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Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five Part Six Part Seven

You’re at home, working on an article about some obscure celebrity on your laptop. You’re only half concentrating on your work, with one eye on your watch. Your eight and a half month pregnant girlfriend should be home by now. She does work late occasionally, even though she’s meant to be on maternity leave.

There’s a knock at the door.

It’s not her. She has a key to get in. She never knocks.

It’s two police officers, a stocky brunette and a tall, lean man with a doleful look in his eyes.

Got to be bad news.

Bonjour. May we come in?” asks the brunette politely in French. You let her in, and offer them coffee. The woman refuses, but the tall man accepts, asking for strong black with two sugars.

“You are the de facto partner of Ms Karen Miller?” asks the policeman, in thickly accented English. You nod dumbly. Has something happened to her? Is she okay? You voice these questions.

The policeman (Officer Short, you note) sips his coffee and then says, “Karen was in a car accident three hours ago. She’s in the Hôpitaux de Paris.” It’s as though you’ve received a punch to the solar plexus. Your soul mate is in hospital. And your baby… “Is she all right?” The brunette and the tall Officer Short exchange looks, but say nothing. “We can arrange transport to the hospital, if you like.”

Half an hour later, you’re with Karen. She’s got an oxygen mask on and her hair is matted with blood. A doctor went through her injuries to you, but you weren’t really paying attention. You vaguely recall something about abdominal injuries.

Karen opens her eyes.
“Hey there,” she says, her voice weak. Her voice is muffled somewhat by the oxygen mask. “They had to give me a c-section, you know.”

“A what now?”

“A c-section, caesarian. So the baby would survive.”

She’s obviously spaced out by the various drugs the doctors have given her.

“The baby’s okay then?”

She sighs, a gurgling, swishing sound thick with blood and tears.
“Yeah.” Her voice is slightly slurred. “She’s a girl. Fille. Ma fille. Call her Cassandra.”

“Karen…?”

“Sssh. I don’t think… I’m pretty bad. Doctors say I probably won’t last. I think they’re right.”

“No. No Karen, don’t say that.”

“It’s okay. It’s my time.” She pauses. “How clichéd does that sound?” She emits a raspy laugh.

Tears are coursing down your face. Down hers too, washing the blood and grime away. Washing at the pain.

“Pretty tired now.” She closes her beautiful grey eyes. “I love you. Always have.”

You’re standing by her when she slips into a coma. You hold her in your arms when she dies. Your tears are utterly spent now. She’s gone.

Monsieur? Would you…” A nurse comes in, and falters slightly as she asks a question. “…would you like to see your baby now?”

The baby. Something to live for. A lingering reminder of what you have lost. Cassandra.

“Oui. Yes, I’ll see her.”

The nurse brings in a small, red bundle that seems to be squawking loudly. It silences as you hold it.

She has my nose, poor thing. And…

She opens her eyes. They’re as grey as Karen’s. Barriers of time and space open up between you. You can almost hear Karen again.

I love you.

Note to all my readers: It was inevitable that I kill Karen. I didn’t want a soppy, wholly happy ending that would just give me a zillion downvotes. Thank you to those who believed in me, and those who cared.