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|Without Me(Men of Inked #7) by Chelle Bliss|
“His late fifties, and he died about ten years later.”
“I’d say she’ll probably follow the same timeline if you do develop the condition. You’re only in your mid-thirties. You have probably twenty years before you’d start to notice major changes in your coordination. But remember, there’s a chance you will never develop ataxia.”
Twenty years. Only twenty fucking years. It seems like a long time when you’re looking forward to something happy, but when it’s bad news, twenty years isn’t long enough. It feels like a heartbeat and passes in the blink of an eye.
“Twenty years,” Max whispered, and closed her eyes.
“We’re doing clinical trials at various clinics across the country. Hopefully in the next ten to twenty years, we’ll have a cure or at least a treatment.” The doctor folded her hands on top of the desk and leaned back.
“So, what do we do now, doc?” I asked.
“Just live life like normal, but there are things someone can do to possibly delay the onset of symptoms.” She rubbed the arm of her chair with her hand as she looked across the desk.
“Such as?” My patience was hanging by a thread.
“It seems that alcohol and tobacco can have an effect on the rapidity of symptoms. It’s important to limit the consumption of both.”
“Shiiit,” Max drawled.
I looked at her with a steely stare. If it meant I’d have her healthier longer, then I didn’t care to ever have another sip.
“Max,” I said.
“I didn’t say you couldn’t have a drink. Just not every day and in large quantities.”
“Fine,” she snapped.
“What else?” I asked, ready to move on from the conversation about trivial shit like beer.
“It’s important to keep the muscles strong. Regular workouts and weights will help when symptoms begin. Often, patients lose muscle tone as the symptoms progress. So having a good amount of muscle beforehand will help keep her stronger for a longer period of time.”
I could do that. I worked out all the time and I could always get Mike to work with her. He’d love to help out in some way, and the man knew how to build muscle.
“So, I can’t drink and I have to work out?”
“In the scheme of things, it’s no big deal. We can work out together. We got this.”
“I’m not a girl who spends time in a gym. I like my softness. I don’t want to look like one of those hardcore bodybuilders. I embrace my curves.”
“I embrace them too.” I couldn’t stop my smile. She’d left that open for me to comment. “We won’t make you hard.”
“Here’s some literature about ataxia for you to read.”
“Thank you, doctor,” Max said before she let out a loud sigh.
“Make an appointment on the way out. We’ll monitor you with yearly physicals to watch for coordination loss and other signs. That way, it doesn’t sneak up on you if you start to develop any symptoms.”
“I will.” Max stood from her chair and gave me a weak smile. “Ready?”
“Yeah.” I squeezed her hand as I climbed to my feet. I hadn’t let go the entire time in the doctor’s office, and I didn’t want to let go now. “Thank you,” I said to the doctor as I followed Max out the door.
I wanted time with her. Twenty years, ten years—it didn’t matter as long as we had some time together. She hadn’t accepted my proposal—she’d brushed it off until later.
I still wanted to marry her.
I wouldn’t leave her, and I wouldn’t make it easy for her to leave me. She wasn’t a selfish person. An individual who is truly selfish would’ve hid the condition and walked through life as if everything were fine. Max had done her best to push me away, but I didn’t let her.
We walked to the car in silence, stealing small glances at each other as we wandered through the parking lot.
Was it better to know? I didn’t know anymore. If I were ill, would I want a stopwatch placed on my life? I’d heard my entire life that knowledge was power, but I’d now say that it was crippling. I felt like the button had been pressed and each second that ticked by was one second less that I’d have a healthy Max.
When we approached the car, I smashed her into the door. “Are you okay, Max?”
She stared up at me with a half-smile. “Yeah.”
I touched her cheek, resting my palm on her skin. “Max, it’s okay if you’re not okay.”
She melted into my touch, closing her eyes. “I know I’ll get it, Anthony. No matter what the test states. I dealt with it a long time ago.”
“Hey,” I said, needing to look into her eyes.
She opened them but looked at my shoulder.
“Look at me, Max,” I commanded, not about to play a game as her eyes met mine. “You can play the hardass, Max, the one who doesn’t give a fuck about anything, but I know the truth. We got great news today, baby. Stop being a pessimist.” I placed my lips on her forehead, brushing my nose through her hair.
“I’ve just believed it for so long, it’s hard to think anything different.”
“It doesn’t matter what she said, Max. I love you and want to spend the rest of my life loving you.”
She grabbed my sides, digging her nails into my skin. “Take a day and think about it.”
“I don’t need a day.” I backed away and stared down at her. “We’ve spent enough time dicking around.”