Without Him II
“You’ve got to be kidding me…” Fernand sighed as he left the door hanging wide open, and walked into the darkness.
She needs to get up, she must! I can’t just leave her to turn.
Odette stirred and let out a small sound as she nestled deeper into her beddings.
“Really?” he asked, standing with his hands on his hips waiting for her to get up. He shook his head and opened the curtain of the window near her bed. The midday sun entered and the shadows scattered.
“Ugh!” She groaned as the light hit her face, rolling over to face the other way and pulling the blankets with her.
“It’s been too long, Odette.” Fernand claimed, opening the curtains on the opposite wall. That left no room for the dark to dwell as the light granted the room a warm glow. He looked to her and sighed, lowering his voice to almost a whisper. “You need to get up…”
Odette’s bird, Didiane, began to chirp.
“I’m not going anywhere,” she refuted from beneath the bedding.
“You don’t have to go anywhere,” he retorted as he opened Didiane’s cage and let the little white bird onto his finger, petting its head, “but you can’t continue to sleep here all day.”
“Do not try to tell me what I can and cannot do!” She barked back.
He turned to see her upright now, seemingly fully awake but angered beyond belief.
“Odette, I merely…”
“I said, no!”
Fernand looked to the floor and released a deep sigh. “…you were dreaming of him, then?”
“You know it’s not real…” He let Didiane back into her cage.
“It is, Fernand! I feel him!"
"Don’t tell me it’s not.”
Odette glared at him as he rubbed his forehead in frustration, noticing how warm he felt. It was clear she had already decided how this conversation would go well before he’d ever even came to see her. He had tried on many other occasions, and she would listen to him without argument, but recently it seemed things were different.
“Odette… it’s been a year…”
“I don’t care how long it’s been!”
“But it’s already begun! Do you really want to spend the rest of whatever time you have left here simply dreaming?
“If it means being with him, then yes.”
Fernand’s irritation cracked the air as he slapped his hands on his lap, slightly rocking as he shook his head.
My, she is stubborn.
“We’ve already lost Didier to this. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before-”
“He’ll be back!” She cut him off, her voice holding a fierceness Fernand had never before heard from her.
He was taken aback, searching his own feelings over the situation. “You’re right…” He nodded, looking to meet her strong gaze, “…he will.”
She nodded and her lips trembled as if she couldn’t decide whether to smile or cry.
He stood, realizing it was time for him to leave her alone. He shut one curtain as she sat there, off in another world. He knew it was somewhere deep in her mind with Francis. Ever since he’d left, it was as if she’d left with him, leaving a mere shell behind.
“Before I go…”
Odette reeled herself back, looking to him, her eyes moist.
“Getting worse?” She finished, knowing his concern from the beginning.
She raised her right arm and peeled back her sleeve to reveal the hard, stony surface that her forearm had begun to become. He knelt and gave it a good look over, rubbing the tough, bumpy area as he looked to her face and scanned the rest of her.
“It hasn’t spread anywhere else.”
“Good,” he said with much relief.
“But, I can’t feel the way I used to…” she added.
His face perked with curiosity.
“It’s like, everything is becoming dull compared to how it once was.”
“Just because he isn’t here?” he wondered aloud.
“No, it’s more than that. The wind, it used to feel so gentle… it used to smell and taste so nice…”
“It’s like it isn’t even there…”
Fernand lowered his face and his lips too trembled, but he did his best to hide it from her as he took a deep breath and smiled to face her.
“We’ll have someone give you a good look over,” he said, holding back the moisture behind his own eyes. “I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about.”
He couldn’t tell whether she bought it, but he assumed she knew the truth of her condition and how she was truly doing.
I hope she doesn’t, though.
Fernand stood and patted his shirt, readying to leave. “It’s amazing to think that’s all you’ve been inflicted with since he left,” he noted. “Didier began to turn months after Amorette was separated from him.”
Odette released a long yawn as she rubbed her arm, looking to her bird as it began to doze back to sleep.
Fernand gripped the cloth of the other curtain. “You know, they say it can take years, months… or even just a moment...” Fernand trailed off, holding the cloth still.
“Perhaps what Francis and I have is stronger,” she smiled.
He cringed at her use of his name. She had told him not to use it quite some time ago. Regardless, he maintained composure and nodded, “Yes, perhaps.”
Fernand forced a smile and closed the other curtain, leaving the shadows to envelop the room once more. “I’ll leave you to it, then.”
“Thank you, Fernand. Have a good day.”
He closed the door gently.
“Sweet dreams, Odette.”
By Chet DeLano