Mac could see the pain in Janie’s eyes as he sat down across from her. He slid into the bench of the small booth in their favorite grill and took her in. Blood shot, tear stained eyes that longed for peace. She wore a loose plaid button down and the Marilyn Mansion shirt she had stolen from him to cover up the bruises on her arms and the port on her chest. Her hair hung loose around her face. She probably hadn’t even brushed it. He could see her shaking underneath the plaid button down—from pain and exhaustion. She had gotten out of bed to be here early enough to snag a good table and order before the grill closed for the night.
She smiled at him; a warm genuine smile that to most would look sincere—but not Mac. He didn’t need her to him how much pain she was in or how long it had been since she had slept, he already knew. When he had left her the day before she had said she’d be fine, but Mac new she had been lying. He hadn’t been upset for he knew she hadn’t been lying to him, she had been lying to herself. He also knew her roommate had to help her out of the shower this morning and that she probably hadn’t eaten anything since he saw her the day before.
Mac’s heart broke a little more in his chest, as it often did when he saw Janie this way. He wanted nothing more than to absorb her pain even if just for a short time to give her a few moments of relief. But there wasn’t anything he could do; there wasn’t anything any one could do.
Janie’s doctors had stopped looking for a cure and were now focused on pain management. He couldn’t fathom how she made it day to day, but she did. And he loved her for it. Mac had told Janie to stay home, but she hadn’t. She didn’t say why, but Mac knew—she didn’t want to be alone.
Janie would be sitting up in her room all night, fighting back tears of pain, anyways. At least here she could see his cute face and pretend to be normal.
Mac’s food had been waiting for him when he sat, being kept warm by a steaming skillet beneath a wooden plate. Janie had ordered him his favorite dish, a steaming plate of steak fajita’s and a small bowl of pasta for herself. Pasta was her go to comfort food, but she hadn’t touched it. Mac told himself she had been waiting for him, though he knew she probably didn’t feel like eating. She pushed the noodles around with her fork and looked up at Mac’s big brown eyes.
“Tell me about your day,” she pleaded. Distract me.
Mac thought for a moment. “It was pretty boring,” he admitted, and Janie’s eyes fell back to her plate. “But…” Mac continued trying to hide his smile, “I did manage to snag you an advanced copy of Horizon.”
Excitement sparkled in Janie’s eyes. After being diagnosed Janie began working from home. She had grown depressed being cooped within the walls of her apartment so her roommate turned her on to gaming. Janie spent hours tearing through every Play Station and X box game Tiana owned and eventually had run out of things to play. She ventured into his store one day looking for something new—that was how they met. Mac, seeing the exhaustion and pain in her eyes that longed for a new distraction, gave her his favorite Final Fantasy game and his number for when she finished.
A week later Janie returned begging for the next installment, officially addicted—and not just to the game.
Her illness had been hard for Mac to get used to; it was frustrating at first with her cancelling dates or shying away from his touch. It wasn’t until the first time he sat with her in the hospital that he finally understood. He had learned to watch her, know her telltale signs of pain. He had also learned that despite the illness she still strived to go out and do things, because she would be in pain either way. Instead of roller blading around the park, they would have picnics instead. Instead of going out to dinner they would order in and have Netflix Marathons.
Only on good days would they be venturous—like the day Janie insisted they go to the aquarium. Janie didn’t like the ocean, she couldn’t even swim—but just for a moment they both had forgotten about Janie’s illness as they trotted through Denver’s aquarium hand in hand taking selfies with the giant fish and hired mermaids.
It was those good days that helped Mac through Janie’s bad days. Though there had been more bad days lately than good, he remembered Janie’s smile on every small adventure they went on and made it his personal goal to make her smile like that again and again because that was what made him happy.
As Janie smiled at him he ticked today off his mental calendar. Mission accomplished.
“How about we take this to go?” Mac couldn’t wait to see the wonder in her eyes as she saw the game on her 4k compatible screen. He wanted to watch her sit with her eyes closed and take in the music as it moved her soul.
Janie gave Mac a devious smile. Suddenly the pain and exhaustion in her eyes was replaced by a small sense of adventure.
She reached her arm out and stopped the waitress as she passed by. “Can we have the check please?”