I felt a familiar pang of pain slam into me repeatedly. The same feeling I felt all those years was crawling back into my chest. A headache sprang, and torturous visions seemed to replay itself in my brain over and over again.
Unknown-tears started to form at the corner of my eyes.
What’s happening to me?
That guy’s orbs looked so much like Leander’s that I’m starting to go crazed. Leander’s dead! He was for ten years, and now I’m weeping like a child.
I don’t even know him. From the looks of it - I haven’t seen him around school before. Was he new?
I inhaled sharply and shook my head, closing my lids in the process. But nothing seemed to work. It only made it worse.
Echoes of the past were the last straw, and tears started running down carelessly like a waterfall.
Our precious memories.
We were standing in our usual hideaway outside my garden beneath my favorite tree - I was drawing while he watched me. He looked so cute, merely staring at me that I moved closer to him and rested my head on his shoulder.
The season was very picturesque, wildflowers everywhere. It was nearing twilight, and the sky blazed furiously with orange and red streaks.
It was in the middle of spring, and the serene breeze flowed through the air bringing with it the comforting essence of nature that lingered through the air.
“Ariel?′ he asked in his tiny 5-year-old voice.
I sobbed hard, choking at my tears as I recalled that part. It was like our code name. He called me Ariel after the Disney princess in The Little Mermaid, and I called him Leo because he did remind me of little Simba from The Lion King.
“Yes, Leo?” I giggled in a girlish way and lifted my head to look up at his orbs. They were pure green and shining right at me like gems.
So...callow. Those were what I used to adore every day of my life.
“We’re going to be best friends forever, right?” he asked, raking his hair nervously like he does when he’s shy.
“Yes, of course, silly,” I laughed, punching his left arm jokingly. “You’ll always be my best friend. You’re so kind, sweet, and friendly. You’re the best friend a girl could ever have!”
His face brightened, eyes smiling.
“Then, when we grow up, will you accept me as yours?” he asked naively. I blushed but said yes. And then he asked me the most absurd question at the age of 5, but later on, I realized how thoughtfully he was that day to have proposed that adorably to me. “And after that, will you become my lovely wife and have children?”
Being a kid, I was into all those Disney princesses, so I immediately said yes and hugged him as he welcomed me back.
“I will wait for you, no matter how long it will take,” he whispered, like a vow, brushing his lips against my forehead and kissed it.
I truly believed him, and I always had. We were inseparable.
Until that year...
The day my world ceased...permanently.
Our parents came out smiling happily with Ivan in my mom’s arms and his little sister sitting on his Dad’s shoulder. I remembered her name being too long...so me and him decided to shorten it to something...I can’t recall it…
We wouldn’t be able to recognize each other now.
I wonder how she’s doing...
“Gabriella,” my Dad called out. “Honey...”
“Gabriella!” Angelique shouted.
I slowly turned towards her, still teary.
“Angel...” I sobbed and started crying all over again. “Oh, Angel...”
“Shh...it’s going to be fine. It’ll be alright,” she soothed with a comforting tone. God, I was always grateful to have Angelique as my best friend after Leander’s death. True to her name, she was an Angel sent to me from heaven. She knew about my condition, and ever since we met, we’ve been attached, always having each other’s back no matter what.
“Hush, now, love. What’s bothering you? You haven’t been like this for months. Please tell me what’s wrong?” she asked softly, concern hinting at the end.
I cried harder and explained how he reminded me so much of Leander. His eyes - their eyes - looked so similar. It’s like nothing changed.
I felt like I’d just saw a revenant of him.
I missed him terribly. And now, here I am grieving all over again, as I have for the past ten years.
I continued pouring my wounded heart out painfully, grasped Angelique’s blazer, and clenched my fist tightly around it. My head, pounding.
This-was too much for me. I can feel my heart aching so bad that I was soon feeling dizzy.
My hard grip alarmed Angelique, and I could hear harsh calls for help.
I was slowly wasting and losing control.
Soon it became completely dark.
I woke up slowly to the smell of a wonderfully fragrant perfume.
With extremely heavy lids, I burst open my eyes only to be blinded by lights from above.
“Am I...in heaven?” I asked half excitedly. The last thing I remembered was sulking about Leander before I blacked out. If I was in heaven, then I can meet him again! Do people age in heaven?
I quickly sat up and looked around, hoping to find someone to tell me the good news that I was in heaven. But that emotion soon died down when I saw the face of my mother at the side of my bed, holding my left hand tightly.
Was she in heaven too?
“Oh, my goodness! Thank the lord above, you’re awake my baby,” cried my mother loudly, causing Dad and brother who were sleeping at the corner to wake up.
I looked at her weirdly. “Then...am I not dead?”
“For God’s sake, Gabriella, wake up!” mom sighed heavily.
“She already is Mom,” chuckled Ivan, which made her glare at him, daggers ready to fire. “Sorry, Mom.” She still held the face but softened when she looked back at me.
“Gab, why would you talk about dying now?” she demanded worriedly. I contemplated for a while, blinking my lids fast in the process. Why would I want to die?
Then I remembered; to be with my first love. The zest I’ve cherished silently for years. “Don’t you even think about it, child, you’re still too young.”
“And rather sensitive. I’m glad you’re back with us, honey. You’ve passed out for almost a whole day.” Dad joined, sitting across mom.
A whole day?!
“We were so worried about you. This was the worst anxiety attack you got and the first,” said my mom worriedly.
“What happened, Mom?”
“You blacked out, Gabriella. It’s a huge relief Angel was with you and she was quick to act. As soon as you went out, she immediately shouted for help, and two of your classmates helped carry you to the nurse’s office; an ambulance rushed in soon after. We dropped everything and came here straight away.”
Damn, what a dumb reason to faint.
“The doctor said it was a severe case of anxiety and that you were having shortness of breath. An oxygen mask had to be kept on your face for several hours until your breathing became regular again.”
“You will also be needing to visit your psychiatrist, ditto,” Dad added earnestly. I looked vacantly at him.
He had the same expression as mom, but his shifted gaze held something else. A knowing look that meant he was uneasy about something. Weird. He had not even asked how I felt.
I groaned inwardly.
Holy crap! What the actual shit was wrong with me!
Suddenly I felt a soft hand clasp my hands tightly, and I turned to see Mom. She looked so beautiful, her complexion was just right, I had her hair and eyes, but it wasn’t glowing. The look of sadness tainted it and etched with tears. Dark shadows hovered around her.
“You’re overthinking. Don’t start another attack,” she whispered in a broken tone as I stared at her in surprise. She sniffled for a while, and that disturbed me, knowing how she was in discomfort.
“What’s wrong, mom?” I asked agitated. “Please don’t cry. I don’t like seeing you like this.”
“Are you still thinking about him? Was this because of him?” she asked firmly, looking straight into my soul.
I was silent for a minute. Not knowing what to tell, I just nodded and found myself engulfed in warm arms.
“It’s alright. I’m not mad at you. Just know that whatever your decision is, I’ll always support it,” Mom says, hugging me tightly as if she was about to lose me. “But I want you to take care of yourself. Wherever he is right now, I’m sure he won’t be happy seeing you like this, Gab. Please, for my sake and our family, don’t neglect yourself.”
I couldn’t understand what she was saying at the moment because my head started to hurt with all this talk about Leo. I continued to nod and whisper - “I will” - as I debated whether Angelique told them the actual reason or not.
“Where did Angelique go?” I asked, breaking away from Mom’s hug, and looked around the room. “Is she still here?”
“Yes, she stayed with you the whole time until we arrived. She came to visit you an hour ago, and now she’s at the cafeteria.”
I looked at the time on the clock hanging above the door.
It was 2 pm.
That meant I passed out on a freaking whole school day, and my parents probably took turns watching over me.
I’m such a tiresome case.
“Oh...well you look exhausted, mom. Why don’t you lie down and sleep? When am I going to be discharged?” I asked tiredly, not knowing what else to say as I slumped back into my pillow.
What a disaster.
The fact that they were wasting time because of me and that I am now lying in a hospital bed made me feel utterly selfish, but seeing my parents standing by my side made me happy.
“After we check your test results, young lady.” replied a deep calm voice professionally that seemed to come from the direction of the door.
I knew I should’ve broken that fucking alarm clock ages ago.