Yul held the image in her hand, her gaze set as if a mere look could alter the very reality of days to come. Her hand trembled slightly and by force of will she tried to hold it steady, but the more she tried the worse it got. Placing the image on the table in front of her, Yul sat down and deposited her hands on the table, trying to steady herself. She wasn’t one to pray but her thoughts moved toward Kieran, and although she couldn’t bring her mind to utter the words, her heart silently asked for a miracle, for help, for intervention, deserved or not.

Rog walked up behind her, noticed the image and placed his hands on her shoulders. “They say this facility is the best.” Yul didn’t respond. “You know, they call it Hope, the facility that is.” Yul still didn’t budge. Rog sighed and his strong fingers massaged her shoulders, a proxy for the words he could not find. “Baby, I don’t know what to say and I don’t know what is going to happen, but,” Rog leaned over, his arms moving down her chest, fingers locking below her breasts as he moved his head next to hers and whispered in her ear, “I do know this, I will be with you every step of the way and we are going to fight this thing together and there is no force of nature that is going to mess up my plans to spend the rest of my life with you.”

Yul smiled weakly, her eyes still locked on the image. She leaned her head next to his, drawn near as if his words were pulling her toward him. “Hold me baby, just hold me tight and tell me you’ll never let me go.” Yul paused trying to keep her voice from breaking. “Rog can I tell you something?”

“Sure baby, anything.”

“You know my dock story.”

“I do.”

“I don’t know if I could have done what my sister did.”

“Don’t matter. None of us can ever know what we might have done in someone else’s shoes. Let it go. Our fight is ahead of us, not behind us.”

Yul let out a big sigh. “I know, but that is not really what I wanted to say and I don’t know quite how to say this.”

Rog pulled her tight. “Just say it baby. I’m here and I’m not going anywhere.”

Yul wiped her nose. “My father—“

“Go ahead. It’s okay,” responded Rog, trying to nudge her forward.

“He didn’t choose me.”

“I know sweetie.”

“I mean, he never chose me. If I asked for something, the answer was no. When I needed support, none was given. My dreams and goals were dismissed as unrealistic, that I should look for something more attainable. Do you know, my father never hugged me. He hugged my sister, but he never hugged me. Do you have any idea how much hurt there is within me, when I search my memory for just a single hug, just one time, perhaps when I was young, perhaps before my father made his decision that I was worthless, that maybe somewhere there was a time when I was loved, and all I want is just that one image of a hug, just that one memory of being held, and do you know, know what it is like, to be lying in bed at night, and no matter how hard you look, no matter how much you search, you realize that memory is not there.”

Rog’s mind whirled. He didn’t know what that was like.

Yul continued. “I’m scared Rog. Not of dying, that’s not it. I’m scared you will see what my father saw, that I am not worthy and I am scared I will die alone, in a foreign place surrounded by strangers who wait for my last breath as one waits for a stoplight to turn green so they can get on with the rest of their lives. I’m—.” Yul broke down, her head dropping, her words replaced with tears.

Rog reacted. “Baby, look at me. I don’t make idle promises. Never had, never will. Now you look at me.” His eyes watered. “There is nothing you can do or say that will keep me from your side.” Yul looked away. “Do you hear me?”

“I want to believe you, I really do, but I’ve been down this road before. My heart is not pure and it is not innocent. My father, perhaps he saw that, that maybe I’m not—“

Rog cut her off. “Don’t you even think that. Your father was an idiot, no offense, but I’ve seen you now, in close quarters for more than a year. We’ve shared wine and bread and spit and sheets. I’ve seen your heart and I’ve seen your soul and baby, I’ve seen you stand by me when Trev told everyone there was nothing more he could do. I saw you in the window and I saw you by my side and I felt you hold my hand like you would never let me go and I listened to your teary prayers and watched you light candles and in the dark of night, in that cold and lonely room, when no one else was around, you were there. And all the rest, your past, your father, all that don’t mean nothing, is nothing.”

Yul looked up as Rog took her in his arms, pulling her tight to his chest. “I love you Yul, and no power in the universe is going to keep me from your side every step of the way. Do you hear me?”

Yul choked. “Baby, if you squeeze me any tighter we’re not going to have to worry about tomorrow.”

Relaxing his grip, Rog laughed. “Sorry.”

And like the sun peeking through rain clouds, Yul laughed too.

Categories: Story, Rog, Yul