by Kim Martins
It was 3.00am when the call came through. I’d been waiting for it. Come to the hospital, they said. I couldn’t sleep anyway.
I arrived to a room full of people I didn’t know. I craved a cigarette, wanted to step out into the corridor, but they whispered - we’ll leave you alone now.
She was tucked into starchy sheets, razor-thin arms folded across her chest. Her eyes were closed but she wasn’t sleeping.
She knew I was there. Her hands sought mine. I ran my thumb over the splatter of freckles across her knuckles, traced her almond-shaped nails and thought - our life together is in these hands.
I brushed the tip of a scarred index finger. Nearly sliced off when jam sticky fingers slipped on a kitchen knife. I imagined the familiar turn of a wrist when she threaded her fingertips through my hair, her laughter hot against my bare shoulders. Her gentle stroking of our newborn’s flushed skin.
Those moments. Unhurried Sundays curled on the sofa. She turned the eggshell pages of a book while I read the newspaper. Nervous palms held by some fortune teller who didn’t want to say what a faint life line meant. That night we ran barefoot and drunk along the beach. She smelled of coconut cream and sunshine and I tasted her salty fingers. The time she waded through a rock pool and cradled small shells in sand-encrusted hands.
These hands have mapped our relationship from the start. I drew them to my face. They were cold to the touch, light as bird bones. Like a fool, I thought we’d always be together.
I watched her lips.
She said: I’m ready. But I was not.
She almost appeared to be smiling.
I let go of her hands.