Chapter 16:

I Want to Be Your Wings

With Your Last Heartbeat

Unlike what she had gone through so far, Clara's road to salvation was almost over. With the money raised, the necessary tests were carried out on the artificial heart, which were successfully completed, and the surplus was used to organize a small banquet for those who helped in the raffle to enjoy. The joy was contagious among all of us, and so it was until, a week after the festival, it was announced that in another five days the operation would be performed. Time flew by those days, and two nights before that date, in the midst of a heavy fog, Clara met us at the café.

"So... this is your last night off, right," Hikaru asked her.

"Yes. Tomorrow night I'll already be hospitalized, and I was told that I won't be able to receive visitors."

"I see... well, I'm glad you wanted to come with us. Thank you," he said smiling.

Hikaru was another real sunshine when he wanted to be. Despite his apparent disinterest and dull face, he was very caring and supportive.

"No, no. Thank you guys for receiving me. And... for-"

"Cla-ra. You promised you weren't going to do it anymore. It's really nothing, and we're so glad you're going to be okay now," Sofia lovingly chided her.

"Okay...well, do you guys want to play for a while?"

"Yes! I'm really going to beat you today," Sofia laughed along with them.

After watching that scene from the sidelines, happy, I joined them in playing cards. Again, we played for quite a while, and again, Clara won every time. Only a few hours later, it was time to leave. We stood up and walked to the door.

"God, I can never beat you. It's not fair," Sofia complained.

"Haha, sorry about that. Well... I guess that's it," she said a little shyly, "Thanks for being such good friends all this time. You know? In case something happens... I want you to know that you made me very happy until now."

Both Hikaru and Sofia froze, until the latter pounced on her and hugged her roughly.

"Don't say that. Nothing's going to happen to you. You're going to be fine, and you're going to enjoy your life."


Sofia was speaking with a mixture of anger, sadness and friendliness that made it easy to imagine what she meant. After squeezing her tightly, she looked up, and putting on her typical face she spoke again in a friendly manner.

"Besides, if you don't come back so I can never beat you playing cards, I'm going to be very, very, very angry, do you understand?"

There was some distress in her tone, but she wanted to be strong to restrain Clara.

"Yes. Thank you, Sofi. I love you very much."

"Me too, Clara," she said throwing a chuckle as she released her.

"You can come back anytime you want here. Thank you for making our lives have more joy. And also, for bringing Leo here somehow. We're going to miss him," Hikaru was saying.

At that point, just as I had told them when I started working, I had already achieved the goal I was working for. So, inevitably I was going to quit my job. But...

"About that... yeah, maybe I'll take out a lot of time for studying, but... let me think it through before I decide, okay? I think some more time here wouldn't hurt."

Their faces seemed to light up at such surprise.

"Yes!" they said at the same time.

"Well... thanks for everything guys. See you later," Clara said before walking out the door and having me follow her.

None of us could see it, but behind us, Hikaru started hugging Sofia, making her head rest against his shoulder.

"It's going to be all right. It's okay," he said a little distressed.

"I know, why are you hugging me, silly? She's going to be fine..."

Sofia herself realized that tears were starting to stream down her face.

"...She's going to be fine."

Already on the street, still a bit foggy, we started walking towards her house. However, just a block away from the café, she stopped.

"Come here."


Next to her, a multi-line bus stop stood.

"Actually... I wanted to go one last place tonight," she told me with her cheeks a little pink.

We took one of those buses, which was almost empty, all the way to the beach. The same beach where we had been a few days ago at the now dismantled festival.

"Ah, the sky is clear now. The moon looks beautiful. Do you remember this place? We biked past it the other day," she said as she pointed the way, "And you can see the aquarium in the distance. I had a great time when we went,"

"Yeah, me too. It was the first time I saw you outside the hospital. I still remember you were wearing a really big jacket, haha," I laughed as I remembered her outfit.

"Ah, right," Clara said with some embarrassment.

"Come to think of wore the same jacket whenever I saw you, didn't you? Why? It was pretty hot those days."

One of the main doubts I had was about to be answered.

"Ah that... well, it was partly because I had to protect myself from the cold, as my heart was more prone to illness. But the reality is, it was a jacket I had borrowed from the hospital, and my parents didn't know that. So... I didn't want my father or any of his police friends to see me hanging out with you. You know what they thought about you before," she said with some mischief.

"Well... I guess you're right."

"But you know...

Clara took a few steps forward and turned to look at me, with the moon in the background.

... I came here because I wanted to be alone with you."

My face started to catch fire a little, as if preparing for something.

"Oh... why?"

"If you catch up with me, I'll tell you, hahaha."

Clara started running across the sand as she laughed. She had taken off her shoes beforehand, which I hadn't done yet. I delayed a bit, then ran barefoot behind her. As she approached the water, she slowed down, and I stopped beside her.

"Look at the water. Will it be cold," she asked standing in front of me, her hands behind her back, looking at the sea at her feet.

"Sure. I don't think you want to go in."

"Haha, I think you're right."

I could tell Clara was feeling a little nervous, but I didn't want to interrupt her. I was going to let her say whatever she wanted.

"Leo, I wanted to ask you something. May I?"

"Yes," I said confidently.

"How do you feel about me?"

I had never felt time stand still as it did at that moment. The direct question was like a key asking for my heart to open.

"Whenever I asked you, you wouldn't tell me. Not when you were visiting me at the hospital, not when you handed me the money, not the other day when Sofia and Hikaru were telling me why they were helping me. You wanted to avoid answering it. I'm sorry if it's too direct, but I want to know before I'm operated on," she told me always smiling.

I felt I couldn't do it. If she didn't like my answer, if she didn't accept me that way... I wouldn't handle it. But... I also felt like it was my last chance to do it. It was such a chilling feeling that it gave me enough encouragement to do it, after a few seconds.

"Do you want me to tell you how I feel? Alright... but first I have something to ask you."

"Sure. What is it?"

"Let me listen to your heartbeat."

Exactly like me, Clara's face took on a deep red color. She became even more nervous than I was.

"H-Huh? B-but, you...

After hesitating for a bit, she was also able to gather courage.

... alright"

I approached her, as we got more and more nervous. As I came within inches of her, I noticed her beautiful blushing face.

"Okay... here I go."

I bent down a little until my face was level with her chest, and rested my left ear just above her heart, at which point Clara flinched a little.

Boom boom, boom boom, boom boom....

Her heart was beating a little fast because of the situation, but it was soothing and harmonious. And of course, much better than that tragic time I did the same thing and found no pulse at all.

"What... do you... think?"

"It's beautiful."

Clara looked surprised, possibly because she knew her heart wasn't something to be very proud of.


"Yes. It's beautiful. Just like you," I said as I pulled away and looked back at her.

"Huh? Ah!"

I grabbed both of her hands and started dancing awkwardly without music, playing with her, who was in a state of confusion.

"You know, ever since that time we collided, I felt that you were very special. And I wasn't wrong. You're a very cheerful girl, who has a great enthusiasm for life. You're caring, you understand very well what people feel, and even if you're sad you're going to try to cheer up the rest. You are very strong, always trying to carry everything on your own to take care of your loved ones. And all that... is what I like about you!"

As I moved her arms and made her shake her body, I could notice her gaze completely hypnotized on me, surprised.

"Leo... silly," she smiled at me as she started to move too.

We began to dance in laughter, under the clear moonlight, enjoying that last magical night. I felt completely at peace, sharing a beautiful moment with the person I was in love with. But that... was what I was missing to tell her.

"Ah, Leo!"

Clara tripped over her own feet and started to fall backwards. I pounced on her and managed to grab her by the waist before she hit the floor, while she hung onto my neck.

"You're pretty clumsy, huh? Just like the penguins," I said to her as we laughed.

I helped her regain her posture, and we both stood again, looking at each other at very close range.

"And besides... you're really cute. In every way. That and everything I told you... is why I've liked you so much since the day I met you."

Now Clara, who looked like a big tomato, was looking at me with a very tender smile and eyes that seemed to have a light of their own. She seemed to become more and more beautiful.

"Leo... you..."

A few seconds passed in which we just stopped to look at each other's faces. I'm sure I was just like her, red in the face and glowing in the eyes. I felt like I was truly connected to her.

"Should we… already let go," I asked her.

After all, we were still the same as before, with my arms around her waist and hers around my neck.

"Yes..." she answered.

But neither of us moved. We were still the same way. That's when I started to get nervous, not knowing what to do. "Do I have to act? Do I have to wait?", I wondered. And while I couldn't make up my mind, those nerves were reflected on my face.

"Leo, are you-"

As if her voice had been a trigger, I brought my face close to hers and touched her lips with mine. It was a quick touch, but very soft. A very small kiss under the moon. It lasted less than a second, before I quickly returned to my previous position. I was still nervous, but nothing compared to Clara, who looked lost. She was staring at me wild-eyed, as her face took on more color and her arms shook a little.

"L-Leo... why?"

In that instant I just wanted to disappear. Everything I had built, had just been lost. I needed to fix it quickly before there was no return.

"I-I'm sorry, forget it. It was my fault," I said, closing my eyes in shame.

"No, I mean... why did you do it... like that?"

I opened my eyes and saw the most tender look I have seen. Her nerves seemed to have been exchanged for illusion, and she was no longer trembling. The question was directed elsewhere.

"It's just... I was nervous and... I didn't want a very strong emotion to do wrong... to your heart."

I won't deny that I thought about that. If something happened to Clara because of me just days before the operation, after all we had been through, it would have been the worst. Clara quickly dismissed it, however, and began to laugh, slowly at first, then louder.

"Leo, you fool, did you really think of that? Hahaha."

"Huh? Sh-Shut up, I was just worried about you," I said with unprecedented levels of embarrassment, looking over to the side where the sea was.

"Silly... see, it's done like this."

I felt my neck being caught by her arms, which pulled me to the front. Before I knew it, she had moved in the same way, and touched my lips with hers. This time it was a little deeper and stronger. When I understood, I closed my eyes and enjoyed the moment. On that beach, all alone, I felt like time was slowing down again. And I wished that this time it had never run again. I don't remember exactly how many seconds it was, but I know it was much longer than my attempt. When she was satisfied, she moved very little away, leaving her tender smiling face very close to mine. For my part, I couldn't get out of surprise, and I felt my whole face burn.

"Clara, you..."

After smiling with much joy, she hugged me, hiding her face against my chest.

"Huh? Clara?"

"Don't look at me, silly! I'm embarrassed to be like this!" she said as she laughed.

"Huh? It's not fair, you looked so cute," I would say to her as we laughed.

It seemed that, finally, I just had to have a little more confidence in myself. I was so happy.

"Thank you... all those things you said about me... it made me very happy, Leo. I'm very lucky to have met you," she said excitedly, again with barely moist eyes.

"I think so too, Clara," I replied.

I tried to stroke her cheek to lift her little face, but she only hid further.

"No! Don't see me yet!"

"Huh? Come on!"

As we laughed and played with the sand between our feet, I thought how lucky I was. I had met so many beautiful people on that journey, and I felt like I had grown as a person. As if all that wasn't enough, I had fallen in love with a very beautiful lady. I thought about how lucky I was... and also, sadly, how unlucky I could be just 48 hours later.

I would have loved to have enjoyed that night on the beach more, but there was still one hurdle to overcome that was not easy. No matter how many tests were done, no matter how many studies, no matter how many calculations... nothing guaranteed that Clara would get out of that hospital. Or that I would see her again.

"Look, Leo, come to this seat," she told me while I was paying for the ticket on the bus back home.

As I sat down, I noticed that the seat, just forward to the back door, was loose, held only by the safety bar in the back.

"Hold on tight," she told me before it began to shake.

The bus started up, and the seat rocked back and forth. Having to go up and down a lot of steep ups and downs, that vehicle felt like being on a roller coaster, with us not being able to stop laughing the whole way. However, inside me I still felt some anguish at the thought.

"So many moments like this... would no more happen? Would the person I love... go away?" It terrified me to think about it, but I couldn't help but do it.

After a while of pure laughter, we arrived at the door of her building.

"Well, here it is."

"Clara... you're going to be fine, you know? I'll be supporting you outside the operating room."

"Then I'll be waiting for you. Well... I'll see you."

It was time to say goodbye to her, but I didn't know how to do it. After what had happened on the beach, should I try again? I thought I might make her uncomfortable, and I remembered another very important point, so I simply kissed her on the cheek. I must admit I still enjoyed that, too.

"Imagine if your father saw us kissing... it would be catastrophic, wouldn't it," I teased her, though I really thought about it.

Clara smiled and repeated my move.

"Yes, it would be, hehe. See you later"

Clara turned to open the door, while I started to walk backwards, still looking at her. It was because of that, that I could see how she hesitated for a few seconds before entering, before deciding on something else.

"You know what, Leo? I'm tired of hiding," she said while smiling confidently to the ground.

Clara quickly looked to her left, where the intercom was, and rang her apartment doorbell mercilessly. It must have been at least ten seconds of pressing that button nonstop.

"Huh? Clara?" I asked in bewilderment.

"Hello?" a man, who was her father, answered.

Clara stepped away from the intercom, stopped in front of the door, and took a long breath before exclaiming:

"I love you, Leo!"

The shout went through my ears with the force of a military jet, and I felt it behind my back continue to ripple throughout the silent neighborhood. I could even feel it was so powerful that the wind was moving my hair, although that must have been a casual gust. Either way, I was completely flushed and surprised.

"Thank you for taking such good care of me! Thank you for being so kind and tender with everyone! Thank you for making me smile when I needed it the most! Thank you for not giving up! Thank you for making me fall in love with you...

By this point, in the middle of that kind of confession, I noticed that Clara was so excited that she was about to cry. But, this time, from happiness.

... See you after the operation!"

"Ha... silly," smiled Armando after hanging up, a little blushing.

At the very moment when her father was relievedly rejoicing in his apartment, that last sentence made me react. I felt my chest ease, and the pressure on it decompressed. Again, I allowed myself to smile.

"Then that's how it will be. I want to take care of you forever, Clara. See you," I said as I turned and started walking toward my house.

Clara stared at me for a few seconds, and finally walked into her building, closing the door.

A lot had happened that night. And each and every moment was very important. But that last sentence... I feel it was the most important of all of them. Even more than confessing and kissing her. Because it made me feel good about my concern. Why? Don't be silly, it's very simple...

Because I realized that an angel would never leave me.