We all thought Kevin was just milking it when he first went off sick. We knew he didn't like the job much, and just thought he was making a holiday of his supposed illness. We didn't mind; he was one of us, and if anything we only wished that we'd thought of it first.
It was only when he came back, weeks later, that we saw how changed he was. He seemed to have shrunk into himself, all except for his face which was all fat and bloated and seemed grotesque as it sat precariously upon his emaciated frame. His head was the colour, shape and texture of a lump of discarded dough, and the eyes housed therein had lost all of their lustre. He was always bald, so there was no clue there, but still we weren't entirely surprised when we were told he'd been battling cancer.
Apparently his recovery was going well, so me and Stewie arranged for a night out to celebrate his recovery. It didn't go quite as we hoped: he couldn't drink because of his ongoing medication, and was subdued and distracted all night. And when we were at work, you could tell he was struggling: he would become confused sometimes, and got out of breath easily. Reports of his recovery had been greatly exaggerated, and before long he was off again.
The cancer was back, in a big way. People said that his return to work never made any difference, but all that stress and exertion must have taken its toll. I was furious, and thought he should sue for millions, but the closest he got to compensation was a whip round in the office. People dug deep though, and it pulled in over a hundred pounds.
The idea was that we'd buy him department store vouchers, so he could buy a load of DVDs to watch while he got better. But Stewie had been out to visit him, and told me that he wasn't sure that Kevin would get better this time, and he didn't think DVDs were a good enough final gift to our old friend.
I asked myself what I'd want if I was on the way out, and it sure as hell wasn't DVDs; I'd want to get laid one last time. I was sure Kevin would feel the same way; he'd been even more interested in cherchez la femme than me and Stewie before he got sick. So the two of us volunteered to go out and buy the ‘vouchers’, and decided instead to spend the money on something we thought Kevin would enjoy more – a house call from a nice young lady.
Neither me nor Stewie wanted to go trawling the red light districts, but he had the added excuse of being married, and feared the possibility of his getting spotted there and it being taken the wrong way. Thus, it fell to me to go and recruit the young lady in question.
I couldn't remember what Kevin's type was. It was simply the nearest woman if some of his anecdotes were to be believed, but someone at work said his ex-wife was tall and blonde. I wasn't sure if a woman resembling his ex was a good or bad idea, so I decided to go for one I myself liked the look of. The first I approached looked like she could have been a glamour model, and priced herself accordingly. We could have got her for an hour, but this was Kevin's treat and I didn't want to rush him; I wanted her to stay with him all night. So I tried not only to haggle, but also to appeal to her caring side, explaining that my friend was dying and I wanted to give him one last treat.
Well, it turned out that the thought of having sex with a dying man didn't turn her on at all, and at that point she gave up on me and walked away to try and attract a healthier specimen. I decided not to mention the whole terminal cancer thing to the next one, a fresh faced young girl named Emily, slender and pleasant looking with shoulder length dark hair and a tiny pink mini skirt. I offered her the money, telling her merely that it was for my friend, and she agreed to accompany me to Kevin's flat.
Kevin wasn't expecting us, but given his condition I thought it was a safe bet that he'd be at home. He invited us in, and I introduced Emily as my cousin. I knew that even through all the painkillers, Kevin wasn't naive enough to believe that, but he went along with the pretence, even when I got a really obvious 'unexpected' call from Stewie and had to depart suddenly and leave Emily there.
I stopped outside his front door and waited there in the corridor, on hand in case there was some sort of a problem. I wasn't going to stay there all night, but maybe an hour or two. If they got through that long okay, then not much could go wrong after that. I cupped my ear to the door at first to hear what was going on, but that soon felt inappropriate and intrusive so I sat down propped against the opposite wall and watched the door from there.
Emily came back out after less than an hour. Like a true, stoic professional she refrained from crying until the door was closed behind her, but as soon as it was she collapsed into my arms, sobbing hysterically.
"Are you okay?" I asked, "What happened?"
"You bastard!" sniffed Emily, "Why didn't you tell me he was sick?"
"Sorry, I, er... hoped maybe you wouldn't notice."
"Not notice! Are you taking the piss? I'm just glad he didn't die in my arms. Oh, he seems so nice, too. It's so sad..."
She started to cry again, so I wrapped her in my comforting embrace, trying to find the right moment to ask the important question. Finally, I got to the point: "Did you get the job done?"
"We did stuff, and he said he liked it. But he couldn't get it up no matter what I did, so I gave him a massage and a cuddle, and I guess he's all weakened by the chemo or something, because he fell asleep. So here I am; I've been paid for the whole night and your friend doesn't need me anymore."
We were still cuddled in together, and I suddenly became very aware of Emily's fine body pressed so tightly against me. She sounded more than willing and I liked her a lot, but getting myself laid with Kevin's collection would have been so wrong that I could never forgive myself. I thanked her for her time, then gave her a peck on the cheek and her taxi fare home. I chose to walk instead, through the city streets lined with pissed up partygoers. I found myself surrounded by hundreds of people but feeling lonelier than I ever had before.
Kevin never thanked me for sending Emily to him. In fairness, he never had much time to: he died two weeks later. Me and Stewie had a few beers together to see him off, and that was the last time we went out together, even though it's been six months since then. We're still friends and all, we have a laugh and a joke at work, but it all feels false now, not natural like it used to.
I still see Emily; we get together once a week. I like to see us as boyfriend and girlfriend, but I still pay her for her time and let her carry on with her other men, because she needs the money more than I do and I don't want to put the pressure of exclusivity on our relationship. Sometimes we don't even have sex; in fact most of the time we don't. Usually we just sit on my sofa to watch old films, and we cuddle in close if they make us too sad. What we have is special, but I feel guilty sometimes because if it wasn't for Kevin dying, we'd never have met. I think Emily feels guilty too, and that's why she always leaves the minute her time is up, no matter how much I beg her to stay.