It’s my great pleasure to offer the ninth and final instalment in ‘Changes’, a round-robin short story being written by Harper Impulse authors. One by one we have been adding a few hundred words to this sad but romantic tale. If you’re new to the story, use the links below to catch up, and I hope you enjoy as Marie and Zach’s story reaches its end.
Marie only let go of Zach’s large hand to take up her mother’s frail one. There she was, hardly more than a twist under the thin hospital bedsheets, all that Marie had left in the world. Zach kept a respectful distance, hanging back from the bedside but reassuringly near all the same.
Her mother hadn’t seemed whole since the accident, but that was nothing compared to how she now appeared, tethered to an array of machines that beeped out her life, sluggish and invasive, and Marie knew on instinct that this was going to be the end, and that her mother was gone from her; she didn’t need a doctor or a chart to confirm it. She knew that those strange and emotional words that morning would prove to be the last piece of parental advice she was ever going to get and she could only be grateful that they were ones that had left her feeling loved and strong.
And so she sat in silence, holding her mother’s hand as the doctors and technicians efficiently took to their task, and the beeping fell away, as they had told her it would. She clutched to the memories of the good and decent life her mother had lived, and how they had assured her that she was already past any pain.
And when it was all over, and she’d signed things she barely registered and made arrangements she’d never recall, Zach took her home and even through her numbness she could appreciate his sudden steadfastness.
“Do you want me to leave?” Zach asked hesitantly, after hours of silence had passed between them. “Is there anybody I can call for you?” Marie just mutely shook her head. “Okay, well, I don’t want to leave you,” Zach admitted. He gave a rueful smile. “I don’t like to repeat my mistakes.” Marie rewarded him with a brief, watery smile. “Either way, I think that you should try to rest,” Zach continued, sternly. “It’s been a long day, and you’re set to have a few more of them.”
Marie opened her mouth to protest; the darkness and isolation of her bedroom felt like the last thing she needed right now, but before she could get a word out Zach shifted away from her, towards the arm of the sofa.
“Come here,” he gestured towards his chest roughly. “I’ll stay here with you.”
And somehow, despite everything that had gone before, Marie knew that this time he would.