Chester had been married for thirteen years. His wife, Christine, was a successful lawyer at a law firm. He was a stay-at-home dad, who poured every ounce of energy he had into being a good father for their two children, Zach and Cherise, ages twelve and ten.
Chester loved his wife, but he loved his children even more. He would never tell Christine that, of course, because he did love here. There was just something special between him and the kids, something about seeing the reflection of himself and his parents and Chrstine and her parents in their faces which brought a warmth to his heart he’d never known before in life.
Zach had just started high school. He’d been in band for the last three years, but he’d decided to be in choir his freshman year in high school instead. He loved music, in all forms, but he loved singing the most. Chester had been to every one of Zach’s band concerts, and he had planned to go to all of his choir concerts, too.
Cherise, unlike her brother, had absolutely no interest in music. Like Zach, Chester made sure she had piano lessons at a young age, to help her brain develop in ways it wouldn’t otherwise. She hadn’t resisited, but it hadn’t really engaged her, either. Cherise liked to play soccer, more than anything, so Chester had made sure she got involved in youth leagues and played to her heart’s content.
They were happy together, the four of them. Christine was always busy with work, but not so much that she let herself forget about her family. Even on nights she had to work late, Chester had a dinner ready for her, and they sat together and ate while she put work aside for at least an hour. Christine made it to almost all of Zach’s concerts and Cherise’s games, even when it meant she would have to work hard afterwards to catch up on the time she’d lost preparing for her next case.
Then Chester woke up one day in a hospital bed, disoriented and groggy. He felt tired, like he’d hardly slept, and then been awoken at the wrong part of his sleep cycle. The sheets were rough. He struggled to move his fingers, and could barely lift his arms. There were tubes inserted into his arms and his nostrils. Fighting panic, he pressed the call button.
The nurse came in, surprise plain on her face. She gasped when he met her eyes, and her hand flew to her chest. A doctor came shortly thereafter and, within twenty minutes, a man arrived. A blond, bearded man wearing a wedding ring, who fell to his knees at Chester’s bedside and wept.
His name was Chris. He was, by all accounts, Chester’s husband. Chester, so Chris and the doctors agreed, had been in a coma for the last thirteen weeks, following an injury to his head. Chris had insisted he be kept on life support, despite the doctor’s claims that Chester would never recover. They were wrong.
Over the next several months, Chris helped Chester recover from his time spend in the hospital bed. He drove Chester to his physical therapy. He prepared his meals and told him about his life before the coma, which the doctors said might help Chester remember. He played games with him that were supposed to stimulate Chester’s mental activity. He cared for Chester. He loved him.
Chester was thankful to Chris, for all his help, but he couldn’t love him, no matter how many people agreed that he once had. In fact, he resented him for replacing Christine, even though it was now clear that Christine may never have been real. It wasn’t that Chris was unattractive, or that Chester didn’t find him appealing. He just wasn’t the woman Chester believed he had married thirteen years ago.
And his children. His children were gone. He spent many nights, weeping silently and unwilling to awaken Chris, mourning the loss of Zach and Cherise. He would never see Cherise play soccer again, or listen to Zach’s wonderful, pure voice. He would never look into their eyes and see something like his own. He would never hear their laughs again. In truth, he never had.
A year after awakening, Chester apologized to Chris, and left. He knew he would never find the life he’d dreamed, but he knew, too, that Chris would never regain the life he had lost. It was better for both of them to find new lives entirely.