It wasn’t a long drive to the hospital. Kyle could drive it in his sleep; in fact, he had on a couple of occasions. He remembered them as he drove the Interstate toward his exit.
Two months ago he got a call about 1:30 AM. It was the hospital. Nellie was going through a crisis. The nurse sounded as if it were grave. He had given her a goodbye kiss at 9:00 PM. She was smiling and comfortable. The doctor even said she may be able to go home in a day or two. When he got there the crises had left as quickly as it came and Nellie was fine. “I hope that’s all it is this time,” he murmured.
As he turned off the highway he thought about earlier. She looked in his eyes and smiled contentedly.
“It’s time we face together what we already know,” Nellie said.
“It is not good to lose hope,” Kyle said and clasped her hand resting on her stomach.
Nellie smiled wider. “It’s okay, Kyle. Hope is based on certainties not on what will never happen.”
“We can hope for a cure,” Kyle said, “that’s possible.”
“There is no cure,” Nellie said. “We know that. Maybe it’s best we hope for—I don’t know, Kyle, tell me what you really hope for?”
“I always hoped that someday I would see you before an audience playing your violin,” Kyle said.
“I was never that good,” Nellie said.
“Yes, you were,” Kyle said. “You knew you were but you gave up your hope for me and the children.”
“No,” Nellie said, “that’s an easy way out. I really wasn’t that good. I was good here but I could have never made it beyond here.”
“All I know is that I hated the violin until I heard you play,” Kyle said, “and I loved hearing you practice.”
“No you didn’t,” Nellie said. “You always closed the door when I practiced.”
“That was to make the sound perfect,” Kyle said.
“Okay,” Nellie said, “if that's so, what did you like hearing me play?”
“Meditation de Thais,” Kyle said.
“A wonderful piece,” Nellie said. "You more than listened."
“No one played it like you,” Kyle said. He released the grasp on Nellie’s hand. He stood and walked over to the closet and removed Nellie’s violin. He handed it to her. “Play it.”
“Sure,” Nellie said, “but my condition will not allow me to play it the way it was written.”
“Not so,” Kyle said. “It was written for you and you only.”
Kyle adjusted the bed for Nellie to sit. She quickly tuned the violin and began to play Meditationde Thais.
Kyle listened and imagined Nellie playing with an orchestra—his hope. The music wafted through the hospital floor like a sweet healing balm. Nurses and patients gathered just outside the room. They breathed love, longing, and hope. For a few brief moments, everyone was someplace where pain, sickness, death, and tears were no more.
Nellie came to the end and handed the bow and violin back to Kyle. “Someday a string will be broken.”
“I know,” Kyle said. “I know.”
“What then do you hope for?” Nellie said.
“Music that can be played on three strings,” Kyle said.
Kyle sat the violin beside the bed stand.
“I’m tired,” Nellie said, “and it’s best you get home and make sure Thomas and Toni are in bed. Give them a goodnight kiss for me and tell them their Mamma loves ‘em.”
Kyle sat the bed back down and leaned over for three kisses. He walked to the door and turned around. Nellie’s eyes were heavy. She waved and gave an air kiss.
That was five hours ago.
Kyle parked the car and rode the elevator to the fifth floor. “Fifth floor,” he thought. “that’s the floor everyone seems to die on. If you’re on the fifth floor that’s it.”
Kyle hesitated as the door opened to the fifth floor. “I wish the last six months were a dream,” he thought. He walked toward the room. As he neared it, a nurse walked out. “Mr. Franks,” she said and rested her hand in his, “Mrs. Franks has passed.”
Kyle pressed his lips and held back the emotions but tears appeared as if seeping through the skin.
“Would you like somebody with you?” She said.
“No,” Kyle said.
The nurse moved aside. Kyle took a step. “Oh, Mr. Franks,” she said, “that was a beautiful piece Nellie played tonight. It made the night go better for us all.”
“I’ll tell her,” Kyle said.
“I already did,” she said, “but it will be better coming from you.”
Kyle walked slowly into the room and moved around the curtain shielding Nellie’s bed from the doorway.
Kyle sat on the chair next to the bed. It was strange he thought because his first impulse was to smile. “That’s the way she would want it,” he said to himself.
Kyle bent over and grabbed the violin and bow. He placed it beside her. He smiled again as he noticed a broken string.