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In the end she died of throat cancer. And then it all made sense, for we slept only a feet above her. We heard it when she woke in the night coughing and we heard it when the old man came around, always with a plastic bag tucked high under his arm. At first we laughed when we heard their rutting, and then we endured it. Later, we would only lie there next to each other in silence as it happened.
None of us knew what was really happening. Cancer crawls and stretches out and destroys it all silently. This time it climbed the walls. It soaked into the carpet and contaminated the furniture. It wrapped itself around the fittings, soiled the books and clung like tar to my dresses. It oozed all over your figurines and your collection of vintage football shirts and it turned everything black. At last it got us, and it gorged on our love.
Now her flat smells like disinfectant. Ours still smells like strong black coffee and disease. But I don’t live there anymore.