There she was again, smiling as she came out of Dr. Ziva’s office. Her amber eyes danced with happiness that never seemed to diminish no matter how many times she came in. He had never seen someone so positive in his life and Dr. Ziva himself had said the only time he had ever seen her cry was the day he had told her she had brain cancer. Richard found her to be the greatest of inspirations and hated life had dealt her such a cruel fate. “I’ll see you in a couple of weeks Arnold.” She said to Ziva and Richard found his heart fluttering at the sound of her lyrical voice. He was eating lunch in the waiting room when she walked by and she gave him a warm smile. He watched her as she exited and kept staring at the door until Arnold waved a hand in front of his face.
“It’s not polite to stare you know?”
“Sorry, it’s just…” He sat his fork back in the container of Chinese takeout and sighed, his white fox ears drooping.
“How happy she always is, I know. It’s terrible she’s dying and it makes me feel bad I have to keep telling her there’s nothing we can do.”
Richard frowned. There was something he could do, but he knew he couldn’t just go around granting immortality to every sick person he came across. There was just something about her and it broke his heart to know she was sick. “I want to help her.”
Arnold clapped him on the shoulder. “Don’t just go using that gift of your willy nilly.”
“I won’t. Maybe I should get to know her first?”
“Why are you asking for permission, it’s not like she’s your patient or anything.”
“You’re the one who told me to never mix work with personal business, that you should try not to get attached to our patients just in case.”
“Well sometimes it’s hard. If Aisha dies, I’ll definitely feel the impact.”
“Anyway, she works at Books By the Bay and performs with her friends band at Club Perun. So if you want to find her, got to either of those places.”
“After work hours though.”
“Yes sir.” He felt his spirits lighten a little at the prospect of talking to Aisha and quickly finished his food so he could get back to work
He made sure not to waste anytime to try and get out on time but luck decided to shine on him today, he was free to leave early due to having nothing he really needed to do for that day. Once in his car he unlocked his cellphone so he could open up his GPS app. He typed in the name of the bookstore then placed his phone in its holder. As he drove he thought of ways he could start conversation. She seemed easy to talk to but he wanted to go in with a plan.
The bookstore wasn’t close to the hospital but it wasn’t too far. He quickly found a place to park then exited the app before it drained his battery. He hated it but didn’t feel it was worth buying a real GPS. He didn’t use his phone for a whole lot anyway.
Aisha sat in the storage room, her head pounding. Her co-worker had insisted on her taking a break the moment it came on. She took a deep breath and waited for it to subside. They always did and she always went back to work. When the throbbing in her temples stopped she wiped at the tears the pain had brought on, slipped on her glasses and went out to check the bookshelves. She thought she spotted a flash of white hair and ears as she stepped out and the brief facial features she saw looked like the doctor that worked with Arnold. She followed him and he turned around, a smile pulling at his lips.
“It is you.” She said. “Richard right?”
“Yeah, nice to finally meet you.”
Her smile widened. “I’ve seen you quite a bit.”
“Yeah, but we’ve never talked.”
“So is something wrong, did I forget something at the office?”
“Oh no, um I just wanted to talk to you outside work is all. I hope that’s not creepy, I’m not crazy or anything.”
She laughed and his heart danced. “It’s fine, really. I’m still working though and I have to go sing afterwards. If you like music you can come and watch.”
“I’d like that.”
“Alright, you can stick around and read if you like and the store has a cafe too.”
He smiled cheerfully “Okay, I’ll pick a book and just wait in the cafe so I’m easy to find” He walked away and she watched him go. He was handsome and those ears were so touchable. She didn’t know why he decided to get to know her but she was glad. She wouldn’t pursue anything since she was going to die but him wanting to be her friend made her immeasurably happy. Aisha continued working as she normally would. She loved this job and took it seriously. She was helping connect people to the literary world, she was showcasing new authors to help them achieve their dreams. Bookstores were magic and it was an honor to help one run.
When the last customer was on their way out, she told her co-worker bye and headed over to the cafe. Richard was on his feet instantly and she smiled warmly at him. “Ready?” She asked.
“Of course, just let me drop this off.” They headed back through the book store and he put back the book he had been reading. He hadn’t gotten very far into it since he had been focused on listening for Aisha. “Did you bring your car?” He asked.
“I don’t drive anymore, I have seizures.”
“Would you like to ride with me then? You can give me directions.”
“I’d love too.”
He opened her door for her first and she thanked him for being so polite, then he ran around to his side and climbed in. She giggled at his excitement and he felt his cheeks heat a little in embarrassment. “Sorry, I’m just happy. Sometimes being a wolf makes me act like such a puppy.”
“It’s cute.” She smiled warmly. “May I touch your ears?”
Her smile shone brighter “They are just as soft as they look” He sat up and started his car. She gave him directions to where they needed to go then made sure he got a good seat before running off to meet Lake and their group. When she got up on stage he couldn’t believe how beautiful her voice was. Not only that but she was more alive than he had ever seen her as she moved to their song. She seemed so much happier which also surprised him that was possible. She had so much life in her. Too much to lose it because of brain cancer.
Aisha came down from the stage after a couple more songs, grabbing a couple of water bottle from the bar tender as she went by. “I hope water’s okay, I can always get you something else.”
“It’s fine, thank you.”
“You’re really very sweet.”
He looked at his water. “Am I? I feel kind of weird just coming to you out of the blue, but I see you all the time and I wanted to get to know you.” He finally looked back into her eyes. “You’re always smiling.”
“It’s not hard, you just lift your lips.” He laughed, making her heart flip and butterflies tickle her insides. It was probably the first time she had felt the unfairness of her situation. “So where are you from? I assume not here.”
“Another world, I’ll have to take you someday. I think you’d like it, it’s full of creatures like me.”
“Someday, I’d like that.”
Aisha’s friend Lake came down for a break halfway through the show and sat with them. He looked between the two and for a brief moment he wondered if Aisha had finally found a boyfriend. He had been hoping she would find happiness with someone if only for a brief time. “So, who’s this?”
“This is Richard, he works with my doctor. Richard this is my best friend Lake.”
“Nice to meet you man”
“Nice to meet you” Richard replied. “You didn’t come to give her any news did you?” Lake asked fearfully and he shook his head “No, I just wanted to get to know her. She’s always so happy and nice”
“I liked your music alot. I’m surprised you lot aren’t heading towards more fame.”
“we make good money here though. I mean, we all have to have other jobs but compared to a lot of other musicians we make a good amount.”
“I know Aisha works at a book store. What do you do?”
“I’ll punch you if you laugh at me”
“I’m a barista” Aisha giggled but not at the job but how Lake always said it. It was like he was admitting to some deep dark secret he swore to himself he’d never tell.
Richard had to clear his throat to keep from laughing at the look on Lake’s face. “I thought you were going to tell me you dressed up like a pink rabbit or something at the fair. What’s wrong with making coffee?”
“It’s not as cool as being an oncologist or the whole musician thing. It’s like I write your name on a cup and yell at you when I’ve made your drink.”
“People have to get coffee somewhere. I mean what if a customer comes here and recognizes you?”
Aisha giggled. “I tell him that all the time. It’s not like he can just run and hide and besides, he makes a mean cup of coffee.” She hugged her friend. “You should eat something then get back on stage.”
“It’s all popcorn and pickled sausages, I’ll just eat after.”
“Even if it’s just a handful of peanuts, put something in your stomach besides water.”
Aisha got up and went to get something to eat. Richards smile stayed constant “It’s good you look after her Lake”
“I know she doesn’t have forever but she means a lot to me. I want her to live as long as possible. The world, this band, my life. It won’t be the same without Aisha” That constant smile faltered a bit. He could already see it wouldn’t. They eventually went back up to perform. Richard stayed for the whole performance. When she was done he asked “why don’t I take you and Lake to dinner, my treat”
“I can’t, I really need to go to bed. You should go though Aisha” Lake said. He wasn’t tired at all but Aisha deserved a boyfriend for the short time she had. He wasn’t going to get in the way of a romance blossoming for her. “Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow night Lake” They hugged and parted “where do you like eating?” Richard asked.
“I’m not picky.” She said with a smile.
“You make this both easy and not easy.” He thought for a moment. “Mediterranean?”
He took her to the cozy diner and she smiled at the warm atmosphere as they were seated. He pointed out a couple of things she might like as he ordered them some hummus and pita bread. He admired her as she took her time going over the menu, already knowing what he wanted, but enjoying just watching her. He had never seen a woman as beautiful as her. Even now she shined inside and out with happiness. He had seen many people give up and had never blamed them, the fight was a hard one and it took its toll on so many people. Aisha was so strong, stronger than he could ever be in that situation. She finally decided what they wanted and they both ordered then ate hummus and bread as they waited.
“I really like this place.” She said. “The food is good.”
“You’ve never been here then?”
“No, unfortunately. I’m happy I get to eat here.” The before she died hung between them.
“I’ll bring you as many times as you want. We can eat here every day until you’re tired of it.”
Aisha would love to get closer to him, but she wasn’t willing to put someone else through losing her. Lake was already going to have to deal with her death and even Arnold looked saddened by the thought. “So, how is working with Arnold?”
“He’s great, a good teacher, compassionate. I like it there.”
“Good, he’s always been great. I just hope Lake doesn’t blame him. He’s done everything he can for me. I want Lake to know it’s okay to be upset. I made him promise to never give up on his music.”
She noticed Richards ears fall a little and she looked at him confused “are you okay?”
“Thinking of you dieing is even hard for me..you’re such a light…it’s never fair but I think the world did an especially big wrong with you”
‘but you barely know me”
“I’ve been seeing you everytime you’ve come in. You are always happy and sweet”
“It is what it is. Don’t worry, I’ve accepted it. I really have. I’m not angry, I’ll admit sometimes I’m a little scared but I’m ready when the cancer finally takes me” They looked into eachothers eyes in sad silence. He didn’t want a world without her but he didn’t know how to bring up changing her into a demon or if he should. He wanted her in his life so badly, ridiculously badly for how little time they had spent together.
Their food came and he ate it slowly. She asked him more questions about his home and he described it as best as he could. He left out some things, wanting her to see them with her own eyes. Halfway through dinner she sat her food down and started rubbing her temples and his heart nearly froze with worry. He sat his food down and moved around to her side of the table, coming down on his knees in front of her and taking her face in his hands. “Tell me.”
“I…I just get migraines sometimes, it’s al…alright.” She said, giving him a smile.
“Aisha, this isn’t good. Let’s get some fresh air.”
“I don’t want to ruin dinner.”
“It’s not, just spending time with you makes me happy.” He went a paid, getting a to go box so they could finish if she wanted to. He helped her to her feet and outside where he put the food in the backseat of his car. His arms wrapped around her and she rested her forehead against his chest as the pain in her head crashed over her.
“I’m sorry.” She finally said and he pulled back slightly to look at her.
“Maybe we should have opted for Taco Bell and a movie.”
“I meant what I said, just being with you is what makes me happy. It’s impossible for dinner to be ruined when I’m sharing it with someone as wonderful as you.” He wiped at a tear running down her cheek. “We can still have that movie if you want.”
“My place or yours.”
“Wherever you think you’ll be comfortable.”
He held her, fighting back tears. He knew now he couldn’t let her die. His heart couldn’t bare her loss so tomorrow they were going to have to have a serious talk. All he knew was he couldn’t lose her so weather he should or not be damned. “we can go now” she said softly so he asked “want to stay in the back seat or come up front with me?”
“Up front’ He helped her out of the back adn into the front, opening and closing her door again for her before running to his side. She gave him directions to her home and he took her in. He helped her too the couch even though she insisted she didn’t need it. “what do you want to watch?” he asked and she said “I have Krampus and Deadpool. I haven’t seen either but I have friends who want me to see both so they’ve been letting me borrow them.”
“Lets watch Deadpool, I hear it’s funny”
“Okay” She went to get up and he said “Please, let me do it. Where is the movie?”
“It’s on my bookshelf.”He found it and brought it back to put it in her PS3.
“May I hold you?” He asked once he was seated.
“I’d like that.”
Richard leaned back against the arm of the couch then pulled her to sit between his legs. She rested her head on his chest and he started the movie then wrapped his arms around her. He brushed her hair with his nose, taking in her scent. Many different smells made up who she was, books and the club, her coconut shampoo and matching body wash. Underneath it all, he could detect that illness Thad had plagued her for far too long.
“Richard?” Aisha said sleepily.
“I know I shouldn’t, but would it be okay if I fell in love with you?” She knew probably sounded stupid and she knew getting close was a bad idea, but he was so kind and gentle and he knew from a medical stand point what was happening to her. “It’s okay to say no, I’ll understand.”
“Fall in love with me all you want.” He stroked her hair. “I’ll make you happy forever if you do, I promise.”
She smiled, feeling sadness really well in her for the first time “forever” she fell asleep. The headaches and being sick in general wore her out. Richard reached for the remote and paused the movie. He didn’t want to wake her up laughing at it. Holding her was amazing enough and he was honored to sit there for her. She slept the rest of the evening away, waking up around six am. Richard had fallen asleep too but woke instantly when she moved “Oh my gosh, I’m sorry” she said and he smiled warmly at her “don’t be…you really are falling in love with me?” She blushed but said clearly “yeah, you’re handsome and sweet and amazing and so much more”
“If you want to be my mate I can make you like me Aisha and if you’re like me you wont be sick anymore” Her eyes widened and she sat up “how is that even possible?” He caressed her check “let me change you into a wolf demon. It wont be a comfortable process but no worse than those headaches. I’m also not saying you have to stay with me for me to help you. I think..I think you’re my mate but I wont force it.”
She looked as if she might cry “I want to be with you, I really do, if you save me by turning me or not I want to be with you”
“Please don’t cry, your tears could so easily break me.”
“I’m sorry, I just can’t believe this is real. This is the first time I’ve wanted anything for myself and to know I’m getting it is just so overwhelming.”
He tipped her head back and gave her a gentle kiss. His entire being tingled with joy at such a simple thing. “I will love you forever Aisha.”
She smiled happily up at him. “Let me call into work, then you can change me.”
“Now you will have much more time to do the things that make you happy.”
Aisha got up and grabbed her phone before she burst into tears. Richard was willing to give her such a gift and she couldn’t wait to tell Lake she was cancer free. The call was brief, her co-worker not needing any explanation after working along side her for so long. Richard smiled when she came back to him and she couldn’t help but giggle at how much he really looked like a puppy. “I really love your ears.” She said.
“If you decide to stay with me and if we ever have children, they’ll probably get them too.”
She blushed, but the idea of actually getting to start a family was exciting. She had never thought beyond the end date she would inevitably have. She had only lived for the next day, but now there was so much in front of her. She felt herself tear up again and he pulled her down next to him. “Sorry, I’m being such a baby.”
“It’s okay, you have every right to be emotional. I can only imagine.”
She hugged him and he smiled, wanting to just enjoy the moment for now. That afternoon he talked her through everything he was about to do then began the ceremony. He wished he didn’t have to hurt her for the change but it would be worth it to have her forever and to end the pain the cancer caused her. When it was over he wiped the tears from her face and carried her to the bed. “I’m so sorry” he whispered, feeling guilt over all the tears she had shed during the ceremony. When she woke he waited on her hand and foot until she felt better. Once she felt better she felt better than she could ever remember feeling. She didn’t realize how much misery she had been living in until it had been taken away.
The first person Aisha wanted to see once her body no longer ached was Lake. She had Richard take her straight to his apartment and she banged excitedly on the door. He pulled it open with his shirt half on, his eyes worried, but he seemed to feel with relief when he saw she was okay. When she told him she was cancer free he looked confused until Richard explained what had transpired. Lake had her in the tightest hug she had ever received and she held him while he cried. He was so happy he wasn’t going to lose his best friend. “Thank you.” He said when he released her and hugged Richard.
“She deserved to live.” Richard replied. “I love her so much already.”
“You just treat her right and I won’t hit you with my guitar.”
“I swear on my life.”
Aisha was looking forward to many more years of singing with Lake and promised she would be a the club for every event, even if she wasn’t on stage with him. The next person they went to see was Arnold. He could already see an improvement and he too was thankful he wouldn’t be losing her. Richard had given her such a wonderful gift, one she had not known she needed until speaking to him. She was alive, really alive and she had so much in front of her and she couldn’t wait to experience it with him.