I stepped out the front porch and felt the cold autumn air, and shivered in my coat. I placed my hands inside the coat’s pockets and started walking down the sidewalk. I took a turn and went inside a coffee shop, the smell of roasted coffee beans filled the air and I let out a smile.
I waved at Bob who was working behind the counter, then sat on my favorite seat at the very edge of the cozy place, away from the crowd. I looked out the small window beside me and sighed. I felt a presence, I looked up and she asked, “What would it be today sir?” She asked with a cheerful smile.
“Black,” I replied glumly.
“Do you want anything with that?” she asked.
“If I wanted anything else I would have said so,” I replied irritated. Today was not my day.
She giggled and didn’t mind my grumpiness. I looked at her with a raised eyebrow. “Your order will be in a minute,” she said with a sweet smile and left.
My coffee came within less than a minute, served by the same waitress who’d experienced my unpleasant mood.
She was about to leave in order to attend to another costumer when I decided I needed to give her an apology. I may be a jerk but not a bastard of a jerk.
“I’m sorry about earlier.” As those words stumbled out my mouth, it tasted more bitter than my black coffee. She giggled again and smiled her sweet smile. “It’s no big deal sir,” she replied and left.
Monday came and it was already a school day. I grumpily got out of bed, washed myself, brushed my teeth and went to school. I didn’t even bother to say goodbye to my busy parents as I left the house, they wouldn’t even care even if I died.
I arrived at school, parked the car and got out with my things.
“Hey man,” Alex said and tapped my shoulder with a basketball. “You ready for the game later?” he added. “Always,” I replied with a sly smile. I was the team captain and very confident on winning this fall. We headed towards classes and I found a familiar figure at the back of the room. The waitress.
I headed towards her seat and leaned on her desk. She had her headphones on and was reading a book. She seemed to notice my hand and looked up, then smiled. “Hey, I didn’t know you go to school here too,” she said with a smile as she set down her book and took off her headphones. “Neither did I,” I replied with a questioning look.
She laughed lightly then smiled. “I just move into town a couple of months ago and this was the nearest school from work,” she replied. “Huh,” was all I said and sat down on my chair beside her.
I was a jerk and most of the people hated me, especially during basketball games. They said I played rough, they said I don’t play fair, they said I wasn’t deserving to be the team captain, they said I was a cheater.
It was already the last quarter of the game and my team was falling behind by two points. We only had fifteen seconds left on the clock. I had the ball and needed to make a three-point shot to get the lead before time runs out.
I was completely open and no one dared block me. Many cheered for the team, but no one cheered for me, when suddenly, “Go Miller! Woah! You can do it! Go 17!” A familiar voice cheered from the crowd as loud as she could. The auditorium fell silent. I scanned the bleachers as fast my eyes could, to whoever started cheering for me. And I saw her standing and waving.
It made my heart pounded faster, and it felt weird, but it felt good. The adrenaline surged through me was intensifying it made me quiver lightly. Seven seconds on the clock and I shot the ball praying for the three points. I closed my eyes and wouldn’t dare open them when suddenly the whole auditorium came alive with cheer. Then I felt hands pat my back. I opened my eyes and saw the team’s happy faces.
“Did we get it?” I asked.
“Hell yeah!” Alex replied happily.
I scanned the bleachers for her but she was nowhere to be found.
I drove to the coffee shop that afternoon and found her happily serving customers. I went towards my seat and sat down, waiting impatiently for her to take my order. Then she came. “Congratulations on winning,” she said with a smile as she approached my table. “Black?” she added quickly.
I grinned. “Actually, I came here to see you,” I said honestly. Something about her made me feel comfortable.
She shrugged and her face turned red. “Oh, um. Why?” she stammered. I chuckled at her expression then smiled. “Just wanted to talk to you,” I said. “I’ll have a black coffee while I wait for you shift to end,” I added. She just nodded, smiled shyly and hurriedly went towards the counter. I leaned back in my seat looking at her anxiously.
I waited until her shift ended, as promised. I found out that she was living with her mom. She asked about me, and hesitantly, I only told her a few.
As our friendship grew into something more, I slowly opened up to her. I grew fond of her and she grew fond of me.
I asked her to be my girlfriend one night as I drove her home and immediately she said yes. She gave me a peck on the lips before heading inside her apartment.
Days passed. Then weeks passed. We seemed inseparable. But one day, things changed.
She started to go distant and somewhat, avoiding me. I asked her what was wrong, she said it was nothing and she was just busy, or that her mom was at the hospital and she needed to take care of her.
She didn’t come with me to ball practices like she used to. She would watch only part of my games and would leave early before it ended. She wouldn’t answer my calls and texts, and if she did, it would only be a short conversation. She started making absences in school as well. First was once a week, then twice. Then it seemed like almost every day.
Then one day, she didn’t come to school at all, thinking it was only for the week. I was getting worried. She wasn’t answering my phone calls or text messages. She didn’t open up when I knocked at her apartment. She wasn’t at work either.
I didn’t know what to do so I drove to one of her close friend’s house and rang the doorbell.
“Mark, what are you doing here?” she asked shocked to see me. “I was just wondering if you know where Annie is. She’s not answering my calls or texts. She’s not even at work or at school. And the apartment owner said they had to go somewhere. I also tried contacting her mom, but she also wouldn’t answer,” I replied.
May’s face was now flushed out of color. “Is something wrong?” I asked curiously. “Just a minute, I’ll be right back,” she said and headed back into the house. It was a good five minutes and I decided to leave, when the door suddenly opened. May stepped out her house already dressed.
“Come with me,” she said and headed off.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“To Annie,” came her reply. We arrived at the hospital and I couldn’t stop myself from thinking what possible reason to be at the hospital. We got out of the elevator and May made her way through the corridors as if she’d been her a few times.
She stopped in front of a room and breath in a deep breath before knocking at the door.
“Who is it?” a voice asked from inside. “It’s me, May…”
“Oh come in.” “… And Mark,” May added. Then there was silence. The door opened and Annie’s mom stepped out. This wasn’t good. “Why are you here?” came Sam’s question, Annie’s mother. “He needed to know eventually,” May replied with a sigh.
Sam closed her eyes and exhaled. “You’re right,” she said to May. “But please Mark, take this professionally,” she added now turning to me. I didn’t understand what was going on, but this was not good. Sam opened the door and I stepped in.
Indescribable pain hit me, like a whole building crushing down upon seeing Annie on the hospital bed, tubes everywhere. She was on life support.
“But… how…” I couldn’t say it. “She’s been fighting cancer this whole time. She didn’t tell me that she had herself checked. When she started vomiting blood that was when the frequent absences happened. And when we really got her checked by a specialist, she was already diagnose to have stage 4 cancer,” Sam replied calmly.
“She didn’t want to tell you. She knew that if she did, it would only be harder for you to let her go. But it would have been unfair for you if you didn’t know,” May added. I didn’t care what was the explanation for all of this. All I know is that the person I love was dying, and I wasn’t there to support her like she did for me.
I went towards her bed and coped her fragile pale hand with mine, Sam and Mary were right behind me. She fluttered her eyes open and turned her head slowly to look at me. “Mark,” she whispered. I stood up and leaned closer to her. “Mom?” she said.
“He deserved to know sweetie,” came Sam’s reply.
“Why didn’t you tell me Annie?” I asked tears forming in the corner of my eyes. She placed a hand on the side of my face with great effort and I placed mine over it.
“Mark,” she said again. Every sound she made broke my heart even more. “Ssshh. Ssshh,” I hushed her as I stroke her hair, my voice started to crack. “Don’t… cry … I’m … alright,” she said breathlessly as she tried to put a smile on her face but failed to do so.
“Don’t say anything. I know everything’s going to be okay,” I said and kissed her forehead. I closed my eyes and so did she. “I love you Mark,” she whispered breathlessly, tears streamed down her face. “I love you so, so much Annie. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me,” I said and kissed her forehead again.
She finally smiled. Then it happened…
I gave her the flowers she loved the most, white baby’s breath, before heading to the coffee shop. “Sir?” she asked again. I looked up and smiled. “Sorry. I’ll have black,” I said and my eyes landed on her name plate.
Kairylle Joy A. Mina is a BS Pharmacy student at the University of the Immaculate Conception (UIC), Davao City. She likes writing literature in the English language.