Taking a deep breath, I listened to my husband Dave's wheelchair click as a nurse pushed him down the corridor towards me.
The moment I saw his goofy smile, a wave of guilt came over me.
"Hey darl," I said, reaching for his hand tenderly.
Still smiling, Dave looked at me before noticing a bird out of the window.
He watched it intently, like he was in another world.
The nurse wandered off to make himself a cuppa while I chatted to him.
Dave and I first met 22 years ago. He was my older brother, Tom's friend and often came over for dinner.
The moment I saw him at 16 years old, I was smitten.
He had dark curly hair and thin metal glasses that framed his hazel eyes.
He always sat across the dinner table from me and I'd sneak glances at him whenever I could.
Unlike Tom's other friends, Dave, 19, was chatty.
Each time he'd ask me a question, I'd blush a bright crimson.He had impeccable manners that most boys his age lacked, which made Mum and Dad love him like one of their own.
"He's a good bloke," Dad said approvingly.
He never said that about Tom's other mates.
Over the next few years, we became close friends and eventually, I stopped blushing when we were together.
He was always dating a bunch of different girls, and I saw boys my own age, but I couldn't help but keep a little space in my heart open for Dave.
One day, I arrived home from my part-time job to find the house in complete darkness.
"Hello?" I called, opening the door cautiously.
Suddenly, a crowd of people jumped out throwing colourful streamers and balloons.
"Surprise!" they chanted.
They'd thrown me a 21st party.
At the front of the crowd were Tom and Dave, grinning from ear to ear.
I couldn't believe they'd done this for me! I raced to change in to some party clothes.
As I was fixing my hair, I heard a knock on the door.
"Come in," I called. My heart leapt when I saw it was Dave with a mimosa in hand.
"Happy 21st, Beth," he said softly, "I have another surprise for you. Close your eyes."
My pulse raced as I followed his instruction. Before I knew it, his lips were on mine.
Shocked, I pulled back.
"I'm s-sorry," stuttered Dave, ruffling his hair nervously and walking towards the door, "I, err, just thought maybe you felt the same way."
"Wait," I called, grabbing his arm, "I do."
Dave pulled me in for another kiss.
From that night, we were inseparable.
We dated for three years before getting married. Shortly after, I fell pregnant with our first child.
"Hey there, buggalugs," Dave would whisper, rubbing my bump lovingly. Somehow, every time he did, the baby kicked.
I gave birth to a boy we named Blake.
Dave was an amazing dad.
He worked in construction and always got home in time to cook dinner and play with the bub while I put my feet up.
When Blake was four, we fell pregnant again and were excited to expand our little family.
Then, one day, I received a phone call.
"There's been an accident. We need you to come down to the hospital straightaway," said a stern voice.
My mind was a blur as I dropped Blake off at Mum and Dad's and rushed to the emergency ward.
A nurse quickly ushered me into a waiting room, and a doctor joined me minutes later.
"I'm so sorry, Beth," she began, "David's been in a serious car accident. We've put him in an induced coma while the swelling on his brain goes down."
The world collapsed around me.
"What are his chances?" I asked shakily.
"If he survives this, he'll have irreversible brain damage. It's unlikely he'll ever be the same."
I couldn't believe it.
The love of my life, the man I married, had been ripped from me in an instant.
Dave was in a coma for a month before he came to.
When he woke, he was just a shell of himself – confused, unable to speak and with very little control of his body.
For the first few months after the accident, I tried my best to be by his side, but without Dave's income, and a bub on the way, I had to get a job to support us.
After I gave birth to our daughter, Josie, it became clear that Dave wasn't going to improve.
My handsome, caring husband was now completely dependent and needed 24-hour care.
With a newborn baby and six-year-old son, I couldn't provide for our family, raise the kids and care for my husband.
It was impossible."I'll have to put him in a home," I wept to my friend Caitlin, over a rare glass of wine. "I just feel so guilty."
Thankfully, Dave was in good hands with his nurse, Curtis. I'd watch as he cared for Dave gently, and speak to him like an equal.
Over time, Curtis and I became friends, and I often leaned on him for support.
Every visit I waited for Curtis to leave before I updated Dave on the kids and chatted with him about my week.
He muttered a word here or there but I wasn't sure what he understood.
One day, Curtis pulled me aside.
"Physically, Dave's here," he explained. "But you need to remember that the man you love is gone. He can't give you what you need."
Nervously, he took my hand. Surprised, I looked up at him, his blue eyes staring into mine.
He picked up my phone from the seat, punching in his number.
"If you ever need anything…" he said before leaving.
That night, I stared at Curtis' number. I didn't know what to do.
I still loved my husband, but now it was more like how I loved my brother, without any romantic feelings.
After years of being celibate, I craved intimacy.
Next day, I caved. After the kids had gone to bed, Curtis came over and we shared a night of passion.
Afterwards, he held me close as I sobbed into his arms, riddled with guilt.
"It's okay," Curtis whispered. "You deserve a life too."
I nodded sadly.
After that, we started seeing each other regularly. He was just as caring with the kids as he was with Dave.
Before I knew it, we'd been dating for two years.
"I'd love to marry you one day," Curtis often says.
But it's complicated.
I can't bring myself to tell Dave that I'm in a relationship with another man.
Although doctors don't know how much he understands, deep down I know this would crush him.
I suppose I'm just lucky to have found someone who cares about my husband as much as I do.
For now, this secret love will have to do.