Mourning for Levi was six weeks as he had died an infant. I wished it to last longer. I needed desperately to bring attention to the fact that my baby had died. I wanted to hear condolences given. Wearing black gave me permission to cry if I needed to cry with no judgment passed. But unlike mourning for a spouse, to carry this out longer in the end felt disrespectful to other women who had mourned the loss of their own children. So I carried my grief hidden inside. William and I never spoke of it again once I had burned my mourning dresses.
We settled back into our routines with some new modifications.
While William was kind and solicitous, he never came to my bed. We attended social functions together and played our parts well but behind closed doors he seemed distant and closed off. He still told me that he loved me. He still kissed me before leaving for work and before retiring to bed. But there was no passion from him. I wanted to feel he was pursuing me. Instead he was slipping away.
I tried harder and harder to hold on. I found places for us to go, to be together. We attended dinner parties and concerts, operas and balls. I spent quite a bit of money on new wardrobe pieces, updating everything to the latest fashions. I did my best to be charming and flirtatious, to no effect.
A cold November evening, we were sitting in a balcony at the Boston Music Hall, fittingly listening to a performance of Mozart’s Requiem. William had been coughing for months, but it had only been a mild annoyance. This night, however, his cough was loud, persistent, and disruptive.
I leaned over to him and whispered, “William, please! Can you not stop coughing?”
He held up a hand and nodded his head. We settled back as the strains of the Sanctus continued to play. It was not long before the coughing started anew. People were looking up from the seats below us, glaring. I was annoyed. I turned and glared at William. He looked back at me with pained eyes. I nodded my head to the door, indicating he should excuse himself.
William stood and quickly left. Minutes passed. I could hear him in the hallway still coughing, unable to catch his breath. Annoyance changed to concern. I realized something was wrong and rose to assist him. I found him with a uniformed elderly usher with a long bushy mustache and bare chin. He was sipping on a glass of water, his hand shaking. There were large spots of blood on his handkerchief and flecks on his white gloves. He handed the glass to the usher when he saw me and quickly pulled off the gloves, shoving them and the handkerchief back into his coat pocket.
“I am sorry, Evelyn. I am better now. We can go back.” He was hoarse.
“William, we need to go.”
“No. You enjoy this sort of thing so much.”
“No. We must go,” I said firmly. The blood worried me. We needed to leave before the end of the music, before anyone else was able to stop us and ask what was wrong. The pain was there in his face again. The usher looked exceedingly uncomfortable. “Thank you for your help, we are fine now,” I told him. He nodded and gratefully left with the glass of water in hand.
“You stay, I will go home, Evelyn.”
“There is no point in staying if you are not here. It is only Mozart, William.” He started to return to our box. I grew angry. Why won’t he listen to me? “William!” I hissed.
I had to grab his shoulder to make him stay, but I pulled my hand back quickly, alarmed. I had not realized how skeletal he had become. We sat next to each other, but we did not touch. We no longer saw each other naked. It was then that I realized he was terribly ill.
He turned back to me with the intent of arguing further but paused when he saw by my face that I understood.