The night before Litvinoff died, as the rain pounded on the roof and coursed through the gutters, he'd called out to Rosa. She'd been washing the dishes, and hurried to him. "What is it, darling?" she asked, putting her hand on his forehead. He coughed so hard she thought he was going to spit up blood. When it passed, he said, "There's something I want to tell you." She waited, listening. "I—" he began, but the cough returned, sending him into convulsions. "Shh," Rosa said, covering his lips with her fingers. "Don't speak." Litvinoff took her hand and squeezed it. "I need to," he said, and for once his body complied and was quiet. [...] "I wanted you to love me," he whispered. Rosa looked at him. He seemed to her, just then, like the child they never had. "And I did love you," she said. (12.23)
Here Litvinoff professes his love as an excuse (imagine) for having plagiarized The History of Love—which Rosa knows he did, even though he doesn't know that she knows. With that in mind, how do we take her use of the past tense, saying she did love him? Is she saying that because he's dying, or because she hasn't loved him since she found out the truth about the book?