0009 – Gareth: Love, Part 1

Pam’s long, grey hair had caught the wind like a sail, billowing behind her in a beautiful cascade of silver. The mere sight of it was enough to put Gareth totally at peace, just for a moment, before the usual worries crept back into his mind, creeping in from the edges.

Sunlight shone on her. She looked radiant.

“There’s so much space!” Pam cried joyfully.

Gareth smiled warmly, hoping that the nagging worries of time, money, and health wouldn’t show behind the affection in his eyes. “I knew you’d love it.” He said happily.

“I do.” Pam’s voice was full of warmth.

She drew close to him, taking his pale hands in hers, the lines of her tendons showing on the backs of her aged palms. She pressed her lips to his, still thick and full, her eyes closing as she held him there, taking the lead in an embrace, his thin body pulled tight to her bosom.  He wrapped his arms around her in turn, making no attempt to employ his tongue and turn the kiss into something more passionate. The wind whipped around them. The moment was perfect, and he wanted it to last as long as possible.

They must have held their gentle kiss for a long time, because the gentle patter of isolated raindrops that had landed with gentle pressure on Gareth’s hair had become quite the downpour by the time their lips parted.

Pam flashed a grin. “Typical, isn’t it?” She asked.

He gave her the genuine, awkward laugh of a man who isn’t used to laughing. Gareth had always possessed somber, dignified physical features, and as such had been expected from a young age to play the part. He was a child inside, though, and she knew it. She led him by the hand, her long skirt billowing in the short wheat as they ran for the cover of a huge, old oak, one of the few outstanding features on the endless flat plain of farmland, a green island in a sea of rippling gold.

If the wheat fields were an ocean, then this place, Gareth thought, was the shore. The oak stood near to where they had come in through a narrow gap in a tall line of uniform conifers, stretching off into the far distance, perfectly straight. It had rendered this massive expanse of open space completely invisible from the road beyond.

By the time Gareth and Pam had settled down under the thickest part of the oak’s boughs, they were both rather drenched. They laughed together, and she made a show of wringing out her long, thick hair, even though the motion was thoroughly ineffective. Even Gareth’s trousers were soaked. Thick, heavy drops of water dripped from the leaves above, landing with heavy splashes on his own greying mane.

“We’d probably stay dryer if we went back.” Gareth ventured. “It’s still pretty wet under here.”

Pam didn’t answer. Instead, she embraced him again, sidling over to him across the floor like a woman half her age, draping her arms around his neck. She simply looked right into his eyes. He became embarrassed, looking away, out over the seemingly endless, flat fields.

“Look at me.” Pam said.

He turned back, meeting her gaze. Her eyes were a washed-out, pale blue. Like the rest of her, they were silvering rather than greying.

Twenty years separated Gareth from Pam. While this didn’t bother either of them in principle, there was always the unspoken understanding that she would always have less time left than he did, even in a best case scenario. Perhaps this was the driving force between her playful spontaneity. It occurred to Gareth that he didn’t know whether she was making up for lost time, or whether she – much like him, in fact – had simply never grown up.

For a moment, he almost forgot about her cancer.

That moment ended, and she saw it in his eyes.

Pam sighed, resting her head against Gareth’s thin chest, finding comfort against his frumpy clothes. He had a habit of dressing like a much larger man.

For a long time, they sat in relative silence, the sound of the rain on the leaves and the wind in the wheat filling them. It wasn’t that they’d left words unsaid. They’d said everything there was to say on the subject long ago.

Her fingers found his, interlocking, their palms pressing together. He knew there was nothing that could be done. Scrabbling around for crackpot treatments, subjecting her to endless tests and procedures, would only serve to fill her remaining time on Earth with misery and anticipation. Far better, they had agreed, to spend the time they had wisely.

Part of the problem was that they didn’t have anywhere near as much time as Gareth would have liked. Today was Sunday. Tomorrow, he would be back at work again. Having a terminally ill wife may have been grounds for some compassionate leave, if her death had been imminent. But with who knew how many years remaining, it simply wasn’t practical for him to give up work. And so, every day, he took 8 more hours out of the pot of time he had remaining with his beloved Pamela. He wore the clothes. He faked the smile. And he counted the minutes shaving slowly off her life, the minutes she would spend alone, without him, at their little home.

Every morning, she kissed him as he left for work. Always the same warm,understanding smile. Every evening, she embraced him warmly, pretending that his absence didn’t hurt her. But he knew.

He clenched his fist. I may be immature, he thought, but I’m not completely pathetic.

It was time to do something. But the question was what? No amount of money could cure her. This was going to take lateral thinking, and radical action. But he would do something, he swore it now.

He would not slave away while his wife wasted away.

He would not just let her die.

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