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28th March
posted by amber


I woke up. They told me that I might not, after the surgery. This possibility upset my daughter, but I was resigned to it. Life had gotten old as I got old.

So much pain for the past five years. Karma, perhaps. I had a glorious youth, never knew what pain was, never had a care in the world. I was beautiful, and I used it. So many boyfriends.

And then, my husband. He’d lost his first wife to depression. Nadia had killed herself and it tore him apart so badly, he swore he’d never love again. We dated for a long time before he gave in. And years later, he admitted that if he’d met both of us at the same time, he wouldn’t have known which of us to pick.

That didn’t insult me. It was high praise, from him.

He and I had 26 glorious years together. He’d had only four with Nadia, but she was the ghost who haunted our marriage. I’d had far more previous relationships, but they might as well never have happened, they were that meaningless to me, once I met him.

And then I lost him. He died nine years ago.

So I really didn’t care that much if I woke up or not, after the surgery. I knew what the remaining years of my life would be like, and it didn’t appeal to me. I had no idea what the afterlife would be like – nothingness, punishment, eternal bliss.

I certainly didn’t expect some kind of institutional waiting room, so it took me a few minutes to realize that everything about the situation was wrong. I was sitting in a chair – I should have been lying down in the recovery room or back in the ward. And my legs looked different. Longer, thinner, tanned. I was wearing some pretty sandals very much like my favourite sandals from years ago. My feet looked young, toes polished.

I ran my hands over my body. It was slim, impossibly slim. Abruptly, I stood up, noting that I did so without pain. The room was large and bright, but I seemed to be the only one there, so I pulled up the cotton dress I was wearing and examined my abdomen.

No scar from the surgery I’d just had. No scar from the surgery last year. The scar from my caesarian was there, and in every way, my body was as it had been then, in the years after Constance was born, the years that were my happiest.

So, this was heaven.

But without Richard, it would never be heaven.

Yet, even as I thought of him, I saw him, standing not far from me, emerging from the brightness. He smiled and I ran to him, embraced him, weeping.

All those nine years of loneliness washed over me. One embrace could not erase them, one kiss could be only the promise of an eternity of kisses to come. We have bodies in heaven, I marvelled, and that’s when I noticed that Richard held me with just one arm. He’d looked to me exactly as he looked in the years after Constance’s birth changed us from a couple into a family, but where was his right arm? He died from bone cancer that started in that arm, but it hadn’t been amputated. Did they amputate his arm in heaven?

I peered around, and then I saw her, held firmly by Richard’s right arm. Nadia.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

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