Hazel yearned for death. She prayed for it constantly, to be free of the bonds that tethered her to the mortal realm. She awaited the trip into immortality impatiently, but her time had not yet come. So she lay in bed, unable to speak, barely able to move. Monitored constantly, hooked up to an I.V. and oxygen. Her heart rate monitored 24 hours a day.
She lost track of time, ever since the stroke robbed her of her independence. Her friends abandoned her one by one, and now only a handful visited her sporadically. Her only companions were the stream of nurses that check in on her every fifteen minutes or so, and the daily visit from a physician.
Her husband long since dead, no children, and her only brother lay dead for over five years. Hazel now knew what it was to be alone. She knew this was a possibility, but never feared it. “What will be, will be,” she told her close friends whenever they dared question her life choice. “I don’t need another man in my life.”
Her only reprieve to the drudgery of existence was when she closed her eyes and let herself be transported in her memories, to the days of her youth. Today she chose to remember her days as a dancer, back when she performed onstage, but it also made her remember wistfully the man who broke her heart.
“I’ll only be gone for a little while,” PFC Theodore Wilkins told his girlfriend. “I know it’s a sacrifice, but we need to fight. We can’t let the Nazis win.”
“I know, Teddy,” Hazel said in reply. It’s just that I’m scared. I love you and I don’t want to lose you.”
“You won’t I promise,” Teddy said with a grin. He took Hazel’s hand into his own, and looked at his pale beauties face. Her hazel eyes shined with the tears that freely fell down her freckled cheeks. He couldn’t help but wipe them gently with his rough hands, and tenderly kissed her. She smiled gratefully at her man.
He was tall, over 6’4”. He was an intimidating presence, but he was a gentle giant. Being powerfully built he felt no compulsion to have to prove himself so he could be who he was, but the few that dared to challenge him limped away, regretting their foolishness. Hazel admired his compassion and bravery. She caressed his face and she looked into his blue eyes. Gazing up at him, her heart would melt, and she would thank God for the fortune to have him all to herself.
“I have leave until Sunday evening, “ Teddy said quietly. “Why don’t we spend every moment together until then?”
“I will spend my life with you, and no one else,” she said in reply.
She performed in musicals, and she planned on joining the USO to perform for the troops. She could not stand to be left behind while Teddy went to fight a war. Tonight she convinced the show runner to give her leave so spend her last remaining days with him. They went and quietly eloped, so that Hazel Davidson became Hazel Wilkins.
They spent their days at home, seeking nobody’s companionship but each others. They spent as much time in bed, enjoying their love for one another. They would lay, utterly spent, in each others arms, unwilling to contemplate the parting that lurked on the horizon.
Finally the dreaded farewell had arrived. She went to see him off, and gave his one last kiss. “If anything happens to me,” Teddy said, uncharacteristically serious, “I don’t want you to mourn for me, but rather I want you to find a good man and live your life to the fullest.”
Hazel smiled, but shook her head. “If it’s not you, I will have no man in my life, no man in my bed, no man in my heart. I belong to you, Teddy. I will wait until my light is extinguished if I have to before I kiss another man. I won’t betray you, in life, nor in death.”
Teddy wanted to argue, but knew it would be in vain. Once she made up her mind, nothing would dissuade her from her decision. “Then I guess I will have to make sure I come back, but I have to go. I love you, Hazel, my dear.”
With that he was gone, the last words ever spoken to her. It was a short month later that she received word that he went missing in Normandy. A few days later she received word that he had perished, trying to save the life of a wounded soldier. She collapsed onto the floor and felt the life drain from her heart. She knew that she would never love again. Her soul grew cold.
Hazel was their when his body was flown back and interred with honors. She sat lost in a vale of tears, consoled by a father who had lost an arm in World War I. He had disapproved of the quick elopement of his only daughter, but he could not deny the powerful love they had for one another.
For years afterwards she continued on stage. She performed for the troops, just like she planned. She brought a little taste of home for all the Teddys in the service. She posed for countless photos with the troops, and she felt that she honored her deceased husband’s memories by entertaining his brother in arms.
After the war she came back stateside and quit performing. She became a dance instructor and taught countless children until forced to quit from old age in the 1990’s. She hung on by mentoring younger instructors, but always she prayed to be reunited with Teddy.
Now she knew the time was near. Her frail body betrayed her, and she rejoiced. She lingered in misery, but felt hopeful that the day was on the horizon. Still she cried at the thought of the last time she saw Teddy. True to her word she never touched another man, and being the beauty she was in her youth, she did not lack for admirers. But she promised to be faithful in life and death, and so she had.
She opened her eyes in time to see a nurse leave the room, and a handsome army boy walked in. It took time for her to realize that the boy was her Teddy.
“Is that really you?” She tried to say, but grew frustrated at her own inability to speak.
“It’s me,” the apparition said in reply, much to the amazement of Hazel. “Come, take my hand. It’s been too long. Let’s spend this one last moment together and walk off into eternity together.”
Hazel could barely move now, but her arm flew up effortlessly to meet Teddy’s, and she got up and fell into is waiting arms. She cried in his arms, happy to finally be reunited with her husband, and she kissed him, as no mortal had ever kissed another. When they finally broke their from their kiss, she looked into a mirror, and the visage that looked back was her at age nineteen. She turned to the bed and she saw herself, lying peacefully on a bed, the medical equipment no longer necessary. She smiled as she saw a look of joy radiated from her now former body. She left with Teddy as the nurses rushed in to try to save her, but it would be of little consequence now.
They walked out into the daylight, hand in hand, husband and wife at long last reunited. Her journey into eternity finally had arrived. Her soul was finally complete.
© 2012 Joe Hinojosa