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He stares at me with a newfound love in his eyes as we stand together on the lakeshore. The breeze whips the stray hairs that have fallen from my braids across my face and plasters them to my glossy lips. He smiles at me, bringing a tan hand up to my face to brush the pesky hairs away.
“You look beautiful,” he compliments, making heat rush to my cheeks. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” I reply, reaching out to wrap my tiny arms around his broad torso. I peek out from above his strong shoulder and watch the waves crash on the sand. It’s been eight months today since we’ve been together and I still haven’t found a way to tell him. It’s eating me alive knowing I’ve been keeping this from him. I have to tell him or he’ll find out the hard way. I’m terrified. He’s going to be angry or devastated. I glance up at my love, searching for any sign of betrayal, but his eyes never wander to the women around us. He loves me. He’ll understand.
“Let’s go for a dip,” he suggests, stepping back from my embrace. He moves his hands to remove the dark blue tee shirt hugging his chest. I look down at my sundress flowing gently in the wind and take a deep breath. He kicks off his shoes and holds out his hand in invitation. I drop the straps of my dress and let the material fall around my ankles. I shift my gaze to my swimming attire, the plain black and white striped fabric hugs my stomach and fills out my curves. “What are you waiting for?” he asks, grabbing my hand and pulling me out of my sandals and into the chilly water. The waves soak my shins as I watch my boyfriend dive into the clear blue lake. “Just jump in,” he smiles. “It’s not that cold.” Despite his words of reassurance, a shiver crawls up my spine. Seagulls swirl above my head as I take a step closer to him. I slowly make my way to his outstretched arms. When I arrive, he welcomes me by tackling me into the water. I come up gasping as he chuckles to himself. “See, it’s not that bad.”
“I hate you,” I joke, putting my arms around my trembling body.
“No you don’t,” he reminds me. I look over at the people around us wading in the water, jumping to avoid the waves getting any higher on their bodies.
“I’m freezing,” I tell my love. “I wanna get out.” He shoots me a playful pout and splashes water on my face. “Stop, babe,” I whine, trying to hide the grin developing on my face.
“Fine,” he gives in and follows me as I make my way to shore. I spread my towel and sit down to dry out in the sun. I watch as a boat flies by with a tube attached to the back end. The laughter and screams remind me of my carefree childhood and how distant that seems now. I should tell him. I look over to see him lying on his back. He deserves to know. “Hey,” he smiles, squinting his eyes in the sunlight.
“I need to tell you something,” I say, a knot forming in my anxious stomach. He sits up. I stare into his brown eyes, which are filled with concern.
“What is it?” he asks, putting a hand on my arm. He’s going to make this harder than I was imagining. “Are you okay?”
“No,” I say truthfully. That’s the problem. “I’m not okay and I’m not going to get better.” He pulls his eyebrows together in confusion. “I’m dying, babe.” His face twists in worry and panic.
“What? What do you mean you’re dying?” he asks frantically. He glances around as if an answer would miraculously appear. I tell him of my incurable disease, of my numbered days, and I watch as he weeps. He holds me close and cries. It breaks my heart to see him this way. I feel hot tears crawling down my cheeks as he sobs softly into my shoulder. He promises me that he’ll make my last days the best days of my life. He promises to be by my side until my timer runs out. He leans in and kisses my forehead gently. “I’ll love you forever,” he whispers as the sun begins to disappear over the water.