The Forgiven – A New Story

CeCe note: So, I was just thinking about how much so many people get caught up, and really worked up/upset about things that are relatively minor/petty/really just unimportant in the general scheme of things throughout life.  So what happens when something major comes up?  When things really are important or complicated like life or death, illness, tragedy, or genuine unfairness, how should someone think and react then?

Basically, in thinking about how we often get way too focused on the wrong things, I ended up writing the following short story.  Disclaimer, it’s a little sad, but it’s really short, so please give it a read and feel free to let me know what you think.

The Forgiven – A Newfound Love

“You say I’m crazy, ‘cause you don’t think I know what you’ve done…” Sam Smith crooned in the song I’m Not The Only One in the background music playing softly in the hospital.  At first, Katie didn’t take much note of it though because she was so intensely focused on her husband.  That was until she realized that he, however, seemed to be paying a great deal of attention to the song, as she soon found that he was humming along with it.

“Katie, if I don’t make it out of this surgery alive, there’s something I want you to know,” Marc said as he tightly grasped her warm hands into his cold ones.

She leaned in closer to him then.

“Sure hon, anything.  What is it?”

“I want you to know that… that I forgive you.”

Her eyes widened in shock, a surprise she clearly couldn’t contain as she definitely hadn’t been able to see that one coming.  Thankfully, he couldn’t see her face right now as Katie was leaning close to him so that only she could hear him as she walked right alongside him in the slow moving gurney being wheeled by a male nurse.

“You forgive me for what Marc?” she inquired as her pulse involuntarily sped up, a sense of dread about his next words knotting and then lodging deep into the pit of her stomach as she willed herself to keep her hands steady.

“I forgive you for… my brother.”

Katie’s heart almost stopped beating within her chest.  All this time, he knew?  She couldn’t bring herself, even now, even in the face of the truth coming to light to say the words, to confirm his allegations and suspicions by confessing.  Not now.  Not when he was about to go into a surgery he might not ever come back from.  Even she wasn’t that selfish.

“Liam always was a charming fucker.  And I wasn’t always around or available emotionally or physically even when I was.  I know and I get it.  So like I said before, just know that I forgive you.  Really, I forgave both of you a long time ago.  I guess something about knowing you’re dying can do that to a person – making us much more willing to let bygones be bygones.”

Katie swallowed hard not really knowing what to say or what to do right now.  Marc knew her too well for her to try to deny the truth.  She wouldn’t add insult to injury now by insulting his intelligence and trying to lie for the sake of sparing his feelings or to save face herself either.  He’d see right through that and it would only make everything worse right now anyway.

“Besides, if your affair with him made you feel guilty enough to stick with me through the worst of all this,” he pulled back and stopped speaking during a brief pause as he used his eyes to gesture around the hospital as the nurse continued to wheel him towards the oncology operating room, “Then maybe I’m a shameless bastard for saying this, but I think in the end that it all worked out.”

When she pulled her face back even further so she could look into his crystal blue eyes, the two of them both seemed to connect to a mutual understanding.  Eventually, Katie simply nodded in acceptance, aware that this might be the very last conversation that she ever had with Marc.

Somehow, before they’d started having this particular discussion, that hadn’t bothered her.  She’d felt like she was prepared to let him go.  In all honesty, she’d been feeling a little, well really, a lot disconnected from her man for a while.  She’d had to as a way to preserve her sanity as she’d watched both cancer and chemo destroy Marc during the last year and a half.

Otherwise, she would’ve been ripped to shreds emotionally if she hadn’t disassociated herself from the man she’d once loved more than life itself.  She could clearly see now that it had all been part of an elaborate defense mechanism.  A sort of denial that she could face the bleak reality soon of going home and that Marc would no longer be there.

Even her affair with her brother-in-law Liam had been a sort of distraction to allow her brain to idle in a sense of suspended disbelief, an extension of the denial that she’d been so deeply entrenched within and for so long.  Marc’s illness had taken a toll on so many people around them, and that stress had manifested in so many ways that Katie hadn’t been totally willing to accept or look at before now.  So throughout the hellacious nearly last two years, which had felt like it had lasted nearly two decades instead, Katie had done everything that she could to be strong for Marc.

Yet now, as Katie was struck by the reality of this situation, she couldn’t make any more excuses.  As she saw how truly sick Marc looked, and felt the full weight of the shame of her situation with Liam, as all the emotions she’d ruthlessly kept shoved down for so long all came bubbling back up to the surface like a volcano about to erupt, she felt the first sting of tears.  She hadn’t permitted herself to cry in all this time.  The dam was bursting though and she knew soon that there wouldn’t be anything in the world that could stem the water works from flowing.  Especially as she heartbreakingly acknowledged how fragile life really could be, and just how precious little time she might really have left with Marc.

The gurney stopped right outside of the oncology OR ward and the nurse mumbled something before he went away.  Then Marc gestured with his head for Katie to bring her face back closer to his.

She did.

“I love you Katie,” he said simply and in a way where for once in a very long time, she genuinely felt like he meant it.

In this moment, she knew.  She knew that no matter what mistakes they’d both made in the past, or how on the rocks their marriage had been at times, she finally remembered the truth too.

“I love you too Marc,” she said before she turned to give him a kiss on his pale, cold lips.

He seemed to latch onto the kiss like it was his last life line and used what seemed to be a great deal of his twindling energy to kiss her back.  It was a gentle, sweet, tender kiss, that was tainted only by the fact that they both understood it to be a farewell.  Katie couldn’t think of a more apt goodbye though.  It reminded her of the kiss they’d shared on their wedding day as they’d started their married life together.

This whole time, they’d never let go of each other’s hands either.  She looked down and quickly noted the contrast of their skin tones as their hands stayed together in unity.  It was a small and perhaps strange thing to notice right now, but something she suddenly didn’t want to be missing soon either.

“Marc, no matter how this ends up going today, it’s all going to be okay.  One way or another, I’ll see you on the other side, whether that means of the hospital or in the afterlife,” she promised him, even though saying the words was breaking her heart as the first tears started to roll down her cheeks.

Marc smiled at her and nodded.

“Okay, I agree.  Deal,” he said still smiling, before he searched her face, roaming his eyes as if he wanted to remember every single detail about her facial features and this very moment in time forever.

Then the nurse returned and told Katie in quiet tones that she couldn’t go any further with the patient.  As her tears streamed down her face more rapidly, she blinked quickly to clear her eyes as she held on for just a moment longer, until finally, Marc nodded and gave her hands a gentle squeeze, letting her know it was time.  Eventually, she let go of Marc’s hands.  Then the gurney disappeared after going to the other side of the OR wing’s doors, and all Katie could do was wait to see what hand fate would deal her and Marc next.

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