Chapter 1: In the Dead of Night
She was startled by the ice cold touch on her cheek. Her eyes fluttering, her mind fighting between sleeping and awakening, a shadow loomed over her. . . a huge, ominous black figure moving stealthily in the stillness of the night.
But she felt no fear nor dread.
She groped for the lamp switch above her, turning it on without haste. And smiled as she came face to face with her husband of five years.
Holding his hand which was touching her cheek, she opened her eyes wide, shaking off her sleepiness. She knew he had always loved watching her sleep.
“You look like a sleeping angel, a sleeping beauty, my darling,” he would say. As an insomniac, this makes his sleepless nights bearable, he’d tell her, as he counted the seconds and watched them turn to minutes, then to hours of frustrating, exasperating wait for the elusive sleep to come.
In the last six months, however, driven by his incurable affliction, he had taken to going out at night. He’d told her sometimes he took a walk in the park, made the chauffeur drive him around town, had some drinks in a bar, a little bit of gambling and late night talks with his business partners and friends. Anything, just so when he came home to her, he’d fall asleep in no time.
She didn’t mind. She was confident of his faithfulness to her and to their marriage. He may have lived a colorful, promiscuous life in the past but when he married her, he had told her he found his home, his nest, in her. No amount of temptation will make him break their marriage vows, he swore.
Now she cupped his cheek with her palm and was surprised to find it wet. She raised herself up from the comforts of their huge king-size four-poster bed and peered at the handsome face of her billionaire husband, his shock of white hair glinting.
She gasped as she saw tears tumbling out from his red, bloodshot eyes. She opened her lips, but he overtook the questions that were coming out of her mouth.
“My dear, I’m sorry. I am so, so, sorry…, ” he sobbed horrendously as he kissed her palm, his cries heart-wrenching as they were puzzling.
“What’s the matter? Are you...are you okay? Are you hurt?” she asked, anxious at his actions.
“It’s my fault. I should never have...Oh, my dear, I’m sorry. I am truly sorry!” he continued to wail loudly like a little child, oblivious to her queries and to the panic slowly building up inside her.
“Whatever it is, let’s talk about it. There’s nothing we can overcome, as long as we’re together,” she tried to pacify him by her soothing words even as she thought of the sins he may have committed against her, her heart breaking at the sight of his anguished face.
He shook his head slowly, his despair unabated. “My darling, I’m afraid, this time, there is nothing we can do. I have gone through a lot in my life but this...this misfortune is unlike any other.”
“What do you mean?” She frowned.
He stared at her eyes and clasped both her hands eagerly. “Can you forgive me for what I have done? Please, please forgive me. I didn’t mean to. I love you so much. I love you! You are the light of my life, and the past five years have been the happiest I have ever felt. You have brought me so much joy than anyone else in this world, my darling.”
“Of course I’ll forgive you! What is it? Please tell me,” she implored him.
Suddenly, he clutched at his chest, wincing in terrible pain. He staggered backward, falling with a thud to the carpeted floor of their bedroom, his face writhing in agony.
Swiftly she got out of bed, punching the emergency button located on the bedside table. She hurried to his side, her heart beating fast. Somewhere in the vast mansion, servants were being awakened by the bell she rang, a call for help which they have devised for times like this.
She cradled his head in her lap and cooed softly in his ears, “We’ll take you to the hospital, my darling, please hold on. I will take care of you.”
His glassy eyes focused for but a moment to hers, as he whispered laboriously, in between gasps of decreasing air, “Yet, who will take care of you...now? Oh, my dear, please...forgive..me.”
Then he closed his eyes, never to open them again forever.