Chapter 7:

Help me

With Your Last Heartbeat

The alarm went off once again, as it did every morning. I turned off the alarm clock with what little strength I could muster, still groggy, and curled up between the sheets for a few more seconds. I mustered all the strength I had and, with a jump, sat up in bed, throwing the sheet and bedspread at my feet.

"Ahhh," I said as I woke up, avoiding hitting my long black hair with my arms.

The pink pajamas I was wearing, with long sleeves, were way out of place, matching myself in that situation. It looked like I had slept very well that night.

"Well, I better go to the bathroom," I said as I slipped on my slippers as I stood up.

"My name is Clara Preciado, I'm 17 years old and I'm a fifth grader in high school. I live with my mom, dad, and my little dog in the south part of the city. Among my favorite things are listening to music, playing board games, and looking at animals, especially sea animals...

I washed up in the bathroom, made myself breakfast, and after doing what I did every morning, I put on my uniform. A new uniform.

... since I was born, unfortunately, I have suffered from a heart disease, as you may have been told. It's quite complicated... but don't worry about that. I'm here to enjoy my last year and make lots of friends...

Dressed in the gray sweater with maroon piping, a dark gray skirt and long socks over school shoes. And on top of it all, a gray jacket, not too thick. I took one last look at myself in the mirror.

"Good," I said to myself to reassure myself.

... so I look forward to getting along with you," I finished with a smile.

What I was doing was introducing myself to my new class, at my new school.

At first everyone was quiet, but after a few moments...

"Welcome, Clara," said a blonde girl from the back.

"I hope we'll get along well," said another boy, further on.

"Where are you coming from, Clara," asked another girl.

And so a bunch of other boys and girls began to approach me, as I continued to stand in front of the class. Unbeknownst to me, my eyes were taking on a sparkle with every passing second. Inside I felt incomparably happy to be accepted. I just smiled for a long while, feeling relieved.

"Well, well. You can get to know her later. Come on, class is about to start," the teacher said, standing behind me, "Clara, why don't you sit in that seat over there?"

"Alright," I replied.

The teacher had pointed me to the only seat available, at the back next to the window. A place that would normally be occupied, but apparently she had no one in it. I started to walk between the rows of desks, from where the rest of the students were looking at me, surprised and happy. I felt really good and...

Be careful, Clara

Suddenly, I felt a voice in my head. I shivered inwardly, though outwardly I only changed my smile to a more serious face. I quickly sat down on the bench I had been assigned, and began to pull out my things.

"Well guys, we had to start the new lesson today. Marcos, can you read the first page of chapter 3," the teacher asked one of the boys in the front.

"Yes," he replied.

As I pulled out my things, I hadn't noticed that the girl sitting to my right, the same blonde girl who had been the first to speak when I introduced myself, was watching me from her bench, her head resting against her outstretched arm. She was carefully watching everything I was doing, never taking her eyes off me. She had possibly been like that all hour, while I concentrated on what was going on in the classroom.

"Where are you coming from, Clara?" one of the girls who surrounded me at recess asked me.

"This... I come from another school in the west part of town," I said shyly.

"Did you move here recently?" another boy asked me, as soon as I finished speaking.

"Well, I've always lived in the city, but-"

"Hey, hey, after school we're going to go to karaoke, do you want to come?" another girl invited me, elated.

"Really? Of c-"

I was about to tell her yes, but I remembered something very important. Something that resonated within me every day. Quickly, I managed not to put on a negative expression.

"Sorry, I'd rather go a little slower, if you don't mind."

"That's okay. Well, next time," another girl would say.

Just as she was saying that, the school bell rang, indicating that recess was over.

"Okay, okay... come on, let's get on with class," said the teacher, who walked in perfectly on time to the bell.

"Huh? That was fast," said one of the boys, as they dispersed after asking me questions.

I liked talking to everyone, and it felt great really that they were willing to talk to me right from the start. But the karaoke thing already felt weird. It was too soon, I thought, not being very sure. I began to stare dully at the desk, lost in thought. By chance I decided to look up to the right, and I could see how the blonde girl was watching me. Without a word, she looked forward again quickly.

"Oh? Ah!"

After the momentary confusion, I realized that I was reflecting a strange face. I patted my face several times and went back to preparing my school supplies. I was nervous, afraid of messing everything up. And in the midst of that storm of thoughts, the stare of that blonde girl was again unnoticed by me.

The whole day went by, which was pretty much the same as it had started. All day, multiple boys and girls came up to talk to me, and many teachers as well. They would talk to me about what life was like at school, what everyone did, and what they would like to do, as well as inviting me to different clubs and activities with them. I was very happy, but I only got as far as saying that I was going to think about it.

At the end of class, I went back to my house, which was now much closer to the school. In less than fifteen minutes, I had already entered my building, and I was at the door of my apartment. I opened the door and found, inside the house, my parents.

"Oh, welcome home, Clara," my mother greeted me. She was preparing something to eat.

"I'm back, mom," I said as I took off my shoes.

"Come eat, we have apple pie for snack," she told me.


Quickly, I felt something approaching with tiny steps. I looked down at the ground and found a little furball trying to jump towards me.

"Dayo! Come here, little thing! Who's the cutest," I said as I took him in my arms and petted him.

Dayo was a little brown corgi dog, which I had for about ten years then. He was small, playful and very happy, something I loved, as I could play with him a lot. As I recall, my parents adopted him from a shelter to keep me company, and we have been inseparable ever since.

"Hey, don't get your uniform dirty with fur. Hurry up and take it off"

"Yeah, yeah" I replied to my mother with a smile.

I changed out of my uniform and put on my tucked-in clothes: long-sleeved T-shirt, long pants and socks, which helped me stay warm even inside the house.

As I sat down to eat at the table, a third person appeared from the master bedroom.

"Oh, Dad!"

"How are you, Clara? How was your first day of school?" he asked.

"Very well, you don't know all the things that happened to me today," I said excitedly.

"Oh yeah? I'm looking forward to hearing about it"

The three of us sat in the living room, with apple pie in the middle of the table and three cups of coffee, one for each of us. Dayo remained under the table, lying down, as he was always used to.

For quite a while, we started talking about classes, what I had learned that first day, and how huge the new school was. I told them about the history class, about my science teacher introducing me to the class, and about how I got lost trying to find one of the classrooms. All this while my face was glowing and I was filled with excitement for my first day at the new school. And in a moment, another typical question came...

"Did you get to make some friends, sweetie," My mother, to my right at the table, asked.

"Yes. All my classmates were very nice to me. They asked me questions, we talked about what I liked to do, and they even had lunch with me. It was great," I told them with a face brighter than the sun.

"Huh? That's very nice, Clara," she smiled politely at me with her cup in her hand.

"Isn't it?"

As I was about to take another sip from my cup, I remembered another of the things that had happened to me. Spurred by my moment of joy, I didn't hesitate to ask my parents.

"You know what? Some girls in my class invited me to karaoke after school," I told them as I helped myself to a piece of cake. "I said I couldn't go with them today, but they go there regularly, so I was thinking that-"


With the spoon still cutting the cake, I froze. What had been a happy conversation was abruptly falling apart. My mother, with the same warm smile she had been having and always wore, had eliminated that possibility for me, and before I could react, she was eating cake again.

"Huh? But, if I can go-"

"You know why this is happening, don't you? Don't be pushy. Armando, say something to her"

After suddenly rejecting my proposal and scolding me, she looked at my father, who was just at the opposite end of the table from me. Unlike my mother, he had an absolutely expressionless face, and was drinking his coffee very slowly, with almost robotic movements.

"You already heard her. She's right," he said without looking away from the table.

I was still stunned by their quick refusal to let me go to karaoke. I felt tense inside, mixing disappointment with a bit of chagrin. But at the same time I felt like they were doing it because they were right. Even if my mind said they weren't.

"Fine," I said looking languidly at the table.

After a while, we finished eating. All the rest of the snack was in silence. I got up from the table and headed to my room.

"Ah, right. I wanted to ask you something from a while ago."

At the sound of my father's voice, I slowed down in my tracks. I did it out of duty, rather than feeling like talking. After the karaoke thing, I was at the very least disgusted with them.

"What?" I said to him in all flatness.

"I saw you the other day with a boy in the driveway. You didn't tell me you had a friend"

I was surprised, but didn't reflect it on my face. I don't know what they wanted with Leo, but I had to be on my toes.

"So what?"

My father didn't speak for a few seconds, as if he was surprised, and then he cross-examined.

"That I didn't know you were now going out with the one who caused your accident"

I opened my eyes in complete surprise. I couldn't understand how they found out... 

"On the day of the accident, did they see him leave my room?", was what I thought remembering they both entered short after he left that day. That fact that I had never thought now terrified me.

"What's wrong with that?" I was straight with him.

"You know what's going on. It's not safe for you to do it. A guy like that, who has no respect for the safety of another, can never be good for you"

I clenched my fists in anger, without turning around.

"And what do you know?" I replied with visible irritation.


"Stop it!” I said, without raising my tone too much.

I immediately continued on my way, at a brisk pace, and locked myself in my room, under the watchful eyes of both my parents. I just wanted to be alone. I threw myself on my bed, going over the day in my head. I thought about how, at that moment, I could be at karaoke, having a good time, instead of arguing with my parents. Now, I just knew I had to stay calm to avoid any complications. There wasn't much else I could do.

"God," I thought as I hugged the bedspread on my bed.

The next day was quite similar to the first. I went to school and had my classes as normal, while all of my classmates again approached me. They saw me as a novelty, and showed all kinds of friendly signs towards me. However, I still felt that I was far away from them, even though I didn't want to be far away from them. Beyond talking and socializing a bit, nothing else happened with any of my classmates.

At the end of school, when everyone started to go home, I was alone. I was walking seriously, but at the same time thinking about what was wrong with me. Why couldn't I break my fears apart? Why did it always have to be the same?

Brrrr. My phone vibrated, and having it in my jacket, I could feel it. I pulled it out of my pocket and as I turned on the screen, I saw a message that made me jump out of joy inside.

‘How are you Clara, are you feeling better?’ said the text, whose sender was Leo.

That sudden and timely message made me realize that it was just what my heart was hoping for. He was one of the few people I could feel comfortable with in a long time, and being around him, I felt my insecurities go away. Then, I realized what I wanted.

‘Yes, thank you for asking,’ I sent.

I had started writing again when, from behind my back, I heard the sound of a very close footstep, as if someone had been following me. However, when I turned around in surprise, I could see nothing. I could only observe the school, with some students leaving as was normal at that hour. I was puzzled, but I didn't think much of it. I went back to focusing on what I was doing.

‘Do you have a moment now,’ I asked Leo.

“Huh?! Did you change schools?"

That was Leo's reaction as soon as I told him. He was so surprised that he threw himself back against the back of his chair, while involuntarily bumping the table with one of his legs.

We had arranged to meet only an hour after he messaged me, at a café. Although where we had gone the previous outing was a nice place, we met at another one that was a little closer to my house and school. That way, I was lucky enough to avoid going back to the place where I had felt so distressed the other time. It was better to avoid it for a while.

"So yes. Today was my second day in fifth year of high school" I replied innocently.

"But, why hadn't you said anything to me?" Leo asked me as he rearranged himself into a natural position.

"Because I knew you were going to feel even worse for me. I can imagine: I'm sorry, I didn't want to make you feel bad, it must be awful, and things like that. That's why I didn't want to worry you about things that don't matter," I would tell Leo while making faces to tease him.

"Huh? I'm not like that, silly," he scolded me, a bit angrily.

"Hahaha, of course you are!"

By this point, I couldn't contain my laughter. Meanwhile, Leo had leaned back against the back of his chair again, backing away from me. It felt really good to converse with someone with whom I could have so much complicity.

"Grr. Besides, it's obvious I do care. You shouldn't hide those things from me," Leo was saying as he looked to his right, pouting.

Even if it didn't look like it from the outside, I was staring into his face with a lot of focus. Leo's expressions seemed to me to be the cutest thing ever, even more so when his cheeks were flushed like they were at that moment. I could stare at him for hours on end and I wouldn't get tired of it.

"Alright. I'm sorry," I said as I let out a giggle, which I tried to cover with my hand.

"So now you're apologizing, huh? How ironic."

"Right? It's curious"

I remember Leo was wearing a short sleeved t-shirt and shorts, typical of him. He had grey sneakers with short socks, which made him look like a real sportsman. It looked really good on him, although I would have liked to tease him a bit. However, after the relaxed small talk, Leo picked up on the original point.

"Then you switched schools. So, what's the problem?"

I remembered the real reason I had wanted to talk to him.

"Oh? Oh, yeah. The problem is... all my life I had the problem of not being able to have many friends. My parents always told me to slow down, or to stop doing things for my health, and that ended up pushing me away from the rest. Now that I'm in a new group, everyone seem really nice, but, again they're trying to get me to avoid a lot of things. And that makes me really nervous to talk, and I feel really scared about how they're going to feel about it. That's what happens."

As I said this, I clasped my hands together and didn't take my eyes off my plate in sorrow and embarrassment. When I finished, I looked up at Leo, who didn't seem to have taken his eyes off me as I spoke. He listened patiently, and when he saw that I wasn't talking anymore, he continued.

"Huh? So that's what it is. I get it. It's really a shame that you have to go through this. Have you talked to your parents again," he asked me as he played with an envelope of sugar, trying to twist it around his index finger.

"Yes, but they still don't want me to do those things. They already know what I think, and yet they do so"

"Well, it looks like they're not going to change. Maybe later on, if you're feeling better...

As I was listening intently to Leo, I found it very strange that he stopped talking all of a sudden. His eyes narrowed slightly, looking down at the table. After a few seconds, he looked up at me, with the same expression, and quickly tried to fix it.

... Oh, I'm sorry. I got stuck thinking about something," he said with a cute, warm smile.

"Oh... that's okay," I smiled back.

"As I was saying, maybe you could save the outings for later. In the meantime, try to make friends inside the school. And if they propose something you can't do, just propose to do something quieter or explain to them why you can't. They know about your condition, don't they? I'm sure they'll understand you."

I thought for a few seconds about his answer. It was an obvious thing to think about, but it was still one of my doubt generators. Despite it being something so simple, I felt unsure about doing it.

"Are you sure, Leo?"

"Sure. I had a stage where I felt that way too. I always thought people were going to react badly to anything I did. But actually, people aren't that bad, especially from what you tell me. They seem like nice guys, so don't worry," he sentenced with a sweet face before taking another sip of coffee.

Having someone like him reassure me that everything was going to be okay gave me a lot of hope. He could be clumsy and a bit hasty at times, but still, Leo was one of the few people who made me feel that secure. And that was something that made me very happy.

"Thank you, Leo. I'm really glad I got to talk to you."

I thought I saw Leo's cheeks flush a little again. He hurried to drop the cup and rejoin me.

"You're welcome. But can you come a little closer?"

"Huh? Oh, okay."

I had no idea why he had asked me that. Many things crossed my mind at that moment, imagining any possible scenario. I moved my face closer over the table, until I was less than a meter away from his. And suddenly, I felt his right arm squeeze my cheek.

"Don't ever hide something so important from me again, Clara," he reprimanded me without letting go.

"Okay, I'm sorry," I said. Then, he let go of me, leaving my cheek a little flushed from the grip. "That's mean," I pouted at him.

"That's what it feels like when you do it to me," he replied as he picked up the coffee menu.

The next few moments I continued to stroke my cheek, trying to get that color to go away and the small pain to ease. Even when I finished doing so, I noticed that he was still staring determinedly at the menu, very focused.

"Do you want to order anything else," I asked, "It's okay, my treat today"

Since I had called him on such short notice, I wanted him to not have to pay for anything. Besides, whenever we went out, he was always the one paying for things, like when we went to the aquarium.

"Oh? No, it's just that I wanted to check on som... Ah, I completely forgot!"

He immediately put the letter aside and looked at his cell phone.

"I must be somewhere else in a while. I'm sorry," he apologized.

"Huh? That's okay, let me get the check then."

"Fine," he replied.

I was taken by surprise that he had to leave, but I understood. Already what he had helped me with was more than enough.

A few minutes later, we were walking back. It was a nice autumn afternoon, which was in line with the nice weather we had been having this season. However, I had my jacket on, which as always, gave me a little extra warmth.

"Thanks for walking me home. Are you sure you'll get to where you were supposed to be on time?" I asked.

"Don't worry, I still have a little bit of time left. Besides, we're only two blocks from your house," Leo replied with his typical carefree smile.

The pleasant afternoon made the whole cityscape more beautiful. I walked with my hands behind my back, clasped together. Leo had a more relaxed demeanor, with his arms at his sides. I remember that perfectly, because after all we had been living together, I paid a lot of attention to his hands. Yes, that was why...

"So how's your heart," Leo asked me.

"Better. I was fine today, luckily. Although starting tomorrow I'm going back for some tests. They are just for control, but they have me a little worried."

As I said this, I clenched my hands. Tomorrow, Eduardo had summoned me back to the hospital for some blood tests and scans. Again, as they did regularly, they were going to update me on the state of my body.

"Relax, I'm sure everything will be fine," was what he said.

I thought he said it to cheer me up, as he always did. Leo was a real sweetheart when he was trying to put me in a better mood.

"Thank you. I wish it was just like that-," I replied, knowing it wasn't that easy.

"I'm sure you'll be fine"


I sensed something odd in how quickly he spoke to me again. As if he was completely convinced of it.

"Did something happen," he asked me still smiling.

"No, nothing at all"

Possibly it was just my idea, and he probably just wanted to cheer me up more, so it didn't take me long to forget about it. And a short time later, we were already at the door of my building.

"Thanks for coming with me, Leo," I said, already up the steps leading to the door. Standing there, I looked quite a bit taller than him, although he actually was a few inches taller than me.

"You're welcome. Good luck tomorrow," he said as he flashed me a thumbs-up.

"Yes," I said happily, with both my hands clasped together in front of my body.

"So here you are again!"

I froze as I heard such a familiar voice coming from inside the building at the same time the door opened.


My heart leapt, figuratively speaking, when I saw my father standing in front of me. And even greater was the surprise and fear I felt when I noticed he wasn't talking to me.

"Didn't I tell you never to come back here again!?"


As if he were a military sergeant, my father charged Leo aggressively, at the same time yelling at him.

"Dad, no!" I tried to stop him with my yelling.

"You're messing with some very complicated people, you know? You don't want to piss me off, you little brat, I don't want to see you ever again!"

"Please, calm down!"

Leo had been cornered by my father against a light pole. He wasn't touching it, but he was inches away. I knew my father was used to having to deter people with violence, and so he knew how to do it. I could see Leo's eyes, which showed how terrified he was.


Reflexively I jumped up and tried to tug him, but he simply waved his arm to push me away. Not that I had much strength to begin with either.

"You wait inside! Come on!"

He started grabbing my arm and trying to force me into the building, when...

"You have no idea what's wrong with her! She needs to be helped, not abused like this!"

Leo, from the exact spot where my father had threatened him, shouted at him with uncontainable fury. Even though his face showed anguish to the point of almost crying, he still wanted to try to defend me.

"And what do you know about what she needs?! You have no idea about anything! This is your last warning, don't ever see her again!"

As he finished this, he began to push me into the building even harder.

"Leo!", I screamed disconsolately at the top of my lungs.

The door closed, and, through the glass I could see how Leo was still in shock, standing still, looking at the situation. I continued to do so until the hallway would no longer allow me to see him.

"Stop it, Dad!" I kept crying.

"Come on. You know it's dangerous for you."



I grabbed my chest reflexively. Again, I had felt a warning.

Don't... don't... please....

I went up the one floor I had to by stairs, until I reached my apartment. As I opened the door my father pushed me inside.

"Clara..." my mother said when she saw me.

"Okay, inside."

My dad started to lock the door violently, while my mom looked at everything with a straight face.

"You support this too!!!???," I asked enraged and scared of the two of them.

"You know why-"

"I don't care anymore! I hate you!"


I immediately turned and ran to my room. I went in, slammed the door violently and put the latch on. I stood there thinking for a few seconds, distraught and on the verge of tears...



Boom. Boom.


I clutched my chest tightly. Again, I began to feel it. My limbs began to tingle. I began to feel dizzy. I began to feel cold. And even though my heart wanted to beat harder, it couldn't.



I fell to the floor in pain and bewilderment. The first thing I saw was the door pin. I tried to reach for it, but my arm wouldn't reach. I felt my strength go, and my right arm dropped, hitting the door. I was paralyzed and filled with fear. I was alone.

"No... he... he... lp..." I said almost out of breath.

Boom... boom...... boom..........

Slowly, as if life had wanted to give me a second chance, my flow started to get normal again. I felt myself regaining strength in my limbs, which gave me time to climb into bed. Little by little, everything was less confusing. I felt warm again. In my uncertainty, I thought of it as a warning.

What happened next, I don't remember much. I only remember that I cried a lot, for a long time, until I fell asleep. Without moving from where I was. My body felt better, but the feeling of darkness would not go away. I had no one to tell. I didn't want to leave my room, but I didn't want to be there either. I remembered that this was how it was for a good part of my life, and I debated for a few moments about how normal that was. I remember hugging the bedspread, desperately needing someone to hold me. Someone to cheer me up and tell me that everything was going to be okay. But knowing that wasn't going to happen, and at the same time realizing that there was no light at the end of the tunnel, terrified me. I didn't want to be like this anymore.

“Edu… Leo…

I wanted this whole bad dream to end.

… help me”

I wanted someone to help me.