-1 Red String
I always believe that when two hearts are meant for each other, no distance is far, no time is so long and no other love can break them apart. I've held on to that saying for as long as I can remember. Having a long-distance relationship is tougher and challenging than I thought. Seriously keeping it up together and staying stronger it is better said than done.
"Look, Matt! Fireworks!" she exclaimed. Her eyes sparkled with so much excitement and joy. "Did you know that fireworks are the best..."
"Yeah, I know it is the best invention that man ever created!" I had interrupted her before she even finished her sentence. I smiled at her, wrapped my arms around and gave her a kiss on her lips. She just loves the fireworks and it has been our tradition to watch them together every Christmas and New Year's Eve.
I've been in a relationship with my girlfriend, Lia, for almost two years now. Like every normal couple we had our ups and down. But inspite of all the challenges we meet, we face it together and remained strong. We were inseparable, or so I think. Until one day, she decided to work overseas.
"Do you really have to go?" I said with a sad grimace. I pull her close, her back in front of me with my head leaning over her shoulder. She was packing her clothes and filing it one by one in her luggage.
I know it is very selfish of me to stop her. She always dreamed of working across the country to help her family with their financial situation. It's so hard to imagine not having her by my side. We have always been together and I don't know what my life would be without her.
"You know I have to do this, right? Don't worry it's just a temporary thing. I just need to save enough money for my family and will return to you before you even know it," she said with determination. She looked at me and gave me a reassuring smile.
To be honest, I tried to offer her my help countless times but she refused to accept it. She is just the type of girl who wants to do things on her own terms. Maybe that's one of the reasons why I'm so impressed by her. She is way too independent and hardworking.
Days have passed, days turns to weeks, weeks turns to months until it became years. Though we are far apart, we always stay connected and communicate with each other as often as possible.
"When are you coming home?" not wanting to sound pushy. "This is the second Christmas that we are away from each other," I sadly said.
"Sorry, how I wish I was there with you but I can't. My work is very demanding and there are things that I need to do," she said with a gloomy sigh. She's been working too hard, and I'm getting worried for her sake.
"Lia, guess what?" I excitedly said. "I'm looking at my window. The fireworks just started, how I wish you could see it! " Trying to hold back my tears, I'm trying to cheer her up and stay strong for both of us.
"Matt, I'm sorry, but I have to leave. I'll talk to you later," she said in a perpetually tired voice.
"I love...." She drops the call before I even finished talking. I glanced up the ceiling trying to fight back the tears.
I was about to close my window when my phone rings.
"Matt, I love you! I really, really missed you! I'm so sorry for not being there with you now!" she apologized and cries. My sweet Lia, she is such a cry baby.
"I really missed you, Lia, I love you more!" Meaning the words more serious than they sounded.
"Matt, the fireworks, I can see them. It's so beautiful," her voice cheered up, I even heard her giggled. She really loves the fireworks. Hearing her lively voice once again makes me really happy.
We are not together but as long as we are looking at the same sky. It makes me feel closer to her.
"Matt, do you think we can make this work?" she depressingly asked. The tone of her voice change from happy to serious.
"What do you mean?"
"This long distance relationship?" she replied.
"Do you know the tale of the red string? It's the string that binds two people together. No matter how far away they are from each other they will always stay connected by that string. And even if they lost their way. They will always find each other no matter what. That invisible string bonded us together. It may stretch or tangled but it will never break," I sincerely replied.
"I hope you're right," she murmured.
"Hey, why are you being like this? Don't be so negative. I promise, we will make it work. I won't let go," I confidently said.
"What if? Never mind. I really have to go," her voice was slightly brittle then she dropped the call.
What is going on? She may not say it, but I know something is definitely not right. I decided that if she did not return next year, then I will be the one to come to her.
Time flies by and for the past few months, our relationship change, we hardly ever talk to each other. I've been busy and so was she. There were times that we don't communicate for more than a week. And when we found time to talk, it was very brief. I wanted to call her and ask her how she is doing but I also don't want to disturb her for she is always busy with her work.
All I have to do is wait patiently for her to reach out first. Day and night, there is no time that I don't think about her, she is always on my mind thinking if she is eating on time, what is she doing and does she even think about me? The passion, excitement even the spark is slowly fading away.
I needed to exert more effort to make this long distance relationship work. I cannot give up on her. I wanted to spend this coming Christmas with her and decided to apply for a visa and bought a plane ticket. It will be the best holiday. I will take her to the most romantic place and we are going to have the perfect date.
"Are you coming home this coming Christmas?"
"I can't my work it's too demanding." As expected she's busy as usual. She always put her work first before anything else, never had the time, not even for me.
"If you're not coming home this Christmas, I will come to you!" I said excitedly.
"You can't!" she quickly responded.
"Why not? Don't you want to see me? Don't you want to spend time with me?" I wailed.
"I will go on a training this December. The company will send me to another place."
"But it's Christmas, can you at least take a short vacation? I really missed you. Lia, it's been three years! You don't even show yourself on our webcam. I really wanted to see you and spend the holiday with you."
"If you're tired of our situation then just give up. You don't have to wait for me. Just forget about me!" she started to raise her voice.
"Lia, you know that's not what I meant. Why are you being so difficult, can you at least exert an effort to make this work?" I exclaimed to her. How can she think like that? All I ever wanted was to spend more time with her.
Suddenly I heard a man's voice calling her.
"Lia, let's go," said the unknown man.
"Who's that? Is there a man with you?" I badgered.
"I have to go," she mumbled nervously.
"Lia, answer me who's the guy?" I boomed violently.
"I can't do this now Matt! I'm so tired, and I don't think I can continue this relationship with you. I'm sorry let's just stop this. Please just forget about me!" she said with a sigh of irritation and dropped the call.
Just like that. She threw away the five-year relationship we have. Who is that guy and is she cheating on me? I feel so betrayed. I did everything to hold on and make our relationship work. How could she do this to me? I clenched my fist on the phone holding it tightly and slammed it to the wall. I cried a river for her thinking what went wrong. I feel so broken and in-denial that our love will end without a clear explanation.
That was the last time we spoke. I tried to call her several times, but she's not answering. The man's voice calling her still lingers in my ear. Thinking about it affected my daily life. I can't eat, sleep and focus on work.
I wanted to forget about her, but how can I move on when I'm still in love with her? Weeks have passed then suddenly something unexpected happened.
"Hello, Can I please talk to Mr. Matthew Castro?" said the unknown caller.
"Yes speaking, who am I talking to?"
"Are you Angelica Fernandez' husband?"
My lips curved in a smile after hearing those words. "Yes, I'm her husband. Is there something wrong?"
"I'm calling on behalf of Human Resource. We would like to tell you that she is currently confined in the Hospital. She collapsed three days ago. We waited for someone to visit her but apparently she has no relatives living in this country, so we decided to call her emergency contact person," said the caller from the other line.
"Is she alright? Is she sick or something?" I felt my mind is drifting away and my concentration was shot. My heart was pounding and my hands start to shake almost drop the phone, I tried to keep my composure and wait for her reply.
"She's in a coma and in critical condition," said the caller.
I was so shocked, almost black out after hearing her condition and couldn't reply to the caller on the phone. The caller then gave me the exact location of the Hospital and I took the earliest flight to South America. Good thing I already have the visa, just don't have the time to book for the hotel. At this moment nothing matters to me but to be with her as soon as possible.
I immediately packed a few clothes in my luggage and went straight to the airport. The flight took 15 long hours to arrive in my destination and for me it was the longest flight I have ever had. The whole trip makes me feel uneasy and anxious to get off the plane. I can't sleep, eat nor do anything. All I can think of was to get to Lia as quick as possible. For the first time in my life, I prayed and begged to God to protect and keep her safe.
As soon as the plane landed, I went straight to the hospital. There she was, lying on the hospital bed alone. I'm shocked and for a moment I stared at her in disbelief. She's not the same Lia I used to know, she looks totally different. She is very pale compared to her glossy fair complexion, her beautiful black eyes were now covered in dark circles, her long thick silky black hair was cut short and almost bald, her chubby cheeks and curvy figure was now gone she was so thin and her emaciated face in which her eyes looked larger than ever.
My poor Lia, looked so lifeless with all those tube attached to her body. I can't help but to shed my tears looking at her condition, she's been alone there for the whole time with no one to visits and take care of her, and she never once complained about it.
I stepped out of the room as I cannot endure the sight of her suffering. My heart is breaking, I feel like suffocating and needed some air to catch my breath and cried some more until my eyes dried out. I can't believe I have accused her of cheating and never thought she was in so much pain, carrying all that burden by herself. I feel stupid and useless.
"Mr. Matthew Castro?" a familiar voice calling out my name. He is the one I heard during my phone call with Lia.
"Yes and you are?" I said, glaring.
"Dr. James Northon, I'm Lia's doctor, she's been diagnosed with the kidney disease two years ago and been receiving dialysis treatment for a year now. But instead of getting better, her condition got worse," he explained.
"Is there any way to cure her?" I ask desperately.
"Yes, a kidney transplant. We've been looking for a suitable match for her kidney. We did found a donor, but we have a Hospital policy, a kidney for a kidney," said the doctor.
"What do you mean?"
"She can have the kidney transplant only if there is someone who will replaced the donated kidney. It can either be one of her relatives or friends and it doesn't necessarily have to match."
"TAKE MINE!" I quickly respond.
"Are you sure?" he perplexed.
"I'm healthy and strong. You can take my kidney, just go ahead with her surgery and give her the goddamn kidney please!" I firmly said, making the effort to sound reassuring.
"You need to sign a waiver and undergo tests before we take your kidney," he explained.
"I will sign whatever needs to be sign," I said to him.
"It is a tricky and risky procedure for both of you," he said in a serious tone. "Lia, needs to recuperate and gather her strength first before she took her surgery" he clarifies.
"I don't care how risky it is I will still give up my kidney, if it's the only way to cure her. We will do it!" I entreated.
After three days... The Schedule of the Surgery...
One hour before the operation, I went to her room and sat beside her bed. She is already awake.
"Hey beautiful," I smiled at her. "So, I'm your husband? I don't remember you proposing to me," I teased.
I've been told by her doctor that she can only put her immediate relative as her emergency contact person and I bet that she did not want her family to know that she is sick that is why she put my name instead.
"Matt, am I dreaming? Is that really you? She hoarsely said. She gently opened her eyes and tries to reach my face to confirm that I'm not just an apparition. Tears start to fall from her eyes.
"Hey don't cry," I wiped her tears with my finger and gave her a kiss on her forehead." Why didn't you tell me that you're sick?" I gently held her hand, place it on my cheek and give it a kiss.
"I don't want you and my family to worry, I thought I can handle it all alone," she softly said. "And I don't want you to see me like this, so ugly and thin." Sadness clouded her features.
"You know that you will always look beautiful to me, and I will love you no matter what?"
"I'm so sorry Matt; I'm sorry for being rude to you for keeping all this a secret," she said with a sense of guilt and cried out some more.
"Please stop crying, I have some good news. They found a donor that matches your kidney, everything will be fine. I promised!" I gave her a reassuring smile.
"Matt, I'm scared. And if something goes wrong?"
"You don't have to worry, the doctors here were professional and they are very good in their field."
"Will you be there with me during the surgery?" She reached out my hand. I took her hand, gently squeeze it, placed it on my chest.
"I will be there with you every step of the way. I promised," I assured. I didn't tell her that I would be having a surgery the same time with her. She doesn't have to know she has already a lot on her plate right now.
She cannot see me cry, she must not see my weakness, I need to stay strong for both of us. Her condition is so fragile she needs all the support she needed to bring her strength back. My priority as of this moment is her and whatever happens to me is less of my concern. The nurse prepared the operating room for me and Lia. Then, doctors started to conduct the surgery. It lasted for three hours, another seven hours for the anesthesia to wear off and to recover.
The following day...
"Matt, where is he?" she said in a rasping tone.
"Ms. Angelica, please remain calm. Your wound it's not totally healed," the nurse said in small panicky voice.
"I want to see Matt, where is he? Please tell him to see me."
"The nurse looks at her nervously before she replied, "He's right over there."
Fear overtook her face started to become hysterical "Why is he laying there? Is he sick or something?"
"He took the surgery the same time with you. He gave up his kidney, so you could get the transplant," she carefully explained.
"Take me to him, please," she urged, getting up from her bed and walk.
"Ms. Angelica, please stay calm," said pleaded" Don't rush, just slow down!" the nurse trying to help her.
"Matt, please wake up! Why is he not waking up?" she was crying out loud. "Matt, don't do this to me! Please don't leave me! I don't know what I will do without you!" she is shaking me so damn hard.
"Lia, please my wound it hurts! Stop shaking me," I gave up! Pretending dead is not such a good idea.
"Matt, you asshole! Why didn't you tell me that you're having a surgery and giving away your kidney? And if something bad happens to you?" she yelled at me.
"Lia, nothing bad happens. See I'm still alive for now and if you don't stop hugging me tightly I might lose my breath and die in a few minutes," I burst into laughter. "You know that I care so much about you that I will do anything for you, right?" I gazed at her and gently brush my fingers through her hair.
"Thank you Matt, for everything," she said with a tone of relief and a fond look in her eyes.
"Oh, do you think it's free? I gave up my kidney to save your life. You are responsible for me from now on," I grinned.
"You're such an asshole!" she gave me a deadly glare and pinched my nose. She tried to control her smile but seeing me in a state of pain is the opposite of pleasure for her.
Then, everything stopped, followed by silence. I looked straight into her eyes and said.
"Marry me, Lia!"
Her eyes widened and look at me with disbelief. "Are you serious, Matt?"
"Will you marry me? I would bend a knee if I could but..."
"YES! I will marry you Matt!" she purred, and her eyes glistened with tears.
She stood from the wheelchair and lay beside me. I pull her close to me, wrapped my arms around her shoulder and place her head on top my chest. Then, I saw something flickering from the small opening in the curtain of the window.
"Miss," I called out the nurse. "What day is it?" I inquired.
"It's December 24, why?" she curiously asked.
"What time?" I quickly replied.
"Midnight, why?" he eyebrow furrows, she looked puzzled.
"It's Christmas Eve, can you please open the window?" I requested politely.
Before the nurse left the room, she pulls the curtain back from the window, exposing the wonderful view of the fireworks display. Firecrackers exploded like mines, a spectacular display of light filled the sky. Multicolored balls of fire scattered in all directions and then exploded as they dropped back to earth. The feeling of nostalgia of us watching the fireworks together was so magical. Lia just can't take her eyes off the scene, and watching her looking so happy is priceless.
"Oh, Matt looked it's amazing! Did you know that the fireworks were the greatest invention that man ever made? " she exclaimed. Her eyes gleamed with much amusement.
"Yeah, you said that to me a hundredth time already," I sarcastically said.
"Did I ever tell you that you are the best thing that God ever created? You are the best gift he has given me for Christmas," she said in a voice soft with affection and gave me the most beautiful smile.
That was the sweetest thing she had ever said to me. Hearing those words makes me realize something. It's not about going to a fancy restaurant or wearing expensive clothes that makes a perfect date. It was spending it with the one you love, even if it means that laying in a hospital bed, wearing nothing but hospital gowns and haven't bathed for a few days. For us, watching the fireworks display like we traditionally do is more than enough. Wish we could stop the hands of time and keep this perfect moment. All I ever wanted was to see her smile again, and I promised to protect her smile for as long as I live.
"I love you so much Lia!" I kissed her passionately. "Merry Christmas my future wife!"
"I love you more my beloved husband and Merry Christmas!" she hugged me tenderly. "Matt, I can't believe you came for me. How did you do it? How did you know where to find me?"
"Remember the story about the red string? That invisible string lead ME straight to YOU!"