Chapter 15:

Our Last Chance

With Your Last Heartbeat

A ray of sunlight began to enter my eyes, which opened very slowly. It took me a few seconds to realize where I was and remember the night before. I tried to move my head, but I felt something hard to my right.


Next to me was Clara sleeping peacefully, almost soundlessly. Her head had rested on mine, and our arms were intertwined. Seeing that scene, I smiled throwing a giggle, entertained. I rested her head gently on the pillow, put my computer away and slowly left the room, without waking her.

"Have a good rest, Clara," I said, looking back.

It was six-thirty in the morning. The hospital still looked sleepy, and not many people were working. I decided to have a coffee from that machine for breakfast in that warmly lit morning hallway. After I made it, I sat down on one of those benches in front of the rooms.

"It's hot," I said, burning my tongue a little.

I started to blow on the coffee to cool it down a bit, until I felt a somewhat familiar voice nearby.

"Good morning."

In front of me stood two people, a woman and a man to be more precise, the latter being the one who had spoken. They were Clara's parents. A visit that, from what had happened last time, I wasn't too happy about.

"Good morning," I said dismissively as I looked straight ahead.

"Is Clara sleeping?"

"Yes, she's in her room."


A few seconds of silence passed, with a tense atmosphere, until her mother continued.

"Actually...we wanted to talk to you."

That took me by surprise, though I didn't reflect it outwardly. I sipped some of my coffee slowly and looked at them again just the same.

"What's wrong?"

Both of them looked more concerned and less on the offensive than the other times I'd seen them. They looked at each other before saying something.

"We know what you're doing... with the medication money"

It was to be expected that they knew. Surely Clara would have told them, and if not Talos would have. I didn't take any notice of the comment at all.


"Well... we wanted to thank you for that. You didn't have to, really."

"I'm doing it because I want to help her. Just that."

"We know, but we really are grateful to you. For several years now, various problems with her health have forced us to get money from everywhere. We borrow so much that it is very difficult for us to make ends meet. That's why we are so grateful for your help."

"And... we wanted to apologize... for how we treated you. We just didn't want you to hurt Clara," her father concluded.

What her mother was telling me was very sad, as she took a small bow forward. Even with their two jobs, paying so much to treat such a new disease must have been very difficult. And I didn't even want to think about what they had to do now to pay for the artificial heart tests.

"Look, I honestly don't care if you want to apologize to me or not. I appreciate the gesture, but I think you should apologize to someone else."

That day when that man had confronted me, my gaze had been caught by Clara's horrified face as she screamed and cried while her father attacked me. Knowing her condition, those situations were very bad for her, so they made her suffer a lot. I only cared about her at that moment.

"We already talked to Clara about it, and we apologized. She had suffered a lot and we realized that's not what we want. We're sorry."

After they said that, I was relieved. Quickly, as if someone else took over my body, I smiled warmly at them.

"Well, that's that then. Let's hope everything goes well for her."

They, too, seemed relieved by my reaction.

"Alright. Thanks for understanding us," her father was telling me in a friendly way, "Okay, we'll go see her, so we'll leave you alone. Thanks for taking care of Clara so far. We really had trouble getting here because of work."

"Yes, yes. Besides, with all the preparations they were making near the harbor for the festival, we had to detour a lot. Well, if you need anything, we'll be with her. See you later," her mother closed.

"Oh, see you later."

As they both walked to their room, I stared at my coffee, lost in thought. Despite my differences with them, it made me happy to know that we could help each other. I smiled and took a long sip of my coffee, which helped me wake up for good. And as I looked at the cup again, I seemed to be waking up more and more. So much so... that I remembered something her mother had said in utter amazement.

"What did you just say?"

My question, almost shouting, echoed throughout the hallway, causing them both to turn.

"Huh?" they wondered in unison.

"You, what you said," I said looking at her mother.

"Huh? That they were setting up the festival on the street and that's why we couldn't get through?"

I felt in my head something was pounding like a big wave. The world seemed to have lit up. I finished my coffee quickly, grabbed my stuff and quickly shot off towards the opposite end.

"Thanks. I'll talk to you guys later."

"Huh? Wait," her mother called after me, though I paid no heed.

I couldn't miss this opportunity. It was possibly the only one we would ever have. And for it to be done, I had to first run to the guard room at the back of the wing.

"Dr. Talos!"

Eduardo startled as soon as I stumbled giddily into the room.

"Leo, what's wrong, did something happen with Clara?"

Luckily, this time it wasn't about that. Unlike that afternoon, today I wore a big smile full of excitement.

"I know how to get the money."

I remember that day I allowed myself to skip college, as the only absence I was going to have in my entire career. Besides that first day, of course. I took out a notebook and started writing things down in it all day long, without a break. That's how it went until I had to go to work.

"You want us to visit Clara today," Sofia asked me while carrying an order.

"Yes. She would be very happy. What do you think, Hikaru," I asked from the cashier's desk.

"Well, it sounds good to me, but why does it have to be today," the coffee shop heir was saying as he prepared a coffee.

"I need us to show her something."

"Huh?" they asked each other at the same time.

A while later, in the break room, I opened the notebook and showed them its inside.

"What do you think?"

They both looked very astonished, almost as I had when I had thought of it. They understood that it was our possibility.

"Okay, but... can we really," Hikaru asked me.

"We can. I assure you," I said confidently.

Between the three of us we looked at each other, smiling almost at the same time.

"Well, then. Let's have Clara look at it today," Sofia said as she closed the notebook.

After the shift was over, we decided to give the locked angel our surprise.

"Come in," Clara said as she heard a knock on her bedroom door.

We quickly entered her room, with the ever-cheerful Sofia in the lead.

"Surprise, Clarichi!" she said as she ran to hug her, amidst the patient's confusion.

"Huh? S-Sofia?"

As she received her friend's elated hug, Hikaru and I entered from the same hallway.

"Good evening, Clara," Hikaru greeted her with a warm smile.

"Oh, good evening Hikaru," she replied before fixing her eyes on me for a few seconds.

"They wanted to come visit you. I hope you like the surprise."

I knew Clara was going to be happy about this, and I hadn't been wrong. She hugged Sofia even tighter as she looked at me excitedly.

"Thank you."

"Ah! I lost again."

The first thing we did was talk to her and play for a while. And among so much laughter and jokes, Sofia was experiencing for the first time the difficulty of playing against her.

"Hahaha, really no one can beat me yet," Clara laughed in our face.

"Haha, you really are good at cards. I wish I had your luck," Hikaru was saying too.

"But you know... I'm really glad you came. Thank you for being with me," she said very happily.

Clara was a very sentimental person at heart, and there were many times she stopped the moment to express herself that way. It was very tender to see her.

"Ay, Clari...

Sofia was about to say something else, but stopped when she remembered the reason for our visit. She looked at the two of us, smiled decidedly, and spoke to her again.

... you know, we wanted to show you something. Leo?"

That was my cue to pull out the notebook in which I had written my idea. I began to open it as I spoke.

"You know about the City Festival, right? It's held once a year in different parts of the city to commemorate the anniversary of its founding."

"Oh, yes. Lots of people go every year, but I've never been able to go," she recounted.

"Well. This year it's being held a week from today. And so...

When I found the page I was looking for, I gently propped it up on the bed so Clara could read it. The moment she made contact with the paper, her eyes widened in complete surprise.

... it's the perfect chance to get the money."


Leaving no time for her to ask anything, we continued.

"Hikaru, will you explain the tactic?"

Hikaru took the paper and started to explain to our angel.

"Sure. This year the festival will be divided into three different spots: The Congress square, the park on the main avenue, and on the coast side near the aquarium. A total of about five hundred thousand people are expected to attend between the three points. Almost the entire city will be there. There are many activities and shows to see, but we will concentrate on one thing... Sofia?"

At this signal, Sofia began to pull something out of her bag, while humming.

"Chanchararanchanchanchannn... look!"

She handed Sofia a small rectangular piece of paper. On its front it said 'Raffle: Help save a heart'

"This...we're going to have a raffle? But..."

"Relax. We already talked to people who want to help us. Look at the prizes," Sofia instructed her.

Clara looked further down the paper, and as she read each line, I remembered how we had spoken to each of the contributors.

"So you want to have a raffle? Okay, one of the prizes could be breakfast for two. I'll deduct it from Hikaru's salary," said Jairo.

"Huh? Grandpa," his grandson complained.

"Haha, just kidding. I'll certainly be happy to help you," concluded the contributor of the third prize.

"A raffle? But of course, dear. Now it's our turn to help you," said Doña Irma affectionately, whom we went to visit in her store, "What do you think, Hugo?"

"Of course," replied Don Hugo standing next to her, "Would two dozen croissants be enough?"

"Sure, thank you very much," I said as the three of us leaned over to the second prize contributors.

"You're welcome. Good luck," they told us.

"Huh? So, a raffle. Well... okay. How about a rack of ribs, will that be enough," Carlos, the butcher, wondered.

"What? Are you kidding, can we really," I asked as we were absolutely shocked.

"Well, yes. It's a good cause, and besides I owed you that favor from when you got me tickets to go to the stadium."

"Oh... well, thank you very much."

"Besides... ever since you told me you met that girl, every time you come here you look happier. As if we've become champions of the league. Take good care of her, okay?"

I lit up completely upon hearing that analogy.

"Yes. Thank you very much," I replied to the jackpot contributor.

"But... seriously... you don't have to," Clara was saying excitedly again.

"Of course we do. After meeting you, no one can stop wanting to take care of such a nice person. Besides, we couldn't stand by and do nothing seeing Leo work so hard for this. Thanks for letting me be your best friend, Clarichi," Sofia smiled at her.

"It's true. From the first day we knew what was going on, we were happy every time Leo told us you were cheerful. And besides... since you've been around, everything feels so much livelier. Thanks for being my friend too, and I hope you can count on us," Hikaru added.

"It's just the last step for us to get this done. I know it's hard for everyone, and that's why we want to try. Trust us, Clarita," I said gently.

Just then, we felt the door open and close, and someone rushed in.

"Oh... I guess I'm late for the explanation, aren't I," Talos lamented, still smiling.

Clara seemed completely moved again. She couldn't help but wet her eyes almost the instant she saw us all like this, and tried to hide her face.

"Dummies... dummies."

"Hey, Clara, please don't cry," Hikaru tried to calm her down.

"How can you want me not to cry? You're always doing all this for me," she said between sobs.

"Clara..." Sofia stroked her head.

"It's okay. I promise you it's the last time I do it. Thank you... thank you really."

We stayed like that for a while longer. Then Hikaru and I turned back, while Sofia stayed the night with her, having the 'sleepover' they wanted. And for the next few days, we all concentrated almost absolutely on that festival.

"Come on, just a little longer," I thought as I studied, seeing that there were five days left.

"Just a little bit more," Sofia thought before falling asleep in her bed, seeing that there were four days left.

"Just a little more," thought Hikaru as he worked, seeing that three days remained.

"Good afternoon, Doctor Talos. I'm calling on behalf of Corskie-Braun Laboratories. We wanted to confirm if you have the money to start testing next week," a woman was saying over the speaker phone in Talos' office.

"We're going to have it. I confirm you can start," Talos said confidently, seeing that it was two days away.

"It's... tomorrow," Clara said seeing that it was 23:59 the day before.

And finally, the night of the festival arrived. It was a nice clear night, where luckily it wasn't cold. I had met Sofia and Hikaru where we had agreed, on a street a little higher to the beach, from where you could see the whole city. However, someone else was missing.

"It's about time, isn't it," Sofia asked.

"Yes. It looks like everyone is already having fun," Hikaru was telling her.

"There are a lot of people today. I'm sure we'll do well," I told them.

"Good evening."

From behind us, a girl began to approach, wearing a white dress and matching hat. We were waiting for her.

"Good evening, Clara," Hikaru and Sofia said at the same time.

"Good evening... you look very pretty today."

It was when I finished the sentence that I realized what I had said. It had totally escaped me, and Clara was now very flushed and looking every which way.

"Oh, th-thank you, Leo. Y-you too," she was saying straining to look at me.

"Oh, save that for later, you two. Are you ready," Sofia asked, realizing the mood.

"Yes," I said.

"Let's do it," Hikaru said.

"Okay, but... how many raffle tickets do we have to sell," Clara asked.

"Twenty thousand, at a dollar each," I replied.

"Huh? But do we have to sell them all by ourselves?" she asked worriedly.

At that moment I noticed that Sofia was looking contentedly at our backs. I turned my head, and upon understanding smiled as well.

"Not exactly."

Clara also turned her gaze, and could see a group of about thirty teenagers appear from behind, talking among themselves.

"Hi, Clara!" greeted Jennifer from afar.

"We're here!" said Marcos.

"We're ready," Wendy cheered.

And so, like them, all of Clara's classmates arrived at that corner, before her astonished gaze.

“What,” she asked.

"I know what you're thinking, Clara. It turns out... I'm really good at organizing things, hahahaha," Sofia was telling her.

"So are we, it seems."

Another similar voice spoke at that moment. It was Doctor Talos himself, who had brought a lot of people with him as well.


"Turns out a lot of us had a day off today, so we thought we'd come and help."

As the doctors smiled and cheered her on, she couldn't get out of surprise.

"All of them... did they all come for me?"

"Yes, and not just them," I said as I pulled out my phone, "Hey, Armando, could you say hello to your daughter, please?"

I handed my phone to Clara, who couldn't believe what she was seeing on the screen. She was on a video call, with her father on the other end.

"How are you, Clara?"

"Dad! What's going on?"

"Surprise! We're going to be helping you guys sell everything today, aren't we, boys?"


From behind him, about twenty police officers appeared, celebrating and waving to the camera, some even sounding the sirens of some patrol cars.

"The guys on duty nearby are going to be selling too. And a lot of your mom's co-workers too. There's no way we're not going to make it."

"Dad..." Clara said completely excited.

"Clarita... see you after the festival."

"Yes. Thanks for everything, daddy."

The video call cut off, and Clara stared at the phone for a few seconds, before looking back at all of us.

"See, there are a lot of people who are always going to accompany you. Shall we go, Clara?"

After Sofia's cheer, Clara seemed moved again, but she held back tears, as if she had remembered what she had said in the hospital.

"Yes, let's go," she said, smiling hugely.

"Okay. Hands here, everybody," Sofia shouted.

We made a big round and all placed our hands in the center. Shyly, Clara put hers on top of everything.

"Come on, you count," I said.

Clara, now full of confidence, didn't hesitate.

"One, two..."

"Let's go," they all shouted.

Everyone started running on their own. Sofia went towards the Congress square, Hikaru towards the main avenue, and I led Clara towards the coast. The group of classmates, the group of policemen and the group of doctors were also divided between the three spots. With twenty thousand raffle tickets to sell, we couldn't waste any time.

"Let's see, let's see..." Sofia was saying as we ran.

"Hey, you, do you want to come up for karaoke later," a guy organizing the event called out to her.

Sofia lit up when she heard this, and didn't hesitate for a second.

"Okay guys, the next participant is Sofia Galvan, give her a round of applause," the presenter was saying in high spirits.

Some time later, Sofia was already on stage. She was feeling a little nervous, but she was not one of those with stage fright, so she was happier than tense.

"One, two..."

As Sofia sang, all her classmates rushed to sell all the tickets.

"Buy your raffle ticket, help save a life," one girl shouted.

"Win a full barbeque rack with as little as a dollar," announced another classmate.

Incredibly, at the beginning there were many interested in buying, and they knew how to take advantage of it very well.

"Leo, we've sold 500," said Jennifer, who was in charge of the congressional group, over one of the old radios we had borrowed from the police department.

"That fast? Good, keep it up. Hikaru, how are you," I asked the guy on the avenue.

"Fine. I sold about 30, and the guys had sold 300 more as of a while ago."

"Good, keep it up."

"Same... I mean."

Hikaru finished answering, and at the same time he was amazed by the street casino section. He hurried to take the last place at a blackjack table.

"Welcome. what do you bet?"

Hikaru looked at his wallet and pulled out $10 of his own money. Without hesitation, he rested them on the table.


I had the task of commanding the whole operation, while selling tickets myself. So far, I was counting 20, but I was confident that every other guy in my area was selling well. So far, we seemed to be at about a thousand raffles sold. It was a long way off, but it was a good start.


"Oh, Clara, how's it going?"

"Good, I've already sold fifty."

"Huh? Very well. Come, follow me."

Time went by and the raffles kept selling, but we were in a real race against time. All the while we had to keep an eye on how the numbers were doing.

"Buy your raffle tickets, please," another high school girl announced.

"Help save a heart!" one of the doctors would say.

"A dollar to save a life! Win a rack of ribs and two dozen croissants!" a policeman announced over a bullhorn, while his partner blared sirens.

"Patrols, how are we doing?" asked Clara's father.

"Between all of us we have three thousand sold. We expect more people to come now," the officer replied.

"Three thousand? But... there's only an hour left," he thought to himself.

The hours had passed very quickly, and before we knew it, the festival was winding down. We had made more than half of it, but... there was still quite a bit left.

"One dollar raffles," I was shouting all over the place.

"Hey, excuse me, young man, could you help me with something?"

Just as I was passing by a bench in the park, I found a lady in her eighties sitting on it, very well dressed and elegant looking.

"What's the matter," I asked her.

"You see, I was supposed to deliver a gift to a friend of mine at the festival, but she happens to be at the avenue festival instead of this one. And it's really very important that I deliver it to her today. Could you take it over there?"

Normally it wouldn't have been a problem for me, but today my minutes were numbered.

"I'm sorry. I'm in a hurry today," I replied.

"Oh, are you selling raffles? Well... how about we make a deal? If you agree to carry the package, I'll buy you fifty raffles."

That changed absolutely everything. It was, to say the least, an incredibly high amount.

"Really? Th-thank you, but I don't know how I'm going to get there."

As I was thinking that, I was lucky enough to spot a public bike stand in the distance. I had found a way.

"Okay, we have a deal."

I handed her the fifty raffles, at the same time she handed me the fifty dollars and sent me a picture of what her friend looked like.

"She's going to be at the entrance to the food court. Good luck."

"Thanks, see you."

I ran away with the small package in my hand. I used my cell phone to scan the code on the bike stand, and one of the bikes unlocked. I quickly hopped on, hanging the package bag on the handlebars, and started to ride out of the festival.

"Leo! Where are you going?"

In front of me was Clara again, who had seen me on the bike.

"I sold fifty raffles in exchange for delivering a package on the avenue. I must go."

"Let me come with you. That way we can sell while we're cycling."

"Okay, climb up here in front. Figure out how to get there."

Clara climbed up on the bike's spindle, between the handlebars and my body, with her legs dangling over the right side. She opened her cell phone and looked up the quickest route.

"Here you go."

"Okay... about thirty blocks, down the coast, if we can cut fast, we'll be there in....

I stopped talking for a few seconds, startling Clara.

... God, this reminds me of something, haha."

I started up quickly, and within seconds the bike had picked up a lot of speed. I rode the few meters before reaching the coast road, and started to travel on it. Meanwhile, loudspeakers all along the way began to blare.

"Welcome to the fireworks show. We start in ten, nine, eight....

All the strength in my body was going to my legs. As I pedaled, Clara looked worriedly ahead, sometimes closing her eyes. We had to make it.

... three, two, one"

That's when, from the beach, a bunch of fireworks started going off, crowned by a big blue and white one. It exploded in front of our eyes, which were transfixed as they lit up our bodies. The bike miraculously didn't hit anything on that ride, at least not until Clara grabbed my t-shirt with both her arms and leaned her head on my chest, almost hugging me.

"They're beautiful..." she said as she smiled.

Her face was completely lit up by the pyrotechnics, which made her eyes sparkle. No... she also seemed to be lit up by something else. In my mind, I thought... hope. I think the rest of the fireworks were very pretty, but I couldn't take my eyes off her.

"Yes. So beautiful," I replied.

"Thank you all for listening to me. Oh, help save a heart by buying a raffle! You can win breakfast for two, lots of croissants, or even a rack of roast beef! I'll be waiting for you," Sofia announced as she finished singing, amidst the applauding crowd.

Minutes later, we made it to the avenue, and found the woman to whom we were to deliver the package.

"Thank you very much, you two," she thanked us.

"You're welcome, my pleasure," I replied.

"Oh, by the way, Carla told me about the raffles, can I buy ten from you?"

We both got excited about the extra prize.

"Yes, thank you."

"The City Festival is over. Thank you all very much. We look forward to seeing you next year."

The loudspeakers had been announcing the closing of the activities for a while now, and the few people who were left were beginning to leave. In that same corner where we had started, Clara and I were gathered, along with a large part of the kids and doctors who had helped us.

"Well, I guess that was it. Thank you so much for helping me. I love you all very much," Clara was saying as she was applauded.

"Ah, I'm sorry. A lot of people kept asking me for raffles when I finished singing. Good job everyone."

"Oh, good job, Sofia," Clara said to her.

"Good night. We've arrived too," Hikaru was saying as he walked by along with the remaining students.

"Good. Let's start counting."

I took out a paper and pencil, and everyone huddled close to me, Clara being the closest.

"In total, those of us on the beach sold 4518 raffles," I was saying, taking into account the classmates and doctors who were with us.

By now, the total was 4518.


"At the congress plaza we got 5007. But, if I add the ones I just got after karaoke... that's 5607 total."

Everyone was astonished to hear this.

"Huh, you got 600 all by yourself? Amazing," Hikaru was amazed.

"Sure. Looks like my singing and charms made a good impression, hehe."

"Well, then...

I wrote down the new total. 10125 raffles. A little more than half. But... there weren't many people left.

"Finally... Hikaru?"

"Between all of us we got... 3875....

That meant, the total sales were 14000 exactly.

... but I also got this."

What Hikaru had rested on the table was another $300.

"Huh? What's this, Hikaru?"

"I got into gambling at the street casino. I made some profit."

"Some? It's a lot!"

"Well, hanging out with a card-playing grandfather for so long made me learn some blackjack. Plus, I'm sure Clara passed on her luck to me."

So, the total was $14300.

"We're $5700 short. And there's only one group left to ask..."

I grabbed my radio to call the person in charge of the last group, the only one who wasn't with us. As I tried to call them, my nervousness grew.

"Armando, do you copy?"

"I'm here," Clara's father answered on the other end of the radio.

"We have 14300 over here. How much do you have?"

I had listened to their dialogue an hour ago. They were carrying only three thousand. This was not looking good. And on the other end, I could hear a distorted cry through the radio.

"Armando? Please answer," I insisted, desperate.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry...

Everyone was in deep silence, waiting for that news to come. And at that moment, when all our hearts were beating as one...

... we sold 5841 raffles."

What followed was the most uncontrolled celebration I had ever seen in my life. Everyone was screaming at the same time, and some were hugging each other. There was also a big cheer from Armando's side. In the middle of it all, Clara was completely paralyzed and with tears in her eyes.

"Clara... it's all over... Clara."

Doctor Talos hugged her tightly, as if she were a little child, and started crying.

"Clarichi! We made it! I'm so happy," Sofia jumped up to hug her too.

"We made it, Clara," said Hikaru doing the same.

"Clarita... everything is going to be all right, Clarita," Armando said excitedly from the inside of a police car before the communication was cut off.

In the middle of all that, Clara had not lowered her head. She was still staring at me, as I was the one holding the radio in my hand. Her face, on the other hand, was getting wetter and wetter.

"It's all... over?"

I, too, had never stopped staring at her. She seemed to notice at that moment, so I returned my smile, also touched.

"Yes, it's over."

Clara started to react, trying to put on a smile. However, she found it much easier to rest her face against Eduardo's shoulders. At this, while everyone was having their emotional moment, I reached over and began to stroke her head. It was over. There was possibly something difficult still left to do, but finally, what we had been working for was over.

"We did it, Clari."