The dim lights from the hallway foretold the hour of the day. The hospital corridor still bustled with the ICU nurses making their midnight rounds to check in with their patients. She was awake and aware but unable to communicate with the tube down her throat. They had given her just enough to keep the pain at bay but, not enough to make her sleep constantly, for fear she would stop breathing. It really wouldn't have mattered, the end was coming. Her breathing was labored and had the wet death rattle. They had told him she wouldn't make it through the night. He was surprised by her strong grip as she held his hand.
"I'm right here. I love you, Maggie.I won't let go. Don't be afraid now. I know, I'm being a silly old bean now. You were never afraid of anything." The hand tightened and she blinked her eyes. There was a smile in them. She knew exactly what he meant. For years, he had followed Maggie's wild schemes and adventures. She wasn't afraid to try anything at least once. He could still remember her look of utter panic when she decided they should try the Pakistani Restaurant. The curry powder had bit in to her tongue and she didn't know what to do with a mouth full of fire. Always the one for good manners, she felt it would be impolite to spit it out. The panic came when she tried to find a pitcher of water large enough to put out the fire. They had laughed for years about it afterwards. She closed her eyes. There was just the briefest moment between breaths and then she was gone. Alarms were going off. One of the nurses rushed in followed by a doctor. He just shook his head and nodded to the nurse, putting his hand on her arm to stay her from bothering to revive that which had already passed. She gave him the sad, sad look and pulled the sheet over her sweet face. Maggie was gone. All the light and love he had ever had in life had gone away. Soon, they would come and wheel her downstairs to the morgue, awaiting shipment to the Funeral Home. He never understood why they called it a home. Only a home has life in it, not the dead. He picked up his hat and donned his overcoat. It would be cold outside. Maggie always hated the winter.
The elevator propelled him to the lobby alone. At this late hour, few if any visitors would be around. For some reason he couldn't cry. The tears weren't going to come just yet. They would in time, he guessed, but, not tonight, not in a hospital elevator. Maybe when he got home. Maybe never. Maybe he would just hang on to his pain and grief and hold it bottled up inside, allowed never to escape. Maybe that was his way of holding on to her for as long as he could. He could still feel her fingers tightening around his. Like a ghostly impression, her love had flowed into his hand from hers. He could still feel her close by. The night air was crisp and cold. The stars were out. He had parked the car close by. He stood for a moment to drink in the coldness. It felt good, clean. Something bumped his leg. He looked down. An orange ball of fluff meowed back at him.
"Well, who might you be?" The young cat came willingly into his arms and tried to snuggle deeply for the warmth. Obviously under-fed and a stray, he made the decision without much thought.
"I think I'll call you Maggie. How's that?" The cat meowed once and began to purr.