Chapter 8:

To Light and Guard

With Your Last Heartbeat

I was standing still as the robotic movements of the machine made it spin around me. I was already used to its flashing lights and electronic noises, so this was nothing new to me. Rather, I had fully accepted that this was going to be the case for a long time to come. Just like the incidents and what had happened the day before. At that point, I didn't even feel like complaining about it. I was just putting up with it.

After a few minutes, the machine finished scanning me, and the last analyzis they were to perform on me was over. I went back to Eduardo's office, as usual, to see the results. That small office really felt like my second bedroom. I visited it all the time, sometimes for many hours, and I even remember falling asleep several times while I was with him. It felt like a second home.

"Well, that was all for today, Clari. Let's see what happened and you can go now, okay?" asked Eduardo as he typed on his computer.

"Yes," I told him with a muffled voice, partly because of the nerves of receiving the results.

Edu, as I had called him for as long as I could remember, was loading data into a computer program that allowed for a clinical analysis of what was wrong with me. He was wearing his white doctor's coat and his typical round glasses, which he had not seemed to take off for at least ten years.

"Okay. Here are the results"

Edu watched the screen for a few seconds, attentive to each of the lines of information, and as he continued to analyze the information, he kept telling me what was going on.

"So, your blood oxygen is very low again and... these images show that there was a drop in your circulation levels. Has something happened these last few days?"

I immediately knew what was going on. It wasn't crazy to think that, after yesterday's horrible incident, my results were going to be pretty bad. And as if that wasn't bad enough, the question made me think about everything that had happened even more. I just wanted to curl up into a little ball and look inward.

"Fiuuu, Clari"

I looked into Edu's eyes, who was calling out to me in a sweet voice again, as he whistled playfully and tenderly. He was facing me straight ahead, with his arm outstretched towards me. In his hand he held a small chocolate lollipop, which he always used to give me when I saw him.

"Thank you," I said as I took it, still downcast but with my eyes a little brighter.

"Clari, did something happen?" he asked calmly.

Normally, it might be a case where I would want to hide what happened, especially if a doctor asked you about things as personal as this. But of course, that wasn't going to happen. If there was one person I could count on, no matter what, it was my guardian. The one who has known me for so long, and who nursed me back to health.

"Could this stay between the two of us... please?"

Eduardo understood what was going on. There weren't many people I wanted to talk about like that, let alone the ones with whom he had to keep something to himself when talking about me.


I continued to go to school the rest of the days. Both Wednesday and Thursday went by in a strange way. I really wanted to go to school, to talk to everyone, to have friends, but I didn't want to keep hurting myself. I hated the idea of getting in trouble again and having my heart suffer for it. I never wanted to go back to the panic I had felt when I was lying on the floor of my room and so many times before that.

"So, I think for this year we should decorate the classroom with maroon and red poster board. What do you think, Marcos?" asked Valentina, one of the girls who seemed to be one of the class representants, as we sat in round discussing our senior year.

"Sounds good to me. It's good to change it up a bit," replied the boy.

"Well, how about you, Sofia," she was now asking the blonde girl who was sitting next to me, but still remaining on her desk.

"Mmm... okay, I guess," she said without looking up from her notebook, in which she was writing something down.

"Hey, stop your studies for a second and come here!" said Valentina irritated.

"Never. Luckily, we have you for being in charge of this boring stuff" he answered her with a smirk, still not looking at her.

"God, you're such a pain in the ass," she complained as some of the guys in the round laughed, "Anyway, how about you, Clara?"

I think that was how I had been asked. Despite being in a group activity, which I had always wanted to be, I couldn't get everything that was happening to me out of my head.



It was only then that I reacted.

"Ah, I'm sorry. Yeah, I think the cardstock looks really cute," I was able to fix the conversation.

"Okay. Does anyone want to say anything," the girl continued asking.

After my interaction with the group, however, I was again overwhelmed by the feeling of unease. And so, as I recall, I spent the entire day.

When I left the school, I checked my cell phone again. I was waiting for two possible things: for Edu to come back with good news, or for Leo to talk to me again. I knew the first one wasn't going to happen, so I checked the second option. When I opened the chat I had with him, I read the messages again.

'Hello, Leo. I'm so sorry about what just happened. I didn't mean for it to end like this. I hope you can forgive me,' was the first thing I had sent him, hours after the incident.

'Hi, don't worry, you don't have to apologize. It was an ugly situation, but nothing more, so don't worry,' he had replied to me.

'Thanks for understanding :),' I sent back to ease the heavy tone of the chat.

'Anyway, are you okay?'

I focused on that message, without changing the worried face I wore. After a few seconds, I read my reply.

'Of course I am, don't worry ;)'

'Okay, take care of yourself,' was the last thing he sent.

After that, there was nothing else. Since that message, I hadn't spoken to him again. I would have liked to talk for hours like that, though. I guess that had to wait.

Thursday was a day when nothing happened. I was at my bench most of the day, barely responding if anyone spoke to me or wanted to tell me anything. At recess, I would throw my whole body over the desk, facing forward or straight up into the wood. I think I only looked up a couple of times, where I noticed that the girl next to me seemed to be looking at me. She was... Sofia, right?

I went back to my house, as I did every day, but without any motivation to go back. I didn't have many places to go, but I think anywhere would have been better. I walked in quickly, took off my shoes, and didn't stop.

"Clara, welcome ho-"

My mother's voice was interrupted by a slamming door. I closed my bedroom door and left the lock on. And as I walked into my room, at no time did I look at my mother, not even when she tried to talk to me. I just walked into my room, not caring about anything.

I threw myself on the bed, not wanting to do anything. Suddenly I remembered something that might make me smile, and I dove for it. I opened the messaging app and checked the chat with Leo. Sadly, there was nothing. Seeing that his 'Okay, take good care of yourself' was the last message, I was overcome with disappointment.

"God," I said as I rested my cell phone against my closed eyes.

Friday went the same way as Thursday. If you asked me, I would tell you that nothing had changed until the moment I left, as if they had been perfectly identical days. Again, I decided to check my messages: there was nothing. Not from Leo, not from Edu, not from anyone.

"Hah, well."

Resigned, I thought about setting out on my return home. I slung my bag over my left shoulder and started walking, turning my back to the school.


I was startled when I heard, close behind me and behind my back, a playful voice talking to me. I turned around, and the first thing I saw was one of my classmates. Although, actually, I think it would be more appropriate to say she was looking at me.

"Going somewhere?" asked Sofia, the blonde girl who sat to my right in the class, with a vivacious smile.

"Uh... this... I was on my way back to my house," I replied, quizzical.

"Okay, well. I was just about to go to the park for a while, do you want to come with me?"

Once more, a classmate was inviting me to do something, but again I was going to have to turn her down. It seemed like a curse I was bound to repeat forever.

"I'm sorry, I can't do it."

"I know you want to."

My eyes widened at the sight of her. She had walked to my side, but she was facing the street, letting me see her profile. She was a really beautiful girl, with light blue eyes and straight blonde hair that looked like something out of a fairy tale. Plus, that liberated, playful expression made her look really cute... When did I feel that too?, I thought.

Beyond that, I was surprised by the way she said that to me. It was a very direct comment to make to someone she barely knew, but I felt like that direct comment was what I needed to realize.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Don't feel obligated either," she smiled at me.


I steeled myself, changed my depressed facade to my true self, and decided that I wanted to start living my life and making my own decisions. I didn't want to waste another second.

"Okay, let's go," I said, smiling openly.

A while later, I found myself with Sofia in the park, walking the different paths that the green space offered us. The same park where I had experienced so many things in the last while. I could not have imagined that this girl, with whom I had not spoken apart from that introduction to my new class, now wanted to go out with me after school.

"Ah, I love coming to the park. It's really nice, don't you think?"

"Yes. I haven't come here much, but whenever I come in, I always enjoy it very much."

"Ah, right. You said you moved in recently?"

"Oh, exactly. I came here a few months ago. I know the area, since I used to come here a lot since I was little, but I hadn't come into the park much.

"Ehhh, I see. Well, I can play tour guide then, haha," Sofia joked.

"I'd love to," I followed her.

There weren't many people around, as it wasn't yet the usual time for kids to go play with their families. It was an ideal day to be quiet, undisturbed. And that tranquility was maintained until we reached the center of the park, where there was a small lake. Inside the water there were some ducks and geese that coexisted on its shores, and they were also an attraction for the tourists.

"Look! How cute the ducks are," said Sofia, very excited to see them.

"Aren't they? They are beautiful," I replied.

"Do you like animals, Clara?"

"Sure. I have a little dog named Dayo, who is a sweetheart. And I also love to see animals, especially marine animals.

"Really? That's great. Have you been able to go to the aquarium yet? If you like marine animals, you're going to love that."


I quickly remembered the date I'd had with Leo at the aquarium. As I remembered how much fun I'd had that day, I couldn't help but smile more and more.

... yes. I went... once," I said as I looked down slightly.

Sofía must have noticed my expression, with my tender smile and my now red cheeks, because as I said that, I saw her respond with another smile, a very warm one.

"I see"

After that, Sofia turned towards the lake and stood gazing at it for quite a while. The wind of that autumn day made her hair move slightly. Also, the setting sun was at the perfect angle to make her skin glow like snow, making it look like she was in a beautiful painting. Just like when... "ah, God, why am I remembering that just now?"

"Sofia, right?"

The girl turned around when she saw I was asking her, still leaning in front of the wooden barricade that acted as a lookout.

"Yes. Sofia Galván. A pleasure," she introduced herself.

"Well, Sofia... why did you want to come with me here?"

I had wanted to ask her ever since she invited me to come. The attention she had been paying to me since I had arrived at the school was too much for how little I had interacted with her. However, upon hearing this question, she just smiled a little wider.

"Clara, have you noticed that since you've been here, I've been looking at you a lot?"

"Huh? Yes, sometimes"

It looked like she had been looking at me even more than I could tell. Now I was even more intrigued about her person.


Sofía rejoined, stepping away from the barricade, and placed both her hands behind her body.

"I like you"

Huh? What, what, what had she said?

My eyes widened to their widest at the sudden declaration. The wind started blowing again at that precise moment. And I, with my brain totally fried, didn't know what to answer her.

"Huh?! This, t-this-I-no, I mean-no, I-I can't, I d-d-don't..."

I started stammering uncontrollably, while shaking my hands due to nerves. I was closing and opening my eyes, full of embarrassment, afraid of what I should answer, until I saw that Sofia started laughing loudly.

"Hahahahaha, relax, it was just a joke, hahaha."


I stood there admiring her face for a few seconds as she laughed, which she was trying to cover with her hands. Then, I came to my senses.

"Huh?!" I said angrily.

I rushed like lightning to her and started hitting her, without much force.

"You fool, you can't play with me like that!"

"Hahaha, sorry, sorry… but look at you, you're more relaxed now, aren't you?"

At first I didn't understand what she was saying, but I quickly realized the situation we were in. I was trying to screw with her, as if I had known her all my life. Until a few seconds ago, I couldn't even have imagined this.

"Shut up, silly," I said as I let go of her. My pouty face was very visible, and I tried to hide it by turning my back to her.

"I'm sorry. But it's obvious I don't see you like this. I don't even see other women like that."

"That's okay, but you're mean," I said, infatuated.

Unbeknownst to me, behind my back, Sofía had gone back to leaning against the barricade, still smiling at the joke she had played on me.

"No, but seriously, do you know why I wanted to come here with you?"

I looked at her again, surprised. I quickly forgot her little joke and still with my back turned, I began to pay attention to her.

"It was because I wanted to get to know you. I've been itching to since the first day, but you were always surrounded by other people or I couldn't talk to you. So, I wanted to find a moment to be able to talk to you alone. Just that."

As she spoke to me with her warm, cheerful smile, I remembered all the times I noticed her watching me. From what I remembered, it always happened that I was talking to other classmates or in the middle of class, so she couldn't have started a conversation.

"I see. Well, it makes me very happy that's the reason," I told her.

"And also... a lot of other times I noticed you were feeling bad. You'd just lie on your desk or walk around with your head down, or look at your cell phone in disappointment, so I didn't want to bother you. But seeing you today, I decided I wanted to talk to you, no matter what."

I remembered all those situations. When I was lying down, when I was walking, when I was checking my... Wait, that time I felt someone behind me...

But above all that, I noticed that she had genuine feelings of wanting to get to know me. Even though she didn't know much about me, from the very first moment...

'Welcome, Clara,' she said to me with a big smile as she stood up from his desk that day.

Wasn't that what I truly wished for?

"I'm sorry. When I told you I didn't want to come with you, it's not that I really didn't want to," I said apologetically.

Sofia listened to me for a few seconds, and that alone was enough for her to understand me.

"It's because of your condition, isn't it?"


"Do you want to tell me about it?"

"... Yes."

I told her everything I knew, everything I experienced these last few times and everything that was happening to me. I didn't have many friends, and with Leo I tried to be careful with information, so it felt great to be able to talk to someone so freely, without feeling pressured. As I told her, Sofia never changed her smile, nor did she take her eyes off me. She listened to everything patiently, until I finished talking.

"So that's why, huh?"

"Yes. I'm not having effective medication, so I can't risk too much. I don't want to make myself feel bad again or worry anyone," I said with a mildly sad smile.

As I talked to her, I felt more confident and even more relaxed than before. And after unloading everything I had to say, I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders, which felt really good.

"It's okay. I'm glad you told me, you know? I'm sure the rest of the kids are going to understand you if you tell them this. I've been at this school since kindergarten with most of them, so I know them well enough to know that they really want to treat you right. You're really going to be fine."

Again, that someone could talk to me like that filled me with confidence. The day before Leo, a person I really appreciated, had done it. Now Sofía, who seemed like a super nice and friendly person, did too. And they both seemed to really mean it.

"Thank you, really. I'm glad I came with you," I said, smiling openly.

Sofía looked at me for a few seconds, seemingly watching the sun fall on my body and hair.

"You know, even though I don't like you like I told you, you're really cute."

I couldn't help but be surprised at the compliment, which took me by surprise. Again, my face flushed.

"Uh... uh... stop it!"

I went from embarrassment to frustration and started hitting her again, while Sofía covered herself and kept laughing. Deep down, I was having a great time, and I was really enjoying being there.

Sofia seemed stronger than me, as she could cover all my attacks with her left arm and her back. Meanwhile, with her right arm, she happened to consult the clock on her phone.

"Oh, look at the time. I must be somewhere else before long. Sorry, Clara."

"Huh? Oh, that's all right, shall we go then?"


We started to leave the park, walking at a slow pace as we enjoyed the scenery. The sun, little by little, was beginning to fall, and the day was getting colder, but the warmth of the person I shared it with was enough to put me at ease.

"Well, I should go that way. I really enjoyed being with you here," she told me at the entrance to the park.

"Same to you. Thank you, Sofia. I'd love to come back with you," I said smiling.

"You too. See you next week, friend," she said as she waved to me with her arm extended in the air.

For a few moments I stood still, amazed and happy that she had called me that way. I felt something warm inside my heart, and my eyes became somewhat sparkling while a big smile appeared on my face.

"See you, friend," I said even louder, and emphasizing the word 'friend'.

I returned home as I did every day. There, as always, my parents were waiting for me.

"Oh... Clara, where have you been," my mother asked.

I closed the door, took off my shoes, and headed to my room, without looking at anyone.

"Clara..." my mother insisted.

"Clara, we're talking to you. Did you do anything after school?" my father added.

I stopped at the door to my room, which I had just opened. I clenched my fists, as I didn't like the situation. But... remembering what had happened today, I quickly loosened them. At last I felt freer again. I had finally decided to enjoy my life a little more. I leaned my body to my right, turned my head to the right and, with all my joy, said:

"Yes, and I feel better than ever," I said with a huge smile that reflected my happiness.