Roses, Thorns and All

Roses, Thorns and All

A Story by D Ray Van

Harry stared out the dirt-stained bedroom window.  His teeth gritted, his fist clenched, he struck the window frame.  The pane wobbled from the blow.  

A wall full of diplomas and all he could say was, ‘Ruby’s condition will worsen until a vital portion of her brain succumbs.’ 

Tears welled up, and he wiped them from his cheeks.

Ruby stirred and coiled in the bedsheets.  Her once beautiful red hair was matted and gray, her sky-blue eyes were sunken and lifeless, and her peaches-and-cream complexion was mottled and pale.  But to Harry, Ruby was as beautiful as she ever was.

The backyard needed mowing and weeds overran the flowerbeds.  

Harry cleared his throat.  “Ruby, do you remember when we planted that maple tree?  It was when Jimmy was born.”

Ruby turned toward Harry’s voice and said, “Uh Hm.”

Harry never knew if Ruby understood or was just responding to the sound of his voice.

“Jimmy was four when he fell off the rope swing and broke his arm.  You were pregnant with Mary.  We planted a rose bush when she was born.  Do you remember?  You always loved the smell of roses, thorns and all.”

Harry glanced at the dried rose pedals scattered on the dresser.  They had long since turned brown, the water in the bud vase evaporated, and the stem and hip withered.  He remembered putting a fresh rose in the vase when Ruby came home from the hospital, but that was a month ago.

I should get fresh rose buds from the bush.  Ruby would like them. 

But Harry, in his depression, was beyond action.

Ruby moaned and turned away.

 “Ruby.  Ruby, is your headache back?  The doctor ordered some stronger medicine for the pain.  I’ll get a couple of pills and some water.  You’ll feel better.”

Harry fumbled to open the pill container.  He managed to open and dispense two pills.  He found a glass, filled it with some tap water, and hurried back to Ruby’s side.  Cobwebs tethered to the ceiling danced back and forth, and dust-bunnies scurried under the bed and dresser recorded Harry’s every movement.

“Take these.  You’ll feel better.”

Ruby chocked down the pills and water.  Ruby’s eyes were blank, without emotion or recognition.  Harry lowered her head to the pillow and turned away.

Ruby had been full of life, but now her life is flowing away from him unstoppable as the retreating tide, and Harry felt helpless and hopeless.  Yet, he remained at her side.  In his anguish, Harry wondered how much more Ruby would suffer, and how much more he could endure.  

Harry and Ruby had been together for sixty-five years, raised three children, and enjoyed the peaceful bliss of retirement, but now there is nothing left of Ruby but an empty vessel, a shell of what she once was without remembrances of yesterdays.  Her brain was being destroyed by an entrenched invader that would not yield.  It remained defiant, and unrelenting, uncaring, and evil.

The doctors offered no hope.  

“But when will the end be?” asked Harry

“It could be weeks, months.  We don’t know in these cases.”

Harry’s heartbreak deepened; he wept.  He resolved to find a way to release his beloved from this bondage, this pain, this hell.  Harry was consumed with the image of Ruby’s body writhing in the bed seeking a measure of comfort.

“Ooooooooh,” Ruby moaned.

“Ruby. . .  Ruby. . .  What can I get you?”

Ruby screamed, thrashed from side to side, and coiled in the sheets.

Harry watched, powerless.  How long?  How much longer?

Ruby choked and gasped for air.  Bile drained from the corner of her mouth.  She coughed, retched, and inhaled.  Fluid clogged her airway.  Her body convulsed.  Harry scooped up Ruby’s thrashing body and held her.  Her heart pounded against his chest.  She labored to breathe.

Ruby’s arms were too weak for a struggle.  She clasped her neck trying to get air.  Her fluttering heart reverberated against Harry.  Ruby’s arms fell limp at her side.

Harry clutched Ruby tighter to his chest.  He agonized.  He knew it would soon be over.

Harry fought the urge to keep her alive for one minute more.

Why save her?  Not for me, and certainly, not for her.

“Let her go,” his spirit cried out.

A final convulsion and she gasped; it was over.  Ruby was quiet, peaceful.

Harry released her, laid her on the bed, kissed her bitter lips, and whispered, “I love you Ruby, I always have, and I always will.  Sleep my love.”

© 2018 D Ray Van

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Wow. This is well written and powerful. I was held captive by the drama throughout. At my age, (just turned 70) I see this with too much familiarity.

Posted 1 Week Ago

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Added on March 5, 2018
Last Updated on March 18, 2018