Her eyes. That's the first thing that caught my attention. Aside from the earth-shattering smile, they were the thing that made me approach. They were literally teal. Her eyelashes were long and black, her eyebrows thick. She had lips that curled around her teeth when she smiled in a way that said, you don't know me, and you never will. She was enticing. I wanted to get to know her more.
Her hair was a dark blonde, but her eyebrows were darker. I always wondered if she had dyed her hair, but she said she hadn't. She was all natural.
My name is Eric. I'm a graduate student at my local university with a degree in Writing. I write when I'm sad, mad, happy, depressed, insightful, confused...I've been doing it since I could hold a pencil. Becoming an author is my ultimate goal.
When I actually spoke to her, I discovered that she was probably the nicest girl I've ever met. She had tasteful conversations, was interesting, and was very intent when I had something to say. Slowly but surely, she was turning into my best friend.
Her name is Aria Kabinov. She was born in Russia, and came over here when she was three with her parents. Neither of them are still alive, but Aria's twenty-four years old and can handle herself. She's got a tiny accent to her voice, but nothing overwhelming. Think of it as coffee with a pinch of sugar: bold, with a sweet aftertaste.
She's a beautiful painter. If you put her on my balcony with paint, and easel, and a brush, she'll paint everything within a 360 degree radius, including the wall of my house behind her. But, the thing is, she'll paint it so well, that I'd still hang it up in my living room. She's just that good. One time, she sat me down on the balcony on one of my kitchen chairs and ordered me to sit as still as possible. I obeyed, and for the next half an hour, she had the backbone of a beautiful portrait of my face in the works. She captured every detail: my un-shaved morning stubble, the flecks of color in my eyes. Of course, it wasn't complete, but, over time, she did finish it. She has it hanging on her wall in her entryway.
I love Aria Kabinov. It's easy to say all the cliché things about love, like, I'd do anything for her, or, I'd take a bullet for her, or, I can't live without her, but they just don't do it justice. I can't put all of my love into words for Aria. She makes me smile, yet cry because...what the holy hell did I do to deserve her? I know I, in fact, would do anything for her. She's mysterious, beautiful, elegant, harsh, smart...she's almost every trait known to man...and I think that's why I love her so much. She always keeps me guessing, yet I know her and her little quirks.
"Hi," she said as I opened my door.
"Hey." I bent down and kissed her cheek. I'm over six feet tall, and she's a tiny five foot three. "Ready to go?" I asked.
"Yup! Let's go."
We hopped into my car and started heading to the forest. We were going hiking to the top of a mountain, and were going to paint and read. That's one of Aria's favorite things to do: adventure to places where she can paint. Where no person has painted before. We came across a deer trail that we followed for some time, confirming that it did indeed go all the way up the mountain. It looked as though no one has went up there, and that's why we were going.
Aria strapped her easel to her back and carried her paint bag over her shoulder. I carried her medium-sized canvas covered in a sheet up for her.
Whenever I write, I write the things I've seen. I study the things and people around me in order to get a realistic advantage on what I'm trying to tell others. As Aria and I walk up this unnamed mountain together, I focus on the way the light hits her face. How her hips raise and fall when she steps over stones. How her hair has slightly fallen from her ponytail and is drifting in the breeze. The tune she hums as she looks at the canopy of trees up above our heads.
"Beautiful day," she says, looking back at me, her white teeth glistening.
"Very," I said, smiling back at her. She picked up speed. The top of the mountain was imminent, and it looked as though she couldn't wait
to get to the top.
"Look," she said. "The lighting is going to be wonderful!"
She continued to hurry and when she got to the top, her breath caught.
"Eric. Look at this view!" she exclaimed, her arms outstretched in front of her. She belted out a yell and it echoed back to her. She looked at me and smirked.
"I love Eric!!" she yelled, and it echoed back. "You do it. Say something," she said.
"I love Aria!!"
"I love Eric, more!!" I furrowed my eyebrows at her. She raised one.
"I love Aria more than she loves me!!" I yelled.
"TRUEST STATEMENT IN THE WORLD!!" I belted at the top of my lungs. Aria stared at me and started to giggle.
"I have a super competitive boyfriend!!" she yelled. The mountains yelled it back.
"Not true!!" I yelled.
"Will you marry me?!" I yelled. She was about to say something along the lines of proving me wrong, when her eyes popped open and she turned to me.
"What?" she asked, fingers resting on her throat. I turned to her, "Will you marry me?" She stared and that lovely little smile that she has slowly bubbled to the surface. I focused on her eyes, the lines from smiling and laughing, every hair that makes up her eyebrows. The creases in her lips. This moment was one that I want to write about fifty years from now and remember every single detail. There's no possible way that I'll ever forget it.
"Yes," she said, "yes I will marry you, Eric." I dropped my book and pulled the easel and bag from her body. I pulled her into a kiss and held her there by her face. I ran my hand down her hair and face, silk beneath my fingertips. Tears streaked down her face. She pulled back and laughed as I reached my and into my jean pocket and pulled out the tiny velvet box containing her ring. I opened it and placed it on her finger. It glistened against the light.
"Eric, it's beautiful," she said, covering her mouth. She looked up and kissed my lips three times. She wiped her face and looked out at the scenery.
"Great," she laughed, "now I'll never be able to focus!"
"You can do it. I want to see that painting. Be sure to date it," I said.
"You know, every time I look at it I'll remember that's what it looked like when you proposed to me," she said.
"Half the reason you should paint it," I smiled. She smiled back and looked at her ring again. She held it close to her face, and then far away, moving it slightly to see the light hit it at different angles. She then grabbed her easel and paint and started painting.
I'm going to be completely honest. I couldn't focus on my book for the life of me. I was too busy watching her. She was so intent. It seemed that even the fact that she was engaged to be married, nothing could break her concentration on what she was painting. Occasionally, I did see her glance at her left hand and smile. She glanced at me a couple of times, too. I looked down at my book and made it look like I wasn't watching her.
About two hours later, just as the sun dipped below the horizon, she looked at me and sighed.
"Done," she said. I stood up and walked over to her. It looked like a photograph. The sky was orange, pink, yellow, and
purple, just like the sunset had been. The trees and mountains were exact, their peaks exactly what was in front of me. At the bottom was her signature, the date, and the words, engaged to be married.
"Beautiful," I said, bending around her shoulder and placing my lips to her neck. I felt a spark, and she looked at me.
Her head laid on my pillow and I stared at her as I ran my fingertips from her forehead, across her collarbones, down the valley between her breasts, over her belly and hips. I put my mouth to hers, her hand resting on my neck
"I love you," she said.
"Forever," I said, kissing her ring.
The next morning, I woke up with her head on my chest. Her left hand also rested there, the ring glistening against the morning light. Her hair was fluffy and smelled like strawberries. I didn't want to move. I wanted to stay here for ever. Her head on my chest, her hair tickling my nose. I ran my fingers over her shoulder, down her left arm, over her fingers.
I loved this woman. I loved her with every single fiber of my being. Cliché as it sounds, that is the truth. I seriously cannot picture my life without her. I want to be the father of her children. I want to grow old with her, die with her.
She started stirring, rolling over and raising her arms above her head. Her breasts pointed to the ceiling.
"Good morning," I said. She rolled back over and pressed her lips to mine.
"I've got to get to work," she said.
"When will you be back?" I asked as she got up and stretched.
"Hmm," she said, taking her clothes from the back of my chair. "Tonight. Is that okay?" I stood up and wrapped my arms around her.
"Okay, then I'll see you tonight. Would you like me to pick up anything for dinner?" she asked.
"Nope. I'm making it for you,"
"Ooh," she said, buttoning her shirt.
I walked her to the door and kissed her. I then lifted her left hand and kissed the ring.
"I love you, Aria. I love you more than you'll ever know," I said. She smirked.
"What's with the speech?" she laughed.
"It's not a speech. Speeches are mostly there to convince another person of something you believe. I'm stating the hard facts. I love you with my entire heart. I can't picture my life without you. I don't even want to think about it." She smiled.
"I'm not going anywhere."
Aria gets off work at 8 PM. I sat with dinner on the table, waiting. I looked at my phone and it read 9:14. I was starting to get extremely worried.
I tried calling her phone again, but it was just carried to her voice mail.
Hi, this is Aria. I'm not here right now, but leave your name and message and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Have a good day!
I cleared my throat, "Hey, Aria. I'm just calling to see where you are. I tried calling once before, but you didn't answer...hope everything is alright. Call me back. Bye."
I got up and walked into the kitchen. I started grabbing pot and pan lids to place over dinner so it'd stay warm.
9:32. 10:01. 10:13.
Hey, Aria. Just leaving another message. Can you please call me?
Aria, come on. Did I do something wrong?
Aria, where the fuck are you?!
I never pace. It's just something I've never done. Then again, I've never had the love of my life not return my phone calls for over three hours. My heart was pounding in my chest, my hands were sweating profusely, and I couldn't breathe. My phone started ringing. I ran over to it.
"Hello?" I asked breathlessly.
"Hello, this is Hope Memorial Hospital. We have just checked Aria Kabinov into---" I didn't even finish listening. I was out the door in five seconds.
"Oh my God, please, please, please, please," I begged. Obviously I was begging him to keep her alive...although I wasn't sure if she was even alive because I didn't finish listening to the nurse at the hospital. This added to my hysteria.
I pulled into the parking garage and threw my car into park. I ran up to the hospital, the big red EMERGENCY sign illuminating the ground.
I walked up to the front desk, breathless, "Aria Kabinov. Where is she?" The nurse typed painfully slow on the computer as I waited. My fingers drummed against the faux wood of the desk.
"And who are you?" she asked.
"I'm her fiancée. Eric Anderson."
"You're not on her list of visitors," she said, tapping the computer screen with her long red fingernail.
"Is she dead?"
"I can't release that information." I took a deep breath.
"Look," I said, "I'm her fiancée. I don't know how to prove that to you, but, I am. She knows who I am. Can-can you go ask her? Just say Eric-"
"I'm sorry, sir," she said, shaking her head.
"IS SHE FUCKING DEAD OR NOT, LADY?!" I screamed.
"Security!" she shrieked.
"Just tell me if she's dead!" A tall, older man walked up to me.
"Come on, buddy. No sense in making it difficult," he said. He took me by the arm and led me out of the hospital. Once outside, he let go of me and folded his arms. I paced, my hands pushed into my eyes. What the hell was I going to do?
"Your mom?" the security guard asked.
"Trying to get in to see your mom?"
"No. My fiancée." I said.
"What's her name?"
"Aria Kabinov. I have no way to get in to see her because I'm not on her visitors list."
He shook his head, "You know, that whole visitors list thing is bull shit. How do they expect a person in ICU to even be coherent enough to tell you names?"
I shrugged and started walking away. "I don't know."
"I'll let ya in. Hence the whole reason explaining I didn't agree with the whole visitors list thing."
"Did you really think I was going to tell you that and kick your ass to the curb?"
"Get in there. I'll clear you." I walked up to him and shook his hand.
"Thank you. Thank you very much...uh..."
"Thank you, Oscar."
I walked through the doors and the front desk nurse stood up.
"Security!" she wailed. I stuck up my middle finger and walked past her. I heard Oscar telling her to shut up as I walked down the hall.
Stainless steel letters against dark wood walls addressed the Intensive Care Unit. I walked up to the desk praying that I wouldn't have to deal with another crazy nurse.
"I'm looking for Aria Kabinov."
"Are you Eric?" she asked.
"Yes! Did she ask for me? Is she okay?" I asked frantically. The nurse stared at me, her mouth flat.
"Her doctor is here to talk to you. He'll see you in a moment. Take a seat in the waiting room."
"Can I see her?" I asked.
"Possibly." I turned numbly to the waiting room. Several tired looking adults filled the seats. Some holding hands, some holding rosaries. Some crying.
I sat down and waited. My fingers drummed against my leg. I couldn't sit still. I felt like my skin was crawling and like I wanted to throw up. I got up and moved to the chairs closer to the bathroom. People stared at me. I must look like hell.
"Eric Anderson?" an older man with a white coat asked. I stood up and raised my hand like a moron. Like a school boy answering a question for the teacher.
"I'm Aria's doctor. How are you?"
"Is she okay?" I asked, ignoring his question.
"Come with me." he said.
We walked down a separate hallway from the patients. He turned to a door and put a key card in it. It opened and a dark paneled room with diplomas on the wall appeared. A large desk with a laptop sat in the center of the room. Two soft leather chairs sat in front of it.
"Take a seat," he said. I sat down in one of the chairs and felt like a poor person in a billionaire's mansion. The doctor sat down in the chair behind the desk.
"Aria is not doing well," he said. He folded his hands on the desk and leaned forward. "She was driving on the highway and got in a head on collision with a drunk driver. It appeared that she tried to veer away, but it basically made the situation worse than it would have been. We're seeing severe, irreversible brain damage as well broken bones, damaged organs, etcetera. This leads me to a
question you have to answer because you're the closest one to her and she has no parents and relatives." He paused for me to answer. I just stared, completely destroyed in every way possible. Numb.
"Aria has little chance of surviving except on the machinery we have here at Hope Memorial. Either she stays here on machines for the rest of her life, or we 'pull the plug' and let her pass."
He pauses again. I say nothing.
"I know this is a huge decision," he said. "It's a lot of stress on your shoulders. But, Mr. Anderson, you need to evaluate what she wants...or would want with her life."
We sat quiet for a moment.
"I'll give you some time."
"Can I see her?" I begged, tears in my eyes.
I followed him into Aria's room. He pulled back the curtain and there she was. She didn't look like my petite, beautiful Aria. She was...broken. Black, blue, and bloody. Dying.
"I'll leave you two alone," the doctor said.
"Can she hear me?" I asked before he left.
"There's a possibility. We can't be sure right now."
He walked out and I pulled a chair up to her bed. I took her left hand and looked at her engagement ring. One of the diamonds was missing, blood was caked on the band. A ventilation tube was down her throat, monitors on her forehead. Her eyes were taped shut so I couldn't see her beautiful long eyelashes, or her teal eyes. I couldn't run my fingers through her dark blonde hair, because it'd probably fall out. I couldn't run my fingers over her broken body, or kiss her swollen lips. I couldn't see her smile with her beautiful white teeth, because half of them were gone. I couldn't listen to her talk or laugh or breathe. She was not my Aria anymore. She was already gone.
I already knew my decision.
"Aria," I said, "I don't know if you can even hear me right now, but I just want to let you know that I love you with all of my heart, and I always will. I'm so sorry about what happened...I wish this never did happen. But, I made a decision that I wish I didn't have to make."
I was crying now. No holding back.
"I wish I got to marry you. I wish I got to call you my wife. I wish we got to have babies. I wish we got to get old and gray together. I wish I got to die with you, not watch you go first." I rubbed her cold fingers vigorously. I prayed to God that she'd just wake up and breathe on her own. That she'd sit up and hold me like she used to. It wasn't the fact that I wanted her...I needed her. I needed Aria. I needed her in my life. I can't picture my life before her. It's bleak and ugly and something I don't want to feel again.
"I want you to wait for me up there, Aria. Don't go in until I'm there. I want to go in with you. I want to hold your hand. I love you. I love you so, so, so much. I'm going to miss you. Every day. All day, every day. Every breath I take, I'm going to miss you."
A nurse walked in with the doctor.
"Have you made a decision?" he asked. I put my head on Aria's leg. My tears dripped off the tip of my nose. My hand clutched hers.
"Yes," I said.
"What would you like to do, Mr. Anderson?" I swallowed and tried to contain myself.
"I want to take her off of it. This is no life for her. She always hated having to be in one place for too long. She'd hate me if I made her live the rest of her life in a hospital bed."
The doctor nodded and put his hand on my back. "Have you said your goodbyes?"
"Yeah. I have."
"When would you like us to do it?" he asked.
I looked at Aria's face. Not even pain was an emotion on her face. She was so sedated and broken that she didn't even have color to her skin. She was a ghost already. She was already going away even on life support.
The doctor walked up to the machines and waited for me to look at him. I took Aria's hand and gave him one nod.
He started flicking the switches off, and I looked at her face. All I could hear was the beating of her heart on the monitor, and my own heartbeat. I whispered that I loved her several times, and heard her flat-line. The doctor put his hand on my back and gave it a pat. He and the nurse left the room and shut the door.
I looked at my dead fiancée. I couldn't breathe. Part of me was waiting for someone to say this is a sick joke. I kissed her hand laid my head on her leg again.
I sobbed. The only other time I ever sobbed was when my grandmother died. Now, this was different. These were sobs that felt like they were shattering my ribs. They felt like they were crushing my lungs. My throat was closing up. My stomach was retching. I was fucking falling apart.