What if this is the last time we lie like this?
Uncertainty is keeping Ellery Luker awake at night and robbing him of his appetite. It’s been five days since the love of his life and partner of twenty-five years, Jools, went to the doctor. Five days since the biopsy. Five days of going crazy with worry and what ifs?
What if Jools suffer from the same disease that stole Ellery’s mother when he was just eleven? What if all Ellery’s worst fears come true?
What if ...?
I can’t live without you, my brain screams in panic, but I bite down the words, lock them away in the back of my mind. I need to be strong for him -- I can’t crumble at his feet when it’s he who has the health issues -- but at the moment, I don’t know how.
Not saying the words out loud doesn’t help; he can read me even in darkness. Even when I don’t say a word and with my back turned to him.
“And if it is what we fear, Ellery, I fight. I fight like hell, because I’m not leaving you, you hear?”
I nod, uncertain that I’ll be able to keep the panic out of my voice.
He presses a kiss to my nape. “I need you. You’re my rock. My strength. I can’t do this alone.” The raspiness -- the worry? -- in his voice prompts me to speak.
“We’re a team,” I say, proud that my voice isn’t cracking. “We’ll always be a team.”
“Go Team Luker!” His exclamation coaxes a smile from me, like he knew it would. He peppers more kisses at my nape. Featherlight and soft, until a shiver racks my body. He hums, his chest vibrating against my back, and he rubs his leg against mine.
Being surrounded by him makes me feel safe and cherished, and it loosens my tongue. “I can’t lose you, Jools. I can’t.” It’s a trembling whisper but I’m sure he can hear me in the otherwise silent room. “Not now that I finally get to call you my husband. Not ever. We’re supposed to grow old and gray together. We’re supposed to live happily ever after. I can’t ... I can’t ...” I bite down on my tongue to stop the frantic blabbering. He doesn’t need this from me.
Be strong, Ellery. At least try.
“Hey.” He rolls me onto my back, climb on top of me and straddles my thighs. Leaning forward, he cups my face with warm, caring palms, and he rests his forehead against mine. “I’m not leaving you. I’m not.”
I throw my arms around his neck and my legs around his waist and cling to him like a monkey. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry ...”
He cuts me off with a kiss; his full lips against mine, his hands on my face, and his groin pushing into mine curl my toes and take the edge off the piercing worry. When his tongue begs to be let into my mouth, I gasp, and he slips inside. He’s licking the roof of my mouth, curling his tongue around mine. Devouring me, loving me. Distracting me from my panicked thoughts.
I slacken under him as he rubs his chest and stomach against me, using his entire body to tell me how much I mean to him. Trying to reassure me.
Do you think I want to leave you? his movements say. You’re mine as much as I’m yours, his lips say as he brushes them against my skin. I’ll fight to my last breath to stay with you, his caressing fingers say.
Jools is eloquent and well-spoken, but we communicate best skin to skin. Body to body.
Breath to breath.