In Margaret and Miraj’s room, a frantic mother fought against unconsciousness with all her strength. How could this be happening? She was only in her forties. She was still far too young to die. She still had so much to do, so much to see and accomplish. Images of Margaret’s entire future played through her head like a theatre production. Watching Morgan get married. Being there to hold her grandchildren and see them grow up. William’s wedding. Teaching the baby she was bringing into the world at this very moment how to walk, talk and use the potty. Growing old with Miraj. I’m not going to be there for any of it, she thought to herself and let out a sob as her body gave another push and the voices swirled around her like debris in a tornado.

She didn’t know what was happening. All she knew was that she was fading away. She could see the darkness creeping in the corners of her vision, threatening to cloud over everything for all eternity. Please, she begged anyone who would listen. Please don’t take me yet. I’m not finished bringing this baby into the world. If you have to take me, fine, but don’t take both of us. Just a little longer… give me a little longer…

“Mr. Charm, I’m sorry. We can’t replenish the blood she’s losing… not without sacrificing the baby. You have to choose. I’m so sorry,” Niagara told Miraj with pained eyes. Miraj looked at his dying wife lying there, her blue eyes wide with fear. He leaned down and kissed her forehead and Margaret felt hot tears fall from his eyes onto her forehead.

“Don’t worry, Sweetheart. You’re going to be okay,” he murmured.

“NO!” Margaret screamed, struggling to sit upright but crying out in pain and sinking back down. “NOT ME! DON’T YOU DARE CHOOSE ME!”

“But how can I let you go? I don’t know how to let you go…” Miraj choked. Margaret looked into his eyes and her heart broke. She wished she could take away his pain, make the heartbreak in his eyes disappear, but she knew she couldn’t. He would have to learn how to let her go, because Margaret couldn’t live knowing it cost her baby’s life. A mother always chooses her children before herself. She was going to sacrifice herself for this child, because that’s what a mother does. Tears streamed down the sides of her face as she held her husband’s hand for the last time.

“Please… let me go. Save our baby… please…” she wept. For a moment, the grief in Miraj’s eyes threatened to swallow everyone in the room, but his jaw tightened and he gave a curt nod to Niagara.

“Save the baby,” he choked out in a strangled whisper as his shoulders shook with grief. Niagara gave a sad nod and told Margaret to give one last big push before a tiny cry could be heard in the room. Margaret’s vision was getting hazy, but she heard a voice saying “It’s a boy,” and she smiled. A boy. She had a baby boy. Her son. Her son, who was going to be okay and grow up healthy and happy, but she still cried because she knew he was going to grow up without a mother. She would never see him graduate or land his first job or fall in love and start a family of his own. She would never see any of her children do that.

“I want… to hold him…” Margaret said in a weak whisper that ended in a sigh. She felt Miraj help her sit up and felt Niagara placing a small bundle in her arms. Even through her sweat and tears and dwindling sight, Margaret knew she was looking at her handsome little boy. Her little fighter. She smiled and leaned down to kiss his forehead. “Johnathon…” she murmured. “His name is Johnathon. What do you think?” she asked Miraj. Miraj said nothing, merely nodded. Margaret didn’t think he could have said anything at that moment without breaking. She blinked back her own grief pricking her eyes and beckoned him to lean in closer to her. “I love you so much,” she whispered to her husband. “You did the right thing. Take care of our family for me.”

“Margaret…” he barely managed to croak out, reaching out to cup her pale cheek in his palm. “I love you… please don’t leave me…” he wept. He leaned in close to her and their lips touched for a long while that seemed far too short to the both of them. He ran his fingers through her delicate brunette strands and savoured her taste on his lips. That familiar scent she had of burning cinnamon and vanilla seeming to wrap him in a final embrace before he forced himself to pull away and take a final look at his beautiful, strong, shining Margaret.

A moan of anguish tore through his lungs when he realized that she had left him. The gravity of all that he had just lost washed over him and drowned him, and Miraj collapsed over the shell of what once had been his wife, sobbing bitterly.