Norfolk General Hospital, Norfolk, Virginia...
“Well, there’s my girl.” The woman in the bed welcomed her best friend…a tearful meeting put off by fear and sorrow, but too needful to set aside for any reason
“Oh, Dar…” Michelle leaned over the rail of the hospital bed and kissed Daria on the cheek; the barrier too ironic for words. She pulled back and lowered the rail and fell upon Daria’s chest; already missing what she was about to lose. Lifelong companionship and encouragement filled with sorrow and joy and pains and laughter. Discovered by one and that was hidden by another, they used to kid about Michelle’s love for the ‘wife of her youth,’ even if she didn’t know she had a wife until the twenty-second year of their marriage.
“Darren and Michelle, Happy Together September 5, 1993,” the cake read.
“I will not say…do not weep,” Dar quoted one of her favorite lines from Tolkien, barely getting it out before the two began to sob.
“Oh, Dar…I’m so…sorry. I wasted so much time.” She sat up and touched Daria’s face, her wife’s tears felt warm and she wished she had something to store them in. Someone else would be holding those tears to be a treasure.
“No regrets…no guilt…no shame. We said and did what we thought was right both of us. You married a man…it wasn’t your fault he never told you he wasn’t a man at all.” Daria breathed a sigh, her tears all falling freely and with no regrets as she said; a lifetime together made up for each of their shortcomings and left them fulfilled and filled with hope.
“I love you so much,” Michelle sobbed, her head resting upon her wife’s breast. Her wife…her shoulders shook them both as she wept as hard as anyone could who was bidding her love goodbye.
“Promise me…” Daria’s voice was hardly above a whisper, but it spoke clearly, since they had talked of this before.
“Anything for you…” Michelle laughed softly, knowing what was coming.
“I don’t think my brothers could handle me buried in that wedding gown we got last year…too much shock to their sensibilities.” Her laugh blended too easily with her gasps and a cough.
“No wedding gown….check. We want to be proper for your burial.” It seemed odd to be crying and laughing at the same time, but Michelle’s soft laugh sounded just fine even if the tears still fell like a shower from her cheeks.
“The gray number…mid calf taffeta with the black boots with the three-inch….” She began coughing… when her spluttering stopped, she gasped.
“The gray number...boots…and the topaz necklace and the orange belt….for color,” Michelle said softly, trying hard to be brave.
“Love? Promise me….please…?” They hadn’t rehearsed another promise and she looked at Daria in puzzled anticipation.
“You’re young; sweet…we were fortunate…to find each other so young?” Talking about clothing in a fun way was one thing. Discussing her future without the love of her life? Like putting off writing a will or discussing insurance, this talk had been alluded to…referred to…danced around…and avoided for the past twenty-five months, but it was going to have its way, finally.
“You’re young…and you’re the most beautiful woman in the world,” Daria spoke with a new lilt in her laughter, almost as if she was trying to convince Michelle of the truth of what she had just said.
“You know what you need to do. There’s too much giving in you to stay alone for long; you need to bless someone else and you know who I mean.”
“Well, there’s Phil from church.” She laughed, but Daria frowned.
“Don’t joke…please?” A look of horror crossed Michelle’s face; it wasn’t a bad thing to do…to joke or kid about it. They just didn’t have enough time for that. Even as the fear invaded her heart, Daria’s breathing became labored. She lifted her hand and touched Michelle’s face.
“You love whom you will love, dear one.” She said, caressing Michelle’s cheek and gently pulling on her ear lobe.
“I know I did and you did, too. But it’s time…high time, in fact.” She coughed.
“But….” Michelle wasn’t arguing with the choice she would make, but the fact that she would be in the place of having to make a choice.
“I know…I love you…promise me?” She coughed again and her gasps grew more labored.
“I…I promise…with all my heart.”
“You know I loved you?” Michelle had never questioned Daria before until she saw the look in Daria’s eyes. And she knew. Even on their wedding night, the awkwardness and the nervousness and even fear in Darren…there never was a man, only the woman she was about to lose….
“Oh…I do…I do, dear God….please? Please?” Her voice did not rise even as she raised her eyes upward; a plea that would not fall on deaf ears, but on ears that hear every cry and every plea. She looked back at Daria and saw the most pleasant, peaceful expression on her wife’s face; almost as if she had enjoyed a good cup of tea or listened to some nice music. And she was gone.
No words….just soft, almost peaceful weeping as Michelle said goodbye to her life’s only love.
Sometime later...the Norfolk Waterside Marriot Hotel...
“Ladies and gentlemen, family and friends, I am pleased to have been granted this honor, and doubly pleased since I treasure these two with all my heart,” Peter LaSalle said as he used his hand in a broad gesture. “The happy couple want to celebrate this moment by recalling another, dear and precious to them and to us. Please bow your head for a moment of silence to honor my sister, Daria Marie LaSalle.” A few sighs and several gasps and sobs were heard before silence filled the hall. And a few moments later…
“And now, it gives me great pleasure to introduce the happy couple… Michelle Louise Anders LaSalle and her new spouse…my sister, Renee’ Roseanne LaSalle.”
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