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(continued)

Washougal, WA

May 2nd, 2019

His aunt had never been a big woman, in fact she’d been half his size once he’d grown to his full height. But as Tony entered her room he could see that she’d lost nearly all the weight she’d struggled against during the years and was pale and almost too thin to sit up. Her breathing came in faint gasps as she was propped up against several pillows. When she saw him her eyes opened a little wider and she tried to smile, but she seemed too weak to do even this. Her lips trembled as the corners of her mouth lifted, and that was all she could manage.

“I’ll let you two talk,” Corrin said softly, “Call me if she needs anything, please.”

With that Corrin left the room, leaving the door open as his aunt licked her lips before speaking.

“Hey, big guy.”

Part of him wanted to say his hello and then tell her he had to go, but he found a reservoir of strength in that moment that he hadn’t felt in a while, and instead he walked over to the side of the bed, seating himself next to her as she reached out with her left to lay it on the hand he supported himself with.

“You’re, looking well,” she said softly, “A bit, soft, around the middle.” She tried to laugh then but only managed a weak chuckle. It was enough to make him smile though as he decided to fire right back.

“Have you looked in a mirror lately lady?” This elicited another chuckle from her as she did smile this time, no matter that it seemed to pain her just a bit.

“Still, the smartass.”

“Would you have me any other way?” he asked in reply, leaning forward slightly as she gave a weak shake of the head.

“I’m, going to, miss, all of you,” his aunt said, closing her eyes for a moment as he watched, “There’s, so, much I, I wanted, to do.”

“You’ve done a lot,” he replied, “more than we’ve had any right to ask sometimes. Don’t let there be any regrets.”

“Oh, honey,” she breathed, “I’m human, we, all have, regrets. It’s what, we do with them, that matters.”

He nodded, saying nothing.

“I’ve managed, to watch, my children, and you, grow into the people, you are, now.” She leaned back just a bit, opening her eyes as she did, “I don’t regret, a single, moment, of that.”

“I’m, we’re, we’re all going to miss you,” his voice lowered as he felt the emotion seeping into his voice.

“You, don’t, always have, to be the, rock,” she chided him gently, “but it’s good, that you are.”

His only response was a nod.

“I’m going, to miss you, too.”

Tony didn’t want to wait any longer as he slid closer, wrapping his aunt in a gentle hug as she embraced him in turn, her arms trembling as she held him close, refusing to give into the weakness she felt. He knew then, at that moment, that she wouldn’t last much longer. Her heartbeat was weakening as he could feel, and her breathing was becoming much more labored.

“I’ll be, waiting for you,” she said as they pulled away, “For all of you.”

He didn’t even hear the last breath as it left her lips, though he felt her hands lose their grip on his arms, felt as the tension in her body gave way to the inevitable, and could only bow his head as he laid her gently against the pillows.

He stayed with her until Corrin returned, and for some time after that. It was all he could think to do.

The End

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