“Brought another book?” the nurse greeted me as I passed the lobby desk.
“You know how much Dad likes it when I read to him,” I replied, watching as she gave a soft nod and smile.
I paused outside the door, looking at Dad’s skeletal body as he watched the television. I swallowed down the pain in my throat before walking in and leaning down to kiss him on the forehead.
“How are you feeling today?” I asked, sitting down on the edge of his bed as he turned the television off.
He breathed in deeply, the bags under his eyes dark as he smiled weakly at me. “I’m good,” he said, tilting his head. “You seem more cheerful than usual.”
I nodded, trying to ignore the gnawing in my stomach as I looked at the fatigue that caused his eyes to droop. I squeezed his hand. “I got a new book at the bookstore.”
“I’m guessing Stewy didn’t annoy you too much this time?” he laughed weakly, and I watched as he leaned forward to cough.
My breath caught as he finally settled back. I ignored it, biting the inside of my lip before replying, “I came very close to telling him off, but his boss saved me.”
Dad leaned back, wiggling his bare brows at me.
“Come on, Dad!”
“So he was hot.”
I looked at the ceiling as I shook my head, warmth creeping up my limbs and to my face. “He bought me a coffee and a muffin.”
“Oh, a gentlemen.”
“I’m not going to talk to you about my love life,” I replied wrinkling my nose at him as I ran my hands over the brown paper I wrapped the book in to hide the death-like cover.
“So what book did he suggest?” Dad asked, nodding to the covered book in my lap.
“You’ll laugh,” I cocked my head; “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”
“Zombies?” Dad repeated, his forehead creasing as his brow lifted into it. “You’ve got my attention.”
“It’s a funny twist on a classic— I’m surprised I like it,” I replied.
I watched as Dad’s eyes fluttered, and he winced as he sank deeper into the pillows behind him. “Read it to me?” he asked.
The lump formed in my throat making it impossible to swallow as I watched his rough breathing. I leaned over, kissing his forehead before replying in a whisper I wasn’t sure he heard, “Of course.”
I moved to sit in the chair beside him, and his hand found mine only going limp after he fell asleep. I closed the book slowly, my eyes washing over him. I put my head on the bed as the tears rushed over my cheeks, pooling beneath my hand as I cried silently against the beeping of the machines that monitored the weathered strings keeping him alive.
Every day was the same thing.
Trying to fight a losing battle.
Trying to ignore the death surrounding me.
Trying not to die inside for his sake.
I looked across the room to the picture of Mom and Dad, my lip trembling as fresh tears tumbled down my cheeks. When I got home, it would be to an empty house; one haunted with memories of happiness struck down by death once, and now, so close to destroying everything.
I stood, wiping my cheeks before leaning down and kissing his. “Love you, Daddy.”