She put her brave face on, as I stepped into her room. There was that fleeting pause between time alone and time with company. I had encroached on her time alone, and she wanted to look brave in front of me. I both admired and resented her for her casual slip into a false emotion. She was dying.
I wanted to ask, What can I get you? but my mouth couldn't find the words. My tongue dried up and my lips broke when I attempted an empathetic smile. I had more control than had previously been in my grasp before stepping into her room. She relied on me for all things vital in life. She needed me.
Could I bring her the world? In just a few short hours, could I bring her the scent of Vanilla musk weaving through the streets of Morocco? Would it be possible to capture the icy wind from the peak of Mount Everest and bring it into her room so that she could feel again? Fetching her a wish from the Lovers Bridge in Paris, or a gift to the parted from the Cross and Bones Graveyard in London, would bring forgotten cultures into her bedroom.
Perhaps I could bring her a husband. A man whom she lost long before her heart gave up. Someone she could dance with again, in memory to the records of her youth. The man who she created the best part of sixty years with. A man who helped her believe in love, who would hold her close even when she was dying. And whisper, It's okay.
Or maybe she would want to hold her daughter. Once in her arms, but now in her heart. A beautiful woman with the world at her feet, her own children pulling on her skirt to get the attention they yearn for. Maybe I could do that, bring her the child who forced her to live again. Perhaps that would save her now. I knew though, that nothing could.
I looked into her eyes now and saw the flicker of a young girl coupled with a longing for all things alive. I saw tides falter and slip away, and in her brave face something changed as she saw what I could see. If she asked, I would bottle the sands of her favourite beach and bring them here so that she may hear gulls cry and children play once more.
So I wetted my lips and drew in a breath, trying to ignore the taste of the dying as it hit bitter against my tongue.
"What can I get you?" I asked, ready to fetch her the world in a cup of African tea.
She smiled at me then, because she knew where my heart was going, my body could not reach.
"A bowl of Jelly, please," She said, "With Ice Cream."