Ambrose imagined losing Barbara.
Seeing her die.
Seeing her ghost.
Could I let her—No.
“NO. It isn’t even worth the consideration.” He looked back at her. His gaze travelled over her face, taking in every soft edge.
Her blue eyes.
The way her honey-blonde hair framed her face.
Loving her semi-sweet chocolate and vanilla bean scent.
Loving every single thing about her.
In his imagination, Ambrose saw her ghost transform into a radiant bundle of light and disappear. The stake in his heart pierced him all the way through. “I can’t pretend I wouldn’t want to keep you here with me. It would be dishonest to say that I would never be tempted to do so, because I know myself.”
“But I love you, Barbara. I love you so much. I will not make you my prisoner, against your will or otherwise.” He could have sworn that the stake had gone all the way into his spine. Somehow. “I would let you go.”
“Do you really mean that?” she asked.
“I do. I’m not just saying what I think you want to hear. It’s just the truth. The simple truth. I love you, Barbara. I love seeing you happy. I love making you happy. I want you to be happy.” He leaned in and kissed her forehead. “Even if that means letting you leave me forever.”
There was an honesty and truth to his words and voice. It wasn’t just him saying empty words or reciting a well-memorized speech.
It was all truth.
Barbara couldn’t help herself. It just wasn’t possible for her to resist any further. She released his hands and hugged him. “I love you too.”
Ambrose shifted into a more comfortable position and embraced her in return. He felt like his heart was full of sunshine and rain, laughter and tears. Joy and sorrow and more joy. She loves me. Despite the ugliness of my past, she loves me as no one else has ever loved me. He kissed her forehead. “Barbara. My love.” And I love her as I have never loved anyone before.
Not even Elsie.
“It will hurt. I know it will hurt.” He kissed his way from her forehead down to her ear. “It will break my heart to send your ghost away, but I would do it for you.”
Hildreth kissed his sleeping wife. “I’m gonna go do bathroom stuff, which includes but is not limited to taking a shower. I gotta go do other business in there.” He kissed her again. “I’ll be back in a bit. Try not to miss me too much or too little. Aim for a nicely medium miss me.”
Elsie didn’t respond. She just kept sleeping.
He smiled lovingly at her. “You are amazing and gorgeous. I hope you know that.”
Still no response from her.
He kissed her one last time. “Mmm. But I really do need to take a shower. I got some powerful man stench goin’ on right here and now. So, I’m gonna go in the bathroom and make myself smell all bright and purty again just for you.”
Zero percent response.
Hildreth got out of bed and sashayed his way to the bathroom.
“Ohhhh!” he sang.
“I’m gonna go to the bathroom. Uhh-uhh-uhh!
Gonna take a showah. Mmm-mm-mmm.
Gonna get soap suds everywhere.
Gonna get shampoo in my hair. Woo-oo-ooo!”
“Cuz, baby, ooooooooooo!
It’s time to take a showah!
Oh! Oh! Oh! Yeeeeeeeahhhh.”
He entered the bathroom and closed the door behind him.