Today I’m bringing you the third installment of “Never Imagined.” Thank you for sticking with me through this journey – I hope it has been as fun for you as it’s been for me! After today there is one more installment. Then the story will be complete (well…). If you need to catch up, you can read part one and part two here. And, if you’re enjoying this story and its hospital setting, I’d like to encourage you to take a look at my novella An Informal Christmas, which can be found in the Love’s Gift boxed set.
Pamela made sure to be on hand when Mr. Carmichael, the representative from hospice, arrived to speak with the Alvarezes. Eyes on husband and wife, the nurse listened to everything Mr. Carmichael said. Hospice trained their people to be tactful, take their cues from the patient, and handle any situation that arose. Mr. Alvarez was still her patient, though, and she was responsible for him. She would remain as unobtrusive as possible while making sure the meeting didn’t distress him overly much. Staying out of the way, however, didn’t prevent the Alvarezes’ pain from tearing at her already frayed soul.
When the hospice rep finished his well-intentioned spiel about the assistance, counseling, and medications they offered patients and families, Mrs. Alvarez said, “Thank you for taking the time to meet with us, but we don’t need your services.”
The soft-spoken man gave a half-bow. “I understand. I’m here to give you information so you can make informed decisions moving forward, not to sway you in any way.” His movements unhurried, he handed his card to her. “Call me if you think of any questions or decide you want us to become more involved in your husband’s care.”
With a respectful tilt of his head to the man in the hospital bed, Mr. Carmichael slipped silently out the door. He stopped and made a notation in the patient chart and paperclipped his business card. That way, the staff would be able to get ahold of him in case anyone wished to reach out to him again in the future.
In a perfect world, Pamela would be able to give the pair the time they needed. She flipped her wrist to take another peek at her watch. Unfortunately, the ICU was far from being perfect. “It’s time for your meds, but I can come back in a couple minutes if you’d like to talk in privacy.”
Though the statement was directed to Mr. Alvarez, his wife answered. Her words held a sharp and ragged edge like a fingernail ripped from its bed. “No, that’s fine. Give him his medication.”
Mrs. Alvarez cut him off with a slash of her hand. “You don’t understand my position.”
“Then explain.” Weariness pulled at the corners of his eyes and mouth.
It was impossible not to hear the conversation taking place mere feet from where she reviewed the medications. Pamela’s job required her to match the individual drugs that had arrived from the pharmacy against those prescribed by the doctor. Dose, concentration, and delivery method were all vital, and each lent itself to lethal consequences if mistakes occurred.
“I realize you may not live,” wife said to husband. “If that happens…” An unmistakable waver entered her voice. “…I’ll— I’ll find a way to deal with it. You’re alive, though. Right now, at this moment, you are alive, and my attention and focus are on keeping you that way. I believe you will recover. I have to. Don’t ask me to discuss other possibilities.”
Mrs. Alvarez choked on whatever she was going to say next and, fisted hand raised to the hollow at the base of her throat, took a step away from the hospital bed. She gulped in air, gathered herself together, and plowed ahead. Her clipped words poured rapidly from her mouth as if she raced against a deadline — or a deadly foe — to get them said. “If the worst should happen, I can’t look back and say, ‘I gave up on him.’ I can’t do it, so don’t ask me to. Losing you will be hard enough, but if it’s compounded by guilt, I’ll never manage to get over it or move on. As long as there’s breath in your body, I am going to battle for you with everything I have.”
The unfettered emotion hovered in the room like stage smoke at a heavy metal concert. Pain and hope pulsed in harmony.
Mrs. Alvarez wasn’t done, either. The fear and desperation that had bled through only a moment ago were now replaced by something else. Calm. Love. Determination. Her words slowed to a near standstill, and the pitch of her voice dropped. “I will do all I can to give you every opportunity for survival because to do anything less is to say I don’t value you enough, I don’t love you enough, I don’t want you here with me enough. And I can’t live with that.”
Pamela peered up from the med tray in time to witness the tears spilling over.
“I need to be able to look our kids in the eye and tell them we’re doing everything we can. Otherwise, I don’t know how we’ll survive as a family.”
Mr. Alvarez reached out a hand to his wife, who clasped it and lifted it to her cheek.
“I don’t deserve you, and I’d be lost without you, Mi Tesora.” His voice, a low rumble, held a depth of devotion that washed over the room.
Unable to delay her intrusion any longer, Pamela moved to the side of the bed opposite Mrs. Alvarez and administered the medications through the existing intravenous line while directing her eyes down in an attempt to afford the couple at least a semblance of privacy. They deserved a chance to cherish each moment they were allowed to share, for none of them knew what the future would hold.
Weak though he was, Mr. Alvarez tugged on his wife’s hand until she relented. He brought it close and whispered his vow across her skin. “Together we will fight this thing. I give you my word.” He sealed the promise with a kiss, tenderly brushing his lips across his wife’s palm.
Pamela couldn’t help but glance up at the tender gesture. She wasn’t, however, prepared for what she saw. The intimacy of the moment was captured by the naked longing on Mrs. Alvarez’s face. Everything she wanted from her husband was there for anyone to see. Health. Days at the beach. Laughter. Loud arguments. Burnt dinners. Love. Years and years of it all.
Pamela turned her head away as gooseflesh raced along her arms. She knew what made Mr. Alvarez so special, what had attracted her to him since the first time she’d met him. He loved his wife completely and unconditionally. He loved her enough to put her welfare and peace of mind above his own desires. He loved her enough to want to live.
Look for the final installment of “Never Imagined” in December here at inspyromance.com.