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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Breathe (08/19/10)

TITLE: Loving Charlotte
By Marlene Bonney


It was better this way. She wouldn’t suffer anymore. Stan had watched her struggle every day for the past two years. It was time. Time to release her from a miserable existence. Her barely pulsating shell, a decaying, dried-up cocoon, would take its last breath tonight because by his choice. The tubes and needles and beeping machines lay dormant and still over in the corner, disconnected from power and newly detached from her body. He lovingly arranged her bedclothes one last time and held her hand while she passed into eternity, his rheumy tears dampening both of their wedding bands, wishing he could go with her.

Periodically, as Charlotte was taking her final labored breaths, his mind wandered to memories of bygone happier days when “to breathe or not to breathe” took on new significance—starting with family lore of her very beginning. Hers had been a difficult birth. Her mother, exhausted and spent after 48 hours in labor, could not muster the strength to breathe out one more push to birth her first child and forceps deftly and quickly extracted the amniotic fluid-drenched infant. The father’s heart caught in his throat as he stood beside his two most prized and precious possessions, wife and daughter on a hanging cliff between life and death. Holding his wife’s limp hand, he willed the newborn to breathe as the cord was carefully unwound from around the tiny swollen neck. The resounding smack upon the upside-down newborn’s shiny bottom echoed through the room’s corners, as the pent-up breath he was unaware he had been holding released in an explosive whistling sigh much like the sound of a fatigued bicycle tire bursting. His wife regained consciousness and mother and baby Charlotte recovered.

By the time Stan and Charlotte met, her health was at its peak performance. She was an Olympics finalist for the swim team, years of training her premature-birthed lungs to expand standing her in good stead for athletic pursuits that required measured breathing techniques that she had already mastered. They were introduced at a Swim Meet, trainer and swimmer forming a stable friendship that slowly evolved into romance.

Stan smiled through his tears, still awed by the stored sight of Charlotte as his bride walking to meet him up the church aisle, a white, ethereal vision of lace and pearly wonder. Even now, he could feel that same catching of his breath when, heart jumping up to his throat, he realized God’s presence in this priceless gift bestowed upon him. And the frail bright-blue veined hand now slightly moved in his, as if Charlotte was dreaming with him.

Closing his eyes, Stan continued walking down Memory Lane, each scene of the couple’s life together playing like a silent movie fast-forwarding through years of companionship and devotion, laughter and tears, love and not-so-much-love—solidified with the most important thing of all, God-ordained commitment. So clearly in hindsight he could see how God had led them through the tough times of miscarriages, quarrels, disagreements, joblessness, sicknesses and challenges, ultimately strengthening their bonds of commitment to each other when love was like chasing an illusive rainbow and became a choice instead of a feeling.

“Oh, how I wish we could escape the aging and dying process,” he prayed with a sigh, “even though I know ‘tis His way to perfect us for the life to come.”

Mitsy, the off-duty day nurse, placed her hand compassionately on Stan’s shoulder, as if to transfer her youthful optimistic energy into his slumped and bent body. But the elderly man felt it not, his worn-out heart pumping overtime to catch up with his mental journeying through the echoes of the past. He was dwelling there now, stuck in a time-warp of spent youth woven into the blood vessels to his heart as surely as the threads of time were stamped into his soul.

“CODE BLUE, CODE BLUE,” Misty shouted, her panicked voice edging the precipice of his fading consciousness.

The medical team arrived quickly and administered CPR to Stan’s prone body upon the floor.

“Breathe! Breathe! Don’t you dare leave us, too, Stan!”

But they were only grasping at the wind as Stan and Charlotte waved good-by from their hand-in-hand ascent into God’s awaiting arms, their wispy final breaths showering the people below.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Gina Fifo08/26/10
Wow. This is a beautiful and well-written love story . . . left me in breathless awe. A winner in my book.
Francy Judge 08/30/10
You had me hooked from the beginning. Wonderful, touching story with beautiful descriptions. Loved the ending.
Mona Purvis08/31/10
Haunting descriptions in the last paragraph. Written so the reader can experience the relationship of the two. I notice how often when one mate dies, the other quickly follows.

Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/31/10
You drew me in and I related to the characters at so many levels. I could easily picture myself or a family member at many of the scenes. I also know that often elderly people will die within a short time of their beloved's passing.