“Her kidneys joost quit.”
This was what Milo had confided to Clay about a week after Stella was buried.
“That wuz ‘ow me gran passed, back in ’76. It wus shortly befoor Oi met ye mum at CBGB’s. She – me gran, that is – had been copin wid doiabetes fer as long as Oi c’n remembah. She did the best she culd, and oll thee ‘ad back in th’ dee wuz theez piss strips an insulin. And they wuz no internet at the toim. All we rully noo ‘bout it was she cun’t eat sugar, she ‘ad to take insulin, piss on a toiny bit o’blotteh paper, and that wuz glucose management. She absolutely ‘ated gerin three oll that, but they wuz noo choice but tae face oop tae it.
“Oi wull admit, Oi’ve becoom a roight fascist aboot this, especially wid ye moother. Oi’ve naever wonted tae be, an Oi doan blyme ‘er fe getting roight annoyed wid me abayt oll that. Boot Oi doan want fe ‘er tae be oppressed boy this evil daemon, either.
“Ye loidy’s lookey. Eat’s a toim when they’s oll this nae info coomin aet, an she’s been a roight neengae ‘baet keepin that evil daemon at bay as brullientloy as she ‘as. Stull…she’ll need ye nae moor thaen ever, seen she’s nae lost family, loik.
“Poor Stella…Oi’m gern miss ‘er. Treely beautiful gull… Wuz they a woy Oi cut tunn beck toim and moybe sive ‘er froom th’ people ‘oo troid t’sive ‘er froom ‘erself, Oi wudda. But whot’s doon is doon, afee oll. Thee’s nae takin thees loif fe granted, nae th’ friends ye ‘ave.
“Sae…Oi’ve got a pressy for ye, lad.” With this Milo presented a ring with a diamond chip in the center amid several garnet chips imbedded in a 14k gold ring. “Oi think rather than gae bout ransakin’ ye mum’s jewelry stash – nae, we wus on tae ye th’ ole toim, wusn’t we. – better ye shud ‘ave me consent tae give ye this, so’s ye caen give ye Cannes this ring when ye ask tae marry ‘er. It belonged to me Gran.”
Clay could only let the tears fall from his eyes as he gazed at the ring. Then he turned to Milo and embraced him saying, “Thank you…thank you.”
Milo returned the embrace and replied. “Nae worries, mate. None a’toll.”
Candace Yossarian was no Anna Nicole Smith.
No doubt about it; she wished to be married to Clay. She had been praying for this moment during the last couple of years of her life. She even imagined a kind of Addams Family themed ceremony, and wanted to dress up like Morticia. However, Stella – whom she would’ve chosen as the maid of honor – would not even be there, now that she had passed on. And so she was forced to confront overwhelming grief and felt a greater need for some solitude…lots of it in fact.
This concerned Richard; his youngest and now only daughter had always been a kind of convoluted social butterfly despite occasionally coming across as anti-social and belligerent at times. Equally disturbing is the realization that she and Clay – who he had come to regard as a kind of surrogate son even if he already had some pretty cool parents – only got to Stella just in time to watch her have that fatal seizure. God only knows what that can do to a person inside.
“Probably my own expectations getting in the way.” Richard thought to himself. “Why wouldn’t she want nothing more at a time like this than to crumble in his arms and wail till the ears of angels begin to bleed profusely from their own ruptured eardrums…
“And how did I suddenly get so damned poetic, anyway?”
Speaking of Clay, he’d had a heart to heart talk with Milo earlier in the day. Milo had passed his late grandmother’s engagement ring to him, along with strong encouragement to propose to Cannes. He’d wanted to propose to her for some time, but agonized over whether the time was right. There’d been a death in the family after all.
Even so, he made his way to the Yossarian “Mansion” with the intention of testing the emotional waters in the family, and to see whether she’d be up for being engaged to him at a time like this.
On any ordinary day he and Cannes would be shagging like rabbits the minute he entered her room. But this was no ordinary day.
So this is how the conversation went.
“How’re ya feeling, darling?”
“I’m numb…shell-shocked.” Cannes paused and then began. “Baby, have you noticed this feeling lately, that maybe you just don’t want to look at anyone at all?”
“Interesting question. I’ve felt bad that we couldn’t save her.” Clay sighed. “I mean, despite that no one blames anyone here, there’s still this feeling that I could’ve driven a lot faster and maybe we’d’ve gotten to her before anyone else. Is that what you mean?”
“Um…not exactly. It’s more like a feeling of having seen way too much in such a short time, and it’s the worst thing that’s ever been seen in your life,” At this point the tears began running down her face and she’d lost count of how many times that had happened by this time. “And you’re afraid that the people you meet every day would look into your eyes and see the exact same horror that stared us right in our faces that day. And it’s like even more terrifying to think that’s actually possible and you don’t really want for anyone else to see -- much less go -- through that. In fact it would make me sick to my stomach if anyone looked into my eyes and saw how she died right in front of us. I feel like I’d rather gouge my own eyes out than subject anyone to that horror. I wouldn’t ever want for you to look into my eyes and go through all that again, since you were with me when that happened!!”
Clay could only nod his head in complicity. What she just described there went way beyond the woulda/coulda/shoulda feeling that accompanies guilt. It was obscene in its vividness. A knot grew in his stomach. It seemed selfish to propose to Cannes at a time like this, yet he began to panic at the thought of losing the love of his life to some invisible rival who seemed to have a bloodlust for her soul.
“I’m sickened by the thought that I would want us to have time apart from each other,” She added. “I truly am. I love you more than anyone I’ve ever met. And yet I cannot shake this feeling of just wanting to be away from absolutely everyone…just get away from all people until the sight of that death gets bored with haunting me all the time. I’m absolutely sickened by wanting even you to just go away and leave me in peace.”
“Is there anything I can do apart from that?”
“Would it help if I stuck around anyway in case you change your mind? At least a phone call away if not in the same bed?”
“I dunno, Clay. I’d rather not rule that out, I’ll tell you that.”
“I’ll give you as much space as you need to heal yourself on one condition:” Clay said, reaching into his pocket. Seeing this, Cannes raised an eyebrow. He’d brought out the ring Milo had given him. “Will you marry me?”
A new vision filled Cannes’ eyes; a single diamond chip with several garnet chips prostrated on both sides of a thin band of gold. It was a stunning beauty. She didn’t know whether to say “Yes,” or “Look, just hang on to it awhile longer for now and I’ll call you when I’m ready.” Both seemed like inappropriat extremes. So the pragmatic in her stepped in.
“Where did you get this?”
“It was a gift from Milo. It belonged to his late grandmother. He felt…” Tears welled up in Clay’s eyes as he spoke, “that I ought to propose to you with this.”
“Hmmph. After I’d threatened to slash his throat with a pair of scissors to stop him from strangling Teddy at work some time ago.” Cannes said. “That dear sweet stepfather…I don’t know who’s crazier; your family or mine.”
Cannes looked right at Clay and said to him, “You realize it could be awhile before I’m over this bizarre kind of grief, don’t you?”
“I’m not going anywhere, baby.”
She looked at the ring again, smiled slightly, and turned back to Clay to say, “This is all I’ve ever wanted, for us to be together. I don’t expect a normal life or a happily ever after from a marriage, tho. I’ve never considered myself to be any sort of princess. You know me too well. I’m a fierce warrior; I’ve always been among the fiercest in this city. I am to spend the rest of my life battling an invisible dragon that cannot be killed…that maybe at the best can be tamed. I might be damned good at that now, now that I’ve done so several times now. But who’s to say how I will fare within the next few years? I cannot be so naïve about this, I am constantly on guard against this tireless stalker that refuses to take time off and I’m prepared to go down fighting every step of the way. Anybody who would jump into this abyss with me had better expect to be very, very afraid. Are you cool with that?”
“Why wouldn’t I be? I’ve always been in that damned abyss with you; this is it!” Clay replied, looking her dead in the eyes. “You’ve always been my hero, Candace Yossarian. I love you!”
And that was enough to lift the dark cloud that’s been hovering over her head. With that, they embraced and kissed.
Then Cannes said, “Well now, let’s see if it fits, shall we?”