Authors: Lara West
I am back at the window, looking out at the majestic Manhattan skyline.
“You really are transfixed aren’t you?” Dylan asks behind me, wrapping his arms around my waist.
“It’s just too beautiful,” I say. “You’re so lucky to have an apartment like this. I could stay here forever.”
“Then why don’t you?”
“You heard me.” He releases his arms and ushers me over to one of the lounges. “But we need to talk about things first.”
“Of course,” I say, sitting down.
“Remember when I told you that you were a big part of helping me get through prison? Well that’s only half the reason why I have persisted with you.”
“Okay. Go on.”
“The other reason is because of dad. When he was diagnosed with Stage Three colon cancer a year ago, there was only a 53% chance the chemotherapy would kill it. That half-assed percentage really put a lot of things in perspective.”
Dylan wavers, glancing down briefly before locking his eyes back on mine.
“Colon cancer? That’s cancer of the large intestine right?”
“Yeah, it’s not nice. Unfortunately when the doctors found it, it was already in the C stage, which it means it had grown beyond the muscular layer of the bowel wall to the lymph nodes. It’s complicated to explain but so far he’s been responding to the treatment well.”
“Gosh. Poor Tony. He must be terrified.”
“A little, but you know my father, he’s always been headstrong. But getting back to what I was saying before, Ella. The truth is, I don’t know if I would have had the guts to walk into your bookstore a couple of weeks ago if dad hadn’t gotten sick.”
I stare at him, a little puzzled by what he means. “I’m sorry. I’m not sure I understand what you mean.”
“What I’m trying to say is that before that moment, before that day when I thought I might lose my Dad, I didn’t know what was important. I had a vague idea of what I wanted. But I had no plans to actually act on it. But then when that moment came it all suddenly made sense. Do you know what I decided to do in the end?”
“To get a stellar job at Preston & Smith and a swanky new apartment?” I joke.
Dylan laughs but I can tell he wants me to be serious.
“No, something even more important than that.”
I want to say that he decided he wanted me, but I want to hear him say it first.
I want to hear the meaning in his voice.
I want to hear the words that I have romanticized about him saying for ten years.
“Please tell me,” I answer softly.
Dylan looks at me closely, entwining his hands in mine.
“I decided that above everything. Above my career, above owning this apartment, above any amount of money I could ever earn, the one thing that I could not live without, at least not without trying to get…is you. I vowed that if you ever gave me another chance I wouldn’t waste it again, Ella. And I mean that.”
I feel like this is all an illusion.
I cannot be here.
This apartment cannot be real.
This cannot be Dylan.
Dylan is a rich, spoilt, womanizer that I knew ten years ago back in Florissant. I am hallucinating, right?
Suddenly I see the room falling away.
“Ella? Ella baby? Please say something!”
I open my eyes to see Dylan crouching over me, fear strewn across his face.
Did I just blackout?
“What happened?” I ask, trying to sit up.
“Take it easy. You passed out. I barely managed to stop your head from hitting the floor,” Dylan says, sighing with relief. “How do you feel?”
“Foggy. But I think I’m all right. How long was I out?”
“Just a few minutes. Here, sit back on the couch I’ll go get some water.”
Whilst Dylan is gone I try to remember the last thing he said, something about not wanting to lose me?
“What were you saying?” I ask when he returns.
He hands me the water and I guzzle it down. It feels like I have not had a drink in days.
“I asked if you’d give me a second chance,” Dylan says tenderly. “I want us to be together, Ella. I want to take care of you and I want you to come live with me.”
I feel my lip quivering, on the verge of breaking down in happiness.
“Yes,” I barely manage to whisper.
“What, I didn’t quite here you?”
“I said yes. I’ve loved you since I was 18. Of course the answer is yes!”
The smile that etches itself across Dylan’s face is the largest one I have seen yet.
“I promise to always try to make you happy. I’m not perfect but I’ll never hurt you like that again.”
“You better not,” I murmur and let myself drift away in his kiss.
Around us the glass box floats, all the words we have always wanted to say now spoken. Manhattan hums below like a faraway dream, our future stretching out to the warm glow on the horizon, vast and full of promise, wanting, needing, to never be apart again.
Two years later…
I silently watch her sleeping.
She has her father’s dark brown hair, a button nose, dimples and rosy cheeks. Her breaths are soft and angelic, her existence in this world a constant miracle. I cannot believe how lucky I am to have her.
“Ella, it’s time to go,” Dylan whispers beside me.
“But I don’t want to wake her. She looks so peaceful.”
He puts an arm around my shoulders and looks down at our beautiful newborn daughter.
“Indeed she does. But we’re already late. They’re waiting for us.”
As if Lily knows what we are saying, she gently blinks herself awake, her big, blue-green eyes staring up at us in awe.
“Hello baby,” I coo. “Did you have a nice sleep?”
She burbles when Dylan lifts her from the cradle, holding her high above his head, beaming as he kisses her cheek and makes her laugh.
“You’re as beautiful as your Mom, Lily,” he says, holding her to his chest. “And I love you both all the way to the Moon, the stars, the Milky Way and all the galaxies beyond.”
I smile and pat his arm gently, gathering up Lily’s bag and toys before the three of us head out to the car.
“I can’t wait until he sees how much she has grown,” Dylan says close behind me.
I smile. “Me either.”
Walking down the long white corridor, for what will be the last time, is bittersweet.
For the past two years the hospital has been like a second home, the three of us taking it in shifts, with Mom always staying the longest.
It came as no surprise when her and Tony announced they had fallen back in love. It was only natural for Mom, having spent all that time by his bedside, talking and reading to him for hours.
And it was only natural for Tony too - he had a beautiful woman attending to his every need, a warm heart and caring touch to boot. It was like fate had sent her back to him, to save him.
When we walk into the room, Tony and Mom are standing by the window overlooking the hospital’s small garden and courtyard. Down there they have a colorful variety of flowers – roses, daffodils, white ladies and lavender - just to name a few.
They are a pleasant sight for the sick and recovering, a vision to get some solace from.
“Well, hello my darlings,” Mom calls out jubilantly, rushing over. “How is my lovely Lily doing today?”
“She’s good Mom. She had a big sleep.”
Mom carefully takes Lily from my arms and gives her to Tony.
This is the first time since Lily was born that Tony has been able to hold her without help. The chemotherapy finally stopped last month, the test results showing that the cancer was completely gone.
Within days Tony had felt the strength coming back.
Now he seems like a whole new man.
“How does it feel, Dad?” Dylan asks softly, grinning at how happy his father looks.
“Perfect,” Tony says, tears welling in his eyes. “It feels simply perfect.”
As we all walk out into the warm April sun, we are much different from who we were twelve years ago.
We are more than just a family now, for we are survivors too.
We have looked death right in the eye and said ‘not today’, every day, for 730 days.
And we won.
Now we look beyond the blue, beyond the city skyline and further still. We wait for all the memories that have yet to come.
The birth of each new dawn a marvel in itself.
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