Chapter 3:

Be at my side

With Your Last Heartbeat

The great central hospital. That imposing white cement structure that was close to my house, and that was so imposing that it could be easily seen from afar. Despite being so close, I had never needed such a major medical intervention, so I had only visited it twice in my life. The first time, when I rammed that girl in the park. And the second time was that day, because it was already Tuesday and I was coming back, once again, this time to visit her.

That was what I was thinking about as I entered the hospital, asked for permission to go in, went up to the floor they indicated and opened the door, the same door that I had opened yesterday, and that meant more than just opening a door, although I still did not know it.

"Excuse me" I said.

As soon as I entered, I walked to the middle of the room, where I could now see her. She was already waiting for me.

"Good-af-ter-noon" Clara told me in a melodic tone while laughing.

And so, I met that angel once more.

"Did you leave the bike downstairs?"

"Yes, I parked it just like yesterday"

"That's good"

While she was asking me about that, I moved a small table that lied in the room closer to her bed, and a chair to sit on one of its corners, quite like the day before. Clara was less than a meter away from me, since the table was quite small. Typical for a hospital table.

"I brought some things, hope you don't mind" I said as I took something out of my backpack.

"Huh? Y-you didn't have to worry, Leo" she showed me the palms of her hand while she spoke.

I took out of the backpack a cardboard bag and a small box. I put the box down on the bed and stretched out the arm that I was holding the bag with.

"Take this, it's for you"

"What is this?"

She timidly took the bag and opened it slowly. When she could see inside, she felt a comforting warmth come out of the interior all over her face.

"Huh? These are…"

What she had seen was a variety of pastries inside the little cardboard bag. They were hot and looked tasty.

"Yes, Miss Irma's pastries. I brought you some"

"I see. Thank you very much" she smiled sweetly at me.

"No problem. The other day you seemed eager to eat them"

"Huh? Of course not, that was because you offered them to me and because I was very hungry"

"Okay, okay, if you say so"

As I smiled at her, I noticed her small anger at me, mixed with embarrassment because of my statement. The pouting face she made was really cute. It seemed there was no way she couldn't be so.

"But you didn't need to come to see me again, you know?"

I noticed some melancholy in that comment. I quickly wanted to dispel that feeling in her.

"Hmm, that's not true. I couldn't let you not try Doña Irma's pastries again. Come on, eat them now they are still warm"

Clara looked at the bag with the croissants for a few seconds and then smiled sheepishly.

"Ah, I also brought a set of cards. Do you want to play?"

She studied the cards for a moment and smiled at me.

"Yes, please"

And that's how I was going to spend the afternoon, playing cards in a hospital with a girl. I wouldn't have believed that situation just two days before. More time passed than I would have imagined, and by the moment I wanted to remember, the sun was already setting and the pastries I had brought were over.

"Damn, I lost again!"

I stared at the ceiling, disappointed and resigned, as I suffered yet another loss against Clara, who looked like a professional card player.

"Ha, ha, ha, I told you. There is no way you can win against me" she boasted with a mocking laugh, with her arms crossed.

"Generally I'm lucky in these games, but you make it impossible for me. I have to improve"

"Hahaha, maybe. It's not your fault anyway, it's just that I'm too good"

"Ha, ha, how funny" I teased her.

"But it's serious. After all, I'm used to playing a lot of board games. It's something I do every day"

"Ehh, I see. Well, I'll still try to beat you"

I heard her laugh a little after that.

"By the way, did you go to your university in the morning today?"

"Of course. I was finally able to have my first class"

"And how was it?" she asked me, up for a conversation.

"I really liked it. It's very different from going to a school, you know? But, the classes are very long and it was tiring"

I stretched out my arms remembering the tiredness I felt, while I saw that she was staring at me carefully, and always with her characteristic smile, small but tender.

"Ehhh, it seems interesting. What career are you studying?"

"I'm studying to be a computer engineer"

"Really? How interesting. Is it about informatic systems and all that stuff?"

"Yes, it's pretty much that. Anything that is actually programmable is included"

"Wow, it looks very interesting. You know? My mother is also an engineer, but she actually is a naval engineer. And she tells me things about her work all the time. I think it's great" Clara said with a happy sparkle in her eyes.

"Heh? Oh, yes, well…"

At the moment when she told something happy about her life, I began to feel inevitable chills. I reflexively looked away, showing an uncomfortable face. The reason was remembering what had happened the day before, while waiting for the elevator to leave, when those two people gave me a terrifying look.

"By any chance, does your mother have short brown hair and wear jackets normally?" I asked holding the tension while looking at her.

"Huh? Yes, why is that?"

That was bad.

"I-It's nothing" I turned to look the other way, while Clara looked at me with strange eyes, with logical curiosity for my reaction.

Certainly, the fact that her parents had a bad opinion of me without even having met them was already, at least, bad. Even if the doctor had tried to tell them something in my defense, at best, I knew how stubborn some parents could be on these situations. It was going to be an uphill climb if I had to talk to them.

"But you're right, it's a very interesting career" she continued.

"I know, hehe. I have been very interested in programming since I was little. So I hope to enjoy it a lot during these years"

Without knowing it, I talked about it with great enthusiasm, since it was really something that I liked a lot. And I always had a hard time hiding my emotions. I was almost like an open book in that way.

"It must be very pretty. I don't have much interest in anything yet, but I still have time to think about it"

"Huh? Still not studying any career?"

"Well, it's just… I'm still in high school, you know?"

Without looking away from her, I thought for a few seconds. Not a muscle in my face had moved.

"Huh? Really?"

"Of course, do you think I'm gifted? I'm still 17, it's the most logical thing. Only next year I will enter the university"

That moment, I thought it couldn't be. I started remembering what her medical file said and… I remembered I hadn't pay attention at her age. I couldn't believe I had avoided such an obvious detail. She didn't have the face of someone older, but neither of someone younger than me. I thought of the commotion of the clash as an excuse for me avoiding that question, but I really didn't know what to think.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't imagine you were so much younger than me. I didn't pay attention to that"

"I'm not that young, it's only a few months! My birthday is in April, you know?"

"Really? You're right, it's not that long. Only one month to go"

"Exactly, you should judge people less in advance" she crossed her arms without hesitation.

"I'm sorry" I bowed my head playfully, but still a little embarrassed.

The tension of the moment had won me over.

"So, how about school? It's your last year, you should enjoy it to the fullest. It is very nice to be in last high school year"

"Oh yeah. Finally being close to finishing school is a very nice thing. Although, I wish I could spend more time in class to enjoy it. You know…"

Her eyes seemed to suddenly mist up again, though she kept smiling. I could imagine what was going on.

"It's because of the same thing you told me yesterday, right?"

She nodded slightly at my question.

"... I'm sorry" - I managed to tell her.

She quickly reached out her arm and, in a bold move, pinched my cheek.

"Stop saying you're sorry. I already told you it's not your fault!"

"Ouch, oh, oh! Let go of me, I already understood!"

"Damn, and to think that you compressed my chest yesterday multiple times" she told me without stopping scolding me.

"That was to save your life, you idiot!"

She finally released me. My left cheek hurt because of her grip, but nothing as serious as crashing my bike against her. I could bear that.

"God, I'm not a toy, you know?"

As soon as I finished saying this, I saw her curious face perched on me.

"Huh?" I did not understand.

In an instant and with lightning speed, she reached out to pinch my cheek again.

"Ouch! Hey!"

"Hahahahaha, how cute" she couldn't contain her laughter, which had both sweetness and evil.

"Hey, come on! It hurts!"

She finally released my cheek, which had turned red from the grip. Clara had quite a bit of strength even if she didn't look like it.

"Sorry, sorry. It's just you have very soft cheeks. You look like a sea lion"

"That was mean. Also, sea lions do not have large cheeks"

"Huh? Of course they do. Their bodies are plump and they are super affectionate. They make me want to hug them a lot" she told me while she closed her eyes and smiled openly.

"Well, if you say so. You really like animals, don't you?"

"Yes, I love them. Especially sea animals. I think they are very cute, I love to see them"

"Really? Me too"

"You know? The other day I saw a documentary that said that penguins…"

As I listened to her patiently, I noticed the glow that came out of her when she talked about something she liked. Contrary to when at times it turned off when remembering something sad, when she was happy she unveiled a radiant aura. It was something very cute to watch.

We spent some more time talking, while the sun continued to go down. Time, contrary to what had happened the day before, seemed to pass very quickly there. Before I knew it, it had gotten pretty late.

In a moment, the door to the room opened. Who entered was none other than the doctor who had treated her yesterday.

"Clara, we have to do the last check in ten minutes, okay?"

"Yes, thank you Doctor" she smiled at him.

The doctor snapped quickly, and I knew it was my cue to do the same.

"Hmmm, well, I guess that means I have to go, too" I told her as I stretched my arms, tired after a long day.

"Oh, right. You must be really tired after your first day of college"

I had stood up to put on my jacket, which I had left on a nearby coat rack, when I heard her voice again.

"Thank you for coming again. It's nice to have company while I'm here. Really, thank you very much"

Her smile made me want to keep her company forever.

"You are welcome. I also really enjoy being with you" I replied happily.

I put on my jacket, put my things away and went over to greet her.

"So tomorrow you will return to your house, right?"

"Yes. If the diagnostics are correct"

"I see. Well, good luck with that. Stay strong"

"Thanks, same for you"

I walked towards the door of the room, but still felt like I should say something. When I was about to get to where she couldn't see me, I stopped and decided to act. I could never have imagined that, behind my back, Clara's eyes were fading as I left.

"Ah, one more thing. So…"

I started to feel a little embarrassed, and I kept holding my head by the back of my neck. It also didn't help the situation much that Clara stared at me so intently, as if she had been expecting me to say something else deep down inside her.

"After all this, when you feel better and recover… would you like to go to the aquarium?"

Her eyes widened again in surprise. She quickly allowed herself to show a small smile, which hid a greater joy.

"Are you serious?" she said with the illusion of a little child, I could see.

"Well, you said that you liked marine animals a lot a while ago, just like me. And maybe you can't go as much because of what's going on with you, so, if you want, we could go together. What do you say?"

Her face, at that moment, left her moderate smile in favor of opening her mouth wide. Her cheeks took color again, and her blue eyes again showed joy. She looked completely excited.

"Yes! I'd love to!"

"Well, then let's organize everything by messages later. See you"

I crossed the hall to the room and headed for the door. Meanwhile, she was still happy about the proposal, but at the same time she was uneasy about something else.

"Leo!" she called me opportunely before I left.

I went back to where I could see her. She was still in bed, sitting up, and now she was looking at me with a look of intrigue and melancholy.

"Why are you doing this? I already told you that you are not to blame for any of this, and yet you continue to keep me company. Why do you do it? I don't understand"

Clara was looking at me with anguish in her eyes now. I didn't like to see that at all.

"I already told you. I really enjoy being with you, I think you are a very interesting person, and I want to keep getting to know you. It's just that, Clara"

Clara blushed again, unable to take her eyes off me.


"Besides, I couldn't go away without you seeing the sea lions with you, you know? See you on the weekend" I greeted her with a warm smile before continuing to walk towards the exit.

Clara didn't take her eyes off the place where she was standing moments ago. She then looked down straight into her bed and smiled tenderly at my repeated joke.

"You dummy" she closed her eyes as she smiled.

I was very excited to go back to the city aquarium after a long time. I knew she was, too. And, undeniably, I was also looking forward to going with her, who I was still very curious about. I didn't know where all this was going to end, but I wanted to enjoy it to the fullest.