Trust me, only the dedicated folks wouldn’t let the chilly weather be in the way of a good exercise on the hills.
Although my friend was rather hesitant to invite me for the expedition because he knew that I’m knee-deep with the workload, I was game for it. I needed the time out from a packed schedule and smell the fresh fragrance. The workload has greatly impacted my emotions and, as such, it’s making me reconsider the plans for the future (read: after graduation).
The more I ponder on it, the more it feels like the right move for me.
But that’s a story best left for another day.
Back to today’s post.
It definitely was a hectic weekend trying to balance the readings, tutorial work and the outing. I almost tripped on the steps in the library after a late night with a friend (I wish it was for our assignments instead, though) and crashed in the Administrative Law lecture due to the inadequate sleep over the weekend. I should’ve realized that disaster was around the corner when I slept at 1 am on both days and woke up 6 hours later for classes.
With that, I introduce to you, Black Hill Conservation Park in Athelstone.
Its terrain is similar to that of Bukit Gasing but the atmosphere is much fresher and ‘tastier’ due to the unpolluted environment. It didn’t radiate the claustrophobic aura that Bukit Gasing sometimes had, especially in those shaded areas. I mean, sure, it’s good as a protection from the sun, but it also makes the place feel . . . cold and dingy.
The landscape, additionally, was breathtaking to the point where I continuously interrupted my friend to stop for pictures while we trekked the chosen path. As we gingerly made our way up, we were surrounded by beautiful trees and the colorful flowers that greeted us with a smile.
(I've obviously captured more pictures than this, but I'm not going to bombard the entire post with it, lol.)
He even added that the panoramic view changes into a stunning beauty if you are there later towards the evening, where you can hug your loved one close to you and watch the sunset in the distance. I know what some of you are thinking, but I’ll have to unfortunately disappoint you, folks. Neither did my friend and I wrap each other in an embrace (that’d be super awkward, and I would’ve elbowed him instead) nor did we watch the sun return to rest either.
The only issue that we encountered while trekking was the unexpected winds. While the projected forecast was a cloudy day, there was no indication of dancing trees up at the hills. Look, we may have been insane enough to trail the park in winter, but at least we were intelligent to bring a furry, warm coat with us.
We adjourned to an Italian cafe in the adjacent suburb of Campbelltown for a late tea/early dinner over rounds of coffee and pizza. I was tempted to order a medium-sized pizza, but figured that it was safer to stick to a smaller plate since it’s just the two of us.
Guess what? I gaped at the pizza when it arrived. It looks more like a medium than a small!
Bottom: Flat White
As my friend was aware of my hesitance to loiter outdoors after dusk, the conversation and laughter continued at my place. Due to the sensitive nature of topics and jokes, it’s best to leave it out of the public domain, but I can briefly mention on something: I finally know what in the world ‘tickle my pickle’ means!! Bya, you should’ve just explained its definition to me back then.
It wasn’t until my eyes threatened to shut on me that my friend (not Bya) and I knocked off for the night and went our separate ways at a little past 1 am on a Sunday morning. How I managed to wake up in time for Mass is beyond me, but that left me like a walking zombie on Monday.
Preserve, and you'll reap the rewards in time9:44 PM
Short Story: A Blend of Independence with Weakness (Part 5)4:02 PM
The sky poured its grief on the mourners six weeks later, participating in their grief for the loss of a prosperous life that was tragically shortened. Shelby had everything going on for her: a close-knit family, the wonderful friends who loved her to bits and a stable career that afforded her yearly vacations. With a deep breath and squeezing his fists in the pocket of his coat, he needed to keep his emotions in check before he entered the crematorium hall. If he allowed himself to bawl his heart out now, he didn't know when he'd be able to stop.
In the middle of the crematorium hall was the veneered word casket with the enlarged framed A3 picture of a grinning Shelby attached at the front of it. Wreaths of flowers possibly from her peers in her field of work were scattered behind the casket, but clear enough for the mourners to read the messages if they wanted to from this end of the area. Rows of plastic chairs were placed for them to have their quiet moment in grief or prayers. Greeting him as he entered was the book of condolences. He refused to pen his message on it because no amount of words illustrated the sadness he harbored at Shelby's death. He additionally believed that his physically being there for Shelby's family was a better comfort than the messages in a book.
His peripheral vision caught the sight of Mrs. Winters seated alone at the front row of the chairs and he offered his condolences to her.
“I’m sorry for your loss, Mrs. Winters. I really am.”
“Thank you, Jerry. I really appreciate it.” Her eyes were rimmed raw and swollen. “Can I ask for a favor?”
“Since you’re Shelby’s good friend, would you mind to offer the eulogy at the funeral mass and lead the seven day prayers tonight at eight?”
“I don’t mind it at all. I can do both.”
Mrs. Winters gripped Jerry’s hand as her way of saying thanks.
The decision to return to the park a month after Shelby's funeral left a sour note in his throat, but it was something that he had to do if he wanted to overcome his grief. While he felt emotionally lighter and less burdened now, it was still a working process through the five stages of grief with acceptance a far distance away. He leaned over the wooden railing and sighed. Although he knew that Shelby would be upset to see him in the depressive state, the journey of closure was harder with each passing minute. His face lost all traces of cheeriness. It was fixed in a permanent frown. Most of his nights were accompanied with silent tears, which affected his sleep. He was barely eating, which was evident on his five-foot-eleven frame. He lost additional weight and was dangerously close to emaciation. Functioning in his daily life was draining the remaining energy that he had, but he was also relieved that it wasn’t affected his work. Work was his only escape from reality.
Their friendship spanned for such a long time - seven years now - that her absence was sorely missed. Her departure blew the brightest candle in his life, killing all of his happiness. It would take the right person to replace the darkness and mend the hole in his heart. He was unsure whether he’d be given another opportunity for that to happen or if he was capable of loving again.
His mind returned to the time when Mrs. Winters informed him that Shelby was admitted to the hospital after collapsing in her bedroom.
Armed with the information provided by Mrs. Winter earlier over the phone, Jerry dashed out of his parked car and into the hospital. As he walked closer to the ward, he could hear Mrs. Winters’ soft cries and pleas to her daughter to make a full recovery. With a deep breath, he knocked on the door as a sign of his arrival.
“Hello, Mrs. Winters.” Jerry forced a smile. “How’s Shelby?”
“She isn’t in a good condition, I’m afraid, Jerry.” Mrs. Winters rose to her full height and repeated the doctor’s words before turning to her daughter. “It’s the beginning of the end now. Since it was Shelby’s choice to forgo medical treatment, we can only wait for the time when her body’s decided to throw in the towel.”
“Can I have a word with you outside? There’s something I have to ask.”
Mrs. Winters took hold of her purse and followed Jerry out.
“The thing is,” he continued after they were out of earshot. “I’ve asked Shelby why she refused further treatment, but she avoided the subject. I was wondering if she’s told you the reason?”
“She has. She told me that whether she continues with another round of treatment, it’ll ultimately rob her of her limited time to enjoy life. She doesn’t want to be plugged into the machines monitoring her every move and holed up within the four walls. Plus…” she trailed off, finding the appropriate words to express herself. “Another reason is you.”
His eyes furrowed. “Wait, what? I didn’t ask her to stop treatment, Mrs. Winters.”
“No, let me elaborate.” Mrs. Winters raised both hands. “When I pressed Shelby on this, she replied that she didn’t want you to spend your time on her when there are better girls than her out there. To be more specific, she was falling in love with you.”
“She couldn’t see a bright future with you, Jerry, if you two got together. Her illness will always be an issue that you two will have to tackle with and now that it arrived at this stage, it’d be a matter of time before goodbyes have to be said. Although she knows that it’s a tough thing to ask for, she wants you to love again and think of her as a distant memory of your past. If you ask me, Jerry, I actually believe that she sacrificed her short-lived happiness in exchange for your eternal one with someone.”
What Mrs. Winters revealed left him speechless that he lost his voice.
Looking up at the bright blue sky above him, he now wanted to rewind the time to their first encounter and seize his chance while he could. He swore that instead of beating around the bush, he would come clean with his honest feelings with her. He made one of the gravest mistakes in his life and now that Shelby was gone, there was no way of correcting it.
Travel Wishes7:40 PM
Before I pen today’s post, remember the crying dream that I had about a Goldie sometime in March? Now that I’m reflecting on it, the online interpretation makes an awful load of sense.
If you’ve been frequently reading this blog lately, you’ll know that I was swimming in a pot full of tremendous pressure as its contents for the entire semester - to the point where it threatened to take a toll on my emotional health. I’ve never mentioned about the event that transpired after the Thursday afternoon lecture to the group of trustworthy friends and I’m never going to speak a word of it to them either. It wouldn’t have made any difference - and it’s not as if they’ll be able to help me out.
I know that it carries a twinge of sting to it, but I’ve learned that some things are best left buried in the Aegean Sea.
Reading about the dream online connected the dots together. It was my subconscious sending my favorite breed, which is the Goldie, to comfort me in the dream (hey, Bruno!) The serenity it brought along made me so relaxed that it hinted heavily at one of the weekends I spent in One Tree Hill, Mt. Eden, where I played Frisbee with a … you guessed it, a Goldie.
So, there we go.
It’s almost 9 pm Adelaide time - yet I’m still awake, nursing a mug of warm cocoa on this awfully chilly night when I should be in bed. I should be refueling my body's sleep bank for tomorrow's 9 am lecture on Creative Writing and the 11 am tutorial for Politics awaits me after that. It’s evident that my academic workload has increased this semester (and it’s still manageable), but it doesn’t mean that the pressure has tapered down, either.
I’m in need for a travel break. You know, the one where we embark on a road trip into the country towns, experiencing the local culture and delving into the cuisines of the family-owned cafes. The unpolluted, refreshing air is our silent observer while we share memories with the right people. The car windows are rolled down with the music softly humming from the radio or CD player with its memory-evoking emotions. Throw in some food and wine on the way - and it’s all perfect…
How am I going to make that a living reality when I’m car-less and license-less? *scratches head* I don’t intend to study for my driving test yet because I’m not fully sure where I’ll be: whether I’m heading back to KL, moving interstate to practice, or killing another two - three years’ worth of postgraduate degree in Creative Writing in Sydney. (Let’s assume that I manage to pass the test in KL. I’ll still need to take an additional paper here before I’m a full license holder.)
I wouldn’t even count the yearly flights home, lol.
Well, in that case, I’m stuck to waiting it out until I’m financially independent. Like I’ve mentioned years before, it never mattered if I’m traveling solo or with a group of friends to the familiar places.
It's that time of the year (again!)10:37 AM
With God's blessings, I've survived the intensity of 1st semester, but not unscathed. Everything seems to rub me off in the wrong way to the point where I'm losing patience. It'd be better if I date my books instead of inadvertently snapping and offending anyone who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, if you ask me. That way, any angst that I harbor will be directed to the poor textbook instead of battery to humans, if you ask me. I don't want to be held liable under Division 7, S 20 of Criminal Law Consolidation Act. If I remember correctly, it can't be argued that the offender didn't intend to commit assault on the victim.
I've caught wind that there's going to be a birthday surprise for me - and in all honesty, I'm unsure whether to be enthusiastic or frightened by it. Those closest to me are aware that I'm easily startled by surprises, especially when it is unexpected. I don't know where and when it'll be held because from what my sister said, it's being planned in secret and she wants to bring along the good friend to pick my birthday present. It's not that I don't trust their tastes; it's just the secrecy is leaving me positively anxious.
Credits to Ellen Tube for the image.
Credits to Ellen Tube for the image.
In short, a friendly hangout at the nearby coffeehouse (or the chocolate house) with a birthday cake and a couple of close friends would do the trick. It's similar to what Shaney hatched for Kyle's birthday in CPU. We sought the help of his close friend a couple of days before the big day to divert the birthday boy's attention and keep him from running off while we brought the birthday cake in. Let's just say that from his reaction when we entered, he suspected that something was amiss from the atmosphere. The only picture that I had of him slicing the cake was so blurry that I eventually destroyed it when I graduated from college.
That's pretty much my reaction when my own birthday rolled around, too. The aura in the Student Lounge was unusually weird. My gang of friends won't disappear together into thin air - and my calls to two of them went to voicemail, which raised alarm bells. I sensed that there was something more to it than meets the eye when another acquaintance insisted that I follow her to her usual hangout to pack her lunch, but I chose to play dumb, lol. I was in heels because of the class presentation and was rather unwilling to walk more than necessary - because that pair hurts! The part that made me raise my eyebrows internally was when Abhi came over and said that Kyle was looking for me. (In actual fact, we've each other's number and knowing him, he usually doesn't ask for me unless he needs my help on something.)
It'd be tough for my sister to repeat this because she'll need the assistance of someone who's cunningly convincing to disprove my suspicions, but I'll give her the credit if she's able to execute it without my knowledge.
My apologies for heading off on a tangent, lol. It's just that those were the best times of my college studies - way before circumstances blew it apart.
One of the songs that I'm currently hooked to: "Wings" by Birdy.
Now that 2nd semester has rolled around, it only means one thing: it's time to swim in the contents of the pressure cooker. After having learnt my lessons from the unexpected adventures and unnecessary stress last semester, I've decided to stay true to the study plan. It'd be horrendous if history was to repeat itself. Not only do I've to face the possibility of running into that person, it'll be for the fourth time in 18 months, mind you! If you've been frequently reading, you'll probably have an idea on his identity and the course in question. It won't be him who'll gawk at me with horror in lectures. It'll be me going out of my way to avoid the awkward encounters with him instead.
(On a side note, I want to rationalize that it is a case of coincidences, but certain aspects of it hint at Fate's invisible stroke - because, technically, it was my sister who chose that Constitutional Law timeslot, not me. I personally would prefer if there was a seminar offered on Mondays because it was less hectic. As for him, I'm sure he would've picked a more suitable time instead if the ones offered didn't clash with the lectures.)
Not to mention, if I swap courses again, I don't want to break the news to my good friend that I forgo the opportunity of being in the same course as him because I wanted to fill my penultimate year with electives. I'll tell you why; the poor chap was a little worried when I passed him the movie ticket in an envelope (to avoid prying eyes - you never know how furious the campus grapevine can be) and warned him not to fear about its contents. He later explained that he thought it was a farewell letter, elaborating that I'm doing a credit transfer to another university interstate. Dude, trust me, I'd have done it if I could. *sighs*
(It still surprises me that he remembered what he told me about the courses last October, though. Can I count that as a promise with valuable consideration?)
So, no, I'll be the obedient student this time around. *winks*
While I was aware of the impact that the chosen courses would bring to the academic workload, I didn't stop to think twice about its effects on my academic timetable. It's definitely not as hectic as last semester - where I didn't have any rest day. I'm much more relieved this semester that I've more free time to focus on the independent study and some other matters (read: hiding in a cave to take the time out since I'm susceptible to exploding nowadays), although I've 5 hours of back-to-back lectures to tackle weekly. Since I've endured it before as a freshman in CPU daily with the help of caffeine and 100 Plus, I should be alright without relying on stimulants to keep me awake now - but you'll never know.
Another song that I'm hooked to: "If I Needed You" by Joey and Rory
I've scheduled some posts - especially the pieces of short stories - to be published during my moments of absence. If you don't see me around the blogosphere, I'm probably beating the assignments until either it has turned blue or my hands are exhausted. I'll still reply to comments and hop over to read blogs, but it won't be as frequent.
We'll see what this semester brings. If you hear me yelling with non-curse words, I'm cringing at the fact (of something).
Short Story: A Blend of Independence with Weakness (Part 4)10:01 AM
“You have to come,” the voice on the other end of call urged.
Jerry dropped everything that he had in that moment and rushed straight to the hospital, almost securing himself a date with the traffic police en-route. That night, when Shelby revealed her medical condition, was a game-changer in their friendship. If they were good friends back then, they were now closer. He became someone who resembled a brother figure in her life, taking charge whenever her parents couldn’t fly interstate to take care of her.
“Thank you,” she said once on their way from Sunday Mass. “And I can’t possibly thank you enough, Jerry.”
“What did I do?”
“You’ve been there for me since the beginning. What’s honorable is that you’re willing to sacrifice your weekends and most of your free time into being … my caregiver.” It felt weird, even as she said it. “Plus, you could’ve used those time into finding a resident for your heart.”
He couldn’t help but smile. Even in the state that she was in, she still found the enthusiasm to crack a joke and plant a grin on his face. “My dear, I’m on a break from relationships. I haven’t found the courage to invest in a brand new love where the return is of an unknown value. We both know that it’s exhausting and I don’t think I can balance a relationship with my career since the latter is flourishing.” He patted her lower thigh with his left hand. “I’ve made a promise that I’d be there for you as a good friend. It only make sense that I’m here at a time when you’re most vulnerable.”
“I like your financial inference there.” Shelby laughed out loud. “But still, I really appreciate it.”
“What do you expect? I’m in the financial line of things. I’m bound to associate finance with things in circumstances. It’s the same as the barrister in you throwing legal jokes that people out of the field can’t decipher.”
She sighed with a mock defeat. “That’s true. You’ve a point there.”
“When can she be discharged, doctor?” Mrs. Winters - Shelby’s mother - couldn’t help but pose the question. She was in the general floor of the hospital ward with the attending physician, trying to understand the health complications that landed her daughter in the hospital when she was in remission all along.
“Mrs. Winters,” the attending physician spoke. “I don’t intend to discharge Shelby until I’m confident that her condition is much better.” He flipped through the medical reports - including the one that Shelby gave to Jerry on that night - on hand. “As it is, I don’t want to risk Shelby suffering from another cardiac arrest. Her heart wouldn’t be able to take the trauma. I need to ensure that her red blood cells are at a stable level first.”
He looked up at Mrs. Winters with a softened expression. “I’m afraid that you might have to make final preparations for Shelby in the event that she can’t win this battle. I’m sorry, Mrs. Winters.”
“It’s alright.” She nodded. “Thanks, doctor.”
As she watched the attending physician returning to his duty, she resisted the urge to break down in tears at the prospect of losing her daughter at such a young age. She could weep her eyes out, but she knew that Shelby couldn't have the perfect bill of health. Ever since Mrs. Winters delivered her daughter, there was always the undeniable fear that Fate would cruelly strike their family and snatch Shelby from them one day.
She sighed, knowing that her worst fear was coming true. All parents would want their children to be healthy and happy in their chosen paths in life and didn't want to bury them - no matter the circumstances. Satisfied that she looked alright on her compact makeup mirror, she adjusted her attire and entered the hospital ward.
Mrs. Winters’ words knocked Jerry with such force that he had to sit on the row of chairs to regain his breath. He couldn’t believe what he heard. Although he was thankful that she shared Shelby’s innermost thoughts and fears about him, he remembered thinking that Shelby was insane when she wanted time to dictate her course of life instead. He understood that she was tired of undergoing painful treatments without a guaranteed recovery, but she should’ve discussed it with him before arriving at such a decision if he was such an important person to her. It would affect their lives - including hers - in the long run and he didn’t know how to cope without her presence in his life. She was approaching the Door of Death yet placed his well-being ahead of hers.
Seeing that there was nothing he could do now to change her mind, he forced himself to enter the word and spend quiet moments with her. He gingerly turned the chair to face Shelby and sat on it, admiring her in her natural state. Although she was skinnier due to the loss of appetite, she still looked drop-dead gorgeous.
“I know why you did what you did now, but it still hurts, you know?” He took Shelby’s hand in his own, brought it to his cheek. “Knowing that we could have it all, but you didn’t want to take the plunge.”
A stray tear flowed down from his eye. “Don’t you know that it’ll only make me more miserable? If you had given us a chance, it’d have been the happiest moment of my life. Yes, it may’ve been a short lived one, but at least it’s still something. The sweetest memories will peacefully send you on your eternal journey and be a source of inspiration for me to continue living with you.”
“You should’ve exhausted all avenues of treatment options before throwing in the towel. I know you don’t want me to see you at your weakest, but friends are supposed to be there for each other in all circumstances - good or bad.”
The brightest morning is still to come8:44 PM
The title is from the song lyrics of "We Are All Running" by The Once (video attached below).
Listening to this song again after his demise is leaving a sour note in my throat, not because it’s a sad song. It’s because the relaxing mood of the song always reminds me of his optimism and willpower. Although circumstances were never kind to him, he never allowed it to be an obstacle to his enjoyment of life and worked harder than the rest of us. When we whinged that we're exhausted and needed a break, he pushed through and fought on.
On the bright side, I’m relieved that his road of suffering has finally ended and he has sought the long-deserving peace.
Be the angel that you longed to be.
With the wings that you now have,
Fly away from the pain.
Embrace the freedom that you've fought hard for.
There's so much that I wanted to say.
The lump in my throat,
It's preventing me from speaking.
We were never close,
Yet your departure still affects me.
History Raps5:04 PM
Note: if you're sensitive to expletives/colorful languages, please, please don't watch the videos.
Psst, heard of Prussia? =P
Come to think of it, I'm not sure whether my History score would've been much better if I had stumbled across Epic Rap Battles of History's videos in college. We learned about the characters depicted in both videos and how they contributed to mostly Russian history.
The battle between Romney and Obama is my favorite so far - and it definitely assisted me to understand some elements from Public Law.
Short Story: A Blend of Independence with Weakness (Part 2)5:07 PM
The first thing that Shelby realized as she regained consciousness was the action of someone wiping a towel over her face, possibly to clean away the remnants of her dried, sticky tears. She could hear the towel being dipped into a bowl of water before being squeezed dry and the sound of footsteps walking away from her. Her eyes were strewn shut that it was taking an effort to force it open.
"Rested well?" Jerry smiled as he entered the living room with a glass of orange juice. "You might need this to regain your energy. How are you feeling?"
"Thanks." Shelby took the glass from his hands into hers, sipped. "Emotionally better, but physically terrible. My eyes are swollen and tender, and I feel like all of my energy has been sucked from me."
"You'll be fine after catching a shower."
"I hope so."
"Any plans for tonight, Shelby?"
"Um, no. Why?"
"Assuming that you're bushed to prepare dinner, I'd like to bring you somewhere to catch a meal. Not our usual hangout, though. Or, we could stay inside and I'll cook something from your pantry. Anything to give you the evening off."
"Thanks for the offer, Jerry, but I don't want to impose. I don't have enough in the pantry to whip up a meal for two, as you may've already noticed."
"It's alright, Shelby. You're not imposing on me whatsoever, plus you deserve a treat too."
"You're not giving me a chance to say no, are you?"
"Guilty as charged. I'll pick you up at seven? That should give you enough time to freshen yourself."
Shelby rolled her eyes. "Yes, Dad."
"Don't bother sending me out. Promise me you won't do anything silly and I'll see the happy Shelby that I know from university."
"I can't guarantee, but I'll try."
Jerry leaned against his Ford Focus with folded arms to shield himself from the wintry evening when he saw Shelby exiting the house. She wore a grey fleece turtleneck and blue jeans with a pair of beige suede boots. Folded over her left forearm was a coat of the same color as her shoes. He noticed from her demeanor that her confidence was slowly coating her face with color, a stark difference for what she was a mere couple of hours ago.
"Hey." Jerry called out. "Did you bake your face in makeup? Don't you think you should wear your coat now?"
"Idiot. It's the work of eyeshadow." A now-bespectacled Shelby playfully punched his shoulder. "I don't want people at the cafe to think that you bullied me into tears. Otherwise, why in the world am I in spectacles when I could've easily worn contacts? It's only seven p.m. The coat's for later, assuming that there is something else on your sleeve."
"I'm just joking." He raised both hands in mock defeat. "Like, going out for drinks at the pub on a Saturday night?"
Shelby nodded, sliding into the coat.
"Damn. You got me. Let's get going then."
He opened the car door for her to enter before making his way to the driver's seat."
"But instead of the pub, can you accompany me to somewhere after dinner? Seeing that you're my good friend, there's something I feel you should know."
He swallowed his throat. "Okay."
Jerry saw the change in Shelby’s behavior when they exited the newly-opened French restaurant three hours later. He knew that it wasn’t the cuisine that bothered her because if it was, she’d have raised fury on it by now. She wouldn’t have remained reticent as they walked together to his car that was not too far away.
“Are you alright, Shelby?” He couldn’t help but ask. “Is something bothering you?”
“I’m alright.” Shelby lied through her teeth. “I’m just thinking on work.”
While it was partially true that she was deep in thought, it wasn’t about her career that she was pondering on. It was something else that she wanted to wait until the right time to shed light on.
The remaining distance was filled with silence.
Although she insisted that there was nothing wrong, he knew, from all their years of friendship, that she was hiding something from him. Being the gentleman that he was, he opened the door and ensured that Shelby was comfortable in the passenger seat before making his way to the driver’s seat.
“So, where’s the place that you mentioned?”
Shelby wore her seat belt. “I’ll guide you there.”
Jerry brought the car engine to life and sped off.
“Why this place, Shelby?”
“Don’t you remember? This was the place that we first met, Jerry.”
“I obviously do, but I mean, why did you choose to bring me here?”
Standing in the middle of the brightly-lit park, it was the place where they first met at their university’s orientation activity almost seven years ago. It was a barbecue session for the students - from undergraduate and postgraduate to international and domestic - to acquaint themselves with each other, and hopefully form lasting friendships. Although Shelby registered her participation for it, she was hesitant on going for it because her college friend unexpectedly bailed out at the eleventh hour. Yet, she figured that there was no harm done if she showed up.
As it was getting crowded with the thousands of students, finding a free spot to herself was becoming harder. She knew that she’d have to squeeze and share a space with someone if she wanted to eat in comfort. She thought that she saw an empty space near Jerry and took a deep breath before asking if she could join him and his group of friends, to which they agreed.
By the time they left for their separate ways at the end of the activity, they had each other’s cell numbers stored on their phones.
Bringing herself back to the present moment, Shelby breathed the fresh air and turned to face Jerry. “I wanted the night to end on a memorable note. There’s something I have to give you.” She dug deep into her purse and handed him an envelope. “This would explain the reason why we’re here.”
“What is this?” Jerry took it from her.
“You’ll know when you open it.”
He tore it open and was greeted by the sight of two printed documents: her latest medical report and a legal document with his name on it. His eyes bulged with horror as he scanned the contents of the report. The level of her white blood cells was higher than average while her red blood cells were dangerously low to the point of anemia. He was not a doctor, but he immediately knew that this was indicative of a blood cell disorder.
Crap, he silently cursed, as he remembered asking Shelby about her sudden and unexplained weight loss. She had instead attributed it to academic and work stress. Why didn’t she tell me that she was experiencing a grave health issue?
Breathing harder, he switched his attention to the legal document. It was a will and a fixed trust, to be exact. It was written with such clarity that the final destination of her properties and the beneficiaries were clearly identified. She was bequeathing one of her prized possessions - her collection of keychains from her travels interstate and abroad - to him.
He looked up at Shelby, speechless.
“This has brought me down for the last couple of days. My time is running out, and I’ve to make sure that I’ve settled everything before my departure.”
“Do your parents know?”
“They knew it not too long after I was born, but only told me in my teenage years when I was first hospitalized. My illness has been in a stable condition until now.”
“You could’ve kept me in on the loop, Shelby.”
“I wanted to live a normal life where I can experience the full blooms of life. I wanted to experience the four seasons. Spring leaves its magical blossom on the flowers while summer, with its radiant glare, brings the best out of us. Autumn gently sweeping the remnants of the precedent season. Winter replaced happiness with intense sadness that you can burst into tears watching the rain. I know I could’ve told you, but I didn’t want you to worry for me.”
Gazing into Shelby’s glistened eyes, his own pair shone with tears at the prospect of losing his good friend to the Angel of Death. It was traumatic enough having to deal with the breakdown of his relationship, but that was Kate’s choice to walk out, although she could’ve chosen a better method of resolving it. Shelby’s case was different because she wasn’t given a choice to decide on what she wanted in life.
He felt like he had received thousands of stab wounds and it silently suffocated him to the point where he wanted to break down in tears at the Fate’s cruel stroke. He clutched the documents as if it was his life on the line here.
“We could seek for a second opinion. You could consult your doctor to see if there are other better treatment options. Or, we could find you a world-renowned specialist in the field to help you out.”
Shelby shook her head with a sad smile.
“I just want out, Jerry. I’m tired of exploring the numerous options to regain a perfect bill of health. It’s exhausting, knowing that there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. The truth is I’ll be gone at anytime, and me continuously forcing myself to undergo treatment is just a way of denying it.”
Her words were the final stab to his heart. The tears uncontrollably swam down his cheeks, rendering him at a loss for words.
“Oh, God.” Shelby wiped the tears off his cheeks. “It’s only going to get worse, Jerry, and I really want you to have a better memory of our friendship. I don’t want you to remember me at my weakest in the hospital. Please don’t cry.”
“But I’ve promised that I’ll be there for you as a friend, through the good and bad times. Let me honor my promise.”
“My Mom’s flying in to take care of me.”
“That’s good of your Mom.” Jerry sighed. “I really wished that I knew about this earlier, Shelby.”
“You see, I’m considered lucky that God has allowed me to experience adulthood, although it has come at a price. I’ll never be able to experience marriage and motherhood, but it’s alright. I’ve heard wonderful stories about it to form my opinion on it. Meeting you as a good friend was actually one of the best things to happen in my life, Jerry.”
“And it’s my pleasure to have met you at the barbecue activity too, Shelby.” Jerry laid an arm over Shelby’s shoulder. “Let’s get you home. After what you’ve just told me, you need to exercise more care into maintaining your health.”