Rose was undoubtedly in love. Her heart was stolen by an angelic woman named Marielle. She stood tall and proud, face glowing as softly as the dewy moon in the night sky. Her demeanor, soft and graceful, was that of a princess. Rose saw beauty in everything Marielle did, and that was how she knew she was the one.
Marielle, though not one who easily gave away her emotions, let herself be carried away in the company of Rose. There hadn't been a person who'd brought so much joy and excitement to her everyday life, so she wanted to live in it while it lasted. In fact, it would only last another year. The terminal illness that had plagued her since she was a child had slowly been wearing her down, finally bringing the threat of death she had been promised long ago. When her 20th birthday rolled around, she decided that it would be the perfect time to take her life into her own hands. She immediately flew herself out of the East Coast to San Francisco to live out the rest of her life where she'd always dreamed of being.
After a year of getting accustomed to living in the constantly active city, Marielle met Rose. She remembered it as if it were yesterday. She had been walking home late from a Thanksgiving party with her friends that had dragged long into the night. There were very few people on the street except for a group of drunk people across the street from her. They were very loud and cheery, shouting out random phrases and rude remarks at each other. While she preferred not to listen to their incessant cursing, she found the group quite entertaining.
Their banter quickly turned into a very loud singing session. That session also quickly dissolved into them performing a musical number she didn't happen to know about, but was intrigued by. The lead part was taken by a girl who had a half-shaved head of hair and plenty of piercings. Her solo began with a somber low note. It sent a shiver running down Marielle's spine as it echoed through the narrow street. The note gradually rose up into a sweet high note, cueing the others to join in, creating a saccharine harmony. She continued with lyrics in a language Marielle couldn't identify, but she didn't mind; just the lacing and roving melody and harmony had her hooked on the song. Unlike the song, the choreography was simple, just a basic waltz, led by the soloist, who had no partner and danced the waltz on her own. The number went on like that until someone yelled, "CAMBIO," and the group stopped and completely changed pace.
Another girl, dressed up in an over-sized jacket joined the girl in the front and they began singing an American rock showtune that started off with a huge burst of energy. All six of the group belted out a chorus that went, "It's a boring friday night so let's start a fight,", leading into a complicated routine that led them into the middle of the street.
At that point, Marielle had been fully immersed in the performance and started jogging to keep up with the energetic group. She wasn't ever interested in musicals or any form of visual arts for that matter, but their talent drew her in like a moth to a light. Though entranced, she couldn't help but notice the soloist lady had dropped her phone and was carrying on without it. Marielle hurriedly jogged over and picked the phone up and started jogging after the group.
After a few bouts of shouting over their wonderful song, Marielle finally got their attention and was glad to see the soloist had eyed her phone and was approaching her to get it back. When they stood face to face, Marielle politely handed the lady her phone. She didn't take it. Instead, she said, and Marielle remembered it vividly, "I don't want it back unless your number is in it,". It had gotten quite a laugh out of her and the lady's friends. There wasn't anything she had to lose in doing it, so Marielle did, thinking she wouldn't hear from the girl; however, that wasn't the case.
The next morning, she got a text, from an unknown number that turned out to be the soloist girl. There was an immediate spark between the two of them. The girl, whose name was Rose, opened up to Marielle and somehow got Marielle to as well. There was something about Rose that made Marielle feel that she could escape the world when she was with her, that anything was possible, that she could evade her illness.
After three months of mutual pining, they both finally realized that they were meant to be and made their relationship official. Since then, they shared even more of their lives with each other. Rose revealed her talent for shredding on a ukelele and her ability to whip up an ethereal creme brulee. Marielle shared the fact that she was deaf and had gotten a cochlear implant at a young age. It was a secret she preferred to keep, but she trusted Rose with her life. Except she didn't. The only secret she didn't share with Rose was about her terminal illness. She didn't want anything to come in between, and if that meant keeping the fact that they couldn't be together forever like they both wanted to, she would keep it a secret until her dying days.
Most of their time together was spent outside, walking the streets or simply enjoying each other's company in a lesser known cafe. Marielle's doctor told her to mind how much time she spent out in the elements and exercising because her body couldn't take the strain if she got sick or overworked herself. Though she had always taken her doctor's advice, she couldn't accept it. Rose loved being outside, and she couldn't ask her to stop doing so when she couldn't even give her a reason why.
The consequence of not heeding her doctor's advice soon came. After spending a lovely afternoon out looking at the changing of the leaves during fall, she became sick. At first, she didn't think much of it, simply carrying on with her daily routine. Alarm bells soon started ringing when she didn't improve within a week and started feeling the effects of malaise come over her.
Her work day was plagued with unproductiveness and frequent instances of dizziness. She finally decided to go back to her doctor when she had blacked out at work and had been sent to the hospital.
When she was told that a virus was eating away at her immune system, she decided it was time to tell Rose the truth. Getting the words out was a difficult task as she laid on her hospital bed, her hand encompassed by Rose's. Rose, upon hearing the long held secret, had sat in silence. Breaking the silence, she said, "While I think it's absolutely unfair for you to keep that from me for so long, I think it's way more important that we focus on getting you cleared of this virus or whatever.".
Both of them had hoped that the virus would be gone after a healthy amount of antibiotics had been used to flush her system, but it hadn't properly been done away with. The doctors themselves couldn't even give an explanation as to why the weak virus hadn't succumbed to the potent antibiotics. Rose was more if not equally invested in finding a way to get Marielle back on her feet. With the threat of death stealing away her loved one, she was determined to find a way to prolong her life.
No amount of wishing and praying could have kept Marielle's health from declining. One week, she was up and walking around the room, trying to make her stay entertaining, and the next, she was bedridden. She couldn't even lift a spoon up to her own mouth. Seeing such a drastic change frightened Rose. She knew full well that there wasn't a thing she could do about it except make Marielle as comfortable and happy as she possibly could. Bringing in flowers seemed to make Marielle's face light up like the moon. Frequent book readings became the activity Rose looked forward to when she saw Marielle. Though she knew she wouldn't be able to ever enjoy days happier than those, she promised herself that she would cherish them for as long as she lived.
The week before Christmas, Rose decided that bringing christmas early would be a pleasant surprise for Marielle, and so she went and bought a miniscule desktop christmas tree decorated with ornaments and lights. For her gifts, Rose made her the creme brulee she loved so much, bought a pair of cat earrings, a promise ring, and even snuck their kitty Juniper into the hospital for her.
Marielle was ecstatic when she saw the little tree, going on about how she never could have a tree in her apartment when she first moved to San Fran. Juniper came next, just as excited to see Marielle as Marielle was to see him. While Marielle cuddled with her cat, Rose brought out the earrings and ring. The glint of silver drew Marielle's eyes to the items, and there weren't words for the expression on her face. A stream of happy tears trailed down her cheeks as Rose put the promise ring on her finger. It was difficult to turn her thoughts into words, but Rose managed to find the right ones. She promised that there wouldn't be a time where she didn't love Marielle and that she would remember her until she would finally join her in death. There may have not been forever in that world, but in her heart there was, and she made sure that she would keep her promise there.
On Christmas Eve, Rose got a call from the hospital saying that Marielle was going critical. Rose immediately rushed to the hospital and made her way to Marielle's room. A few nurses were hurriedly running around the room, checking her vitals and the equipment she was hooked up to. Rose simply sat in the corner, worried and powerless. When the nurses slipped out of the room, she walked up to Marielle's bed and sat down. Marielle was staring blankly at the ceiling.
"Hey," Rose said, "It's gonna be alright and you know it."
Marielle looked up at and sighed. "You know as well as me that it isn't gonna be okay this time Rose. It's getting harder to breathe and my heart keeps stuttering. I think it's time."
Rose took Marielle's thin hand in her own, running her thumb over the promise ring she'd given her not even a week ago. She didn't want to believe Marielle was finally going. She just couldn't bear the thought.
"I want you to know something."
Marielle motioned for Rose to lean in close. She complied leaning in and staring into Marielle's hazel eyes. For a moment, it seemed time had stopped. Neither of them breathed, and there was only silence. It was the last moment of pure acknowledgement they would ever have. Marielle raised her hand to Rose's face, pulling her in for one last kiss.
"I love you Rosie, with all my heart, and don't you ever forget that. You've gotta carry on without me. Who else will take care of my baby June?" Marielle whispered, a grin gracing her tired appearance.
"Love you, too, Ellie. I'll never forget, swear on my life, Darling." Rose said gently. She sat back up, lacing her fingers with Marielle's. They sat like that in silence, thoroughly savoring their time together. After ten minutes, her heart monitor flat-lined prompting Rose to give her one last embrace before the nurses and doctors flooded the room. She stepped back and out into the hallway, leaning against the wall to make way for the nurses and the defibrillator.
Warm, fat tears began welling in her eyes. The feeling of anguish had come to her at certain times in her life, but not as strongly as it did that day. Having the person closest to her heart ripped away in the blink of an eye was unadulterated agony and heartbreak. She slid down the wall, curling in on herself to cover her face. Nothing could console her. She didn't want to pitied or comforted in that moment.
One of the nurses appeared in the doorway and softly said that Marielle had passed. Rose attempted to compose herself long enough to ask the nurse for Marielle's phone. When she received the device, she dialed Marielle's parents. Delivering the news was heavier than she thought it would be, not expecting to hear the sheer amount of grief in her parents' voices.
The months after Marielle's death were filled with an unexplained numbness. She couldn't get herself to go to work, to eat, or even get out of bed. The only thing that kept her going was Juniper and knowing that she had to keep him from slipping away, too. Sometimes, even he wasn't enough. There were days where she would just stare at the medicine cabinet, wondering if it really was worth it to live like she was. Eventually, her friends told her that she needed some help.
Taking the first steps and going to see her therapist was a struggle. She didn't know what to expect. When the meeting came around, she found that it wasn't as bad as she thought it was. The man was nice and very open-minded. Just getting some of her feelings off her chest and letting someone hear them was a weight lifted off her shoulders she wasn't even aware that she had. The meetings really helped get her back on her feet, and even helped her better the life she had had before.
After coming to terms with all that was, Rose began to pay tribute to Marielle's spirit. Every year, on Christmas Eve, she would feed all the stray cats in the alley between their building and the next just like Marielle did everyday. On Christmas Day, she would take a trip to the beach and toss an evergreen branch into the foam. She was still saddened by the thought of losing her only love, but tides change, and life takes us places we don't ever expect to be, so she still found joy for each new day.