Click here for the Chapter I:
"I'm sorry, I was not able to prepare one today. I was in a hurry." I said.
"It's okay. Maybe some other time. You'd bring me some tomorrow, right?". She said.
I knew it was really hard for her to ask me that basing on how she tried not to show too much concern. This girl could not fake her enthusiasm but I appreciate her for trying.
"Sure, I'd love to make you a ham sandwich." I smiled. I sat beside her. I waited for her to speak first. I was afraid that she might go gangsta again and send me away.
"My dog died a year ago. Here in this park." She began. "I know you're wondering why I am constantly holding this leash. That's why." She added. "His name's Jake."
"I'm sorry. How did it happen?" I asked, feeling happy that a conversation was going on. And I felt so relieved to know that Jake was no competition. Jake's a dog! I felt like clapping!
"He defended me." She said, a hint of sadness was obvious in her voice.
We've spent more than two hours that day, talking. I learned that Jake was a protective and selfish dog. He was an Alaskan Malamute. He was Stephanie's companion ever since she lost her eyesight five years ago. Jake, Steph told me, was barking at anybody who would try to go near her. He was the reason why she was not able to make friends with anyone in the park where she was passing her time because Jake would be on his protective stance whenever anyone tried to approach her. At one point, Jake ran after a kid who had the misfortune of having to tie his shoe laces near the bench where Stephanie was.
But then, a year ago, someone was able to tame Jake. "He had a soothing voice. He was of the same age as you. He was a dog lover and that's why it was easy for him to handle Jake, despite Jake's obvious viciousness towards strangers."
"Where is he now?" I asked.
But I heard no response, not even after three weeks that we've been spending time together. She allowed me to walk her home and even invited me inside their house. She's living with her grandmother. Nana Mary is one of a kind grandmother. She insisted on being called "Nana" when I addressed her as Mrs. Desmond. She's a sweet thing. She and her late husband Alex practically raised Stephanie singlehandedly when her parents died in a plane crash when she was still three years old. She expressed her worries about Stephanie whenever we get the chance to talk alone.
"She is such a stubborn, independent woman! I always tell her not go at the park anymore but every single day, she walks there and sit in that stupid bench!" She said with emotion. "But I am glad now that you're with her constantly. I know you are a good man. You won't hurt her, would you?". I could not keep up with Nana Mary.
One night, after Stephanie went upstairs to end her day, Nana Mary out of the blue, told me the only thing I would not deny.
"You love her." She said, looking intently at me.
"Am I that obvious Nana?" I chuckled.
"I hope you don't end up like the other one." She said.
"Are we talking about the man who tamed Jake Nana?" I asked her, suddenly perked up and eager to hear the story about that strange man.
"Yeah. He was just like you. He was so in love with my Stephanie." She paused. "You know, I should not probably tell you anything. Steph might get angry at me."
I did not push her.
The next day, Steph and I were on the beach, she, staring blankly at the expanse of the ocean and me, on my back, looking intently at the night sky. She told me what were her dreams and what were the things she desperately wanted to try if only she's not blind.
"I wanted to be a lawyer." She said.
"Well, can't you try? Is there any prohibition that a blind can't be a lawyer?" I engaged her.
"I don't know. You think a blind lawyer can defend her client well not being able to see anything? Especially the evidence?" She laughed. I have to give it to her for not treating her disability as a reason to frown all the time although I can still feel the sadness vibrating in all her being. I realized I was staring at her.
"Steph, you know, I've been wanting to do this but I'm afraid I will regret it in the end. But to hell with it.." I said, already breathless.
"What is it?" She wondered, tilting her head to face me.
"This.." And I planted a kiss on her lips. It seemed like eternity but it lasted only for a few seconds. I felt her trembled and realized that she was crying.
"Oh Steph, I'm sorry..I'm so sorry.." I said, I felt like a jerk.
"No, it's okay Chris.." She wiped her eyes and stood up.
"I wanna go home." She told me.
We were silent while walking and when we arrived at their doorstep, she closed her door on me without saying anything. I felt my heart pierced a thousand times for the unspoken rejection that I felt.
For several days, she did not appear in the park. Many times I tried to talk to her but Nana told me that Stephanie doesn't want to talk to me. "Give her time Chris," Nana sadly told me.
And I did. I gave her time. Although I did not understand why, and although I am filled with too many questions, I let her go, temporarily. I carried on with my life while waiting for her. Never once did I forget to pass through the park. Once, when I was standing in front of their house, I saw her. My heart was raising. I wanted to approach her, hold her. But I held back. I believed that when she's ready, she will tell me. Just like what happened in the park when she spoke to me after she told me to go away.
Two weeks went by. One month. Six months. One year. That's how long I've waited for her. And I was ready to let go. I told myself that maybe she doesn't feel the same way that I do and that she decided to move on with her life without me around. I went to their house telling myself that I will do this for the last time and then I'll be gone forever. But then, I was told by their neighbor that they already sold their house and transferred to somewhere else. I was too late. Stephanie moved on with her life a long time ago. I was waiting for nothing.
My life went by in a haze and next thing I knew, it's been two years since I last saw the girl that I truly loved. Still love.
One summer day..
"Hey Chris!", my brother who was visiting me, called out from outside.
"Yeah?" I lazily answered back. I was on the couch, nursing a headache.
"Someone's looking for you. Come out now, will you?" My brother's voice irritated me.
"Who is it?" I asked, while walking toward the door.
There, on my front porch, was the cutest thing ever. A brown, cuddly puppy. I am a dog lover but I never got around to owning one because I have no time to take care of it because of my work.
"Whose puppy is it?" I rubbed the puppy's ears and talked to him silly.
"He's mine." A soft, melodic voice said. When I looked where that familiar voice came from, I was staring straight to the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen in my life. I looked at every contour of her face, remembering how it felt on my skin..her long hair that I loved to touch..and her eyes..there was life on it. And it's now pouring tears.
"Chris.." She said. I saw her hesitation.
I was overwhelmed with too much emotions that I didn't know how to deal with at that moment and instead of walking towards her, wanting to touch her every being, wanting to validate that it was real, I walked away. I ran. I ran as fast as I could. I heard her call my name but I never looked back.
I ran as if my life depended on it.
=====================to be continued===================