“You’re tired, let me help you with your shoes,” he said.
“Oh thank you, my love,” she said.
He liked to help her. He loved her so much that he wanted her to take a break, to have a few moments where she needn’t do something.
“Relax,” he said, washing her hair, “you should learn to let others treat you once in a while. You’ve been on your feet all day working over-time.” She’d feel too guilty or selfish if she asked him to help. He knew what she was like. He took it upon himself to give her a hand, to ease the stress whenever he could. “This is what you do for those you love,” he would say, cleaning her spectacles.
He would make the dinner, dry the dishes and pick her up from work. He would note how much she’d normally put on her spoon and feed her dessert. She’d protest but then he’d hold up his hand and wipe her chin with the napkin. “You really don’t have to,” she’d say.
“I know, sweetheart, there is a difference between have to and want to, though.”
He mopped her brow with a damp flannel, “I’m so happy when I care for you,” he said. Her pleading to hand some of the responsibility back to her wasn’t heard.
“I simply love you too much,” he said. “You’ll get used to it and learn to let someone else take the strain.”
She tried to struggle free but the restraints held firm. Her arms, legs and chest strapped tightly to the bed. She began gasping for air but he waited for her to nod that she agreed first. When she finally had he replaced her mask over her mouth and nose carefully then returned to his re-designed exercise bicycle. He was proud of it: a complex series of pipes, tubes and wires going from the back wheel and into a ventilator. He began pedaling and slowly the bag began to inflate and then deflate, filling her lungs with air. Up and down. Up and down as his feet turned the mechanism. “Must keep this going,” he announced jokingly, “I have to work hard for you now!” She murmured something, but he was too content to try to understand her. He put a finger to his lips, smiled, and told her to take it easy.
Daniel Bird was born in the UK. His stories are usually comical, occasionally dark, and always short. He lives in Hong Kong. His first collection of short stories, Sorry Men, will be released in early 2024 by Signal 8 Press. Instagram: @dannotarealbird; Twitter: @dannotarealbird.