Her name is Glenn when Thomas meets her.
She is gorgeous. Her long blond hair is flying around her head in a messy parody of halo, as the chilly September wind tugs at her summer dress. She wraps her jacket tighter, trying to keep warm and failing. Her legs are what Thomas notices first. They are thin and very pale as if she hasn’t spent a minute outdoors.
‘Fragile’ is the word that comes to his mind.
He has just stepped out of his office from a very boring board meeting. He is on his way to the car when he notices her standing at the corner of the parking lot. His eyes are mesmerized by the way her hair moves around her, as if on its volition.
He slows down when he approaches her.
She smiles a bit shyly at him and asks for a light, holding a cigarette between her fingers. He fishes a lighter out of his pocket, and she leans forward, laughing and keeping her hair away from the tiny fire with one hand.
He is almost in love with her before her cigarette touches the flame.
He watches her inhale and then cough violently. Her cough has a scary rattling sound to it, which makes him shiver in sympathy and say, ‘You probably shouldn’t be smoking with that cough.'
She smiles at him, but her smile looks perfunctory. As if she has been told that too many times already, but is past caring.
“It would make no difference, really,” she says. She rubs at her eyes and looks tired.
“I’m dying,” she says plainly.
The words send a jolt of shock through him. People usually do not talk about such things to strangers. Sometimes they do not talk about it at all. He looks away feeling awkward out of sudden. Some of the shock must have reflected on his face, and she surprises him with a burst of melodic laughter. She has a great laugh, and her green eyes twinkle as she looks at him.
In that instance, she doesn’t look as if she is dying at all.
Her name is Glenn, and she is studying Visual Arts. Thomas is a CEO in a law firm. Their worlds couldn’t be more apart, but they spend the following twenty minutes talking and laughing as if they have known each other for years.
It all happens very quickly.
They go on a date, then another and another. It starts with a quick coffee and gradually turns into dinners and nights spent together.
Thomas proposes a month later because they do not have any time to waste.
When he stops to think about it, right before the altar in front of the finely dressed guests, Thomas isn’t even sure how that has happened. Glenn has become such an integral part of his life that he can not remember what it was like to live without her. He is not sure if he truly loves her.
But he is pretty sure that he can not live without her.
Besides, she has always wanted to get married, and aren’t you supposed to fulfill the last wishes of the dying?
They have been married only for a week when Thomas gets sick. It starts with a tickling sensation in his throat that turns into a scratchy cough. He brushes it off as a mere cold at first, but the coughing only gets worse. Two weeks later he is coughing up phlegm, and none of the prescriptions seem to work.
A week later his diagnosis says lung cancer.
After two months of marriage, Thomas is bedridden and is coughing up blood. Glenn looks as fit as a fiddle. She is with her beloved husband at all times, at his bedside, talking to him or reading a book. But as she sits and holds his hand, Thomas can’t help noticing her fresh pink face and her effortless breathing, so different now from his own.
“I am just having a good period, sweetheart,” she says, patting his arm. “Don’t worry; we will trade places very soon.”
For some reason, Thomas thinks that she means something completely different, but this thought is lost in his fever-ridden mind.
He dies a week later before his suspicions can take root.
And if the people who have gathered around his grave to pay final respects might wonder about the horrible misfortune of Thomas falling prey to the same illness that his young wife has been battling for months, if not years, then they think nothing of it. Because it is all just a bit of bad luck, isn’t it?
She looks detached, expressing almost no emotions at all, as she stands among other mourners. “It must be the shock,” people murmur behind her back. To be left all alone with such a fortune but no prospects for a happy life due to a terminal illness - what a tragedy.
Glenn is the last one to leave the cemetery. She walks slowly along the rain-stained stone path, hiding under a big black umbrella. From a distance, she looks like an oily black smudge over the watercolour painting.
Suddenly she stumbles as one of her heels catches in a crack between the cobblestones. She almost loses her balance, but a strong hand grabs her elbow.
His voice is deep. He looks at her with concern, as she is panting and clutching at her chest.
“I am fine,” she gasps, trying to catch her breath. She smiles weakly, as she finally raises her head and brushes straight strands of brown hair from her face. Her hair is short and styled into a careful bob. Her nails are painted red and contrast lovely with her pale skin and blue eyes.
She looks sad and fragile, and he can’t help asking her if she is feeling alright. She shrugs, “As much as anyone with a chronic heart failure can be.”
She looks quite lovely in spite of her illness, which may be the reason why he doesn’t want to let go of her arm.
Her name is Sabrina when George meets her for the first time.