'Love lasts forever
Because it will be just you and me
When this world ends'
'Joseph is best friends with Claudia.'
"Aw, that's so sweet Joe," 7 year old Claudia exclaimed.
A black haired head looked up. For about an hour the same person was intent on carving out the words on a bark of a tree.
"Why thank you ma'am." 10 year old Joseph grinned.
Claudia laughed. Joseph smiled along with her.
"So will this friendship last forever?" Claudia asked suddenly.
Joseph was thrown off guard by her question but gained his composure quickly.
"Do you doubt it?"
Claudia looked at her pale hands.
From a distance they both would have looked like a pair of brother and sister, with their raven black hair and brown eyes. But as the sight of them neared, the halo of their deep friendship appeared.
"No I don't." she said firmly after a moment.
Identical smiles were etched on both the faces.
"Why are you crying Claudia?"
"I forgot my lunch."
"So share it with someone or take something from the cafeteria."
"I don't want to."
"Come join me then,"
"I don't want to join your rowdy friends."
Joseph was bemused by her remark.
"Okay I'll share with you. Wait a sec."
He ran off and moments later appeared with his lunch.
It wasn't common, the sight of a 10 year old girl and a 13 year old boy chewing companionably on ham sandwiches.
"So you will be going off to the high school next year?"
Her tone was light but he could hear the panic in her voice.
"Are you scared?"
"Not much. Most of my friends are going along with me."
"Don't worry I won't forget you."
Claudia smiled and squeezed his hand, reassured.
"How dare you touch her?"
"Back off man, she is my date."
"If she is then why are you are you forcing her to do things which she doesn't want to do."
"What's with you?"
"Shut up and get out of my sight before you get all your teeth knocked off by me."
A threatening well-built 16 year old was enough to scare off a wiry 13 year old boy.
The boy ran off, leaving Joseph snarling behind him.
"Are you alright?"
Joseph turned his careworn eyes on Claudia.
She sniffled and nodded.
"What did he do?"
Joseph's eyes focused on a torn patch of Claudia's t-shirt sleeve.
"Nothing, it's alright. Let's go from here."
"Are you sure?"
She nodded once again.
Seeing Claudia struggle with the boy who was forcing himself on her, made Joseph shake with anger. With a rush of fury he had marched up to them and caught hold of the boy's collar.
They both wandered off onto the high school grounds, Claudia's hand firmly held by Joseph. Luckily the scene had not attracted people.
He removed his jacket and gave it to her to cover up the torn parts of her t-shirt.
Everyone could see, except the pair themselves, the love blossoming. Love between a freshman and a near senior might be common but other relationships were nothing compared to this one.
Joseph always wandered around Claudia protectively and Claudia hovered around him like his shadow.
The rumor mills were full into action, saying that they were a couple. The teachers remarked in the closed confines of the staffroom that 'that girl and that boy' were very much in love.
However the couple, themselves were oblivious to all these talks.
Distances can bridge a gap between two people. Even the very-much-in-love couples are torn apart.
Being oceans, lands, states, cities, lanes apart can make people lovelorn.
But the case of Claudia and Joseph was different; Joseph being in Harvard, and Claudia finishing up her senior year.
Everyday at least one phone call or text happened between them, and when time permitted a video chat.
After finishing her day's workload Claudia used to gaze longingly at her phone.
She was never the one who would call up first. It would be Joseph's call or text she would reply to, if he left any.
The seedling of their love was already planted and it was starting to bloom like a Cherry Blossom in Claudia's mind, faster than Joseph's.
"Ouch, my head,"
Claudia clutched at her head. As the pain increased, her arm began freezing up. Soon the whole of the right portion of her body got paralyzed.
She fell on the floor. As she struggled to get onto her chair, she wished desperately that her roommate would appear.
All of her strength drained off as she lost it to pain.
"Miss Claudia Grace Bauer,"
"I am sorry to say that you have brain cancer."
She knew it. All those seizures, migraines were symptoms of brain cancer.
How couldn't she know, she was studying for a degree in the medical field in the best university of science in Cambridge.
Just yesterday she had learnt about cancer.
In a moment her world collapsed. She had moved to Cambridge just to be near Joseph and now she couldn't hide her ailment from as she was just 4 blocks away from his apartment.
Her parents wouldn't worry; they were too busy in their life and affairs to bother with her, but Joseph…
"And one more thing Miss Bauer, your cancer is in the last stage. So I don't feel medicines would help. But I think you should get chemotherapy."
The doctor looked at her sympathetically. She felt pathetic.
All her dreams, wishes and her hope for a fruitful career of a doctor would end in just months or maybe days.
"How much time do I have?"
She closed her eyes tightly.
'I am sorry Joe'
He playfully flung her hair and shockingly, a few strands were left in his hands.
"What is this Claudia?"
"I know, but are you having hair fall or something like
"No it is just…"
"Nothing, c'mon I'll show you my latest project."
She got up cheerfully but he pulled her down. Her wrists were alarmingly thin. Her already pale skin had reached the color of a plain white sheet. Chemotherapy had done her more harm than ever. Side effects occurred more than the therapy could help her.
"Claudia what is wrong? You look so thin and your skin feels like parchment."
She turned away hurriedly to hide her tears.
'Just 2 weeks more and I'll lose you Joseph'
"Claudia, tell me what is happening to you?"
He was more than worried. Anything that happened to Claudia upset him more than her.
"Nothing," She repeated.
"Claudia, please tell me."
She didn't answer him and ran away from him as long as her legs and life could carry her.
"Yes?" her voice was a mere whisper.
"Can you meet me in the park besides the lake?" or the same garden in which she ran away from him.
In Novels romances blossom between two childhood friends even two sworn enemies. But no sparks develop in real life.
Claudia trudged towards the park. Her breath was uneven, her heartbeat slow. Her last week was almost up. It was only a matter of 3-4 days that the life in her body would go pop.
Joseph ran towards Claudia as soon as he saw her and she tried to speed up.
It was New Year. In the park couples were sitting around on various spots.
They banged into each other, headlong. For a few moments they stood like that, Claudia resting her forehead onto Joseph's. The snow was falling all around them. Minds connected, hearts connected, feelings connected. But a few words had to be said and a few things had to be done.
"I'm so glad you came. I-"
"Joseph, I have cancer."
His heartbeat stopped for a millisecond.
"What?" he asked as though he hadn't heard well.
"I have brain cancer."
He was again interrupted by her but this time she had pressed her lips to his.
He responded with as much love as much he had for her but with as much gentle force the fragile Claudia could take.
And she collapsed.
"Doctor please save her, she is the love of my life."
"Blood pressure low, left arm paralyzed, severe migraine and asthma," the nurse ranted out to the doctor.
Claudia was placed on a stretcher. She knew that her time had come.
She beckoned Joseph closer.
He leaned in, tears in his eyes.
"Joseph, I love you. And I want you to love me even after my death," she held out an ashen hand to him as he tried to interrupt, "But I want you to move on. I want you to go beyond my death. I want you to achieve those goals you want to. I will be always there watching you. You will move on, I know you will. Life isn't there to dissipate. It is full of opportunities. And it is as beautiful as you are."
She smiled and put a colorless hand on Joseph's cheek.
He managed to crack a smile and pressed his lips on Claudia's hand.
"It is time for the operation."
The doctors and nurses lead Claudia away and Joseph held her hand till the door of the operation theatre closed.
The operation lasted for 3 hours. The same 3 hours before New Year.
Joseph paced the length of the hospital during the time the operation lasted.
At 12 sharp the doctor came out. He had always known that they were fighting a lost battle.
"I am sorry but we lost her."
Joseph had expected this but he collapsed on a chair. A small flicker of hope had been there inside him but the flicker was doused off as soon as it came to life.
Claudia had died at 12 sharp, the end of her life and in a way beginning of it.
A pair of feet wandered through the graveyard. No one would have wanted to come to such a place during the frosty, dark evening but this very person knew he had to come.
He searched for the tombstone he wanted and found it near a tree.
His breath became ragged as he knelt down.
He did not care if his expensive Armani suit became wet. He had waited 6 years to visit this particular tombstone. It was the evening before his marriage or so to say, forced marriage. His mother had wanted him to get over the 'girl with cancer' and forbade him to even dart around the places which she used to visit.
"We never had enough time. I am so sorry for that. I was the person who made it late. If we had time, maybe you would have been here. Fate has always been against me. I am sorry again. I love you so much Claudia. Come back." He whispered.
Tears fell freely to the ground as he pressed his forehead to the tombstone in a memory of a particular incident.
'I lived beyond the bindings of my body when I was alive and now I live beyond death' were the words etched at the head of the tombstone.
He removed the marker pen he had brought with him especially and wrote out the words intently.
'Joseph is best friends with Claudia'
A/N The word count is 1,895. Thank-you!