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It's quiet now, the beeping of the machines. The steady tick, tick has stilled. I know I will hear her tonight, when I lie down; her last gasps for air as they take her off life support. Involuntary spasms of a body fighting the inevitable, no conscious thought present to save her, no loving hands holding her; keeping her from the approaching dark. I was there, you know. I'm always there. I know you died tonight, Isabelle. I wish I could say that the angels sang your name, but you've died before and I am sure, in some dream some months from now, I'll suddenly wake with a start and cry. Because you're dying again. His memory will haunt me until I fade. He will have all his vengeance and beyond. He will never know what he took from me. I can only begin to assume at how much he's been paying in advance, for all his mistakes. And how much he will pay until the end of time. This was his choice, remember that.

Quiet, she whispers. Quiet, she coaxes me and takes my hand. Leading me away from here, from Isabelle's soft, pale form in the hospital bed. From that chest, incapable of holding that immense heart. Inside it, the coals are cold. Rivers like rain, like tears, like the pain which has no name washing all away. Wash me away, take me from here, lead me away from you. You, all you've ever done has been poison in this sanctity of love. Ineptitude at best, incapable of holding a candle to the dark of yourself. All alone in your forest of secrets, where entry must be paid a thousandfold. Where no currency is good enough. And you told us, Isabelle is the love of your life. Yet you wouldn't be with her, you couldn't. She wasn't allowed in again. So she died alone.

Quiet, child; mother says to me. Come with me, away from here. Take my hand, we'll go into the garden. There's a place there, my child. You'll see. You'll remember. Where the blackberries grow and you can hear the voice of your father, laughing, in his gnarled old hand you fold your soft, sweet little one. His skin is rough, warm. His eyes, how his eyes used to smile at you. Take this memory, take it; live in it forever now. Remember that feeling, the feeling of absolute and unconditional love.

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