The loud music was pumping through my eardrums as I felt the small vibration of my phone in my pocket. Taking it out, I looked at the screen, seeing the
name ‘Mum’ come up.
Gosh, not again. It’s still too early to go home, I thought as I put my phone away.
Bzzt. Bzzt. I felt my phone vibrate again. Declining the call once more, I shoved my phone into my pocket.
"Hey Anthony, buddy, best friend since birth! That call seems pretty important,” called out Daniel, a smirk on his face as he patted my shoulder. It would’ve sounded cocky if he didn’t have to yell over the loud music.
"Nah, it’s just Mum. She probably just wants me to come home now,” I sighed, nonetheless feeling something strange in the back of my head, telling me that something was wrong. I shrugged off the feeling, not wanting it to ruin my night. I glanced at Daniel and saw him chuckle.
“Well if she calls one more time, I suggest you answer it. It could be an emergency,” he replied, flopping an arm over my shoulder with a grin on his face. As if on cue, I felt my phone ringing again. He looked at me with an eyebrow raised and I sighed, answering the call.
“Yeah mum? Wha-”
“Oh god, finally!” I heard Mum sobbing on the other end of the line. Her voice shook as if she had just seen a ghost and I straightaway felt a lump in my throat.
“M-mum, what’s wrong? Is everything alright?” My heart suddenly started beating fast.
“C-come to the hospital. You'refatherishererightnowandhewantstotakeCharlieofflifesupportandI'mnotsurewhattodojusthurry!”
“Mum! S-slow down, okay? I’ll be there right away.” I shut the phone andshot a quickglance at Daniel, who looked back questioningly at me.
“Everything okay?” he asked with a look of worry on his face as he furrowed his eyebrows.
“Sorry, gotta go. Something happened to Charlie,” I hastily replied, heading out the door. Daniel followed me outside to my car, a worried look on his face.
“Charlie, as in your little sister? Wasn’t she in ICU? I thought the hospital was keeping a close eye on her,” he questioned as I slid into my car. “Let me come with you.”
“Bu-” He was cut off by the door. I reversed onto the road, refusing to look at him.
Speeding across the highway, my mind started to churn out worrying thoughts and painful memories. After Charlie’s brain tumour had returned during the beginning of this year, my mum and I had accompanied her through her series of pain, from small headaches to vomiting blood to seizures and, finally, a coma. Not the best thing for a 9 year-old girl. She had been asleep like that in ICU for almost a year and every now and then I had thoughts of bad things that could happen at any moment.
Tightening my grip on the steering wheel, I fought back stubborn tears and tried to steady my breathing until I reached the hospital parking. It took me an hour.Rushing out, I jogged along the hallways until I reached Charlie’s ward.
The atmosphere was grim. The first thing that caught my eye was my mother. She looked limp, as if she had aged an extra ten years since I saw her that morning. Charlie’s doctor stood by the bed, a look of discomfort on his face, next to a man I just barely recognised. My father. As expressionless as ever, as if there was no need for grief.
“I-is everything okay?” I warily questioned, comforting my mother. As I came close, I noticed that she was crying. So hard that no noise came out. One of her hands were gripping the rails of the bed so tightly that her knuckles were white while the other was tightly hugging her chest, as if it would soothe the pain in her heart at that moment. I suddenly felt the big lump in my throat become bigger and my stomach felt hollow. I felt sick to the bone, seeing my mum like that.
“Mr. Morgano,” the doctor started. I looked up at him.
“W-what’s going on? Why is Mum like this? Is this a joke or something?” I choked, my voice raising. It was becoming harder to talk as realization started to form in my brain. I finally chanced a blurry look at Charlie, pale and lifeless on the bed.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Mo-” the doctor started but I cut him off with a shout.
“Charlie! Charlie, you’re okay right? Everything’s fine, isn’t it? You can hear me, I know it!” I yelled, rushing to the side of the bed and squeezing Charlie’s swollen hands. The cold temperature of her skin caught me by surprise. Tears were unwillingly falling down my face.
“Anthony, that’s enough! No more of this childish behaviour, you are a man!” My father’s voice suddenly boomed in the small room. Casting him a deathly glare, I sucked up all the pain I felt at that moment and stood straight up in front of him.
“Don’t you dare ask me to stop!” I spat, focusing every single pained emotion at him. “You have no idea how I feel right now! Because You never cared, did you? That’s why you left! Why are you even here?! You have no rights over my life anymore! Charlie doesn’t deserve to have you here, you’re like bad air! Seeing your face makes me boil inside so badly, I wish you just stayed out of my life instead of just waltzing back here! You shouldn’t be here; you don’t need to see Charlie! You’re a useless man who doesn’t deserve to see his daughter!” I spat, venting all my anger and pain out at that moment.
“No more of this. I don’t need you yelling right now so grow up and deal with it. Don’t tell me you expected her to survive,” he said firmly, not a single trace of pain on his face. Those words hit home. The sting from his tone cut me deep. Not a single note of sympathy or pain was there for his daughter. His fucking daughter. How could someone be so cold and heartless?
Too many thoughts were running through my head before it suddenly cleared up and at that moment everything was confirmed.
Charlie is dead.
It felt as if the air had been knocked out of my lungs. I stood there, dumbfounded for a while. My mind suddenly went blank and only one word went through my head. Run.
And that was exactly what I did. I ran, without any sense of direction. I ran with an empty mind, out the hospital and across roads and footpaths that I didn’t take notice of. I just needed to get away.
After seeing Anthony’s face, I knew something was very wrong. Straight after his car pulled out of the car park, I ran to my own car and followed him to the hospital.
“Come on, come on,” I mumbled impatiently as I lost him at a traffic light. Hitting my hand against the steering wheel, I laid back on my seat and sighed. Charlie meant almost as much to me as she meant to Anthony himself. She was like a little sister to me and I watched her learn to walk, to talk, to read and write. I was even there on her first day of school. I watched her grow into the beautiful little soul that she was. Seeing the car in front of me start to move, I stomped down on the accelerator and overtook the cars ahead.
Finally reaching the hospital, I parked on the side of a nearby road and walked quickly into the lobby. Just as I had entered, I saw a familiar figure speed past in the opposite direction. I stood there and waited for my mind to process what had happened before dashing after Anthony.
After running for what seemed like a marathon, I lost him again. Stopping to catch my breath and regain my vision, I looked around to familiarize myself with the surroundings. I was completely lost; I had no idea where I was. Trying to concentrate again, I tried to figure out where to go. Where would that idiot stop at? I desperately thought. I took in a deep breath and started to run again.
My lungs felt like they were burning and my legs were buckling when I finally stopped and collapsed down onto a patch of grass, my arms and legs spread out like a starfish. Breathing heavily, I stared up at the twinkling dots of light above me. They seemed so far up, out of reach yet so free. They didn’t have feelings that humans do. They didn’t have to put up with emotions and pain. It was a stupid thought, comparing myself with stars, but that was all I could think. I closed my eyes and finalized my thoughts.
Once the fact that I desperately tried to avoid finally hit me, I blinked a few times before tears streamed down the sides of my face and short gasps and whines escaped my mouth. Within a second my eyes had turned into faucets and it was getting hard to breathe again. I felt as if my whole life was falling apart in front of me. My father walked out on us without a word and left us with all his debt, my friend was on the verge of committing suicide and my 9-year old sister just died while I was busy partying.
Thinking back to the last thought, my heart felt like it was being squeezed hard by some invisible force. I lay there timelessly, thinking back at the hectic year I had. All I could really do was cry into the night until I felt numb.
I faintly heard slow footsteps coming closer and could hear heavy panting, but I was surprised to feel a familiar body lie down next to me. Daniel collapsed next to me, similarly to what I had done, and let out a big breath.
“Gosh Anthony, why did you have to run so fast?” he panted, shutting his eyes tight and trying to bring his breathing back to normal. I was unfazed, not noticing his existence. He chuckled softly. “You run like a little girl.”
“I thought you couldn’t catch up,” I remarked, returning the chuckle even though I felt like choking. I heard him laugh softly. After staring at the dark blanket of sky for an eternity, I took in a deep breath before breaking the news to him. “Charlie’s gone.”
I heard a soft gasp, then silence. I let the words sink in, for both him and me. That silence was suddenly broken by a soft laughter. Confused as I was, I turned my face to look at him. I was taken aback by the scene in front of me. Daniel had tears along the sides of his face and a pained expression clearly shown, but his laughter put the whole scene out of place. He took a gulp and I finally realised what he was doing. He was laughing off the pain, something I had done too many times.
“Do you remember?” he asked shakily, his lip trembling. I furrowed my eyebrows in confusion once again. “When I first met you at a park like this?” he chuckled. I managed a small laugh, remembering our first encounter. After a sigh, he continued.
“So much has happened since then. I remember when Charlie was born and you cried because you wanted a brother instead. I remember when your dad left. I remember coming over to find that your mum was out at another job so that she could pay off all that debt. I remember when we walked in on Allya with a razor in her hand, about to cut herself. I remember seeing Charlie in the hospital for the first time.”
I gulped, trying not to let the feelings overwhelm me. I nodded slightly before he finished. “You’re like a brother to me, you know? Your pain is my pain.”
Finally, I let out a big laugh, the tears running down my face again. My heart had never felt this much pain before.
Guinto, the Filipino word for gold, couldn’t describe you any better. You shone like the stars when you knew you were at your worst and you’re more precious than anything that this world has to offer. Three months still hasn’t been enough for me to get over what happened but I’m glad that I was able to meet someone as unique and inspirational as you and that you don’t have to deal with this bitter world anymore. You will forever be in my heart as the bravest girl I’ve ever known.
R.I.P Andi Guinto, 6/8/03 - 14/9/12
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