Tico and Eva arrived later that evening and everyone except Jon was gathered in the living room discussing the situation. Jon was in his usual place by my side and I was resting quite comfortably thanks to the miracle of the morphine. My breathing had become somewhat more shallow, he noted, but I looked more peaceful than I had in a few days. Jovi sat on his lap and he stroked the cat’s silky fur while little Richie purred quietly in my ear as I slept.
“I just don’t understand how this all happened so fast” Eva protested as Jim and Cherie tried to catch them up.
“I don’t really understand it either, but I’m glad you’re both here. We got here a week ago and Trish wasn’t good, but she wasn’t nearly this bad” Jim explained.
“That’s why Jon’s such a basket case right now too. No one thought it would happen this fast. I shouldn’t have yelled at him. He’s in shock and he’s sick with grief” Richie said with regret.
“Of course he is! Who wouldn’t be in his shoes?” Tico added, taking Eva’s hand in his lap. “But it sounds like he just wasn’t thinking right either, bro. You had to do something. You couldn’t let her suffer like that.”
“Jon isn’t sleeping and he’s barely eating. He won’t leave her side. It’s no wonder he can’t process what’s happening” Cherie added.
Carla had made a pot of tea and brought it out with some snacks, but no one had much of an appetite. She poured herself and Richie a cup and offered it to the rest, but there weren’t any takers. It was hard to know what to do or what to say as she hadn’t known me nearly as well as her husband or the others had. She was here to support Richie and the others as best she could.
“No thanks, darlin’” Tico declined. “but I could use a drink. No offense, man” he announced, nodding towards Richie.
“None taken. If I was still drinkin’, I’d be joining you” he smiled sadly.
“I’ll join you” Jim said heavily and the wine proved more popular than the tea.
The evening turned into night and eventually everyone went to bed. The morphine had completely knocked me out and I slept soundly through the night. With no coughing to keep waking Jon up, he too fell asleep in the bed and we both dreamed of happier times.
“Happy birthday, baby!” Jon grinned as he watched me open my eyes, feeling somewhat encouraged after the first peaceful night we’d had in some time.
“Morning, my love” I smiled as he leaned over to kiss me gently.
“Tico and Eva made it in last night, but they didn’t want to wake you and I wouldn’t let them anyway” he smirked proudly. “Should I go and get them? I know they’re anxious to see you.”
“Not just quite yet. Stay with me, Jon” I replied, enjoying the feel of his warm body next to mine.
It felt good to be without pain and I didn’t want to risk moving and breaking the spell. I wanted to savor this time alone and I wished in a way that it would last forever. I closed my eyes and said a silent prayer to the Goddess for granting me this final gift on my birthday.
Eventually we heard sounds of activity coming from the kitchen and Jon’s stomach growled. I actually laughed as it reminded me of what hadn’t changed.
“So, are you gonna make me some French toast? It is my birthday after all” I teased, my voice sounding a bit hoarse, but with only a small cough that followed.
Jon sprang up in bed, anxious to fulfill my every wish. It wasn’t often that I’d asked for food and I usually ate only a little and then only to appease him and make sure he ate something too.
“Be back in a flash. I smell coffee and you can bet Richie made it” he grinned before dashing off.
Goddess, but it was good to see Jon smile again. I’d seen precious little of his real smile these days and way too much of the forced smile he wore to disguise his worry and sadness. It was going to be a good day.
“Jon, we didn’t mean to wake you” Cherie said apologetically. “I hope we didn’t wake Trish” she added, looking a bit anxious.
“S’okay, we were up and Trish wants my French toast! But I need to get her some coffee first” he said, sounding chipper.
“I’ll take it in to her, bro. You’d better get cooking-never keep a lady waiting” Richie offered and surprisingly Jon agreed.
He and Jim exchanged looks, but they weren’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. If Jon could look cheerful, so could they. Richie poured my coffee and brought it in with a smile.
“Morning there, darlin’. Happy birthday! How ya feeling today?” he asked in his best cheerful voice.
“Not so bad” I replied hoarsely in a voice that might have sounded husky in another context.
“Jon’s making some breakfast. Are you sure you feel up to THAT?” he needled me, just like old times, and at Jon’s expense.
“Hey, I’m dying anyway. How much harm can it do?” I giggled, before getting serious for a moment. “Richie, I’m gonna miss you so much.”
“I’m gonna miss you too, Trish. You have no idea how much you mean to me. Sometimes I keep thinking this is all just a bad dream.”
“I know Richie, I know” I coughed. “You’re the best friend I’ve ever had.”
“You’ll be in here, always” he gestured to his heart. “So, are you ready for Tico and Eva? They’re dying, uhm, anxious to see you” he winced, mentally kicking himself for making such a slip.
“S’okay Richie. If I can quip, so can you” I assured him. “Send in the team” I beamed brightly.
Jon had finished making the first batch of French toast and Carla had offered to take over making the rest. Jon gratefully abdicated his chef’s apron and the rest of the crew barreled into our bedroom. Eva immediately hugged me and I closed my eyes to hold back the wave of pain that I didn’t want her to see, but Tico caught it and gently pulled her aside.
“Happy birthday, querida” he smiled, lifting my hand to his lips.
“Tico, Eva, it’s so good to see you! I can’t believe you’re all here! Where’s Carla?” I wondered, as I hadn’t seen her yet since she and Richie arrived.
“She’ll be along shortly. She took over the stove-with Jon’s permission, of course” Richie nudged him.
“But I made these myself, darlin’. Just like you like ’em” he said proudly, offering me the plate.
“Come over here and share them with me” I commanded and Jon obeyed.
You’re good, doll. That’s one way to get Jon to eat, Richie winked.
Carla finally joined us once everyone had a plate and I thanked her for taking over the kitchen duty for the lot of us. She was such a wonderful woman and I was so glad that Richie had finally found someone who deserved him. I felt a momentary pang of envy as I watched all the couples, knowing that they all had something I didn’t. Time. It was such a precious commodity I had realized. The pain had begun to slowly creep back and I thought I could hear the clock ticking.