“I’m sorry, Mr. Nelson.” For all he truly listened, the tone sounded empty, as did the words – platitudes they had learned to say at times like these, but Corbin Nelson nodded anyway. It felt like another person, another time, another life as the nurse handed him the clipboard and he signed next to the X. How his hand stayed steady enough to sign his signature, he couldn’t tell, but finally he handed the paperwork back.
The constant beep, beep, beep of the machinery was the only thing that kept him standing straight. It meant Lena was alive, even if it was only her body. Her mind and spirit were gone; everyone said so. Even he had to admit after four weeks of constantly being at her bedside, that the person he had lived with for seventeen years was gone. When the beeps stopped, he jolted, his eyes flashing to the monitor that had shown her heartbeat. It was blank. The strange whooshing sound from the ventilator stopped and as his eyes slid down to her, as he saw her chest no longer rising and falling through the forced air, her body no longer alive, he collapsed.
Strong arms grasped him from behind, holding him as he wept uncontrollably. Hands held him up and he felt more than saw the scenery change as whoever was holding him, walked him out of the room and down the hall. The antiseptic scent of the hospital slowly disappeared and when his rump touched hard wood, Corbin took a gulping breath and stopped breathing for a moment, trying to calm himself down. Opening his eyes, he found himself on a bench in a small courtyard in the middle of the hospital. Fake grass surrounded him and he let out a long shuddery breath before his eyes fastened on a pair of dark loafers to his right. They might be new, but he knew to whom those shoes would belong.
“How did you know?” he asked without looking up.
“Shawn called me.” Brent’s voice was quiet, kind, just like it always was unless he felt you needed a wake-up call. “He said you were ready to make the decision and that he’d said his goodbyes last night. I flew out on the red eye.”
Nodding while still looking at the fake grass under his feet, Corbin had a hard time thinking. “I couldn’t have him here. He needed to remember her alive. Seeing her body not moving…” He shuddered imagining the pain in the man’s face. “Shouldn’t you be home with your girls?”
“Nice try. Char will be fine. Plus,” he added, amusement creeping into his tone, “she thinks I’ve left her to her own devices. I fully expect to hear her scream when she finds out Benjamin’s going to be looking in on her twice a day.”
Corbin wanted to laugh, to tease, but right now he couldn’t. “She’s dead,” he said in a calm voice. Being calm was the only thing that was barely holding back hysteria he could feel in the back of his head.
“I know. I’m sorry you had to make that decision, Corbin.” Brent squatted down and put his hand on Corbin’s knee. “Everything’s being taken care of. Let’s get you home.”
Home was a four-story row house, one he and Lena had purchased for their second anniversary. It had felt like home for only a couple years. For the last decade it had been nothing but a shell, no matter how much they had tried to revive their relationship. And that, of everything he had to worry about, was the thing he felt the worst about. That when all was said and done, their relationship had been a sham. Nobody, not even his best friends Brent and Calbert, knew just how much of a mockery it had been.
The problem, he thought as he walked in without really seeing anything, was that he kept thinking something would fix everything. But he guessed you couldn’t fix something that should have never been. He was a strong man; she was a strong woman. Unfortunately, he also believed in being head of his own house. She did not.