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Brenda and Girlie strolled along the seashore, feeling the waves touch their feet.
“I feel like a kid again,” Brenda said excitedly. “It has been such a long time since I felt this relaxed and carefree.”
Girlie smiled at her. “In spite of?”
“In spite of.” Brenda nodded her head. “We have been planning this outing for so long, and I’m just happy to be here in spite of everything.” She took Girlie’s hand in hers. “From here on, let’s enjoy it to the fullest, yeah?”
Just then, they heard a loud thunk from nearby, followed by a coconut rolling towards them. Before Brenda realized what happened, Girlie was already on her feet toward the tree, shouting Drew’s name.
Despite the pounding in his head, Drew’s eyes fluttered open. He squinted at the sight of the white ceiling and wondered why he was lying down. The last time he remembered, he was by the sea, watching Brenda and Girlie from under a tree.
Drew recognized the voice and started to turn towards it when he felt a stab on his neck. He shut his eyes at the pain.
“It’s Phil,” the voice spoke again. Drew felt a warm hand over his arm. “Can you hear me? Don’t worry. You’re okay.”
You’re okay. Drew took a deep breath before opening his eyes again. “Phil?” he croaked. “Did I get hit by a fallen coconut?”
He heard Phil let out a huff of relief. “You did,” his friend confirmed, amusement tinged in his voice. “If it weren’t terrifying, I would have laughed.” Phil paused. “Girlie rushed to you first, do you remember?”
Her tear stricken face flashed in Drew’s head. “Where is she?”
“She’s out with the others, they’ll be back soon.” Phil said.
“Why am I here?” he said, looking around the room’s too-white walls. “And wait, where is ‘here’, exactly? Are we still on the island?”
Phil shook his head. “The hospital there didn’t have the facilities to deal with your—” he faltered with the word, “—your condition. So they opted to transfer you here, in Batangas. It’s a bigger hospital, and Brenda knows people here.” He sighed. “God, Drew, you should have told us.”
Drew could only stare at his bed sheets, unable to look at Phil in the eye. “I couldn’t, man. You were dealing with your own problems. I could handle these things on my own, anyway.”
“But here I was, thinking only of myself,” Phil said. “And you were there for me, all this time. I should have been there for you. We should have been there for you.” He wrung his hands. “What happened to us?”
Drew closed his eyes. Lia said the same thing, before he left her, not just for this trip, but at least to her, out of the life they had built together.
If you step out of that door, it’s over between us, Drew. So please, don’t leave.
Talk to me, please.
You don’t talk to me anymore, Drew. What happened to us?
“It’s been a long time, Phil,” Drew said slowly. “Too long since I’ve been with you guys. Too long since I’ve actually talked to anyone. Even Lia. And Girlie.”
Phil’s eyes softened. “Maybe it’s time you let us in, Drew.”
He looked up to meet Phil’s eyes, and his friend drew closer to his bed. “I’m sorry we weren’t there for you before. But we’re here now. Okay?” Phil touched his arm.
After a long silence, Drew gave in and nodded.
Dr. Jay Soriano was a pleasant man, young and maybe just a few years in practice, and probably in another circumstance, Drew might have even been friends with him. But it had been days since he had been brought here, days filled with blood extractions and all sorts of tests being run on him. Days full of agonizing and impatient waiting. And each day that he saw Dr. Soriano, Drew could not help but feel anxiety creeping through his veins.
“Good morning, Doc,” Drew mumbled in reply, as the rest of the barkada greeted the doctor politely as well.
Dr. Soriano came up to his bed. “So, Drew, how are you feeling today?”
“I’m fine. My head still feels heavy, though,” he replied. That was a lie—he was feeling better than ever, physically at least.
Dr. Soriano flipped the pages of the medical record he was holding. “Well, I have news to tell you.”
Drew took a deep breath, gripping the sheets tightly. On his peripheral vision, he noticed his friends straighten up their backs on the couch they were seated on. Drew braced himself for the worst.
“I have great news, in fact,” Dr. Soriano continued. “All diagnostic tests show you are in remission.”
Drew heard the doctor, but he had a hard time comprehending what was just said. He looked to Dimitri, who was on his other bedside, his own eyes unbelieving.
“Are you sure, Doc?” he demanded. “He was diagnosed in one of the best hospitals here in Asia. They said that—well, that he’s—”
“He still needs to be closely monitored, of course,” Dr. Soriano responded. “But for the moment, you can relax.” He nodded at Drew. “Enjoy the time you have here with your friends, with people who love you.”
The doctor’s words finally hit Drew. As he sat in silence absorbing the news, he felt tears running down his face and his friends’ arms enveloping him.