“I love you,” she told him. At last! Instead of breaking down, crying with relief and joy, as he thought he would, he whispered back: (because... all but a whisper was drained out of him) “I love you, too.”
And, in a moment, the very words he had waited for, longed for, imagined, became his tether, a warm vest, a peculiar fold in the blanket, one holds through the night.
He repeated them like a mantra. He pictured them in the ceiling tiles above the bone scan machine. He heard them in the rhythm of the doctor’s voice, He saw their outline in the branches beyond the window,
And they were the very last sound, softly tumbling through his mind when he slipped away.