Kill Your Darlings

As the breakfast trolley rattles down the corridor, Jeremy waits. He moves to the window while the nurse wakes Gail, takes her blood pressure, passes over medication.

With breakfast done Jeremy folds himself up at the end of Gail’s bed, watching her fall into a doze. It’s okay, he can wait.

Harold arrives mid-morning, bringing the paper. He tells Gail there are no more visitors scheduled until tomorrow. Gail smiles, and together they complete the crossword – a task which takes longer every day.

In the afternoon the doctor makes his rounds, giving Gail the news that there is no news. After a few minutes of chat, the young doctor somewhat sheepishly brings out a book for Gail to autograph. Jeremy sees the tremor which distorts her signature.

It’s been thirty years since Gail wrote this book, and she strokes the cover gently. The art is similar to the original printing, but it’s a new edition. Newish, anyway. A sort-of souvenir, from a life long gone.

The doctor leaves for the next patient, and Gail closes her eyes. Just when she might have fallen asleep, she turns to Harold.

“I worry…”

Harold takes her hand, “Worry about what?”

“Whether I’ve told enough stories. All those notebooks…”

Jeremy looks up. He lives somewhere in a first draft, scrawled in a mildewed notebook, unfinished for fifty years.

Harold smiles fondly at his wife. “You’ve told them all, love.”

Jeremy’s throat feels so tight that he can only shake his head.

With her fingers in Harold’s, Gail relaxes into her pillow, closing her eyes once more.

In the depths of night, Jeremy waits. He watches Gail, sleeping in the hospice half-light, willing her to keep breathing.

It can’t be the end yet. Jeremy’s story isn’t over.