Tom and Aiden: Thinking of Eternity
This is a short featuring Tom and Aiden from ‘Stained Hearts’.
When I got into the house, the smell of lasagna perfumed the air. My stomach growled, because I loved it when Aiden got creative in the kitchen. I was always the lucky one who benefitted from his ingenuity. I peeked around the corner, but he wasn’t where I figured he’d be.
“Aiden?” I called out.
Silence was my only answer, and that made me nervous. My husband liked to push himself, sometimes way harder than he should, in my opinion. There was a time I would have insisted he stop, but our therapist reminded me, more often than I’d like to admit, that just because a person is disabled, that didn’t make them weak, and they had to be able to make their own choices. I tried to get better, really, but seeing him in pain was always so difficult.
His voice was weak, thready, and my heart slammed into my chest. I hadn’t heard that level of pain from him in months. I hurried to the bedroom and grabbed his pill bottle, then stopped and filled a glass of water. Entering the living room, I found him, head thrown back, arm over his eyes. His lips quivered, and the lower one jutted out slightly.
He nodded, and I could see the shine in his eyes. “This sucks. Olivia and Blake are coming for dinner, and I still haven’t done the salad.”
I put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed gently. “I’ll take care of that. How many pills do you need?”
“Two, please,” he whispered.
He hadn’t needed two since before we got together. “Want to go to the hospital?”
He shook his head. “Just have to rest a few minutes, then I’ll get up and—”
I stroked a hand over his hair. “Aiden, baby. Close your eyes, okay. Let me handle the rest of the dinner.”
He snorted. “I’ve had your cooking. Better if I do it.”
That was my sweetheart. When he was in pain, he tried to mask it with humor. I sat beside him on the couch, and put a hand on his knee. “Okay, how bad is it, and be honest.”
“I… I fell,” he admitted. “I turned too fast, and my legs gave out. Down I went. Fortunately, I wasn’t holding anything at the time.”
It was on the tip of my tongue to ask why he hadn’t called me, but again, I had to trust him to know his body.
“I should have called,” he said, as though he’d read my mind. “It wasn’t easy getting to the couch. Every time I tried to stand, I went down again. It was so damned frustrating.”
Which meant that he pushed himself even harder. Aiden didn’t like anyone to think he was weak. He would do whatever he had to in order to show he was strong and capable. I loved him for that, even while I longed to take care of him. Still, I knew I couldn’t, and had done my best to make peace with it.
“Where will you be buried?” he blurted out.
The shift in conversation threw me. “What?”
He sat up and peered into my eyes. “When you die, where will you be buried?”
I smiled at him. “I don’t plan on dying for a while.”
“No, I know.” He gestured toward his tablet, which sat on the side table. “While I was sitting here, I was watching some TikTok videos, and came across one that broke my heart. Makaleigh Colleen did a song about a husband and wife who planned to be buried next to each other, and how, after she died, the man remarried, and planned to be buried beside his new wife, and how the first wife was alone and lonely.”
“And you cried?”
“Buckets,” he assured me. “Then I thought about us. Where do you plan on being buried?”
“Well, you know that Brian was cremated, and I buried his ashes, right?”
“Yeah, but you still have a place for him. We put flowers on it last year.”
And we had. Aiden wasn’t wrong. It was planned that I would be buried next to Brian. To be honest, I’d never even considered being away from either of my men.
“We had plots next to each other,” I admitted. “I was supposed to be buried next to him.”
“Then you should do that,” Aiden said, his tone strong. “I don’t want to think of Brian being alone and waiting for you.”
We’d sworn to each other that we would wait if one of us went first. I could see how that song would affect Aiden, because even though I hadn’t seen it, now I felt like crying.
“I won’t leave you alone either,” I said adamantly.
“I’ll have Olivia.”
“And if she marries Blake?”
His lips curled downward. “Oh.”
“Let me ask you a question. There is no right or wrong answer here, so don’t think there is, okay?”
“Sure,” he replied, his tone a little loopy. His pills made him sleepy, and I knew he’d be out soon.
“How about if we—you, me, and Brian—all share? You can be buried on my left, Brian on my right.”
A sloppy grin and eyes fluttering shut. “I like that,” he said, his voice filled with sleep. “If it wasn’t for Brian, I wouldn’t be here now. I think… no, I know, I’d like to spend eternity with the man who gave me such happiness.”
I leaned in and kissed him on the forehead. “Then it’s settled. I’ll handle everything tomorrow. Now close your eyes. Do you want me to carry you to the bedroom?”
He shook his head, which was already lolling. “Can’t. Livvy is coming and…and…” His head dropped, and he was out. I went to the bedroom and grabbed a comforter, then came back and helped Aiden to lay down, then covered him up. I went to the kitchen and took the perfectly golden brown lasagna out of the oven and placed it aside to cool, then called Olivia.
“Let me guess. Bad day?”
“Yeah. He needed two pills.”
“I told him I could pick dinner up. He insisted he wanted to make it.” She sighed. “He’s always pushing himself. I get tired just watching him. Okay. Save me some lasagna, and I’ll swing by tomorrow to check on him.”
“Let Blake know how sorry we are.”
She chuckled. “Believe me, with Aiden as a brother, I plan for these things. I’ll take Blake out for a Big Mac, and he’ll be happy.” Her voice softened. “Take care of him, okay?”
“You know I will,” I answered. “Remind me later to tell you what he asked me.”
“Okay. Good night, Tom.”
I put my phone away, and returned to the living room. The pain that I’d seen on Aiden’s face earlier was gone, the tightness around his mouth smoothed out. I bent and kissed his forehead, then sat in the chair to keep an eye on him. Two pills really knocked him out, and I wanted to be there if he needed me.
God, I loved him so.
If you want to see the video that inspired the story: https://www.tiktok.com/@makaleighcolleen/video/7105232136822590766