by Tari Gwaemir
"All night long I've held your hand."
His mind, it seems, is no longer his own, whirling around and around in circles until his head feels as if it's shattering into pieces. Day and night, he drifts in and out of dreams--arma virumque cano--the sweet ripe smell of strawberry apples--moss on a gravestone in the cemetery at Redmond--
But mostly her, he dreams of: the line of a long red braid down the back of a new gingham dress, the whiteness of her wrist against her flushed cheek, her eyes furious and ashamed when he rowed her back to shore, a circlet of mayflowers tangled in her hair, the worn covers of the books they lent and borrowed, her mouth opening to say "No, I can't. I never, never can love you in that way, Gilbert."
In a rare moment of lucidity, he asks in a hoarse whisper, "Am I going to die?"
His mother, pressing a cool towel to his hot, dry forehead, pauses to quietly wipe away tears--he does not see because his eyes are closed; his eyelids weigh like stone--and answers in a choked voice, "Of course not, Gilbert, you're going to get better. You'll see."
He thinks of the word "death", and it repeats over and over in his mind; such a curiously short syllable, echoing with finality. He is in no condition to understand--he can only comprehend the "never" in regret, oh the regret, that he had not seen her once more.
"Anne," he says, delirious. "Anne--"
He can almost see her, pale as a ghost, face against the window, eyes large and gray and full of tears. She opens her mouth. "Wait," she seems to say. "Wait, please wait."
He is too tired to move but he nods his head. That night, the fever breaks.