Balm in Gilead

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 1

“Happy Valentine’s Day!”, Ed cheerfully greeted as he entered Female Medical I with his arms filled with an assortment of gifts. Lenora grinned from ear to ear as she looked up and found herself face to face with a large fluffy teddy bear. 

“You’re so sweet!”, she said, taking the proffered bear and giving it a hug. “He’s so soft!”, she added, her voice slightly muffled by the thickness of the valentine’s day bear.

Ed unburdened himself by placing the flowers and chocolate he was also carrying on the counter next to her cot and took a seat next to her. He was careful to position a curtain to block him from the view of a certain nurse who was bound to show up at any moment to inform him that visiting time doesn’t begin for another two hours and escort him out. He waited patiently as she finished admiring the stuffed animal and turned her attention to the flowers and chocolate next to her. 

Ed watched the nurses go about their usual morning routine as though today were any other day. He supposed Valentine’s Day wasn’t a huge deal in a ward mainly inhabited by ailing grandmothers. Lenora, the sole occupant below the age of thirty, was the only person who still placed value in the importance of the day and had put on makeup and red lipstick for the occasion.

Satisfied that she’d given the presents their due admiration, Lenora extended her hand to the man who had brought them. Ed gently took her hand in his and gave it a kiss. She gently giggled at this gesture of affection.

“Let’s get out of here. I want to take you on a date”, Ed said, letting his eyes dart left and right and making his voice conspiratorially low for dramatic effect. 

“Okay,” replied Lenora, her voice uncertain. “The doctor should be here to discharge me in a few hours.”

“We can’t wait on him. The boat leaves in an hour.”

“What boat?”

“Our boat.”

Lenora laughed. “What are you talking about? I have to go home to see Raven, get clothes, and shower first.”

“I have a change of clothing for you in the car, I’ve arranged a babysitter for Raven, and you’ve already taken a bath for the morning.”

“And how do you know this?”

Ed tapped his nose with his finger and said “The nose always knows.” which earned him an eyeroll. “C’mon, trust me” he added and started to remove the IV catheter in a series of careful movements.

“When did you learn how to do that?”, Lenora asked, surprised.

“I’ve been practicing,” replied Ed with a wink.


The pleasure craft Ed hired deposited them on a small makeshift dock on a deserted cay before setting sail once again on the open sea after promising to collect them in nine hours’ time. Ed deposited the bag of supplies he brought with them onto the aging wood of the dock and scooped Lenora into his arms. She returned his embrace in the way that always made him feel like she was melting into him.

“Our own private island,” he whispered into her ears.

“All ours…,” Lenora replied, barely keeping the giggle out of her voice.

Ed lightly pecked her forehead before letting her go and picking up his bag and leading her from the dock to walk along the shore of the beach. The lacy red dress he selected for her danced with the wind around her ankles as they explored along the shore. Ed, dressed in all black, suddenly stopped when his phone began to ring. He took it out of his pocket, vaguely noted the time of 9:34 am on the screen, and flung it into the sea with all the might he could muster.

“What the hell did you do that for?”, Lenora demanded.

“You and I are secluded on a private cay and today is all about us. I’m not letting the outside world in. Today, you and I are the Lady and Lord of Valentine island.”

“I mean….that’s very sweet but you didn’t have to be so dramatic about it. Suppose the boat people need to reach you? What if we get stranded out here?”

“I’m more than happy to spend the rest of my life outside of reality with you.”

Lenora raised an eyebrow. “Really now?”

“My Lady Nora,” Ed began formally, “I do believe that we have found a pristine picnic spot that gives every other picnic spot a grievous case of envy, and, I, being Edward, Lord of Valentine Island, am so inclined to declare this to be the location of our romantic lunch. What say you Lady Nora?”

Lenora giggled before clearing her throat and speaking with her best impersonation of a drawling English accent, “Yes, my darling Edward, I do believe and concur that your Lordship has indeed found a spot most suitable for our romantic lunch.”

“That was pretty good,” Edward replied in his normal voice. Lenora responded with a curtsey before taking the bag from him and moving to set up the picnic.

Later, as they sat holding one another and watching the sun set over the ocean with the approaching boat slowly growing larger in the distance, Lenora kissed him.

“Today was really amazing!”, she said as she cuddled closer for warmth. “Honestly the best date I’ve ever been on.” 

“I’m glad to hear you say that. I’ve been planning it for a long time.”

Her grip on his arm suddenly grew painfully tight and her breathing slowed.

“How bad is it?”, Ed asked tenderly.

“A seven or an eight.”


“My chest and arms.”

“Do you need to go back?”

“Probably, right now I just want to enjoy this moment with you. I don’t want to ruin it.”

Ed kissed her slowly and passionately. “Nothing could ever ruin this moment”.

Chapter 2

“Happy Valentine’s Day!” said Ed as he placed a large fruit basket into Lenora’s arms. “It has all of your favourites and some of mine,” he added as he turned around to adjust the curtains surrounding her cot.

“Thanks!”, she exclaimed before suddenly lowering her voice and adding, “Aren’t you here a bit early? It’s 7 am and they don’t let visitors in until 10.”

“I had to come early because we have a noon flight to catch.”

“What are you talking about? My doctor doesn’t get here to discharge me until around 11 am and I want to see Raven. I can’t just get on a plane.”

“She’s coming with us. She’s packing as we speak waiting for us to pick her up.”

“Why isn’t she in school?”

Ed gave her his best smile. “Because today is a special day! C’mon, trust me!” he said as he carefully removed her catheter.

“When did you-”, Lenora began but Ed cut her off.

“Youtube,” he replied simply before winking and kissing her forehead.


Ed blew his car horn three times as they pulled into the driveway of Lenora’s house. Moments later the front door opened and out dashed a tall ten-year-old girl. Ed hopped out of his car and stood crouched with his arms wide open to receive her as she tackled into him.

“Ouch!”, cried Ed in mock pain as he let her tackle him to the ground. “Take thy beak from out my heart!”

“You promised me a surprise!”, cried Raven playfully punching Ed’s shoulders.

“You’ll get it as soon as you stop beating me up!”

Lenora’s father, Darius, appeared through the open front door smiling and shaking his head at the performance in front of him. “Don’t forget your bag!”, he called out.

“Where are we going mommy?”, asked Raven when the three of them were in Ed’s car driving away.

“I don’t know either. You have to ask Ed.”

“Where are we going, Ed?”

Ed spared Raven a glance through the rearview mirror before replying, “My lips are sealed. Both of you will have to see when we get there.”

As they neared the airport a buzzing in Ed’s pocket made him realize that it was 9:34 am and that they were cutting it close to check-in. He took his phone out of his pocket and casually flung it out of the car window without even glancing at it.

“What the hell did you do that for?”, Lenora demanded over Raven’s shriek at this gesture.

“I didn’t tell my CO I was taking the day off and I don’t want them tracking me.”

“I mean…I guess that makes sense but you could have just turned it off”.

After parking in the car, Ed reached under his seat, pulled out a gift bag, and handed it to Raven. “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

Grinning, Raven reached into the bag and pulled out a hat with mouse ears and a red polka-dot ribbon. “Is this the big surprise”, she asked with disappointment creeping into her voice.

“It sure is!”, Ed replied, turning in his chair to beam at her. 

“Thanks….but why did we have to drive all the way to the airport for you to give it to me?” asked Raven suspiciously while Lenora did her best to suppress her laughter.

Ed responded by waving three plane tickets in front of Raven with the flourish of a magician producing a rabbit from his hat. “Because…”, he began, then added a pause to build the suspense. “We’re going to Disney World!”, Ed finished in nearly a shout prompting a shriek and applause from Raven.


Later that night, Lenora and Ed sat holding hands on their hotel room balcony watching the fireworks. Raven, who had worn herself out dashing from ride to ride in the park laid sleeping in her room, oblivious to the spectacle of light that was playing out in the sky.

“Where is it this time?”, asked Ed while beginning to stroke the back of her hand with his thumb.

“Where is what?”, replied Lenora, not turning away from the fireworks.

“The pain.”

“How’d you know?”, she turned and asked, sounding mildly started.

“I know you, Nora”.

“My legs.”

“How bad?”

“I can manage. Thank you for today. We had a really great time.”

Ed ignored this attempt to change the subject. He repositioned himself so he could kiss the Japanese symbol tattooed on the base of her neck that translated to “love”. “I’m trying really hard Nora. One of these days I’m going to find out how to save you.”

“Save me how?”, Lenora asked as she tried to turn around to face him but Ed held her firmly in place. He didn’t want her to see the tears brimming in his eyes.

“Just know that I’ll never stop trying. I know I did wrong but I love you with everything in me.”, Ed whispered in her ear.

Lenora extended her arm up to stroke the back of his head. “No one is perfect, baby. I love you all the sa-”, she began before a grunt of pain stopped her before she could finish.

No matter how many times they replayed this exact scenario it never got easier for Ed. All he could do was hold her while letting the sense of helplessness wash over him. Helplessness, while an upgrade over the hopelessness he had traded it for, was still exhausting and his strength for fighting the inevitable would have to wait for tomorrow. He quietly renewed his resolve to keep trying no matter how many lifetimes it takes.

Chapter 3

“Happy Valentine’s Day!”, said Ed cheerfully as he handed Lenora a gigantic chocolate bar. She was in her usual cot with a tall imposing doctor standing over her scribbling on his notepad. “Morning Dr. Bastian”, he added, less cheerfully.

Doctor Bastian acknowledged this greeting with a barely perceivable nod without taking his eyes off of his notepad. When he had finished writing he handed a piece of paper to Lenora saying, “Here you go. You can head home and enjoy V-day.” He smirked and glanced in Ed’s direction before adding, “Try not to exhaust yourself.”

“Wait a second, you’re cutting my dose”, Lenora began in a childlike voice.

“Unfortunately, they’ve started reviewing our scripts so I have to strictly prescribe the recommended doses and no more.”, Bastian replied gravely. “Have fun kids!”, he added before hastily walking away. Lenora watched him go miserably.

Ed kissed her on the forehead in an attempt to cheer her up. “Let’s get you out of here.”

“Excuse me sir!”, a shrill voice rang out behind him. Ed turned to find a short squat woman in nursing scrub unpleasantly looking up at him. “Visiting hours don’t begin until 10 am. I’m going to have to ask you to leave. Now.”

Ed cursed himself for forgetting to conceal himself this time. He absolutely hated having to deal with her. “I was here with Doctor Bastian. He just discharged Nora and I’m taking her home now.”

“You will leave now or I will call security to have you escorted out and barred from ever returning.”

“So you want me to leave just to return in..”, he checked his watch, “…forty minutes just to take another five minutes to help her get her things and leave again?”

The nurse didn’t deign to respond to this question and instead simply stared at him. Times like these where, due to a miscalculation or carelessness on his part, Ed found himself forced to deal with this nurse he was tempted to waste a day pursuing a life of crime. He imagined himself making a huge scene in the ward, fighting the security guards that came after him, then running off to steal cars and rob liquor stores only to start fresh tomorrow. He wouldn’t abandon a single day with Lenora, however, regardless of how much this person tempted the worst aspects of his personality.

Ed found himself pacing around the hospital grounds a few minutes later when his phone rang at the usual time. He took it out of his pocket and threw it into the nearby pond with even more savage satisfaction than he usually derived from this gesture.

“She doesn’t have to be so petty and miserable”, said Lenora when they were in the car.

“Don’t worry about it, baby.” Ed had already put that incident from his mind but her indignation on his behalf made him swell with joy anyway. “I have another present for you. Get the bag on the back seat.”

“This is so pretty!”, exclaimed Lenora unwrapping the red dress Ed liked to dress her in for formal occasions. Ed generally liked to keep things varied but some things, such as the way Lenora looked in that dress, felt so close to perfection that it felt wrong to change it.

They pulled into the driveway of Lenora’s house. “Pick you up at 5? I have something special planned for tonight”.

“I can barely wait.”

Ed walked Lenora into the room covering her eyes with his hands. “Are you ready?” he asked teasingly and removed his hands.

Lenora opened her eyes and gasped. The room’s ceilings and floors were covered in red and black balloons and it was illuminated by a disco ball that washed the walls in alternating red and pink light. In the center of the room was a table set for two with a waiter smiling at them.

Lenora was beginning her dessert when she caught Ed staring at her across the table. “What?”, she asked through a mouthful of pie.

“I’ll never get used to how good it feels to have you back. My life without you felt lightless and hollow.”

“What are you talking about? I haven’t gone anywhere.”, Lenora replied looking confused. “I’ve always been here for you and I always will be.” She reached across the table and squeezed his hand.

“I wasn’t always there for you though.” thought Ed as memories that shamed him began to flood his mind. With great effort, he returned them to the box he kept them locked away in. Today’s fun would be coming to an end soon and he’d have the rest of the night to feel miserable.

“How bad is it today?”, asked Ed, bracing himself for the response.

“How bad is what?”, replied Lenora absentmindedly.

“The pain.”

“I’m not having a crisis right now.”

Ed looked at her sharply, not daring to believe that he had heard her correctly. “What did you say?”

“I said I’m not in pain. I just got out of the hospital a few hours ago, remember?”, she said with a laugh.

Head in his hands, Ed ran through everything he did on this day. He tried to remember every slight variation to the choices he made, the different paths he took, even the different words he used. They had done this exact dinner sequence hundreds of times and it always ended with her going into Crisis around dessert with pain in either her arm or chest. He had her pain medication along with an IV drip back in the car waiting for her.

Lenora’s smile faded when she saw the deranged and desperate look on Ed’s face. “Seriously, what’s the matter with you?”

Ed checked his watch again. “Are you absolutely positive you’re not in pain?”

“I promise you that I’m fine, Edward”, said Lenora, with a tinge of annoyance. “What is going on?”

“I think that I may have somehow prevented it. I’ve been trying for years…decades probably.”

“Prevented what? And you and I have only been together for three years.”

“No. We’ve been together for a very long time. Every day inside this same day. Every day is today! February 14th, Valentine’s Day”.

“Are you trying to say that you’re having a Groundhog’s Day situation?”, Lenora asked with a laugh, apparently deciding to play along.

“Yes.”, replied Ed. “Well…not exactly”, he added hesitating. “Time for me went on normally for a year after today. I came back in time to relive this day with you.”

“What? So you’re a time traveler who is also stuck in a time loop?”, asked Lenora who seemed to be enjoying this.

Lenora suddenly had a creeping suspicion about where this story was headed. “Why is today so special that you had to come back to it? Why not loop Valentine’s Day next year?”, she asked, slightly fearing the answer in spite of herself.

“Because you died tomorrow.”

Chapter 4

“Happy Valentine Day!”, Ed texted Lenora. He laid in bed not yet fully awake. 

“Thanks, baby!”, came the reply. “Can you pick me up from the hospital? I should be getting out around 10. Then we can do something together.”, came in another text.

“Sure. No problem. See you then.”, Ed sent back. The reply he received was the emoji of a duck that Lenora sent to convey a hug. The time on his phone told him it was 8:45 in the morning. He realized that he’d need to buy a gift on the way to the hospital as he hadn’t counted on her being discharged that day. Luckily, he was off duty that day.

Ed showered, got dressed, then made himself breakfast. He had just started his car and was about to pull out of his driveway when his phone rang. He stared at the unsaved number on the screen for a few seconds, vaguely noting that the time was 9:34 am, before accepting the call.

“Hello?”, he said into the phone.

“Good morning Officer…”, replied a sultry voice that somehow always managed to give the impression that its speaker had just woken up from a deep slumber.

“Hey. Sup?”

“I want to see you and your handcuffs. Now.”

“Listen, you know I have a girl and it’s Valentine’s Day. Come on man…”, Ed said with some degree of irritation.

“I have a friend with me”, replied the voice, sounding self-satisfied, and Ed heard the sound of another woman giggling.

Ed hesitated for a moment before telling the caller that he was on his way. He breathed a deep sigh then sent a quick text to Lenora. “Really sorry baby. I got called into the station to update a report. I shouldn’t be too long. Try to see if your dad can take you home just in case”. He paused another moment before he added, “I love you”, then sent the message and turned off his phone.


Later that afternoon, Ed returned home and took another shower. He poured himself a drink then turned his phone back on. As he expected, he had received quite a few messages while he was missing in action for the last five hours.

“No problem baby. I love you too.”

“Hey, baby. Any idea when you’ll be done? I really want to see you but I can call Daddy if you can’t make it.”

“Are you okay? You’re not responding and I’m starting to get worried.”

“The pain is starting to come back so I may end up staying here anyway.”

“I’m in a really bad crisis. I wish you were here so I could hold your hand. I love you.”

“Is there balm in Gilead?”

Ed read these texts with a mixture of guilt and apprehension. He sent back, “Sorry baby. Phone was dead. Forgot to charge last night. How are you feeling?”. Ed put his phone down on the couch beside him, started watching the replay of a basketball game on Youtube, then, exhausted from the day’s activities, drifted asleep.

The living room was covered in darkness when he woke up. He checked his phone and saw that he had slept well into the night. He was surprised to find that Lenora hadn’t texted him back and figured she was mad at him for letting her down on Valentine’s Day. A few moments later, when he was washing his face and thinking of ways to make today up to her, it occurred to him that she had never stopped texting him when she was mad before.

Ed got his phone from the couch and texted, “Are you okay baby? Talk to me please.”, then sat and waited for a reply that never came. After a few minutes, he dialed her number but it just rang until the voicemail picked up. Ed checked the time and saw it was shortly after midnight. Filled with panic, he got his keys, ran to his car, and sped off into the night toward the hospital.

He drove like a man possessed, sped through red lights, swerved around other cars on the road, all the while praying that Lenora was just knocked out from the medication they gave her. “Please. Please. Please.”, was all that echoed in his thoughts.

His phone lit up on the passenger’s seat and Ed almost drove into a lamp pole in his eagerness to reach for it. He pulled his car to the side of the road and looked at the number on the screen. The caller was Darius.


The next few weeks went by in a blur. The outpouring of social media tributes to Lenora was overwhelming. People from all walks of life from her doctors and nurses, her friends and co-workers, and fellow sicklers all extolled her good nature, kind heart, and gentle spirit. Ed sat at her funeral and listened to heartfelt tributes from people who knew her from childhood. He tried to stay strong but felt his resolve crumble witnessing Raven break down in tears at the graveside.

Ed couldn’t stand the well-intentioned messages of comfort that we sent to him, however. Whenever someone praised him for how devoted he was to Lenora he reminded himself of where he was when she really needed him. It made him feel disgusted with himself to be at the receiving end of such comfort and being unable to correct them because he was too ashamed of the truth.

Lenora’s absence felt like a physical weight he carried around with him. He kept revisiting old chats and listening to old voice notes. Most of all, he kept re-reading her last text messages to him. He obsessed over her last message to him, “Is there balm in Gilead?”, and found himself repeating it over and over like a mantra. He posed the question to his pastor during one of their counselling sessions. The pastor replied that there is no ailment that God cannot heal.

Through internet searches on the phrase, Ed discovered that it was a line in Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, “The Raven”. The poem itself was about a man who mourned his lost love and found himself tormented by a raven who only seemed to know one phrase. He had never asked Lenora why she chose the name Raven for her daughter. His heartfelt heavy with everything he would never learn about her. Months dragged on in misery. Friends and family told him that things would get better in time but no one, aside from two women he’d never speak to again, knew the true weight of the guilt he carried with him. 

Valentine’s day came around again. Ed took the day off and sat in the room of his apartment reflecting on how he had everything he ever wanted just one year ago but didn’t appreciate it. He knew he was broken and that it was his own damn fault. So, he sat and asked himself if there was, in fact, balm in Gilead to heal his wounded heart. The sun rose and set and still, he sat, thinking only of her face, her smile, her laugh, her balm in Gilead that was the only thing that could restore him.

“Hey Siri! Play Faithful by Allen Stone”, Ed called out to the darkness.

The words to the song pour out of the speaker:

 “I should of, would of, could of loved her better,
She could of loved me worse,
Well, I never, ever gave her the love that she deserved,
She never wanted much….

Ed joined in with the chorus, “I wish I could fly right back to her!”, tears brimming in his eyes. He took the safety off his service pistol. 

“I wish that time would die, and I could hold her!”. He placed the barrel to his temple.

“I wish that I could go back and change it all!”. He closed his eyes and thought only of seeing her face, his balm in Gilead, and pulled the trigger.

Chapter 5

Ed didn’t immediately notice the changes as he came to consciousness. He didn’t notice that his bedsheets were different or that his curtains had changed colour. He didn’t notice that his living room was arranged slightly differently, that the old shower curtain and rod he destroyed in a panic attack had suddenly reappeared, or that Lenora’s toothbrush, which he had tearfully removed three months after the funeral, was back in its rightful place. Ed did, however, notice that he was still alive but he was well past the point of caring or even curiosity as to how.

It was the text message from Lenora that snapped him from his melancholy musing. He looked at the message, closed his eyes, and looked at it again before dropping his phone in shock. “Maybe I really am dead”, Ed thought to himself. He picked up the phone and dialed her number.

“Hey baby!”, Lenora’s cheerful voice answered. “Hello? Can you hear me?”, she added after not getting a reply.

Ed stood holding the phone to his ear with tears streaming down his face. He didn’t dare to believe it. “Hi”, was all he managed to croak into the phone.

“I was wondering if you were up yet but it sounds like you’re still in bed.“Can you pick me up from the hospital? I should be getting out around 10. Then maybe we can do something together later…”

“Do something?”, Ed asked, his head spinning and his mind in a daze.

“Baby…”, said Lenora, sounding annoyed and amused in equal measures, you really need to ease up on the drinking. Have you forgotten that today is Valentine’s Day?”

“What? No.”, replied Ed, unable to make sense of the conversation. “Where are you?”

“Still at the hospital, I asked you to pick me up from thirty seconds ago”, Lenora said with a laugh. “What am I going to do with you?”

“I’m on the way.”

Ed quickly threw on some clothes and dashed out of the front door without bothering to lock it behind him, got into his car, and sped toward the hospital. He was still trying to work out what was going on when his phone rang. He picked it and slammed the brakes when he saw the unsaved number on the caller ID.

His immediate reaction was anger at the audacity of this woman for daring to contact him again. Then something clicked into place and Ed had a sudden epiphany about what was going on. He rejected the call and opened the calendar app on his phone. His jaw dropped as what he read on the screen confirmed his crazy theory. The date on the device read February 14 of last year.

“I couldn’t believe it even with you sitting there in front of me. I could hold you, feel you in my arms, and smell you. You’d be surprised at how much you miss a person’s scent. But you were there, the center of my world returned. It’s been like this ever since. Every day is February 14th.”, Ed said, finishing his story.

“I know people say to make everyday Valentine’s Day but what you just told me sounds a touch extreme, don’t you think?”, replied Lenora with a smirk.

Ed laughed though his eyes still glistened. He loved how she always knew how to cheer him up. He went to wipe his face with the tablecloth and noticed that it had changed from pink to white. He looked around the room and saw that everything was a pure white colour. Their waiter was nowhere to be seen.

Before he could voice his confusion at this inexplicable change, Lenora asked, “So how do you think you got to be in this situation?”

“I don’t know to be honest. I think I really did die that day and this is my own personal heaven. I wake up every day to find new and creative ways to love you.”

“Your ‘own personal heaven’ involves watching me die in agony every day? Sounds like a part of you secretly hated me.”, Lenora said with a small laugh.

Ed didn’t laugh at this. He had deliberately omitted that part from his story. He took her hand and kissed it. “No part of me could ever hate you. Never!”, he said seriously.

“Let’s think about this logically then.”, she went on, “I’m sure all of the people we encountered today aren’t dead so that rules out Heaven.” She paused for a moment, in thought. “What was it you said right before you tried to off yourself? Something about wishing time would die so you could go back and change things?”

“Yeah, that was the gist of it.”

“Maybe you made a wish so earnestly, so desperately, and put all of your soul into that wish that the universe granted it.”

“Maybe. It doesn’t really matter. I never really questioned it because I don’t care. You’re here and that’s all that matters to me. You and I are destined to do this for all of eternity.”

“Doesn’t it get tiresome? Repeating the same over and over again?”

“Not as long as I get to see your smile.”

“Baby, that’s sad. Sweet, but sad.”, Lenora said gravely. “To think that you’d trade a real-life for whatever this is.”

“I had no life without you!”, said Ed, a bit more forcefully than he had intended. He added in a softer tone, “I would spend infinite lifetimes working hard to make up for not being there when you needed me the most.” The room suddenly seemed to glow from within itself.

Lenora slowly shook her head. “If you knew me half as well as you thought you did then you’d know that my forgiveness would never have come at such a high price. Tell me this, did you ever once, during all the years you’ve spent here, ever even me ask for this forgiveness you’ve been slaving away trying to earn?”

Ed shook his head. “No.” The room grew brighter still.

“Now seems like a good time for it.”

“Lenora,” Ed began, holding her hand ever tighter, “I am so sorry for being selfish and unfaithful. I took you for granted and only truly appreciated you after it was too late. The brightness in the room was now at a point where Ed had to squint to see Lenora’s outline.

“The truth is,” she began, “I forgave you the moment before I died.”

“Does it exist?”, Ed asked.

“Does what exist?”

“Balm in Gilead?”, Ed replied.

“In more ways than you can imagine.”

Ed desperately held onto her hand as the white light engulfed him.

Ed woke up in his bed. Before he opened his eyes he sensed things were different. The hand he held Lenora’s with was still clenched. Ed slowly opened his hand and wept when he saw what he was holding on to. In his palm lay a single bullet.

The End

Dedicated to the memory of Ashanti C Hall
(December 12th, 1989 – February 15th, 2019)

Without whom my world is forever less bright