Madelyn ran her fingers through her hair. She couldn’t stifle the cry of anguish as the red strands came loose into her hand. Every day more hair fell, a physical reminder of the disease that raged through her body.
Hearing her cry, Matthew rushed into the dressing room, “Are you alright?” His voice tinged with alarm, but carefully modulated as to not upset her. He stopped when he saw the hair in her fist.
Dismay filled his eyes before he shuttered into a bland neutral expression. Madelyn’s bright red hair was the first thing Matthew noticed when he met her. It drew him like a moth to flame and he liked to joke that it set his heart on fire. She gave him a weak smile, trying to summon a joke to diffuse the situation. But nothing came out. The silence grew as they both tried to find the right words.
“It will be okay, darling,” she reassured him, although she was the one dying. “It’s just hair after all.”
But they both knew it was so much more than that. It was a symbol of time passing, a battle being waged within her body. Time seemed to speed up and Madelyn didn’t know how to slow it down. She grasped at moments, treasured memories. But some days she wondered why she clung.
Madelyn wanted to weep, but the tears dried up long ago. They didn’t help anyway. She applied her make-up, painting a brave face. But she wasn’t brave. She was scared. She didn’t expect Death to come knocking at her door so quickly. If she didn’t answer, would she have more time?
Matthew watched as she got ready for the dinner party. He was always watching, hovering in the background. Madelyn gritted her teeth to keep from lashing out at him to leave her alone.
She didn’t want to go out. She didn’t want to see the pity and concern grace the faces of her friends. The awkwardness of people not knowing what to say. The invitations were less frequent now, as if people were afraid that the disease would spread to them.
Matthew said, “We can stay home if you wish.” He leaned down and gave her a gentle kiss on the cheek, afraid to touch her, afraid that she would shatter. Gone were the days of passionate embraces, replaced by the humiliation of loss body control. Through it all, Matthew never complained, never made her feel less of a woman.
Madelyn was about to tell him that she would like to stay home when she glanced at him in the mirror. His face, handsome still, carried the mark of burden and sorrow. The disease didn’t just impact her, his life was forever changed as well. She realized that he needed the party, to laugh and be problem free.
“No, let’s go out and have fun and laugh the night away. I want to LIVE my life.”