Nov 24, 2015

Heart to Heart (A MaiChard inspired fan fiction)



What will you do if you lose the love of your life?

Will you choose to forget or choose to love memories instead?

Their hearts were destined for each other. 

But does he love her for who she really is or for the things that she makes him remember?

After all,when you remember you don't really forget.

Apr 25, 2013

When the Fireworks Begin (Chapter XXX)


A few hours before midnight, and finally the tears stopped coming.  James cannot exactly say when the tears stopped rolling. He didn’t even notice the darkening shadows, the more frequent booming sounds, the night sky slowly becoming ablaze. 

The video camera which has stopped playing hours ago, remain lying on the grass.  James was resting his head on top of his knees, fiddling with his wedding ring. 

He remembered.

We always go so well together, Devon commented. She was lying on her back, buried on the thin blankets, cradled in James’ arms.  James pulled her naked body towards his.

Just like mangga and bagoong, James added.

Couldn’t you think of anything else, Devon laughed.

Okay. Like tuyo and champorado, James said, nuzzling his head in Devon’s hair, inhaling its fragrance.

What, Devon exclaimed, smacking his thigh.

Ouch, James reacted. Why don’t you think of one then.

Like salted eggs and tomatoes, Devon started.

Okay. Sounds good, what else, James asked.

Hmmm. I guess puto and dinuguan, Devon answered.

James started to kiss Devon’s neck, the sensitive spot behind her ear.

What about suman and tsokolate or coffee, Devon interrupted. 

All this talk about food is making me hungry, James answered. His lips became busy in planting soft kisses in Devon’s face and neck.

Are you hungry, Devon asked, her eyes fluttering because of the sensations her husband was giving her.

I am hungry for something else, James mumbled before claiming Devon’s lips.

You naughty man, Devon countered before fully kissing James back.

They chuckled and succumbed to their passion under their sheets.

James closed his eyes hoping that it will be enough to keep the memories away.  He heard a car pulling over, he looked behind him and saw Sam’s car.

Sam quietly sat beside him. The minutes passed, the gaps between the fireworks shooting up in the sky becoming shorter.  Perhaps, it was almost midnight. 

“Are you still staying here,” Sam asked, glancing at James.

James shook his head. 

“No,” James quietly answered.  “I know she’ll never come back.”

Sam patted James’ back.

“How can I...” James voice trailed, thinking of how he will survive the forthcoming days without her.

“One step at a time,” Sam encouraged. 

James looked at Sam and gave him a small smile.

“Thanks,” James said.

Sam did not reply, instead he remained seated besides James for a few more minutes. 

“I can give you a ride home,” Same offered.

“You go ahead, I want to watch the fireworks for a while,” James answered.

Sam patted James again.  He gave his best friend a sad look, before pulling him for a hug. After Sam left, James continued sitting and reminiscing.

What the hell are you doing, James shouted on top of his lungs.

Devon was dancing to the loud music while taking the soapy laundry out of the washing machine.

Doing laundry, Devon shouted back.

Are you deaf, James shouted again, he walked towards the blaring radio to turn it down but Devon pulled him towards her.

Let’s dance, Devon giggled.

And they danced in the middle of their dirty laundry, water basins, and soap suds. 

James memories were interrupted by a loud bang.  A shower of red and green lights occupied the entire sky.  It was followed by another shower of golden and silver stars.  The city started to shake with the loud screams, hoots of the horn, steel water basins hitting the floor.  The entire city was celebrating.

James sat on his spot and watched the sky turned into a beautiful battlefield of colors and lights.  After several minutes, the noise started to turn down, the fireworks started to get fewer, the sky slowly reverting to its blackness. The midnight has passed.

James stood up and took a deep breath.  He shoved his hands into his pockets and walked away from the spot where he has been waiting for the last few days. He started to walk towards his car which was parked a little further down the road.  He was such in a hurry the last time, afraid that he would miss her coming, that he just parked it on the sidewalk.

As he slowly walks away from his waiting spot, he heard a loud bang.  He turned around and saw a purple shower, followed by dancing red lights.  The swirling lights continued to shoot up in the sky, one after the other.  It glued him on his spot. 

If Devon would just be able to see this tonight, she would be over the moon.

If only...

As if the universe has understood his deepest desire, a shimmering light spiralled upwards before it exploded into a blue shower with streaks of silver.  It was followed by another, then another, and then another.

It was Devon’s favourite color.  It was the most apt goodbye he could ever say to her.   He stared at the sky, hoping that Devon was able to see it.  Amongst the clouds, she has the best seat.

Oblivious to his surroundings, James did not notice another pair of flickering lights. 

****

There are people who have to work even in holidays.  A delivery truck, full of food items was passing down the road they have frequently passed.  They have passed it so many times, that the driver already knew the curves and bumps like the back of his hand.

“This is so bad,” said the driver.  “It’s New Year, and I am stuck here.”

He expected someone to answer, but nobody answered.  He looked at his buddy and saw his workmate already dead to the world.

“Sonofa...” he muttered.  His workmate was able to sleep and yet he was still driving.

He was startled by the blast of fireworks.  He looked out of his window and saw the fireworks display starting in the city below him. 

He was tired. He has been driving nonstop for three consecutive days.  The boom and loud noise isn’t helping in keeping his eyes open.  In a curve earlier, he has found himself closing his eyes a bit.  It is dangerous, he thought of resting for a bit once he found a wide flat area. 

They are going downhill and another curve was coming.  He eased on his gas and tried to push his brakes.  He mentally noted to have his truck’s brakes tested. Lately, he noticed that he has to step on the brakes three times before the truck would actually stop.

The driver was really becoming tired.  His eyes were becoming heavier, and then for a brief second, his eyes closed. 

A loud bang quickly shook him up.  And then he saw it, he was already off the road and swerving to the side instead.  He thought he saw somebody ahead, but it was useless.  Everything was happening fast.

He tried to hit his brakes.

One.  Not enough.

Two. One more.

But it was too late.

****

James watched the fireworks nearing its end.  He was about to go to his car when he finally noticed the lights. It was coming fast. 

Was it a car? Was it a truck?  Or was it just his imagination?

The next thing he knew he was flying.  Something has hit him and it has sent him on air.  He heard a loud thud. 

Something hit the ground. Was it him? James has no idea.

He felt nothing, he felt numb. They say that when accidents happen, you feel pain.  But all that he feels was numbness.

Sir, oh my god, he heard men voices.  There was shouting.  He cannot understand what they were saying.

Shit, he heard more cursing.

He was lying on the grass, the darkness made it difficult to see the blood seeping through it.  James tried to move, he wanted to stand up. But he can’t.  And then he felt a sharp pain in his head, it felt worse than a headache.

James was lying face-up, with the sky in his complete view.  He thought he saw another pair of lights streaking into the dark midnight sky. 

And then he remembered. 

They were lying on Devon’s hospital bed.  It was before Devon’s surgery for her trache. 

James has managed to inch himself beside Devon, despite all the wires and tubes attached to her.

“I love you,” Devon whispered.

“And I love you too,” James answered.

“Will you love me forever?” Devon asked.

“Technically, I can’t promise you forever. Nobody lives forever,” James joked.

“Stop being a smart-ass,” Devon mumbled, but she was smiling. 

“Will you love me for the rest of my life?” Devon asked again.

James leaned forward and whispered against her lips. 

“I will love you for the rest of mine,” James lovingly whispered before kissing her softly.

The two streaks of lights erupted like cascading stars. A small star seems to be falling towards James.  It came nearer and nearer. 

They look familiar, James thought. 

As the lights come closer, he saw a familiar face. James smiled.  He was finally at peace. 

The blinding brightness was the last thing James saw before he closed his eyes.



END

When The Fireworks Begin (Chapter XXIX)


The morning sun greeted the city warmly.  James, who was still tucked under the tree, is slowly drinking a warm cup of taho he bought from a peddler passing by earlier.  He can’t remember the last time he ate.  He forced himself to buy a small cup hoping that it will be enough to sustain him for the entire day. 

He did not move out of the shade of the tree.  As the hours passed and as the shadows became shorter, he remained there.  By noon, the cold wind meeting the hot sun was enough to keep him comfortable under the tree. But his palms are now clammy and cold.  The hunger and lack of sleep is catching up with him.

He decided to sleep a little, leaning against the tree.  He closed his eyes and dreamt.

He was still sitting on the hill and the sun was setting down fast.  He was concentrating on waiting so much that he failed to notice a shadow approaching him slowly. The cold touch on his shoulder scared the life out of him.  He turned around so fast that he fell forward.

He was shocked when he saw her.  She was wearing her favourite blue t-shirt and faded jeans.  Her hair was pulled behind her head in a loose ponytail, allowing him to see her face completely. Her face was scrubbed free of make-up, like what she wants, but has that fresh and healthy radiance. There were no dark circles under her eyes, her cheeks no longer hollow.  She even gained weight.

“What took you so long,” it was the first words he said.  He was angry. “I was waiting here for days!”

She smiled.

“Everyone told me that you’re gone,” James accused her.

She continued to smile, although it was a sad smile.

“And now you’re smiling? You think that this is funny?” James’s voice starting to rise. 

“I know you’re scared,” Devon said calmly, taking a step towards him.  “Believe me, I was scared too.”

“You’re dead,” James softly admitted.

Devon took another step. “I know,” she sadly whispered.

“You are dead. You left me. You left me!” James shouted.

Devon took a step forward, and James took a step back.

“You promised me that we will be in this together, but you freaking left me!” James shouted angrily. 

“You know that this will happen,” Devon answered, taking another step and catching James’ hand.

“I can’t lose you,” James pleaded.

“You won’t,” Devon answered. She touched James’ chest, just on top of his heart.  “I will always be here.”

James held Devon’s hand and tears started to fall.  He cried. Devon took him in her arms and kissed his cheek before kissing his lips.

James slowly opened his eyes. A tear started to fall.  He tried to run away from the truth.  But now, regardless of how many miles he tried to run, the truth will wait for him in the finish line.

The sun was now slowly taking refuge behind the mountain peaks.  Once in a while, a small sliver of light will fly across the slowly darkening sky. Once in a while, a small boom will shatter the afternoon.

He was now sitting on one of the benches, quietly observing the slowly mounting excitement and activity in the city below him. 

In a few minutes, the sun will be completely hidden. In a few hours, the night sky will be ablaze. 

“She’s not coming, James,” a soft voice said behind him.

There’s no need for him to turn around to know who was speaking. After all, he has heard that voice all his life. 

A few minutes has passed, a distant boom of the canon shattered their silence. 

“James,” he heard it again.

“Please, Dad. Don’t tell me she won’t be coming,” his voice pleading. 

He has been holding on the last few strands of belief that she will come back tonight.  His nightmare was now becoming a reality.

“The fireworks begin tonight,” he reasoned, his voice quivering.  “She promised she will be back before fireworks.”

“She isn’t James,” his father once again told him.  He walked towards him and placed a camcorder on James’ lap. “She left this for you.”

James looked at the camcorder.

“We will wait for you at home,” his father stated before leaving.

His father has long left but still James was unable to open the video camera.  He took a deep breath and pushed the ON button. 

Devon’s image came into view.  He hit play and Devon’s smile started to appear on the screen.

“Is it on now,” Devon’s image asked the screen. 

A quiet yes was heard through the background. 

She was sitting on her bed in their apartment, wearing a pink shirt, her lower body covered by a blanket. 

“Hi James,” she started.  “I had this idea to make a video message for you, since Myla, my dear speech therapist, suggested that I start recording messages today.  So, why not record a video for you, baby!”

Devon’s placed a big smile and called Myla.

“Myla, show yourself,” Devon called.  Myla appeared and waved before disappearing again behind the camera.

“Okay,” Devon continued.  “Today is just two days after purchasing the speech machine, which is very awesome.  I just want to say that I loooooove you! And I think I just heard the gate closing, that’s probably you, so I will have to say goodbye and continue this tomorrow.”

The screen turned black briefly before opening to another scene. Now, Devon was wearing a big yellow shirt, still on her bed.   

“I am bit tired today so this won’t take that long,” Devon started. “I just remembered that day you drove to the park to meet me and asked me out on a date for the first time.  You were really sick that day but you still drove more than half an hour to see me.  And now, you’re taking care of me.  I feel somewhat guilty. It seems that you’re always making sacrifices for me.  I hope that someday, I will be able to make you happy as you made me happy.”

Coughs racked Devon’s body.  “I’m going to rest now, baby. Bye!”  The camera was able to catch Myla hooking Devon with the BiPap machine, before she approached it and eventually turned it off.

When the image came back, Devon was sitting upright on her bed, supported by her pillows.  She looked paler, the circles under her eyes were darker, her breathing shallow, she appeared more tired.

“I came prepared today, baby,” Devon slowly started, every word punctuated with a gasp of air. 

“Today, I made a list, rather I asked Myla to write a list of things I want to say to you so I won’t miss a thing,” Devon continued.  Her speech therapist was silently sitting beside her, holding a notebook with scribbles on it.  

“I know that we both feel that anytime it’s going to happen,” Devon said.  “We both know what it is. Everyday I feel a little bit weaker than the day before, I feel a little more tired, everything a little more painful.  Those little things make big things. So when that thing happens, I want you to remember these wishes I am going to ask from you.”

She looked at Myla and her therapist murmured something.

“I want you to start jogging again,” Devon began.  “Every morning, before sunrise, go out of the house and jog.  It will make you healthy, and it help you appreciate things that we often missed appreciating.”

“Dance more. I know you’re a great dancer and I haven’t seen you shake that hip and booty for a while,” Devon grinned sheepishly before becoming serious again.  “Play the music loud, baby, and dance. Lose yourself to the music.  ‘Cause when you lose yourself in dance, it’s more likely that you’ll find yourself again.”

Devon took a short break.  Myla offered her BiPap, but Devon shook her head.

“I wish that you will go back to making music,” Devon continued. “I know you love it and I wished that you did not stop strumming your guitar and singing.  Music will help you sort out your emotions. Sing about something that you want to remember.  Write about the things you love.  Sing about us.”

“Since we’re already at it,” Devon slowly started.  “I wish for you continue doing the things you love.  Things you have forgotten doing or you just simply stopped doing.  Follow you dreams sweetheart.”

Devon’s voice cracked a little. She leaned against the pillows and whispered “stop.”  The camera went black and immediately Devon’s face appeared again. 

“Sorry, baby,” Devon apologized.  “I had to stop recording the other day.  One of those damn attacks, I am not getting younger, you see.”

James noticed that this time Devon looked utterly sick.

“And recording my message has been extremely difficult, since you won’t leave my side. Where are we?” Devon asked. 

She briefly smiled before she continued.

“Now, about your dreams, I know that most of them were put on hold because of what’s going on in our lives right now. I know you want to start directing your own music videos, why don’t you go for it. I know you really want to write a book, why don’t you start doing it,” Devon encouraged. 

“James, I don’t have time but you do. And I want you to live your life,” Devon’s voice cracked a bit, because of the emotions.  “I have lived mine because of you.  You helped me get through things I would never have imagined getting through. I am forever grateful that I had you in my life.  Everyday, I thanked God for my wonderful family and friends.  Everyday, I thanked Him because I had you as my soulmate.”

James’ sight is now becoming blurry.

“The remaining days of my life were the best,” Devon continued.  “Not because I fulfilled the things that I wanted to do, but because I was with you.”

James was unable to continue watching the video.  His hands dropped the camcorder and he cried.  Tears were not even enough to show his grief.

When the Fireworks Begin (Chapter XXVIII)


Three days.        

Three days have passed and James still sits on the same spot on the hill. The only time he would go home was to take a bath and change his clothes.

Every dawn, before the sun rises, he will drive back to their apartment.  After taking a quick and changing his clothes, he’ll grab whatever it was on the kitchen table or in his refrigerator and take it with him.   He would be back at the hill before the sun emerges from the mountain peaks.

One thing is certain, James doesn’t want Devon to see him in his worst.  He wants to be in his best appearance every morning, as he patiently waits in the hill. But by the time dusk settles in, he would look distraught, crumpled and tired.  By night time, he already looked defeated. Defeated but still in denial.

She will come back,  he would often assure himself. 

And then after a quick sleep, he will wake up at dawn and go home to take a bath again. Trying to look his best for someone who won’t be coming.

****

It was the last night of the wake in the local memorial chapel.  The room is overflowing with people, funeral bouquets almost covered the entire room walls, the flowers’ scent overpowering.  Over sad murmurs and whispers, a faint sob will be heard, a soft mournful wail which will eventually fade into huddled silence. 

The mass has just finished with tons of family, relatives, friends, colleagues, and workmates attending.  People have been constantly approaching Aling Linda, Mang Tony, and the rest of the family, expressing their condolences, sharing their grief, offering prayers and support. 

The Rocafort family was there, as well.  They haven’t missed a single night.  They were even there during the days. Aling Linda and Mang Tony were grateful for their help.  Malcolm and Jacqueline, efficient as ever, coordinated with the sisters regarding the family wake.  They have tried to make-up for the fact that James refused to in his wife’s wake.

The stream of people approaching the family has finally thinned.  But the memorial chapel remained thick with grievers. 

In the front pew, Mrs. Rocafort was gently holding the tear-stricken Aling Linda. 

“Is he coming tonight, ” Aling Linda asked.

Mrs. Rocafort sadly shook her head.  “All of us tried to talk to him.  But he refused to believe that Devon has already...” she struggled to finish the last of her sentence.

Aling Linda squeezed her hand.

“It’s hard for him,” Aling Linda sadly explained.  “My daughter is really fortunate to have somebody like James.”

“It is my son who should be grateful,” Mrs. Rocafort disagreed.  “Your daughter has managed to change my son and our family for the better.” 

Both of them looked at each other, grateful for each other’s presence.

 In the back of the chapel, Mr. Rocafort was drinking coffee from a paper cup. 

“How is he,” Mang Tony asked, approaching Mr. Rocafort.

“Still the same.  He refuses to leave that hill,” Mr. Rocafort sadly stated, shaking his head. 

“He has to face the truth,” Mang Tony answered.

“I know,” Mr. Rocafort agreed.  “But he rejects everything that other people say. He keeps on saying that Devon will come back.”

“Do you think he will be attending the funeral tomorrow?”

‘I am not sure,”  Mr. Rocafort sighed.  He looked around the room. 

It was almost midnight, but the seats were still fully occupied. There are still people arriving, ready to stay awake until morning. Many would be spending the night at the chapel, spending the last hours with Devon.  Tomorrow, they will be saying goodbye to her. 

But James was still on the top of the hill, overlooking the city, trying to push the thought of Devon’s impending funeral. 

****

On the fourth day, James did not leave at all.

It was almost early afternoon and sleep is trying to conquer James. He did not go home this morning to change clothes. He fears that if he leaves now, she may pass by and he would miss her.

He was quietly seated under a tree, fireflies quietly fleeting by. 

James immediately looked around at the sound of cracking leaves and branches.

She finally came back, he thought excitedly.

But his excitement was ruined when he saw Sam striding towards him.

“You selfish sonofabitch,” Sam angrily muttered.  He was approaching him fast and suddenly lunged a punch. It landed squarely on James jaw. James fell down on the grass.

James struggled to stand up, his legs remained uncooperative. He was just too tired to defend himself. Sam picked him up through his shirt collar.

“All you care about is yourself, you asshole,” Sam said, shaking James’ shirt.  “It’s your wife’s funeral today and all you do sit here, pitying yourself. Why can’t you just be there for her.”

James did not answer Sam’s question. Sam angrily pushed him away. 

“You’re a coward. You can’t even say a decent goodbye at her,” Sam accused. 

Still James refused to answer, slowly standing up.  Sam pointed a finger at him.

“And you have the guts to call her your wife?”

James stood up angrily and quickly walked towards Sam. This time is was James who pushed Sam.

“Because that was not my wife!” James shouted.  “My wife is not dead!”

“She is!” Sam shouted back.

James immediately shot after Sam and pinned him to the tree, holding Sam’s shirt.

“That was not my wife!” James angrily shouted, again. “My wife is not dead!” James repeated.

Sam looked at James’ angry, tired, and stricken face. 

“She is, James,” Sam sadly stated. “She’s gone.”

James leaned over the tree, his forehead against the trunk, dropping on his knees. “She is not dead,” his voice breaking into sobs.

Sam was also leaning against the tree. His tears were also starting to flow.  Moments passed, James sobs had stopped but he was still kneeling against the tree, perhaps borrowing its strength. Sam’s tears were on finally held back, he was sitting besides James.

“You had time with her,” Sam said quietly to his friend.

“It was not enough,” James sadly answered. 

“Sometimes,” Sam sadly whispered, he felt a spasm of pain on his chest.  He closed his eyes and swallowed hard.  “We have to make do with what we have.”

James did not answer.  Sam gave his friend at look of pity. His heart was breaking for the loss of the woman he loves, and for his bestfriend’s grief and denial. 

“Devon’s dead, James. And you have to accept that,” Sam stated forcefully, before standing up and leaving James to deal with the hard truth. “You’re not the only one who lost her. We love her and we lost her, too.”

When The Fireworks Begin (Chapter XXVII)


James rested his head on Devon’s hand.  Devon was lying on the ICU bed, her face covered with a mask.  For James, it seems that all known medical equipment to man is attached to Devon’s fragile body.  The only part of her free from tubes and needles was the right hand and James has attached himself to it.

Devon’s been in ICU since they arrived from Singapore, and has been drifting in and out of consciousness. Once in a while, she would open her eyes.  Sometimes it has that glassy look on it, as if she was still asleep.  Sometimes, her eyes would show recognition. They would tiredly search around the room, looking for a familiar face.

This is why James refused to leave the ICU despite the nurses’ insistence for him to leave.  There are specific visiting hours inside the ICU, but James won’t budge out of his seat.  The nurses are already considering calling security when Dr. Alvarez intervened. Eventually, they decided to leave James alone. 

James won’t let go of Devon’s hand.  Whenever Devon will wake up, he would immediately stand-up and let her see him.  He’s the familiar face she was looking for. Amidst the white, sterile room, and humming sounds, James knows that he was the only link to reality she has right now.

During the brief visiting hours, one at a time, Devon and James’s family will go inside the ICU.  They would plead for James to rest or at least eat, but he refused to leave Devon’s side. 

“Please,” Mrs. Rocafort pleaded his son. “You’re going to get sick.”

James shook his head. The last time he left Devon’s side, he almost lost her.  He promised himself that it’s not going to happen again.

Now a few hours after her mother left, he is still holding Devon’s hand.  He is now starting to feel tired, his body’s energy now starting to wane.  But he promised himself, he’s not going anywhere.

He bowed his head on Devon’s hand. He started to feel sleep creeping, he let his eyes close for a while. A few minutes of shut-eye would not hurt, he admitted to himself.

Slept came in fast the second he closed his eyes.  James saw his surroundings changing, his felt his feet burrowing on soft sand.  He glanced around.  He was on a sandy beach, with the early morning sun rising in the horizon. 

You’re tired, a voice sadly told him.  He knew that voice anywhere.

James looked around and saw Devon walking towards him. Like him, she was also barefoot. She was wearing her wedding dress.

You’re walking, James exclaimed.

Well, you’re dreaming, Devon answered back.  Anything can happen in dreams.

James slipped his hand through hers, the moment she stood beside him.  He marvelled at the magnificent view next to him. Devon has this healthy and radiant glow.  The early sun’s rays were caressing her dark hair and bronze skin.  She’s utter perfection.  James leaned towards Devon and took her in his arms.  He kissed her deeply on her lips. 

The waves crashed on their feet.  Devon smiled against his lips.

I will miss you, Devon whispered against his lips.

What are you saying, James asked. 

Waves crashed on their feet again.

You’re the only person I ever loved, you know that do you, Devon asked.

What are you saying, now James is feeling panic. What are you saying.

But Devon did not say answer, instead she pulled him again towards his lips.  Another waved crashed on their feet, this time James feels like the water is getting higher.  It has now reached his knees, the waves are getting stronger. Another wave approached them, now it was bigger, ready to engulf them. James pulled Devon to his chest and then the waves crashed on them.

James shot up from his chair. He was jolted out of his sleep. 

Just a dream, he calmed himself. That was when he noticed that Devon was awake.  He stood up and leaned towards her.

“How are you baby,” James asked while stroking her hair. “Can you see me?”

Devon feebly raised her eyebrows, acknowledging him and as if it was saying “Yes.”

“I’m just here sweetheart,” he whispered tenderly.  “I will never leave you.”

Devon’s eyebrows rose again. 

“I dreamt of you,” James said, bringing her hand towards his lips. “We were on the beach.”  Devon’s face remained expressionless, but he knows that she was listening.

“You told me that you love me,” James whispered, smiling. “You know that I do love you, right?”

Devon’s eyebrows slowly rose. 

“You know that I love you with every fiber of my being, right?” James continued.

Devon’s eyebrows remained unresponsive, but her eyes were focused on him.  As if to say, yes, I know.  James kissed her on her forehead. Her eyes showed gratitude and love, and then he thought he saw a flicker of pain and panic in her eyes, making them lose focus for a short time.  And then they started to focus again. Holding his own stare, but now he can see sadness in them.

James heard an insistent buzzing sound. It sounded so shrill in his ears.  Then he felt like everything was happening suddenly but in slow motion.  The nurses came rushing inside. Somebody ran outside to call the doctor. The doctor barged in. 

One nurse started to talk to him.  James looked at the nurse blankly.

“You have to move outside sir,” the nurse stated calmly. 

He saw Dr. Alvarez entering the room.

“She’s having a cardiac arrest,” the other doctor told Dr. Alvarez. 

In James’s eyes, everything is starting to blur.  He was unable to understand anything. Dr. Alvarez was sharply giving out orders, nurses are rapidly moving.

“No pulse,” the nurse reported.

“You have to step out,” the nurse in front of James repeated.

He was now standing up, but refusing to let go of Devon’s hand. “Not yet,” James croaked, finally finding his voice.

“Sir,” the nurse repeated.

“Not yet,” James pleaded. “Please, not yet.”

The nurse started to pry James’ fingers out of Devon’s hand. 

“Please,” James was pleading, tears now streaming down his face. “Not yet.”

“You can’t stay here,” the nurse insisted, trying to take Devon’s hand out of James’ grasp.

“Not yet,” James was already breaking down.  He felt like screaming. “Not yet.”

He saw Dr. Alvarez, barking orders. “C’mon Devon,” Dr. Alvarez panted.  “Don’t let go.”

The nurse was finally able to dislodge James’ hand.

“Clear,” a nurse said before shocking Devon.

The nurse started to guide James out of the room.  Dr. Alvarez on top of Devon was the last thing that James’ as the doors closed.

“Please, not yet,” James whispered against the closed steel doors.  “Don’t leave me, please.”

****

James has been trying to get back inside the ICU, but everybody held him back. Until, James finally gave up trying to get in.  He slumped down on the waiting chair and prayed.

James closed his eyes and leaned his head on his hands.  The tears have stopped a while ago, but the panic was still there.  He has no idea how many minutes has passed since the nurse asked him to leave the room.  But somehow, everybody was able to make it to the hospital quickly.

Sam and Aleli were sitting beside him. In the far corner, Shey and Ivan were sitting with Dianne and Danica.  They were huddled in a prayer.  James’s siblings, Malcolm and Jacqueline, were sitting across him with bowed heads and probably praying on their own.  Aling Linda’s tear-streaked face leaned on Mang Tony’s shoulder, his hands trying to calm his wife down.  Mr. and Mrs. Rocafort were seated on James’ other side, waiting patiently for the doctors to come out. 

The steel doors swung open and everybody lifted their heads.  It was Dr. Alvarez. 
James immediately stood up as the doctor approached.

There was silence, as if the good doctor was searching the right words to make things easier.  He looked down, before looking straight at James again.

“I am so sorry, she didn’t make it,” Dr. Alvarez began. A soft wail came out of Aling Linda’s lips.  Diane and Danica started to sob. Shey began to cry in Ivan’s arms.

“We tried our best,” Dr. Alvarez continued, his voice fading in James’ ears.  But everything seems to echo, in his mind. 

I am sorry, I am sorry, I am sorry.

He stared at his ninong. “You’re lying,” he accused.

“James,” Dr. Alvarez approached him and tried to touch his hand. James brushed it away  angrily.

“You’re lying,” James said again, almost screaming.

“James,” Mr. Rocafort tried to calm him down, hugging him. “She’s gone.”

“You are all lying,” James accused all of them, pushing his father away angrily.  “She would never leave me.”

Then James started to run. He heard footsteps running behind him. Malcolm calling out his name. But he continued running.

They are all lying,  his heart thumped.

He found himself on the hospital parking lot. He ran towards his car, went inside and drove. He does not know where he will be going, he let his hands take control of the wheel, while his mind wanders off.

And then the pain growing in his chest exploded. He just can’t breathe.  And he stopped driving. He has never been so blinded. He has never been so deaf to his surroundings.

Was Devon really gone, he started to question himself.  She can’t be gone. She can’t.

He almost fell out of his driver’s seat as he gets out of his car.  He fell on his knees on the grass.  He looked around and noticed that he was on their hill.  His erratic driving has brought him here.

She’s not gone, James assured himself.  She promised me, she’ll be back. She will be back.

She said she will be back before fireworks, this is the best place to watch the fireworks.  I will stay here and wait for her, James calmed himself. 

She will be back, he whispered to himself. Denying himself of the truth. His wife is not dead. 

In a short distance, tolling of the bells resounded through the night.  The houses were still lit by the beautiful lanterns. Christmas trees can still be seen from their windows.  Dancing lights still brings joy to children’s faces.  Yesterday was Christmas and today, James lost the one person he loved most. 
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