From a distance, she heard the footsteps arrive. She hears the shuffle of paper bags and then the slight thump as he placed the bags on the kitchen table. She held her shawl more tightly, feeling the warm wool emit the heat she longs for. He carefully opened the door to her room, afraid that he might wake her but she was sitting in her favorite chair, looking out to the window, taking in the night breeze as it blows softly against her pale skin.
“I have something for you.”
She knew what it was. The aroma of freshly picked roses tickled her nose as he opened the door. She smiled faintly and turned her head to face him.
“What is it?”
“You have to guess…” He held the roses behind his back and gave her an impish smile.
“Roses. Red roses.” She knew he wanted her not to guess it right so he can tell himself that he was able to surprise her. Yet, she could not give him that.
He let out a wistful sigh which he tried to hide behind a cough.
“You’re right! Here…do you like them?”
“You know I do.”
He touched her hair tenderly. Tears began to form in his eyes. Was it guilt? Was it pity? Was it love? Somehow, he can’t recognize one from the other anymore. He stepped away from her and checked to see the medicines neatly piled on her bed stand. The nurse was very efficient. Everything was in place.
“I signed it already. It’s there on my bed.”
He saw it. The one thing he asked from her. The last thing he’ll ask from her. They meant freedom. They meant an absolution of sorts.
She felt him take the annulment papers. She knew he wanted to draw closer to her and for one hopeful moment, she wished he had. Something deep inside her wanted to cry out and scream his name and ask him to stay but she remained still. She heard him leave the room, go down the stairs and dropped the house keys on the kitchen table. He left the house with nothing except the key to his own salvation.
She now knew what regret feels. Regret over getting drunk, sleeping with his brother, driving too fast and getting into an accident that lost him his brother and his love for her. Blind with tears, she stood up. Her right hand gripped the cane that will be her constant companion because of her injuries.
She stumbles when a searing pain shot through her legs and fell on the bedroom floor.
In her dark world, she allowed herself to cry.