. It felt real in my hands. At my feet was a body, lying on the doorstep.
“Time to go, love,” Lyle held me and we stepped up.
In the air was the smell of roses.