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Copyright © 2017 by Anna. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher.

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Laura Cordero

Congrats :) Your book made Editor's Choice this week!

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Oh my!!!! It's an honour!!!


            The first time Tessa felt she was dying was when she fainted during her Physical Chemistry Laboratory class. Albeit the laboratory was air-conditioned, it didn’t prevent Tessa from her dizziness until the Erlenmeyer flask she was holding fell from her grasp, the magenta liquid spilling on her laboratory gown and everything else became a blur. The next thing she knew, she was in the infirmary, nursing some gashes on her arms whilst the university doctor said she needed to be admitted to the emergency room.

            She only fainted, she thought. Why did she have the need to go to the hospital, much more get herself admitted to the ER? She didn’t question the doctor though, didn’t even bother to read the note the doctor wrote (because stereotypically doctors have the worst handwriting) that was incomprehensible in the first place. When she admitted herself to the emergency room, an IV tube was inserted at the back of her hand. She had a slight fear of needles and even if the nurse assured her the process of the needle insertion would be painless, she didn’t trust the nurse at all.

            She stayed in the ER the whole night wondering why the heck she wasn’t discharged yet. She stared at the dirty white ceiling for a full three hours – yes, she had been counting how much time she had been in the hospital – until the doctor came. She immediately sat up when the doctor arrived, a pair of glasses perching at the bridge of her nose. Her face was rid of any pimples. She wore a dress underneath her white coat and gave a pleasant smile to her. “Tessa Montes?” she asked and Tessa nodded in reply.

            She sat at the edge of Tessa’s bed, which reminded her how her mother used to sit at the edge of her bed so that they would talk over and soothe things out whenever they had an argument. The doctor had worry lines etching on her face. “I’m sorry Tessa, but, to simply put this…” she trailed off, her eyes going glassy which were shielded by her glasses, “you have mitral valve prolapse.” She didn’t know what the doctor diagnosed her with, but she sure knew it had something to do with her heart.

            “And well, it may not be fatal but this heart condition you have evolved to something worse, and I have to break it to you, but we don’t have a cure for it… which means…”

            “I’m dying,” Tessa cut her off, her chest suddenly in pain. She could feel her chest constricting and suddenly, she couldn’t breathe with what the doctor was saying. Everything became gibberish to her senses until she passed out again. When she woke up, her mother was pacing back and forth in front of where her bed was situated, her palm supporting her chin. She was quiet when she did that, sweat dripping on her forehead. Tessa cleared her throat to notify her mother she was awake. Her mother immediately rushed to her aid and cupped her cheek, tears streaming on her face.

            She could only manage to give her a smile. She was dying, didn’t know how much long she would live. At least she knew she was going to die much sooner and at least that would prepare her parents’ grief on her, as well as her sister Jasmine. Jasmine was eleven years younger than Tessa and she was the only sibling Tessa had. They were pretty close and Jasmine always came running to Tessa whenever she had boy problems.

            Jasmine was also the prettier version of Tessa. She had a slim build and a beautiful tan skin with straight jet black hair that half of her class fawned over her. She still had boy problems which made Tessa chuckle because basically, everyone loved Jasmine. There was one time, during Jasmine’s Valentine’s Day on her fifth grade, five boys gave her bouquets of roses. Yep, each boy didn’t give her only one bouquet. Unfortunately, Jasmine was allergic to roses it ended her being absent for the whole week.

            But Tessa enjoyed taking care of her sick Jasmine who couldn’t stop sneezing for every five seconds. She hoped Jasmine wouldn’t cry at her funeral. She didn’t want to see her sister devastated over her death. “Tessa, thank God you’re awake.” Her mother, Maria, said. She hugged Tessa tightly who smelled like lavender. Her mother rarely gave hugs and Tessa was grateful her mother gave her one. “The doctor told me you’re dying.”

            Her mother said it as if it was a fact she was stating. Her mother lacked the empathy a mother should have but Tessa knew she was trying her best to show some emotions. “Yeah,” Tessa breathed, fighting the tears from falling on her cheeks. She suddenly felt exhausted from all of the events that occurred today, and all she ever wanted to do was sleep. She still had an exam tomorrow, and she couldn’t miss it for the world.

            “I know you’re not okay so I’ll tell you this,” her mother said, a smile pasted on her lips, “stop worrying about dying. Start living.”

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            “I’m going to make a bucket list,” Tessa announced as she stared at her mirror, her face covered in a black face mask. When she came home and told Jasmine about her nearing death, she only gave her a sad smile and a hug but she could hear her sister sob every night whenever she pretended she went to sleep. The walls of their room were paper thin. Tessa slowly removed the face mask from her face. It was a painful process but she felt rejuvenated when the face mask was completely removed on her face.

            No wave of emotions hit her when she knew she was dying. She didn’t know why. She should’ve felt devastated, too, or even a bit desperate to keep her life a bit longer. Maybe she was focused on the positive side of things. Since she knew she was already dying, she knew she’d have to spend her counted days with the people she treasured the most. She didn’t have a lot of friends, but that didn’t make her the least bit lonely. She’d rather be alone than to feel lonely amongst the wrong crowd.

            She tore a blank page of her notebook and grabbed her favourite pen – her father gave it to her before he left them for good. Her father was pretty alive and well, it was just that his relationship with her mother wasn’t working anymore. Love had taken a toll between the both of them, and maybe it was best for them to part ways than to stick with each other.

            Her father left her mother for one thing: her mother was too unemotional to take care of the emotional side of his self. He wanted to lay down on a warm bed, but it felt too cold even lying beside a warm body. That didn’t make Tessa not believe in love. She knew love was a case to case basis. She started writing, in her neat handwriting, the first thoughts that came out of her mind: Kiss Jonas Corpus.

            She had been crushing on him ever since the semester started, and if she was ever going to die, then she’d have to grab every opportunity to be alone with him, and to just kiss him. It was such a stupid notion, however, she was ready to sacrifice her dignity just to touch his lips. She couldn’t even get five minutes of his time to even talk about stuff – even academic-related stuff. She sighed, blowing the stray hair that fell in her face. She crushed out the words, and rewrote a new set of thoughts. It was less innocent.

            Grab a dinner with Jonas. There, it sounded better. She continued listing down the things she wanted to do before she would die. There was a knock on the door when she was in the middle of her writing. “It’s Jasmine,” her twelve-year-old sister said.

            “Come in,” she said and Jasmine twisted the knob of the door, stepping gingerly inside. Her jet black hair was braided neatly, her eyes rimmed red as if she was in an intense crying session. Immediately, Tessa stood up and wrapped her younger sister in her arms.

            “What’s wrong?” she asked worriedly, and when her sister opened her mouth, she only burst into tears.

            “Why aren’t you upset about this?!” she asked hysterically in between her sobs. Tessa managed to hush her sister slowly, and her sobs faded into small hiccoughs.

            “Do you want me to be upset about this?” she asked Jasmine. “I don’t want you to see me sad over the thing that cannot be unwritten. You know that. Everyone is bound to die, Jasmine.”

            “Why do you have to leave so soon?” She was in another fit of sobs, wiping the tears on her face hastily. Jasmine was angry at her older sister, who seemed complacent and laid-back about the situation. “Aren’t you going to do about it? Aren’t you going to ask the doctors if there is even a cure to your health issue?” She was too wise for a twelve-year-old.

            When Tessa was twelve years old, she was worried if her Barbie dolls didn’t get enough the proper nutrition. Sometimes, Tessa forgot to give her dolls breakfast or dinner. She cried for days when one of her Barbie dolls – she named it Sienna – got her head chopped off accidentally when she set up a tea party for them. Her mother bought her a new doll, but Tessa still couldn’t move on with the fact Sienna, brutally.

            “It costs too much Jas, and you have a bright future ahead. I don’t want to cut your wings so that I can fly. If there isn’t really any cure for my sickness, we’d have to accept it instead, and enjoy the remaining days before I leave this planet.” She chuckled when she said that, but Jasmine didn’t seem humored by what she said.

            She only rolled her eyes and slapped Tessa’s shoulder. “Do you want to go grab ice cream with me?” she offered, and with that, Jasmine’s eyes brightened. She loved making her sister smile. So they went out, grabbed an umbrella. The rainy season came too soon. Tessa loved the rain because she could dance freely as her clothes clung onto her like second skin. Jasmine, on the other hand, disliked the rain. Even a tiny droplet could make her face frown.

            It was a fifteen-minute walk to the ice cream shop. Tessa’s friend, Alice, was the one who tended the shop, her small round eyes bored as she stared at the screen. When she saw Tessa and Jasmine nearing, she put on a wide smile on her face. Tessa looked beautiful on her plain pink tee, and her legs looked attractively long when it hit the light of the shop. Alice’s heart was beating so fast, her fingers were vehemently shaking.

            “Tessa! Jasmine!” she greeted chirpily, displaying her newly painted nails on the counter. “What can I help you with?” She didn’t mean to sound so happy, but seeing Tessa made Alice happy. “The usual?”

            “I’m feeling extra a little lately, so I’m gonna go grab a chili ice cream,” Tessa replied. Alice fought a smile. That was what Alice liked about Tessa, she was always up for something new. Alice, on the other hand, couldn’t even bear to try on something she had never done before. It should’ve at least inspired her, but she was scared. She couldn’t even ask Tessa out on a dinner or something because she was scared that Tessa might think she was asking her out on a date.

            “And you Jasmine? What will you get?” she asked, her tone slightly shifting to a lower notch. She hoped she wasn’t too obvious with that but it seemed Jasmine and Tessa were nonchalant about it. Jasmine’s eyes were still watching over the menu behind her, her eyes scrutinizing every flavour they had. She bit her lip and finally, she came to a decision.

            “I’m getting chocolate chip ice cream.” Alice smiled at her as she punched in the orders, her movements fluid as she scooped their ice cream flavours on a cup. The bells of the ice cream store jingled, notifying them a new costumer had arrived. Tessa pivoted her head at her back, her breath hitching when Jonas was the one coming in.

            Her heart beat in trepidation, her grip on her ice cream cup a little too tight once Alice handed them their orders. She let out a small squeak on her throat as Jonas was heading her way. “Tess?” Jasmine asked, breaking her out of her reverie. She looked at her sister who had a deadpanned look on her face, her head gesturing her over the empty seats at the corner of the ice cream store.

            They sat down, Tessa’s gaze shifting from her ice cream to Jonas from time to time. Her heartbeat was like in a wild goose chase she couldn’t stop it from slowing down, even if she willed it to. Jonas took a seat too which gave her a good view of his dashing looks. A stray lock fell on his forehead and he pushed it away, a small smile tainting his lips. Jonas looked so dreamy. A hand nudged her trance once more.

            “I think it’s best if I should go home,” Jasmine announced a little too loud. She had that knowing look on her face when she told Tessa which meant, Jasmine knew her helpless crush over him.

            “You’re only twelve!” Tessa whispered in panic. She wouldn’t leave Jasmine walking alone on the streets even if sacrificing her chance to ask Jonas out on a dinner. “You might get lost or worse, get kidnapped by some strangers.”

            “I can handle myself Tessa, if that’s what you’re worried about,” she insisted. She stood up but Tessa grabbed her wrist a little too strong, preventing her sister from walking away from her. Her heart was pounding against her ears, her gaze shifting from Jasmine to Jonas.

            “I can walk Jasmine home,” Alice, out of nowhere, offered. She was wearing a plain pink shirt and a pair of denim shorts, accentuating her brown legs that glinted against the lighting of the ice cream shop. She was holding the strap of her sling bag a little too tight, a demure smile painting on her lips. She seemed too willing to walk Jasmine home so Tessa nodded with a little bit of force.

            “Thanks so much Alice, you’re the best.” Tessa stood up and wrapped her arms around Alice’s skinny frame. Alice stiffened from the unexpected contact, but her arms learned to weave their way around her body. Alice liked the feeling of Tessa’s skin against hers, and the smell of her perfume lingered in her senses. “Anything for you, T,” Alice answered, her smile widening. She held Jasmine’s hand who wore a sinister smirk and they left the shop without another word.

            This was it. Tessa took the deepest breath she could muster, her feet like newborn deer approaching Jonas who was peacefully eating his ice cream. She boldly sat in front of him, his head ascending to meet her eyes. His ocean blue eyes took her breath away in an instant. “Uh…” she trailed off nervously, adjusting her top lightly. “Hi.”

            Jonas drew his eyebrows together. “Do I know you?” were the first words spilling out from his lips. Tessa nervously chuckled, tucking her hair behind her ear. “Uh… you don’t but…” She lost grip of her ice cream cup, the contents of the melting substance spilling on the table. The white table turned dark brown.

            “I’m so… so… sorry,” she stuttered, immediately grabbing a tissue paper and wiped the spilled ice cream. She glanced at Jonas’s reaction, but he only helped her remove the dirt on the table.

            “It’s not a problem really, uh, what’s your name again?” he asked. He had a mellifluous voice which made Tessa’s heart beat rapidly against her ribcage. His innocent gesture made her heart unnecessarily flutter that as she opened her mouth, she was at loss for words.

            She almost forgot her name.

            “T-Tessa…” she said timidly, tucking the stray strands of hair at the back of her ear. They were finished wiping the table it was squeaky clean which left them a long pause. Tessa’s eyes were everywhere but at Jonas and when she stole a glance from him, he was dabbing the stain at the corners of his lips with a tissue. He was finished eating his ice cream.

            She looked at his face. He didn’t have a chiseled face like Adonis. He had a small face, his nose slightly crooked and his lips were pink as if they never kissed a cigarette in their lifetime. She wanted to feel his lips against hers but that was inappropriate, especially if she was thinking about it right in front of him. “So… uh…” she stuttered once more, which earned her his attention.

            His blue eyes were electrifying and mesmerizing, she wanted to stare at them forever. “I’m, uh, just wondering…” She cleared her throat. This was it. She was going to ask Jonas for dinner.

            “Ifyoucouldgooutandhavedinnerwithme,” she said in haste. At the same time, his cellular phone rang.

            “I’ll take this call. For a moment,” he excused himself. He stood up and went out of the ice cream shop, his facial expression morphing from serene to slightly pissed – or ultimately pissed for that matter. She sat on her seat looking like an idiot, waiting for Jonas to finish his call. When he was done, he went back inside and sat where he sat a few minutes ago. He held an apologetic smile.

            “I’m so sorry but my girlfriend called,” he explained.

            Tessa’s mouth parted. “So you were saying?” he asked. His eyes were etched with worry lines. Were they in a fight with his girlfriend? It wasn’t her business to pry anyway. She shook her head vehemently and replied, “Oh, it was nothing. Had a fight with your girlfriend?”

            Jonas nodded, a grim smile on his lips. “Uh, I… uh, gotta go… It was nice meeting you… uh…” She pretended not to know his name. She didn’t want to sound desperate. And of course, she didn’t want to sound disappointed. She felt her heart tearing into pieces, her world slowly falling apart.

            “Jonas,” he replied. He tilted his head sideways. “See you next time, Tessa.” She stood up and turned her back on him, forcing a smile on her lips. She was fighting back the tears on her way home. She felt like someone squeezed her heart a little too tight. It was Jonas. Jonas was breaking her heart.

            It was such a stupid idea to even imagine herself kissing Jonas… or even grab dinner with him in the first place. Whatever hopes she had with him were all erased by a single sentence.

            Jonas has a girlfriend.

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