She watched listlessly the evening sun making morbid patterns on the walls opposite. She also watched her husband’s chest heave up and down, barely though.
It had been a harrowing week for her.
For him too.
His fever wasn’t coming down even after five days, the headaches weren’t going and his breathlessness was getting worse by the hour. A slow panic was setting in both.
The children settled in the US, the attending doctor, all advised testing which took another two days to materialise. There were just too many waiting for medical help.
The reports had come the previous evening and as feared, he had tested positive. He went to pieces and then clammed up, almost immediately embracing his impending fate without a whimper or putting up even the tiniest of fights.
It was so unlike him to throw in the towel so quickly and look towards her for guidance, having meticulously decided every single minute of her day without her say so and vote, through the thirty-five years of their marriage. She was expected to be the implementor of his diktats. A mere mute follower. Not following his diktats meant days of silent treatment with intermittent verbal outbursts from him. He ruled over her ruthlessly.
The massive weight of her wedding band sat heavily on her hand because with time, dominance became normalized, in this aged marriage.
The children, quick to sense the power dynamics of their household, did their best to play the honest referee, but then gave up when they understood what they were up against. Their father was not a very amenable man. He hated being corrected. So they studied hard and flew the nest as fast as they could, mouthing a silent prayer for their frail mother left behind, whenever they could.
Presently, she suggested to him albeit weakly, to follow the doctor’s orders and shift into a hospital to have a fighting chance. He refused point-blank saying a visit to the ICU meant certain death. He would rather spend his last few days in his home, which he had lovingly built with his sweat and blood.
She smiled softly at ‘his’.
She then religiously updated his situation over FaceTime to the children. The children after a virtual huddle left the decision on her. They couldn’t anyways come to help. Plus the intensive care came at a very steep price. They certainly weren’t flush with funds and they had families to take care of. Things were already dirt-messy back home. The parents had to fend for themselves.
The children couldn’t be blamed. They had their share of responsibilities and problems. Money always brought out the unwanted uglier side of one into full glare and also made one coldly practical.
But then her mind began to float unfettered.
Sure, they would save a lot, if home treatment continued, and eventually, when the inevitable happened, she would be left with the house and a tidy sum in the bank.
The children anyway wouldn’t bother about this small change, in their eyes that is. They weren’t coming back also!
She would be free to go wherever she fancied, do whatever she wanted, without any recriminations or the attendant violence, verbal or otherwise. She would be the master of her day, her thoughts, her actions without any fear or recriminations.
The whole wide world waited to be explored.
Oh to be truly free with an added bonus of money to spend! Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
But for that to happen, he had to…
She then crumpled and bawled away uncontrollably, cursing herself!
She the wife!
Because she took the vow until death did they part.
A couple weeks later, the vernacular press ran a curious story of an older man getting miraculously cured, entirely by home quarantining, when he was given up for dead.
His hale and hearty wife who had been attending to him developed severe complications, suffered a massive heart attack, and passed away within two days of his recovery.