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A Zippo clasped between my fingers. With a definitive click, the lighter sealed shut, resonating a sense of finality. ’Finalement!’ Renee exclaimed as she inhaled deeply, her eyelids gently shutting as if savoring the moment. ’I feel as though I am on death row, granted my solitary hour to stretch my legs. Despicable,’ she added with a distinct lilt to her words, her velvety French accent carrying a charm that matched her own. ’Mon dieu Tina, I want to go home.’
’I know.’ I responded with a sigh.
Her gaze softened as she nodded, a wisp of smoke curling from her nostrils, its hue mirroring the somber clouds looming above the hospital behind us. ’Just around the corner, there’s a bar. They undoubtedly serve Pastis.’ Her scrutinizing gaze met mine, her eyes as deep and intense as coal, as tendrils of smoke spiraled upwards, blending seamlessly with the overcast sky that enveloped the hospital’s architecture.
’Half a cigarette.’ I said sternly.
A sly smile tugged at her lips. ’You look like you could use a drink as well.’
’Finish it. I mean it.’ I insisted.
Her gaze held a knowing glint as she chuckled softly. ’She didn’t call did she? Is that why you’re so grumpy today?’
Truth be told, I had lost track of the days when I wasn’t oozing sarcasm and cynicism.
The wind, as if taking a cue from my demeanor, sliced through the air with a malicious glee, snatching fallen leaves from their resting places and thrusting them into a twisted dance around us. As if mocking the fragility of existence, nature reveled in its chaotic ballet.
With a begrudging resignation, I tugged at the collar of my coat, a futile defense against both the biting chill and the relentless march of time. My surrender was complete as I observed Renee, her fingers delicately poised, allowing the final traces of her cigarette to dissipate. Not that it held much consequence anymore, anyway.
The doctor’s words had been unambiguous. Renee, for her part, had embraced only the ambiguity, a refusal to grasp the impending verdict. Yet, the shadow loomed unmistakably—her final act was creeping nearer, a grand finale of smoke and ashes.
’Shall we go in? It’s cold.’ Without waiting for an answer I turned the wheelchair and pushed it toward the entrance.