by Anne Goodwin
You saved me a seat in the lecture hall, because my bus was always late. You persuaded the corner shop to stock gluten-free croissants, so you could serve me breakfast in bed. You cheered louder than anyone at our graduation when I got the trophy and you just scraped a pass.
You wore top hat and tails to our wedding, though more at ease in jumpers and jeans. You held the stick above the pan while my urine streamed onto it, and onto your hand to boot. You switched to herbal tea when the smell of coffee made me sick.
You held me when the child inside me died. You let me weep and rage, despite the fact that this was your loss too.
You painted the bedroom walls magenta, though you knew it wouldn’t work. You took me for a surprise weekend in Paris and agreed to walk the Inca Trail with your two flat feet.
You skipped the cricket to drive me to the hospital, didn’t even check the score when my appointment was delayed. You squeezed my hand when the consultant pronounced his diagnosis, promised you’d be with me all the way.
You made me a playlist to take to chemo, and scoured the shops for that special kind of ginger biscuit that masked the metallic taste. When my hair fell out, you spun such loving lies I half believed you; the bathroom mirror showed me beauty too.
I hesitated to ask this one last thing of you; I thought you wouldn’t want to know. But you promised to place your love between me and agony. Make yourself a shield against the terror.
You said you’d do this one last thing for me. But when the time arrived for you to keep your promise, you didn’t answer my call.
We’d planned it from every angle, except the one that mattered most. How I hoped they’d judge you with compassion. How I hoped they’d recognise you’d done it out of love. My heart had burned with pity for that future you without me. Would they make you hold the hymn book in handcuffs? Would they even let you out to attend? I never guessed the black-clad figure I’d imagined was me at your funeral, shackled to an oxygen cylinder and not a prison guard.
You said you would not hesitate. You’d swap your own life to set me free of mine. I never dreamt you’d give up yours so carelessly, driving too fast in the snow.
Anne Goodwin’s debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was published in July 2015 and her second, Underneath, is scheduled for May 2017.