‘Park here,’ Tia said, ‘We’re early and I’d like to sit in the sunshine for a while.’
Daksh parked the car in one of the empty bays and went to purchase a ticket. When he got back to the car Tia was standing by the door grinning broadly. ‘See!’ she said.
‘You’re holding on to the door,’ Daksh said, ‘you’re cheating.’
Daksh walked round to Tia’s side, gave him her arm, shut the door, and they walked together to a nearby bench. Tia sighed as he sat down, resting herself against the back of the seat, her cool fingertips seeking out the warmth of Daksh’s hand.
‘What can you see?’ Daksh asked her.
‘How do you feel?’
‘Fine,’ Tia said, ‘Really, fine. Just a bit tired, you know.’
Tia said, ‘You don’t think we should be doing that, do you?’ and when Daksh leaned over and kissed her on the side of her cheek he said, ‘You don’t think there’s any point.’
He opened his eyes. ‘Do you?’
Daksh smiled, shook his head.
‘Just stubbornness, on my part, I think,’ Tia said. ‘Just seeing it through to the end.’
‘Remember that time,’ Daksh said, ‘when I asked you if a runaway truck mounted the pavement and was hurtling toward you, would you get out of the way?’
Tia laughed quietly, ‘And I said, no. I’ve got that right of way.’
Daksh smiled at the memory, ‘You are stubborn.’
‘We’ve had some arguments.’
‘More than some.’ He checked his watch.
‘How long we got?’
‘I’m not quick on my feet at the moment. Not like I used to be.’
‘I’ll give you a head start.’
Tia sat enjoying the sun for a while longer, then she said, ‘Put your arm around me.’
‘No. Well, a bit, maybe.’
He wrapped his arm around Tia’s thin shoulders, pulled her closer, and fixed her woolen hat closer around her head. ‘That better?’
‘Mm.’ Tia rested her head on Daksh’s shoulder. ‘I never thought it’d be like that,’ she said. Then she said, ‘It feels good.’
‘We have souls, you know.’
‘So you keep telling me.’
Then she said, ‘What are you going to do, without me?’
‘Don’t keep saying that.’
‘I’ll miss you. And I’m sorry.’
Daksh stayed quiet, biting his lip a little, wiping away the tears. ‘Don’t. Please don’t apologize.’
‘I haven’t always been kind to you. I’ve been demanding.’
Tia shifted to get comfortable, pushed closer to Daksh. ‘You’ll feed Pluto? Take him for walks?’
‘Every day. Yes.’
Tia shuddered. A long sigh.
Daksh pulled her a little closer, said, ‘Maybe we should get a playmate for Pluto. It’s cruel to have a dog by itself in the house. Or maybe I’ll cut down my hours at work. Won’t need the money if you’re not spending it all on stupid toys and clothes and holidays.’ He laughed to himself. ‘Maybe sell up, buy an old VW. Travel.’
Tia relaxed in his arms, her head a soft weight, eyes closed, her face gently creased against her shoulder. Daksh straightened the edge of her hat again, tender. Her breath got caught and sobbed, just once. ‘You are gone then?’ he asked, voice soft.
Then he sat for a while, staring ahead.
After a few minutes, he moved to let Tia lie down on her side, pulled her legs up onto the bench, knees bent, arranged her body neatly, patted her clothes straight and rested her face on her hands. He stood back, looking down at Tia, and her brow knitted, her mouth formed a rictus of silent grief.
‘You didn’t finish the treatment,’ he said, ‘I thought you saw things through to the end. I thought you were the stubborn one.’
Then he said, ‘I love you, you know,’ to Tia’s quiet form. ‘I love the bones of you’.
And he knelt on the ground beside him, fingertips touching her face, his silent tears falling onto Tia’s cool skin.