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This story is not a work of fiction. It is Michael’s story and his love for Annie and how it was interrupted by her untimely death. We do not choose who we love, we just love them. We do not choose when they die, we just miss them when they’re gone.

* * * * *

He stood in the elevator alone. He’d made this trip every day for a week now, never knowing if it was going to be his last. Usually there were other people on the elevator with him, People of all ages, people of different religions, people with different ethnic backgrounds, all standing on the elevator, taking the same ride, to the same ward, with the same fears, the same hesitancy, the same look of despair on their faces.

Today he was alone. Did that have meaning? Was today’s visit going to be different?

The elevator door opened and the smell of death slammed into him. It permeated his nostrils, clung to his clothes, and gathered in the back of his throat like aged milkweed. The hallway stretched before him with rooms to either side, each one leading to a personal story of tragedy. He bypassed the visitor’s lounge and circled around the nurse’s station. The door to his story was further up, in the next hallway. He was growing to hate the sight of stark white, even if it meant sterility. He longed for the site of dirt. Maybe mud sloshed from winter boots, colorful smudges from a palette of make-up, or burgundy stains from a spilled wineglass, anything that showed life. Life how it was a year ago.

He noticed most of the doors were closed. Death lurked. It was pungent today. It could hide in the stark white hallway drifting from room to room, but it could never lose its odor. As he neared her door, his heart sped up. Someone had left it open. His legs grew weak, his stomach churned, his palms began to sweat. Delusional anger swelled up inside of him. Didn’t they know that death was prowling, seeking a place to rest?

He rushed inside and quickly closed the door. The room was dark, the air fragrant with gardenia. It was her smell-the soft flowery, vanilla smell of white flowers. And he remembered.

* * *

“If I live to be a hundred, I will always think of you when I smell gardenias. I think the flower stole its fragrance from you.” He slipped up behind and wrapped his arms around her, pressing his nose into the valley of her neck.

“Oh, Michael, I can’t believe how much of a poet you are sometimes.”

“It clings to your skin like dew in the morning.” He inhaled and breathed the delicate scent until it seeped into his pores, savoring it before exhaling. His hands worked their way down her freshly showered skin. His fingers tingled from the heated moisture evaporating beneath his strokes. He swirled lightly around her navel and ever so gently worked his way down to the spongy pubic hair, still wet from her shower.

She leaned back against him. Her head lulled at his shoulder, and her legs opened, welcoming his touch. He willingly accepted her invitation as his fingertips danced across her labia and pirouetted between the folds. His fingers were greeted with the lush, warm pulp of her overripe pussy.

“You’re all mush, Annie, so steamy and wet.”

He delved further into her slit, saturating his fingers, and then brought them to his waiting mouth. He inhaled deeply the powerful elixir of Annie and gardenia, before licking his fingers clean.

She moaned.

* * *

He turned toward the desolate groan of pain, remembering where he was. Her wasted body was lost in the bed, her weight şanlıurfa escort barely indenting the mattress. The white sheets blanketed her like a shroud. He wished he could just wad them up and throw them away.

He went to her side, whispering her name. He agonizingly watched for a sign that she heard him. There was only her grimace of pain. And the pallor of death. A thin layer of skin stretched over her gaunt face. Her eyelids were like parchment. Her dry and cracked lips ashen.

He reached to caress her cheek and was jarred by her frigid skin. He panicked. She was too cold. The room was like a tomb. He scrambled to the window and threw open the curtains, begging the sun to warm her. He rushed to the heater and turned it to high. He rubbed his hands together until the friction was hot and he placed them on her cheeks. He leaned over her and brought his lips to hers.

And he kissed her.

* * *

“Mmm, Annie, your lips are so soft.”

“Is that a good thing?” She asked with the naiveté of an innocent. He loved her all the more for it.

“I’ll let you judge for yourself.” He took her face in his hands and drew her to him. He could feel her warm breath on his lips, escaping in little pants of excitement. He waited as her eyes, heavy with lust, sagged shut. He licked along her upper lip and her lips parted. He ran his tongue the length of her lower lip and then slipped between and into her mouth.

He found her tongue with his and softly dueled for space. Her mouth was moist and tasted of mint. She quickly caught on and flattened her tongue to accept his further inside. He licked the inner sides and along the gums, exploring every part before retreating. He let his lips linger over hers, gliding back and forth, before finally bussing them together in a perfectly molded kiss.

He slowly opened his eyes as he pulled back and marveled at her perfect skin, marred only by a sprinkling of freckles across her nose. He waited for her eyes to open, noticing the delicate arch of her brow and the auburn shade of her lashes.

“Annie, you can open your eyes now.”

But her eyes remained closed.

* * *

He searched in the small closet and found a blanket. It was stiff from starch and an ugly pale green. He wished he’d thought to bring a quilt from home. A homemade quilt from scraps of fabric she’d collected, her old flannel nightgown, his cotton work shirt, denim from a bedraggled pair of jeans, baby clothes too stained to save, all cut in squares by her loving hands. But her quilt lay over the couch at home, where she’d left it a week ago.

He spread the commercial blanket carefully over her body, covering up to her breast. They’d dressed her in light blue today. It cast a ghostly glow to her skin, but it was her favorite gown. An emaciated arm drooped from beneath the sheets. He lovingly gazed along its length to the once graceful hand with long, slim fingers. Her nails were yellow and bluntly cut now. He picked up her hand in his and traced along the slight groove where her wedding ring had once been. She had been devastated when the ring had slipped off and they’d thought it lost. It had been found in the laundry hamper. She’d run to her jewelry box and grabbed a gold chain, and with trembling fingers, slipped the ring on the chain, and fastened it behind her neck. She vowed never to take it off.

He lifted the collar of her gown and looked beneath. Every breath was distinct in the outline of her ribs. Her lush bosom hadn’t completely melted away. Flat areola still topped small mounds of breast tissue. The ring lay heavily against the left side of her sternum as if intentionally placed over her heart. He stared at the gold band and remembered the moment he’d placed it on her finger.

With this ring, I thee wed.

* * *

“I, Michael, take thee Annie, to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, in sickness and in health. As long as we both shall live…”

He scrutinized every part of her face, from her sparkling green eyes, down her small-dainty nose, to her expansive white-toothed grin. It was a face full of love. Love for him. The ceremony continued around him. He took his part, but his senses were full of her, the way her thick hair was piled high on her head, how the curve of her breast jutted above ecru lace, how her scent stronger than incense, filled his every breath, how her heart beat wildly against the pad of his thumb where he touched the base of her wrist, and how she huskily whispered when she willingly gave herself to him as wife.

He took her hand in his and slowly slipped the band of gold over her manicured nail and up her femininely tapered finger. It was a perfect fit.

She whispered for his ears only, “I love you.”

“I love you, Annie.”

* * *

He began to pace. He knew every detail of the room-the small bit of plaster that had pulled away around the window casing; the harsh wall clock that ticked incessantly, reminding him how time was his enemy; the wilted flowers that he’d forgotten to water; the array of crayoned colored pictures that said ‘I love mommy;’ and the four white walls that had become Annie’s prison.

He looked at her again. He could wrap her up, run with her, and take her… take her where? If it were spring he could take her to her garden, so full of vibrant flowers, and let her breathe in their florid fragrance and feel the moist dirt in her fingers. But it was not spring. If it were summer he could take her to the ocean, let her feel the spray of crashing waves and suck in the salty air, while her hair curled into wild whorls and peaks. But it was not summer.

It was winter, with its harsh bitter winds and freezing temperatures. The trees were as bare and skeletal as Annie. The ground was covered with pristine snow, the same color as the walls in this room. Outside offered no more life than inside, and even less heat.

But he could still pick her up and cradle her in his arms, close to his chest. He’d done it hundreds of times before.

* * *

“Michael put me down before you drop me!”

“I won’t drop you, I like your hip pressed into my stomach too much.” He pulled her tighter against him to punctuate his words.

She cuddled up close, burrowing her face into his shoulder, and nipped at his bare skin. He teasingly yelped and tightened his grip under her fleshy thighs. He dug his face between the coppery strands of her hair and found her ear. He nibbled at the lobe before pressing his lips even closer and whispering, “I know you like to feel your naked skin against mine, Annie.”

She shivered in his hands, and he felt her gooseflesh crop up. He growled at her response and his penis bounded up and tapped at her buttocks.

“Someone’s knocking at my back door,” she giggled. “And he seems to be drooling.”

“You can’t expect a guy to be this close to heaven and not get excited, Annie.”

She turned to face him, wrapping her arms around his neck and twisting her hips to wrap her legs around his waist. He held her as she moved, forcing their bodies to stay in contact. His hands pressed into her ass, supporting her, and yet channeling along the flesh until his fingers slipped into the divide.

She hooked her ankles behind his back and dug her heel into the cleft above his ass. His penis was caught between her mons and his stomach as she mashed against him. She rotated her hips and her labia swaddled his glans. His legs began to shake with the weight of her, but he forced himself still.

“I think the pearly gates are open wide,” she teased.

He only grunted as his strength wavered. A fine sheen of sweat smeared his skin, his muscles burned, and still he held firm, letting her work.

“Don’t you want to come inside, Michael?” she asked as she shamelessly bumped her puss against him.

Eve herself couldn’t have been more tempting. He walked them to the bed. Her breasts jiggled and her indurate nipples caught in the hairs of his chest. He eased her down on the mattress and her arms and legs fell loose. Her hair splayed out around her. Her skin glistened. He looked at her hourglass waist and the flare of her hip as her legs fell open, salaciously displaying her sex.

“God, you’re beautiful, Annie.” He watched the blush rise up on her skin before he lowered himself on top of her. She eagerly raised her hips to welcome his virgate cock. He entered her gently, almost reverently, and watched her head drop back, her eyes close, and her mouth slack open in need. Her vaginal walls clenched, squeezing at his cock and pulling it deeper inside. He repeated his words, “you’re so beautiful, Annie, so very beautiful.”

She wrapped her arms around his neck and her legs about his waist as she’d done before and drew him down to her until their pubic hair mingled. He felt her heat sheath the entire length of him. He held them there, feeling her twitch against him and then gently pulled out, only to push back in again. And again. And again. He used slow powerful strokes that taunted climax, mocking it, daring it to take control.

Her body shuddered beneath him, quivering around a final stroke, pulling his orgasm from him and into her. Warm viscous fluid bathed their genitals in thankful reward.

He held himself above her, looking into her sex-drenched eyes.

“Oh! Annie you’re so damned beautiful.”

* * *

Even now in this emaciated form, disease could not steal her beauty. She was cloaked in beauty. It was in the wisps of hair that had lost their sheen but still spoke of used-to-be vitality. It was in her sallow skin that beckoned to be remembered for its once-upon-a-time rosy glow. It peeked out between the collars of a pale blue gown and boasted a ring that embodied an everlasting love. It blossomed in the aromatic air, heady with the smell of gardenia. It reached out from a sluggish, weak heart that found the strength to beat out a cadence only his heart understood. It seeped out in a single teardrop that fell from her closed eye but managed to trickle down onto his hand.

The door swung open and a powerful vacuum of air swooshed in. Death had come. He recognized it, like a thick black cloud, swirling in supremacy. He felt the ice-cold chill of it, smelled its rancid stench. Death had thwarted all efforts and forced its way in. It stood at the door, as if ashamed for the conquest it was about to make, but refused to be denied.

He looked at Annie, saw the single tear-stained path, and knew the choice that had been taken away from her. He watched her chest fall with one last breath and realized she’d given in to death. But she’d done it beautifully.

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