Ethan didn’t feel better in four days; he felt worse. The fever had taken a toll on his body.
He rested in the front passenger seat of the motorhome, refusing to lay down in bed all day while Natalie drove. He wanted to be with her. With the seat reclined, a pillow propped against the window and a blanket wrapped around him like a cocoon, he talked to her a little and slept a lot.
Each evening they rented a hotel room and slept in each other’s arms.
By the time they arrived in Las Vegas, Ethan felt like he was dying of cancer.
From their hotel room, with Natalie’s mom and dad sitting close, Ethan did something he hadn’t planned to do ever again; he called his parents.
They had a video chat with Ethan propped up on pillows against the headboard, and Natalie holding the phone in a way that his parents could see both him and Natalie.
“Your Majesty, and Your Grace, I’d like to introduce the woman I’m going to marry in about three hours. This is Natalie Dolan, soon to be Sayid, if she chooses to take my name.”
“Of course, I will, you silly guy.” Natalie leaned over to kiss Ethan’s cheek. “It’s nice to meet you. Your son is the most amazing man I’ve ever met.”
“Welcome to the family, Natalie.” His dad sounded like he was choking back sobs.
“Ethan, you look terrible.” His mom didn’t try to hide her tears.
“And yet, she still agreed to marry me,” Ethan said, turning his face toward Natalie. “You’d think she’s smarter than that. She has a law degree.”
“Are you nearing the end, my darling?” The second most beautiful woman in the world tried to smile into the camera, her multi-colored eyes, so similar to his own, shone with tears.
“Yeah, Mom, I’m getting close… uh, there are a couple other people I want you to meet. I’m going to hand the phone over to Natalie’s parents. They have already taken very good care of me and are graciously allowing me to sleep with their daughter for the last few days of my life. Isn’t that nice of them? This is Bonnie and Miles Dolan.” Ethan handed the phone to his soon-to-be in-laws. “These are my parents, His Majesty, King Elmer Sayid, and Her Grace, Queen Savanna.”
“We’re honored to meet you, Your Majesty and Your Grace,” Bonnie said with a little wave.
“Please, you’re welcome to call us Eli and Savanna,” the king said. “The honor is ours. Thank you for caring for our son.”
“We love him like a son,” Miles said, choking up. “Tomorrow we plan to fly home on a private jet and he will stay with us…” He didn’t have to finish his sentence for all of them to know what he meant. Ethan would stay with them until the day he died, however many days from now that was.
“Thank you,” Savanna said, sobs escaping. “Thank you, thank you.”
“I’m really glad to meet you,” the king said. “But can I see my son one more time.”
“Yes, of course.” Bonnie handed the phone back to Natalie.
“Your Highness,” his dad said, no longer hiding his emotions. “I’m so proud of you, son.”
“Thanks dad,” Ethan said. “I miss you both, every day.”
“We miss you too. We’re so glad you found a wonderful young lady to hold you in her arms these last few days.”
“She’s really good at holding me in her arms,” Ethan said, turning to Natalie. “I love her so much.”
“I love you too.” Natalie leaned forward and kissed his lips briefly. There would be more time for that in a few hours.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you”—Ethan turned back to his parents— “We drove over to see Princess Miranda and Prince Hayden, and all his brothers and their wives were there along with several beautiful babies, oh and Prince Marcos sends his regards. And did you know Miranda’s pregnant again?” Ethan was winded but in high spirits.
“Oh! That sweetheart, she should have told her mother the minute she found out,” Savanna said. “I’ll have to give her a call.”
“Can I ask a favor?” Ethan didn’t wait for them to answer his rhetorical question. “Don’t tell them about me until it’s over. I’ve said my goodbyes to them, and I don’t think I could handle my sister’s tears right now.”
“We’ll wait,” his dad said.
“And no funeral in America,” Ethan said. “All Natalie’s family will know is that she married a man who lived in Omaha, Nebraska and that he died of cancer. We don’t want anyone to know she was married to a wealthy prince.”
“We’ll bring you home to Madain Saleh for the interment, Your Highness.”
“Thanks, Dad,” Ethan said. “I love you.”
“I love you too, son.”
“Goodbye, my sweet boy,” Savannah said, burying her face in her husband’s chest. Ethan had to look away.
“I love you, Mamma,” Ethan mumbled. “Goodbye.”
Ethan nodded to Natalie and closed his eyes, turning to her as she tapped the screen to end the call. She dropped the phone beside her and held Ethan in her arms as he sobbed and sobbed and finally fell asleep.