My heartbeats seem to be competing with the roars of the ocean, as I sit on the lone rock at the beach, thinking about nothing but Will, just Will. This name does something to me.
As my anger and despair settle a little, a deep sense of loss and fear grip my heart. It feels that Will has already gone too far; so far that I won’t be able to even touch him anymore. This feeling makes me nauseous. Sometimes, distance makes you realize the depth of your emotions.
I can’t give up so easily. I can’t let someone, someone whom I love deeply, end his life just because he can’t ‘accept’ his condition. And, how could I leave him alone at the beach. I get up and run – as fast as possible. Like if I don’t run fast, I won’t be able to see him again. I stop at the spot, panting hard, my throat parched. He’s not there. I’m sure Nathan took him to the room. I run towards the room.
I slow down as I approach his room; as I stand there, catching my breath, I see Nathan peeking from the door of his room. He expels a breath of relief as he sees me. I do the same. I allow myself to take some deep breaths so that I don’t go breathless while talking to him.
What if he has fallen asleep already? Time is slipping. I open the door and enter the dark room, silently, not wanting to disturb him yet hoping he is still awake. Waiting for me?
I skip a beat. ‘Will. You’re awake.’
‘Awake? Oh, Clark, I…’ He pauses, as if wanting to stop himself from saying something.
Why do you suppress your emotions, Will. ‘Where have you been?’ his voice sounds tired.
‘Are you okay?’ I move closer to his bed, and switch on the table lamp. He looks strained.
‘Come here, Clark. Be with me tonight. I’m running out of time.’
‘We all are, Will,’ I say. ‘You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible. Remember who said this?’ Will smiles a little. ‘What do you think this rule just applies to me? It also applies to a stubborn man called Will Traynor. You’re not that extra-ordinary, okay? And, I’d like to add – that you do not have any right to end your life!’
He doesn’t look at me. I sit beside him and touch his hand. He lets out a heavy breath as though he was holding it for long.
‘You know something, Clark; someone’s last wish is very precious. And, you are my last…my only wish.’ He looks at me and his gaze makes me shiver. ‘Come closer. I need to feel you,’ he says.
I lie down beside him, putting my hand around his waist. I can feel his heartbeats.
‘Can we strike a deal?’ I dart his own words back to him. ‘Whereby you promise to be around me when I spread my wings and fly?’ I say, looking straight into his eyes. ‘Whereby you allow me to be your sunshine and I promise to be the perpetual reason that makes you want to get up every morning.’
‘There are so many promises. I’m afraid I won’t be able to fulfill.’ He closes his eyes for a brief moment. ‘Let’s not discuss it, Clark.’
‘I can’t even think of doing anything without feeling your encouraging glance over me, Will. I have stopped thinking about me – that I was – before you. I have forgotten how I lived when you were not in my life.’
‘You will learn.’
‘No. I don’t want to. Please.’ I plead and hide my face in his arms.
Will sighs. ‘You’re being emotional. Life won’t be easy – ’
‘Did you think it would be easy with me when I walked into your room the very first day? But, it was not that hard, was it?’ I look at him and wait for his response. There’s none. ‘We both know that we make each other happy. That time just flies, the world just blurs when we are together.’ Will is looking at the swaying curtains. ‘You say your condition is not going to get any better, I say we can try that it doesn’t get any worse.’
He is still looking nowhere, like he hasn’t heard what I said. I cannot fathom his expression. My heart sinks. I rest my head on his shoulder.
‘Can you hear something…some music?’ he asks after a while.
I concentrate and realize that a beautiful tune is playing somewhere, faraway. ‘Mmm…’
‘They are playing some lovely songs. Some of them are from the movies we watched together, and they made me think of you. Just you and nothing else. How we bonded every single day. Everyday you came wearing a radiant smile even though I was being terribly sulky. You are the only person, Clark, who treats me like nothing is wrong with me. You look at me, not my wheelchair,’ he says as he tickles my hand with tiny strokes of his thumb, and I soak his shirt with my tears.
‘Oh, Clark. I never thought I’d smile again, but you have so effortlessly given me so many reasons to laugh. I never thought you could create such an indelible impression on my heart. I thought you would give up, but you amazed me by your determination. Be like this, always.’
I get up with a jerk. ‘And, you amazed me by your cowardice, Will Traynor. I never thought you were the kind of man who would give up easily.’
He looks at me, surprised. I know it’s harsh but it seems I have no words anymore. ‘You have given me so much, Will. But by saying that being with me won’t be enough for you, you have taken everything. You scarred me for life.’ My voice clogged with emotions.
‘Clark, that’s not – ’
I sprint out of the room, seething, knowing it is going to be the toughest night of my life.
One look at Lou, and I know what has happened. She looks like a piece of grief. My heart goes out to her and to Will. But, it’s not something unexpected.
Flopped on my seat, I can’t help observing Will who is looking at Lou – his only reason to smile. I’m quite familiar with this look. He instantly closes his eyes as Lou diverts her glance from the window. Will is expert in hiding his pain and emotions, but Lou? Her emotions are transparent. She looks defeated as she watches Will. That exuberant Lou is missing.
Back home, as we land at the airport, Lou refuses to come with us. She verbally announces her resignation, leaving Mr. and Mrs. Traynor shocked. I’m surprised that Will doesn’t say a word, however, I can tell how tortured he is feeling. This man loves her. I know. Sometimes your eyes speak more than your words, and I have seen the spark in his eyes the moment they land at Lou.
After Lou leaves, I get a call. It’s Lou. She asks me to meet her outside. I excuse myself and walk towards the exit.
Her face looks flushed due to stifled emotions. ‘Lou, look – ’
‘Did he ever say to you that he loves me? Have you ever felt, Nathan, that he loves me? I just want to clear my delusion before I go,’ she asks right away.
It’s not a delusion, Lou. I want to say, but it would make it more difficult for her. ‘I don’t know, Lou,’ I say. ‘I just know that he cares about you.’
If there was a sound of heartbreak, I would have listened through her quivering sigh. A lone tear tumbles on her flushed cheek, and she leaves, dejected.
I open my eyes and witness the crack of dawn, and it’s drizzling. My head aches because of constant crying. It’s been three days since we returned. I remember how cold Will was towards me all through the journey. He never ever looked at me like I don’t even exist.
Why have I stopped going to the Traynors? Only Treen knows. My parents believe I’m still suffering from jetlag. I’ve heard them discussing the renewal of my contract.
It feels like a nightmare – like I’ll get up and reach back to work sharp at eight. I strain myself to not think about Will still my thoughts wander towards him. I won’t be able to see him again? This thought makes my heart heavy, so heavy that it seems I won’t be able to carry it anymore. Have they left already? I feel the bile surge up. I curl on my bed, wanting to be there forever.
My phone rings. Speaking to anyone is the last thing I want to do. But, the ringing is relentless. I pick it up.
‘Clark.’ My heart almost stops. I am unable to respond because I find myself unable to breathe.
‘I know you are there. Please speak to me,’ Will says. ‘I need to see you.’
‘But, I don’t want to see you, Will Traynor!’ I blurt out. My voice sounds creaky.
‘Jesus, you sound terrible!’ He pauses for a moment. ‘Come and meet me, please. Or else you’re going to regret.’ And, the call gets disconnected.
I walk breathlessly on the road, my mind so congested that it almost feels numb. The moment I reach the gate of the annex, tears blur my vision. My first day, and so many hopeful days here flash in my mind. As I walk into his room, slowly, my feet wobble as though they are made up of jelly. Inexplicably, it feels like I’m home.
He is sitting in his wheelchair, looking out the window. I can see his thumb stir as I stand beside him. The chair swerves and here he is, looking at me! He hasn’t shaved in these three days. I remember the day when he allowed me the intimacy of shaving off his beard.
‘How have you been, Clark? You look…’ He doesn’t finish his sentence. ‘Mom says you refused your salary? You even paid for your ticket? Your dad says you are not well?’
‘This is what you wanted to say? You could have asked this over the phone.’
‘And, what you would have answered?’ His voice sounds like a whisper.
I sigh. ‘True, I’m just an employee, so of course salary matters,’ I say, and see a sliver of pain crossing his eyes. ‘I have failed. I don’t deserve that money.’
‘You didn’t take up this job to change my mind.’ His tone is annoyingly calm.
‘I didn’t take up this job to be on a holiday either.’
‘Yes, but – ’
‘I don’t need your money, for God’s sake!’ I almost shout. Tears of anger and despair sting. I look at him and fat tears spill out.
‘I have not called you to ask about the money,’ he says. After a pause, he exhales heavily. ‘I tried, Clark. Three days without you by my side. I’ve already died a million times in these three days. I couldn’t bear it anymore.’
‘You don’t need to. Live with me, Will. I’m here.’ I rush and kneel down on the floor, beside him. ‘Trust me, please.’
‘I trust you.’ He moistens his lips. ‘When did you learn to rule my life, Clark? No one has ever managed to do so.’ He smiles, looking into my eyes. ‘When did I start to just flow with you without any resistance?’ His face is flushed with emotions that he has never shown to me before. I swallow, but the lump in my throat wouldn’t allow it. ‘You don’t know how you complete me, Clark.’
I get up and sit on his lap. I trace his face with my fingers, this charming face that means everything to me.
‘You win, Louisa Clark. Just stop pestering me with your thoughts. I can’t think of anything else. God! It’s terrible!’ He laughs and tears gleam in his eyes.
It makes my heart swell that I fear it would burst. I hold him tight and weep.
‘Don’t cry, please,’ he whispers in my ear. ‘It makes me feel even more helpless – that I can’t even comfort you. Can’t gather you in my arms. Oh, how much I want to do that.’
I dash off my tears, and kiss him on his lips. I wish I could soak all his woes, pain and doubts. ‘You take me in your arms every time you look at me, encourage me. You have no idea, Will, how secure I feel. How comforting it is.’
He closes his eyes for a moment and a faint smile flickers on his lips. ‘A few months or maybe years. Don’t know what a man like me, who doesn’t have any strength to do anything, would do. Maybe I’m being selfish, selfish enough to bring a pause in your life but surprisingly, Clark, I’m afraid of dying.’
‘Pause? You have instilled a new life in me.’ I remember how he rescued me, the trembling me, trapped in the maze. How his words liberated me from my fears. Something has changed between us that very day. I squeeze his hand gently. ‘Sometimes, mental strength beats the physical strength. And, it’s beautiful. You have the capability to change lives, Will. Your wit, your artistic way of playing with words – I often think you could be a great writer and speaker.’
‘Rubbish!’ He laughs. ‘So, Louisa Clark, you are trying to give me a purpose, huh?’
‘If you’re ready to accept it.’ I smile. ‘So, should I call Mrs. Traynor? To cancel – ’
‘You don’t trust me, do you?’
‘Well, when it comes to this decision – no,’ I say. ‘I fear that – ’
‘Don’t. I give you my words. I hand over my life to you, Clark. I won’t take it back,’ he says.
A deep sense of relief appeases my nervous anxiety that was gnawing inside me. This relief cannot be measured. The very familiar and soothing silence falls between us, the silence that speaks more than words.
‘I’m glad my words talked some sense into your head.’
‘Don’t try to take so much credit, Clark. Your words were not that effective.’ He raises an eyebrow. The famous sarcasm is back! ‘Your absence was.’ Both his voice and eyes soften as he looks into my eyes.
‘Well, the credit still goes to me.’
Outside the window, the silvery streaks of sunshine reflect warmth, just like our relationship. Everything looks calm, just like our hearts. This morning is full of promises just like our life that I pledge to fulfill. It feels that, finally, my life has found some meaning. Finally, I have found my soul mate who can listen to my thoughts. Who can feel my absence!