Emma Claydon – I Knew we were in Trouble when

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I knew we were in trouble when the leaves started to change colour and fall. As the seasons changed, we were running out of time. Six months the doctors had said, and that had been 6 months, 1 week and 3 days ago. I couldn’t help but count each day, each moment I had left with her. Shelley was a fighter, but even she was no match for the disease that had taken hold of her. I rolled towards her in the creaky, antique metal-framed bed that she loved so much, to see her already awake, smiling at me.

She reached for my hand as she whispered, “It’s time”.

I took a deep breath, smiling a shaky smile back at her as I readied myself for what was about to happen.

It wasn’t long before we were ready, in the car, and on our way. Back to where we met, to where it all began.  I drove along the winding coastal path, casting side glances at Shelley, watching her chest slowly rise and fall. The sign at the side of the road told me to turn left onto a narrow dirt track. I followed the makeshift road until we reached a small clearing, a view of the grey sea spreading out in front of us.  I stopped the car, climbing out and walking round to the passenger side.

Opening the door, I wrapped a thick blanket around Shelley’s thin, frail body. Carrying her slowly to the cliff’s edge, her head resting on my shoulder. I sat on the bench overlooking the calm water, the place we had first met when out walking our dogs. My cheek rested against the soft tufts of hair on her head, only just beginning to grow back after the treatment had ravaged her body.

“We’re here, beautiful.” I spoke softly, my lips close to her ear. She smiled up at me, her eyes opening briefly to take in the view one last time. Her long fingers closed around mine and we sat in the quiet, listening to the waves lapping against the base of the cliff. No words were needed anymore. Just us, in our place, nothing more needed than our love for each other. Something that cancer couldn’t take from us.

Hours passed, and the sun began to set. A deep red glow began to spread across the sky, meeting with the dark waters at the skyline in the distance. Shelley’s breathing was becoming shallower; the moments between each breath become longer. I had never seen her look more beautiful than in that moment, so peaceful. My arms wrapped around her tighter as her chest rose and fell for the last time. Her torment at an end, mine only increasing.  A tear rolled down my cheek as the sky grew darker, the sea suddenly becoming rougher as if sensing my pain. I carried Shelley back to the car, ready to drive my angel home one last time.