Lela wakes up with the sound of birds chirping outside her window. She has unusual dream, a kind of dream that she never expected it. Today is her birthday. She is officially 34 years old and has no intention to celebrate it. Feeling lazy on her birthday, she grabs her phone to check if her parents called her. Instead, she sees 100 notifications. All of them are birthday wishes. Lela feels shock as she spots a message from her long lost friend, doctor. His real name is Dave, but Lela called him Doctor.
“Hi, Lela! It’s me, Dave. How have you been? I am back home. Happy Birthday! Can we meet?”
Lela doesn’t sure what she should type back at him. Her mind wanders to the last time they spoke to each other….
17 years ago….
“Hey, Lela! You must check this out,” said Anny.
“Whaaat?? Don’t you see I am busy???” replied Lela.
“Come on! Look! Our school got a new transfer student yesterday, and he is super smart.”
“So what?” said Lela.
“Well, he is smart and has a good body, like the one you see in a movie.” said Anny
“Hah! You are ridiculous! I’ve got to go. I have to help my Mom cleaning the house.”
“Lelaaa!! You are so boring!”
“Hahaha” Lela swings her bag and kisses Anny’s cheek.
Lela is the youngest child in her family. Her older sister is already in a college, and Lela is excited to start her college, too, next year. She wants to be a nurse, so she makes sure she gets accepted at the nursing program. She is not interested in discussing any other topics except nursing program.
Lela meets Dave for the first time during science lab. Dave is her lab partner. Earlier, Anny has been telling her that Dave is the guy she told her about the other days. Lela glances at Dave, and she doesn’t see anything spectacular from him. She admits that Dave indeed has an athletic body and doesn’t look nerdy just like other typical smart boys. The problem is that Dave is a straightforward guy who will point every mistake Lela has made during lab, and this bothers her so much. Dave criticizes Lela almost about everything, up to the point that she swears she won’t meet Dave again.
The turning point of their relationship happens when Lela is coming to school with a pale face. She insists to come to school despite of her diarrhea because she doesn’t want to miss a test. In the lab, Lela hardly could concentrate because she feels dizzy and weak. Dave notices that Lela doesn’t look well, and when he sees that Lela is fainted, he quickly catches her and brings Lela to clinic. Lela thanks Dave for helping her, and they become friends since this moment.
Lela and Dave argue less during science lab as they become friends. They often chat at the cafeteria after school is finished. Lela later learns that Dave wants to be a surgeon like his Dad. He hopes to attend a medical school in the University of Pittsburgh. Dave tells her that his Dad is a doctor, too, and he graduates from the University of Pittsburgh. He wants to follow his Dad’s footstep.
Lela and Dave occasionally do movie dates and dine out whenever possible. Dave convinces Lela to apply for the nursing program at the University of Pittsburgh, so that they could stay together. She agrees to apply for the same school, but fate says something else. Lela is not accepted at the nursing program. She feels devastated and decides to take one year break joining Peace Corp. Dave feels bad, too because he is looking forward to spending college years together with Lela in Pittsburgh. Right before sending Lela off to India for Peace Corps, Dave gives her a Tiffany’s key pendant. He tells Lela that the pendant is a promise from him to her that he will wait for her.
One year post Peace Corp…
Dave nervously stands among other people outside the international arrival gate at JFK airport. Lela is coming home after completing her Peace Corp assignment in India. He spots Lela and quickly waves at her. He hugs Lela tightly. Lela gets tanned skin, loses a lot of weight, but still has pretty smile. They spend one night in New York before getting on a bus to Pittsburgh the next day. While on the bus, Lela tells Dave that she has been applying for a school in the Fall. She decides that she wants to be a teacher, so she applies for the special education program in New York. Upon hearing this, Dave feels disappointed because again, he wants Lela to stay close to him. Acknowledging Dave’s feeling, Lela explains to Dave that her feeling towards him won’t get affected by the distance between them. The distance between Pittsburgh and New York are not that far, visiting each other shouldn’t be an issue. Dave remains quiet as Lela said this to him. Inside, he just dislike the idea because he wants Lela to live in the same town with him. He has no worries with his school because he knows that he is excelled in this part, but living separate from Lela somehow worries him.
September that year…
Dave helps Lela moving in to the dorm. They spend the rest of their afternoon strolling around the city. Dave asks Lela to come to Pittsburgh during homecoming weekend because he wants Lela to meet his parents. The last time Lela met Dave’s parents was on the high school graduation. Dave’s face looks exactly like his Dad. His younger brother was still in middle school at that time. Dave is a family man and will prioritize family matter above anything else.
Lela enjoys her school and life in New York. New York’s lifestyle suits her life preference because it allows her to meet people from all over the countries. She secretly signs up for another summer global program in which she will work abroad for three months. She has not told Dave about this because she knows Dave won’t like it. Lela is debating whether she should tell Dave about this, or maybe convince him to attend the program.
The homecoming weekend is here. Lela finally meets Dave and his family. It’s a good weekend for Dave because he wants Lela to meet his parents. Dave is very organized and well-planned, while Lela is a free spirit, does things when she feels she wants to do it. This becomes one of the major issues in their relationships.
Lela tells Dave about her plan for Summer before she is returning to New York. She asks Dave to join with her. Dave refuses to do it because he will start his medical shadowing that Summer. He lets Lela to fly solo because he knows there’s nothing he could do to stop her. Lela’s next stop is Indonesia. She will teach students with Autism through Global Autism Project in rural area in Indonesia. Lela begs Dave to visit her in Indonesia so that they could visit Bali before going back to the States. Dave doesn’t say much.
Every time Dave sends Lela to a foreign country, his heart aches. He kisses her forehead and tells her to be careful. Lela smiles and waves to Dave for the last time before proceeding to the immigration area.
Dave stops picking up Lela at the airport. He is quite busy with his medical school. They don’t talk each other until Christmas. Both of them realize that the spark between them is fading. Dave’s mind is occupied with school and getting ready for his residency. Lela, on the other hand, is busy with her global mission to educate children with special needs in developing countries.
Despite their fading relationship, Lela manages to attend Dave’s graduation. She is proud of him and is admiring his work. Dave is moving to New York to live closer to Lela. He doesn’t want to let go Lela. Moving closer eventually doesn’t fix their stranded relationship. People said high school love usually doesn’t last that long. This apparently is a true scenario for them. Lela and Dave agrees to take a break after six years of dating. Dave remains working in New York. He pursues a speciality program in New York, while Lela is working as a teacher in Brooklyn. She travels abroad every Summer. They don’t talk much, but still manage to see each other every major holiday like Thanksgiving and Christmas. One night, Dave calls Lela and asks to meet. Dave tells Lela that he will join Doctors Without Borders. He gives Lela a wooden box and asks him to open the box tomorrow morning.
The next day, Lela opens the box. Inside, Dave left instructions to ask Lela to open the letter one day at a time. Lela cries as she opens the first letter.
Hi Lela, how are you today?
I must be on the plane en route to Africa. I never been to Africa before, so this must be exciting, right?!
Do you miss me? I missed you that much the first time you were off to India.
Ok, that’s all I have today.
Kiss and hugs,
Dave left 730 letters for Lela. Some letters were blank, some were filled with poems, and some were photos they were taken years back. Lela and Dave lost contact after that because Dave apparently extended his job contract.
Here and Now, present time (2018)…
Lela’s mind is back to a reality. She types back to Dave.
Hey! Are you in New York?
I heard from your brother that you finally finished your specialty program last year. I was in Australia for the past 2 years. I taught special education and just returned back to the States early this year.
Yes, we can meet.
3 secs later, Dave is texting…
Yes, I am in New York.
Do you want to meet in Laduree cafe downtown? Today, 6 pm?
Lela types back, Suree. See you!
Lela feels nervous as she has not seen Dave for a long time. Lela spends her day searching for a nice dress to wear. She decides to wear a green-jade color dress. She still wears the pendant necklace that Dave gave to her long time ago.
Dave waves at Lela. He looks a bit old, while Lela still looks the same just like the old time. He wonders how that’s possible. He hugs Lela and wishes her a happy birthday. They enjoy dinner together, and before they leave the cafe, Dave presents her with a Tiffany’s box. Lela opens the box and sees a ring. Dave tells her it’s a birthday gift. He also expresses his desire to reconnect their relationship, now that they both are living in the same town.
Lela nods her head. Reading 730 letters that Dave left for her convinced her that she and Dave will reunite once again. And when they reunite, she will stay with him, and so she fulfills her promise.
34 is not a bad age. She gets her long lost soul mate. Her old high school crush. The one she used to miss days and nights. Time and distance prove that a true love eventually will bring you back to the same person.
Lela and Dave hold their initimate wedding in Bali in December that year. The wedding is attended by their family members.