[Fictional Story] Susan and Her Choices

This is the second series of “The Return of Hans.” All the names and characters in this story are fictive. “The Return of Hans” could be accessed on this page, too.

Susan indeed is a busy lady. She still works even on the day before Christmas while everybody in her office is out for a vacation. Susan lately has been into a social mission in which she hopes to build a non-profit organization for families of children with Autism. This is a tough project for her, and she needs an affluent person to help her. The person who has been on her mind is a techpreneur who also cares for the children welfare. His name is James, and everybody knows about him because of his recent nomination as the Man of the Year 2019. Susan knows that this would be difficult to get in touch with him, but it did not stop her from reaching out to James. She tried to contact James from LinkedIn all the way to Instagram. Nothing works until one day, Susan gets an idea. James is doing a live video on his Instagram, and you could type a question for him in which he will randomly select and answer the questions. That day is Susan’s luckiest day because James finally replies her message.

I need a person to sit on the board for my upcoming non-profit organization. The organization is to provide respite services for families of children with Autism. I know you care for children’s health and education. Can I send a proposal for you to take a look?” Susan exhales after clicking the send button. She has been monitoring James’s Instagram for hours. She wants to make sure that she is among the first five followers who types the questions to James. When James responds to her questions privately via Direct Message, Susan jumps out from her chair and does a little dancing.

Although work life has been good to her, personal life is rocky. Susan argues a lot with her mother. She has to face her cousins who look at her and ask why she is not married. All of her cousins are married with kids already. Susan, at the age of 34, is still single and doesn’t show any signs to be in a relationship. Hans is still waiting for her, but this will not last, too. Susan comforts herself in her work. She wants to create a non-profit organization for families of children with Autism because she knows how hard it is to raise a child with Autism. Getting a respite even only for one hour is very helpful.

James has caught Susan’s attention after she watched James’s presentation on YouTube. James is a younger guy, 30 years old, who has a lot of followers and many women want to date him. He is a type of person who basically every in-law wants. He has a smiley face, good stable job, and what even nice is that he is graduated from Harvard. Well, Susan is not interested in dating him. She knows that James is too young, out of reach, and what more important is that James has different religion from Susan. Growing up in a Catholic family makes Susan think that it is better to live with someone who has a same faith with her. Someone who can accompany her to go to church every Saturday night and celebrate Christmas Eve together. What Susan does not know is that her path is about to twist after her meeting with James.

Susan is scheduled to meet up with James’s secretary on Wednesday morning. Susan has 30 minutes to explain why she needs James to sit on the board and what James could do in the long run. The secretary escorts her out to the main lobby, and Susan will not get the results until two weeks later.

As Susan walks out of the door, her phone beeps.

Hey, Susan. This is Hans. Merry Christmas. I am back in town. Can I pick you up for dinner tonight?

Susan rolls her eyes as she reads Hans’s message.

Fine. Do you want to hang out in my apartment? I will order pizza. There’s a lot of traffic jam...”

Anything you want. I bring nice gift to you. 😊”

Okkk…”

Susan hurries to come home. She needs to clean up her living room. She uses her living room as an office, and she doesn’t expect that Hans will come.

Hans looks tired and old. He has this shy eye when he looks up to Susan. Every time Susan looks at Hans she always feels guilty. She feels bad because she cannot reply his love to her. They sit at the table and eat pizza. Hans pulls out a square box from his pocket. It’s a Tiffany box.

I spy your Instagram. I know that you are a fan of Tiffany.

Mhmm…

So, here’s your Christmas gift to you. It’s not a proposal, so don’t give me that pale-looking face.

Thanks, but I don’t wear jewelry.”

Can you open it first?

Susan unwraps the gift box, and she sees a Tiffany key pendant with yellow and white diamonds. It’s pretty but she is unsure if she could accept this gift.

Hans, this is pretty but I cannot take it. I don’t deserve it. I ..

Hans interrupts and says “You want to say that you cannot reply my love? 10 years of my love and admiration to you.”

Susan cries and Hans hugs her.

I don’t like to force you, Susan. There’s no other women whom I like except you. Just please take that gift. Do you want me to put it on for you?

Hans insists to put the necklace on Susan’s neck. They both sitting on the balcony and watch the streets from up there.

Hans cannot stay in town too long. He has to go back to the States. Susan drives him to the airport.

Don’t you want to back to the States with me?

I miss the States, but I don’t think I can back to the States now.”

Okay, Susan. Thank you for your time! It’s nice to see you. I am very grateful. Pass my greetings to your parents, ok?

Ok! Safe flight!

Susan has nowhere to go after that. She decides to go back to her apartment, but suddenly her phone is ringing.

Hello?

Is this Susan?

Yes, who is this?

Hi, I know this is a holiday, but I am James. I am reviewing your proposal.”

Susan cannot believe that James calls her.

Yes, what do you think? Can you do it?”

Uhm, we need to meet in person before I make a decision. Are you available tomorrow morning at 8 o’clock?

Sure! Thank you.”

Susan drives home with a big smile on her face.

Susan waits for James in the lobby. She feels nervous. This non-profit organization is something she wants to do after she is retired from her job at the hospital. Thus far, she has recruited three board members, two are from media industry and one is from business sector. With James on board, she believes that this organization will be launched soon.

Good morning, Miss Susan.” James’s secretary greets her.

Hi, good morning! Good to see you again.”

Please follow me. Mr. James has been waiting for you.

Susan enters a meeting room that could fit up to 16 people. The meeting room has huge window facing tall buildings and high ways. James sits at the table and greets Susan. “Good morning, Susan!”

Good morning, Mr. James!”

Ah, please call me James. Have a seat.

Thank you.

So, I look up your proposal. I want to know why this has to do with autism? And why me? You know I am not in the medical field.”

I am a child and family director in the hospital. Every day I meet with parents of children with developmental disabilities especially Autism. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder and it affects the brain, speech, social and motor skills. Parents whose kids are diagnosed with Autism live twice harder than parents of typically developed children. Having a respite is very helpful for them.”

As for you, I have been observing your journey in the startup business including your education platform. It has a long term value and it appears to me from your profile, you care for children’s health. Thus, being a board member in this organization could fulfill your mission.”

Wow! You are very thorough. I am quite impressed. I am very busy this year and I don’t think I can commit in this role. However, could you send me the draft on how you are going to budget this respite service. I assume this is free?

Well, Yes, I could prepare that draft. How soon do you need the draft?

Can you give it to me next month?

Ok

Is there a number to reach you?

Yes, here’s my business card.”

What degree are you graduated from?

Social Work.

I see. It’s a good field. I am impressed with your passion in this field.”

Thank you.”

Susan feels relieved. Now, she has to get the draft ready. Meanwhile, she gets a message from Hans.

Hey, I am in Hong Kong already. The 18hours flight is about to start. Aha! Talk to you soon. Don’t work so hard!”

Susan types back “ok. Safe flight!

One month later…

Hi Susan, this is James. I am in your hospital. Can I have a tour in your department? Is that possible?

Right now? Just the tour ok? It’s not allowed to observe parent session without consent form. Sorry.

That’s fine.”

Susan gives James a tour facility. James looks impressed and shows interest in getting to know how this project will go further.

Uhm, Susan, are you free next Thursday. I am invited to this non profit event. I wonder if you are interested in accompanying me. Plus, you could recruit more board members. What do you think?”

“I have a meeting until 7 PM. Not sure I could make it there.”

“Don’t worry, cause I will be late, too. Just call me when you are there.”

“Alright then.”

Susan arrives at the ballroom where that event is held. The event is to collect donation to support bone marrow research. Susan calls James as she is not sure where he is. Suddenly, she hears someone calls her name.

Susan, here!” James yells at her.

She sees him and walks toward him. Right that moment, she secretly acknowledge how handsome James is. No wonder so many girls chase after him.

Susan sits next to James. James introduce her as a good friend of him who works with families and children. Susan suddenly feels small in that event because she doesn’t know anyone in that room. They all are famous and do important things like James. It looks like that James recognizes her feeling. He taps Susan’s shoulder and says “let’s get out from here.

What? But it’s not yet finished.

Don’t worry.

James holds her hand and they walk to the main lobby. “Let’s eat dinner. Ah, leave your car here. Give me your car’s key and my driver will send it back to your apartment.”

“Waiiiit… no, no, I can go home directly.”

“Come on, I will be out for business trip for two weeks. I don’t understand with what you wrote in the proposal.”

“What?”

“My car is here. Hop on.”

“How do you get volunteers?”

“Well, that’s the part where I need you to be on board. You have this edu-tech platform right? You could advertise this on your platform, and from there I could select a pool of volunteers.”

“Who will train them and do the match-making?”

“Me.”

“Who is going to make sure that the volunteers do no harm to the kids?”

“I have a board member who has a legal team who will look over that part.”

“Aha. So why don’t you launch?”

“I need more funding that’s another reason I look for you.”

“Now I know… Why are you so enthusiastic about this?? Do you have a family with Autism?”

“No, I don’t. I do a lot of home visits and meet lots of parents. Life is stressful for them, because some of these kids need your full attention.”

“Are you married?”

“No.”

“Are you dating?”

“No.”

“How old are you again?”

“Thirty four. And why you ask personal question?”

“Because you are weird. I mean you are interested in unusual stuff.”

So, are you going to be on board??”

“You are a straight forward lady, aren’t you??”

“Please answer.”

“Yes, I will be on board. Madam. Happy??”

“Thank you. I am leaving.”

“No, the food is not here.”

“I am not hungry.”

“Are you mad? I am sorry.”

“I don’t like a personal question. Plus, I don’t know about you.”

I’m sorry. People usually ask so many questions from personal to business to me.

Two weeks later…

Susan, this is James. Can we meet? I need you to sign the contract.”

Okay.”

Hans is in town. He insists to drop Susan to James’s office.

Hans, is that you?

Hans turns his body and is surprised to see James.

Hey, Buddy! What’s up?

They both hug each other and give a pat on the back.

Susan looks blank. Not sure what to say.

What are you doing here? I heard you moved out to Bay area?”

“Yes, I did. I got a job over there after finishing my contract in Harvard.”

“I hear you are popular, too.”

“So, what brought you here in my building?”

“Aaw…this is your building? Cool! I just drop my friend, Susan. She is right there.”

“Susan?? You know her?”

“Of course! You know her, too?”

“I am going to meet her. That’s why I wait for her here.”

Hans frowns as he hears this.

I don’t know that you both know each other.” Said Susan

Hans and James look at each other. James says, “We are in the same university. Hans is my senior back then.”

Hans let Susan talks with James. He waits in the lobby.

Susan, how do you know Hans?”

“We have known each other for a long time.”

“Are you by the chance the girl who has made Hans single all these years??”

“What are you talking?”

“There was a rumor back when I was in Harvard that Hans liked a girl who was also a student in the States but different cities. Hans liked that girl but she rejected him. Eventually Hans could not forget about her.”

Susan doesn’t know what to say.

“It must be you. We guys know when another guy looks at a woman with that kind of eye that means he likes her. I see that in Hans’s eyes.”

“Ok, I am leaving.”

“Susan, you are hilarious! I wish I could talk to you more, but I have another meeting. Tell Hans to catch up with me later.”

“Why didn’t you tell me that James is the person whom you will meet?”

“I told you. He is a famous techpreneur in this country..”

“You did not tell me his name.”

“Do I have to report everything to you?”

“You could have told me his name.”

“Err, I don’t think that’s necessary. Plus, you always show up whenever you like.”

“Of course that’s necessary.”

“Ehm…. we are not dating.”

“Susan?!”

“That’s true. If you think by giving me this necklace implies that we are dating you are wrong! I am not comfortable with your possessive attitude.

Susan what are you talking?”

“You know what I am talking. You try to monitor with whom I meet and go. Here’s your necklace. I don’t need it. Bye!” Susan leaves Hans.

Hans returns to the States the next day without leaving any messages to Susan. He sent the necklace to Susan’s mom. Susan and her mom have a mouth fight after that.

Aren’t you crazy rejecting Hans?

Yes, I am crazy.”

“He is a good guy. He waits for you for a long time.

No, I don’t like him. Plus I have an issue with his possessive attitude.”

Susan is leaving her home and when she is about to turn on her car’s engine, James calls her.

Yes?”

“Madam, you sound strict.”

“I am busy right now. What do you want?”

“I have to entertain kids in orphanage. Can you help me?”

“Where’s your secretary?”

“Don’t you know that she is off for a week?”

“When?”

“Err, right now..”

“Madam, you look awful. Kids will be scared of you.”

“Can you please shut up?!?”

“Fine. Help me. I never talked to children.”

“What do you mean with never??”

“I don’t do this type of work. I deal with adults, investors, interns and accountant, ok?”

Susan helps James to run the event. The organization that owns this orphanage has a business relationship with James’s office.

Can I treat you for a meal?”

“No need. I want to go home.”

“Well, can I go to your home?”

“Nooo.. I don’t think it’s appropriate.”

“So, let’s eat McD with me.”

You are really annoying.”

“And, I like to annoy you.”

“You sound not in the good mood.”

Mm-hmm”

“Do you have a fight with Hans? Is he the one who gives you a key pendant?”

“What??”

“It’s hard to not stare at that pretty pendant. Everyone knows that pendant must be expensive. The other day my sister sets me on a blind date. Guess what? She shows me this jewelry website and asks me to buy that pendant. The one you wear.”

“She is brave…”

“I left the restaurant and yelled at my sister on the phone.”

“Hans and I are not dating. The pendant is from him. It is a Christmas gift.”

“I know. Because you are special to him. I don’t mind give an expensive gift to my loved one. But this girl whom I just met asked for it. That was ridiculous!”

“I got it.

“Susan, can I go with you when you are visiting an orphanage as part of your job?”

“Yes… I just need you to sign a consent form.”

“Thank you. Also, can we also meet more often?”

“Why?”

“Because I want to.”

“What if I don’t want?”

“I will keep nagging like a kid.”

“Hah? Are you crazy?”

“So, I want to confess. The first time you reached out to me through LinkedIn, I actually read your message. I looked up your profile and read your blog. I enjoyed reading your blog. I did not randomly select your question on Instagram. Instead I purposely chose you. I thought heaven must be on my side because you were watching my live video.”

Susan is speechless.

“I know right now is not the best time to talk about it. But, I am so busy and I don’t want to miss this important talk.”

“James, is this a prank?”

“No, Susan. This is not a prank. I want to know more about you.”

“Get to know as if a man and a woman?”

“Yes.”

“But, I am 34 and you are 30. We have a different religious belief.”

“You don’t look like an old lady. As for religious, if it is meant to be together. I don’t mind to change but this will take a long time.”

“James. I am not ready.”

“I will make you ready.”

“James, this is not a game.”

“Do I look like someone who is playing a game?”

“You are crazy.”

“One must be crazy enough to ask someone like you to go on a date.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“No need to say. Just stay beside me.”

**to be continued…**

I Learn How to Love and Forgive from My Son

*All the names and characters in this story are fictive. This story is written to increase awareness about Autism and to encourage people to be mindful when they meet someone who has Autism.*

I remembered how happy I was when I learned that I was pregnant. I was married at 35 years old, and my in-laws were worried that I would have difficulty to conceive a child. My marriage itself is kind of outside the norm in our Asian culture, mainly because I am married to a guy who is four years younger than I am. My husband is a loving guy who treats me equally. He allows me to work and do things that I like to do. In short, our marriage is a happy marriage.

I gave birth to a cute baby boy at 36 years old. We named him Jeremiah, and we celebrated his presence by throwing a fantastic party. Jeremiah grew healthy, and his milestone was on track. At 2 years old, I noticed something odd with Jeremiah. His speech skills seemed to regress. He used to wave and call me “Mama,” but his words were disappeared. We took him to a child psychologist and were advised to take ADOS test. The psychologist suspected that Jeremiah might have Autism. I cried when she said that, but I braved myself to take the test. Four weeks later, it was confirmed that Jeremiah had mild Autism. I cried every night for about a week. I tried to tell myself the result was wrong, but I also recognized that he lost his speech and he became avoidance. Our daily schedules were changed ever since we found out that Jeremiah had Autism. Therapists were coming in to our house and we also transported Jeremiah to see another therapist outside home. I signed up for ABA courses. I even attempted to put Jeremiah on a strict diet. However, my husband was against this idea. He said we better kept him in behavioral therapies instead of strict diet.

Jeremiah started to talk a bit at four years old. We were able to put him in a regular school, though it was a hard work. My husband used everything he could do to keep Jeremiah in school. We demanded his school to give Jeremiah extra lessons to catch up missing work. It was an exhausting process, but we would not give up for Jeremiah.

Bad words about me started to show up, as soon as people learned about Jeremiah’s Autism. They blamed me for bringing bad genes. I wanted to smack them, but I knew it wasn’t appropriate. Jeremiah knew when I was sad. He would come and hugged me tightly. He said “It’s ok, Mommy.” When the school called me to inform that Jeremiah had a hard time in the classroom, he would look at me with teary eyes and said “Sorry, Mommy.” Parents who did not know about Jeremiah’s diagnosis often blamed me for not teaching rules to him. However, parents whose children also have special needs, though it is not Autism, understood my situation. We made a group chat via WhatsApp, and we shared tips. This group chat has supported me to survive and raise Jeremiah. I deeply thank my husband who against all odds and difficulties, he is always on my side.

Jeremiah is 17 years old now. He will graduate from high school next June. We are not sending him to a college. Instead, we bring a teacher in to teach him baking and cooking. Jeremiah loves baking cookies. Ever since he was young, he enjoyed watching Food Network and asked me to buy ingredients so that he could bake and cook. We plan to sharpen his skills and hope that he could earn money through baking and cooking. Through Jeremiah, I learn how to love unconditionally. He is teaching me to forgive those who talk bad about us. Jeremiah is a loving child. His Autism does not stop him from being a lovable person and most importantly do not block him from pursuing his passion.

The Return of Hans

**All names and characters in this story are fictive.**

The last time Susan spoke with Hans was on Christmas day, 5 years ago. Hans is neither her best friend nor her special friend. He is simply a mutual friend, but he has been around her for 8 years. Susan doesn’t say much to him because she thinks if she has no special interest toward him, she should not try to get his attention. On the other hand, Hans occasionally sends a random message on important events, like birthday and Christmas. Not every year, it’s only when he feels he wants it.

Susan has been keeping herself busy with her job as a hospital director. Seeking a love mate is not her priority. She thinks getting married is a hassle and even if she decides to get married, finding the right guy seems a hard task for her, perhaps even harder than running a hospital. She fell in love twice in her life, but Cupid was not on her side. She had a nice guy back when she was in school, but she decided to let him go because she thought it was too early for her to commit in a romantic relationship. Hans was among the guys whom she was introduced with when she was in a college. Hans was a serious guy at that time, and perhaps still, and this somewhat scared Susan. A friend asked her why she did not want to date Hans, and Susan said Hans was too serious and appeared to be rigid. She disliked that kind of feeling. Too much expectation. Susan left every possible romantic relationship up in the air with any guys who is fond of her. This becomes her expertise. Love life is just not her thing, and she can’t explain why.

After so long not talking each other, Susan was surprised to hear news from Hans. Their conversation was about holiday activities, and as usual, Susan kept it short and simple. Two weeks after their first phone talk, Hans sent him a message. This time he said, “Hey, I will be back home for a vacation. A short visit, a week. Would it be okay if I visit your workplace when I am in town?” Susan kept that message, not sure what she would say. This morning, Susan replied. “Ok. Come to my workplace. I’ll send you the address.”

Three weeks later…

Hi, I’ve just arrived this morning. Are you busy this afternoon? Can I stop by?

Susan replies immediately. “Sure, How about 1 o’clock?” I have free time about an hour and after that I’ve got to see a client at 2.”

Yes. That sounds good to me! I will visit my sister after that.”

Hans’s little sister is married already, and she has three kids. Her little sister is a chatty person. Her personality is the opposite of Hans’s personality.

Beep..beep…

Yes.”

Maam, your guest is here. His name is Hans. Should I let him in?

Yes.”

Hey, Susan! Long time no see! You are looking great as always and doesn’t change that much since the last time I saw you.”

Hahaha.. how are you Hans? How’s life on the other side of the earth?

Both Susan and Hans are studying in the United States. They both worked in the States, but in different cities. Susan left home for good, while Hans remained in the States.

So, this is your office. Looking nice and you have a nice view from here.

Thank you! So, what’s up?”

” Nothing new. I saw your travel pictures on Instagram. It looked like you traveled to different places. Meanwhile, I worked like a hell. Your last picture on Instagram made me to come home.

What???

“Yes, I’ve always read your captions. The last picture made me booked a ticket. It’s last minute. But, it feels good to be back home.”

How long are you going to be in town?

A week. I have a few important meetings next week, so I must return to work next week.”

I see.”

Hm, are you dating anyone right now?

Nope.”

Why? You are not young anymore, you know?

Yes, I am aware of that, but I like to live this kind of life.

Are you serious??

Susan doesn’t know what to say. She smiles. She wonders why this guy is here and asks such a direct question.

Susan, I am here because I have been thinking of you all these years. The last time you rejected me was my devastating moment. I was mad at you, so I didn’t look for you for a while.”

“I see. I am sorry.”

However, you are always on my mind. I even remember your birthday. So, I still text you even if your answer is short.”

“I know. I am sorry again for giving you a hard time.”

“No, you don’t have to feel sorry. So, this is the reason I am coming home. I want to ask you to go on a date with me. What do you think?”

“Susan, listen to me. We both are not young anymore. You have impressed me so much years ago and still. Don’t you think we should try?”

“Hans, thank you for expressing your feeling. Can we talk about this another time?”

“Susan, what are you waiting for?”

“I just need more time. You come home and suddenly ask this type of question. I am not ready to answer.”

“Sigh. Fine, Susan. Let’s talk about it later. I’ve got to go. Let’s meet again before I fly back to the States.”

“Sure.”

Hans is still a guy with straight forward personality. Susan, again, feels the pressure. The same kind of pressure that Hans asked him years ago.

Susan remains quiet. She meets Hans one last time before he returns back to the States. They eat together and spend hours talking about almost anything. Hans could date another girl, but he insists on dating with her. Susan doesn’t get it, but Hans is a good guy. Even if she doesn’t end up with Hans or when he is giving up on her, Susan hopes that he will find a nice girl who will treat him like a king and treasure him like a diamond.

Should she accept him? Should she say no? Susan does not know when it is the right time to say “yes.” Her mouth is just so hard to say it.

Love Without Borders

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.

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.

Epilogue

Lela and Dave hold their initimate wedding in Bali in December that year. The wedding is attended by their family members.

Do you know how much I love you?

I have loved you more than you love me.

I have been watching you long before you start to watch over me.

I have been imagining what life would look like with you on my side.

I have been hoping to hold your hands before you even had the idea.

You must be special because I have been waiting for you all these years.

Are you my shoes?

Are you my shoes?

I am looking for a pair of comfortable shoes. The one that will comfort my feet and support me wherever I go and in everything that I do.

I am looking for a pair of shoes that will not run from me because it is afraid that it will walk on smooth and rough roads.

I am looking for a pair of shoes that will make me look presentable. I don’t need to look fancy like those socialites. So long as I look clean and neat, it’s good enough for me.

I am looking for a pair of shoes that will last long. It won’t break easily. It would accompany me years whether I am in high or low mood.

Where can I find all of these types of shoes? Maybe the right shoes will come upfront. I don’t need to search for one.

** p.s. this poem is also appeared on Instagram: 1001diarycollections

You are Still My Home

This the final chapter of the love story between Gray Cloud and Sonny Sunshine. The three other previous stories could be assessed in this blog with the title “2gether is Better Than One,” “You are My Home,” and “On My Way to London.

London has been good to Gray. She loves the city and her new job. Gray admitted that it was not easy for her to interview parents about their journeys raising children with medical illnesses. She often had to hide her tears as she was listening to their stories. The editorial team at work has been helpful to her, and this has made Gray felt relieved. She kept herself busy and often forgot to call Sonny. She used to think about Sonny day and night, but now, she likes her solitude life here in London.

“Hey, Gray ! Your friend is here. He has been waiting for you all day long,” said Cassie, Gray’s housemate.

“What?? Who? I don’t expect any guests…”

“Well, he’s sitting on the couch and reading a book. Go see him.”

Gray enters the room and sees Sonny sitting in the living room. She is speechless.

“Hey, Gray! Long time no see you! No food in London?? You are super skinny!!” said Sonny as he walking toward Gray. He then hugged her tight and kissed her forehead. His heart feel warm and happy.

“What?!? You don’t say anything to me? Like how handsome I am now??” said Sonny. “Ha ha ha ha.”

“Why are you here?” asked Gray.

“Of course, I am here to visit you. I am jealous that you could fly to England meanwhile I am stuck at work.”

“But, you love your job.”

“Hahahaha, well, I love you more than my job.” replied Sonny.

Gray rolled her eyes as she heard this.

They both went out for dinner after that. Gray couldn’t believe that Sonny flew all the way from Singapore to London to see her. Sonny hasn’t changed that much. He is still a man with countless jokes, though he is completely a different person when he is on the job. She could tell how happy Sonny is from the look on his face and eyes.

Sonny, indeed, is a very happy guy at this moment. He just cannot hide his excitement from Gray. He doesn’t want to let go Gray’s hand from his hand. Occasionally, he pulls Gray closer and kisses her cheek. This sounds childish, but he is a happy guy. As he holds her hand, he is thinking, he doesn’t want to return to Singapore alone. He wants Gray to come back to Singapore with him. He just have to find the right time to convince Gray.

Sonny doesn’t have to wait because Gray actually senses that Sonny is hiding something from her, and she wants to know the truth now.

“Tell me again why you are here?”

“Hahahaha. I told you the reason.”

“No, it has to be something else.. do you get into a trouble back home??”

“Nooo!!! Hahaha” Sonny continues to laugh and shakes his head.

“You want the truth?” said Sonny

“Yes, please.”

“I am here to convince you to come home with me. I mean, I want us to live and build a family together.”

“You know I am sick right?” asked Gray

“Yes, I know, I am the one who has always been there for you. I still want to live with you.”

“What if I am too sick and cannot have kids?”

“Gray, I don’t care. We could buy a dog.”

“Now, what if I die?”

“Come on, Gray! You will not die. If you die, I still want to live with you before you die.”

“I don’t want to leave London.”

“I figure you will say this. I will still wait for you. I have to go back to S’pore this Friday, but I will visit you again soon. The point is I want you and I live together. Remember what I said in the past? Two is better than one. So, you can’t live here alone because I won’t let you live alone.”

Sonny hugs Gray and whispers, “Now, will you dance with me? Because I am tired arguing with you.”

They dance without a background music in the bedroom.

Sonny suddenly pulls out a Tiffany’s box and asks Gray to open it.

Inside the box, Gray sees a ring covered with diamonds.

“Because you are way too precious for me, so this ring represents how I feel about you and our journey. You could keep it, and please wear the ring on your way back home.”

“You are still and always be my home, Gray. Come home with me, because I am your home. You have to admit it.”

Soulmate

The journey of looking for a soulmate is like waiting for a bus that is running late. You see your fellows were getting picked up by their buses one by one. They are waving good bye at you and wishing you luck before they stepped on the bus. You made a sigh every time your fellow said it, but you figured you could handle it. You kept saying, it’s not the end of the world anyway. 

Hours have passed, and you have been waiting for too long and was getting tired making multiple phone calls tried to reach the bus operators that were always busy. The schedule said the bus should have been arrived, but it did not. You checked your phone’s battery power and saw that you have 10% left. 

You decided to walk and hope to see your bus somewhere (hopefully), than standing at the bus stop for nothing. As you walked home, you met various people from different backgrounds. You met a fellow who then lent his power cord to you and chatted for a few hours while you waited for the battery to have at least 80% power. You were parted with this fellow and continued on your journey. A faithful heart is a must in order to survive on this journey. A clear mind with positive thinking will help you to come up with plans (what if there is no bus), but it is God’s grace and guidance that will make the way. 

On My Way to London 

This is the third part of the fictional stories of Gray Cloud and Sonny Sunshine. All names here are fictive.Both the first and second parts of the stories could be accessed on this blog

Sonny Sunshine couldn’t believe what he has just heard on the phone. Gray is off to London for 6 months to interview and photograph families of children with serious medical illnesses. This girl always does something unthinkable. He never imagined that Gray would dare to leave him for this project. Sonny had a long day at work, but this one is the hardest of them all. He sighed, put down his phone and recalled the first time they met. 

It was Sunday night in April when he met Gray at the church. They sat on the same row and apparently their cars were also parked next to each other. Gray had a flat tire that night and Sonny helped her by calling his friend, who owns car service, to come and fix Gray’s tire. They exchanged business cards and two days later Gray called him and offered to treat him lunch as a way to say thank you. Gray who worked in the non-profit foundation at that time invited him to her foundation’s social events on monthly basis. Sometimes, Sonny felt tired of responding to her invitations, but he did not want to sound unfriendly to her. Checking on Gray’s LinkedIn profile, she indeed is a smart woman with long lists of achievement. He noticed that Gray liked him just by looking at the way she was staring at him. This was not the first time he had female friends who grew fond of him, but Gray definitely was not his preferred one. Sonny decided to ignore her invitations and chats, though it did not last long

Gray found so many excuses to keep in touch with Sonny. He wondered why this girl did not leave him alone. He knew at least some legitimate guys laid eyes on her, but she just ignored them. Sonny wanted to trade space with some of those guys. He deliberately screwed up things and acted somewhat childish to make Gray giving up on him. Unfortunately, all of those tactics did not work

It was not until he changed to a new phone and open his unused LINE account that he learned Gray has been leaving him thousand unread notes addressed to him on her timeline. He seldom opened LINE and so he did not know that LINE users could customize their timeline’s audience. He read those notes from bottom to top and spent the whole day to read everything. The last note was written 6 months ago from the date he read it. The note stated that Gray asked for his prayer as she was heading to hospital.

Sonny thought long and hard. He could not understand why Gray did this to him. Who would write thousand of notes online and did not tell the intended recipient about those notes???? He shook his head again in disbelief as he skimmed through his LINE

Sonny’s attitude toward Gray changed since then. He was more genuine and nicer to her than before. He slowly showed Gray his true behaviors not the fake ones. Gray never wrote on LINE again, but she did not bother Sonny as often as she used to be. This made Sonny felt weird because he has been used to be annoyed by Gray’s endless excuses and invitations. He wondered if he slowly became interested in her. No way, he thought. 


Once he learned about Gray’s conditions, Sonny accompanied Gray to almost every doctor’ or lab’s appointment. They both knew the lump was not cancerous cell but they knew it could change at any moment. Understanding the fact that it could become a cancer made Gray feeling down. Life was hard both for Sonny and Gray during those time periods because Sonny had to go back and forth between two cities to care for Gray’s health. His contractor’s job required him to travel and check construction sites. Likewise, Gray could sense how Sonny became irritated and overwhelmed with these changes. He tried to make up the time he was away, but perhaps he was too tired that Gray knew he treated her as if she was his “construction job” that needed to be supervised

The week Gray decided to take the project in London, Sonny was out of town. He is usually gone for 4 days and stay with Gray for 3 days. This pattern has been going on for a few years. He never left Gray longer than a week, but this time he had to complete this final touch of his construction work. Gray used to call him everyday before she found out her condition. Now, it’s Sonny’s turn. He usually checks on her 3x in a day when he is out of town, and when he is in town, he will come over and cook dinner for her

Sonny’s faraway thought is stopped when he hears his phone is beeping. He grabs his phone from desk and sees that Gray is sending him a message. She wrote “Hey, I arrived in London. We rent a house in suburb area. There are 2 other students who are in this project. I am going to change my number. I will send you my new number along with the address. Take care!”  

Sonny was browsing on the travel website as he read Gray’s message. He searched for outbound flights to London. Five minutes later, he secured his reservation. He booked one way flight from Singapore to London. His flight is two days from now. He could see the Singapore flyer from his window. Pretty night, he thought, but it was meaningless without Gray. There is a smile on his face. This time is a genuine warm smile. Gray’s birthday is on August 18. He wants to be there to surprise her. He needs a vacation anyway, and London is just perfect for him. 

You are My Home 

This is the second part of the “2gether is better than one.” The first story could be found on this blog, too. All names here are fictive

Gray Cloud’s condition has been stable and good for the past two years. This has made her felt relieved and thankful. She started classes in photography and journalism a few months ago. These fields are new to her, but she is excited to learn more from the experts in the field. 

Gray’s interests in photography and journalism started when she learned that she could be diagnosed with cancer. She would like to write her stories and take pictures of things that are mattered to her. Gray then started to create a personal blog. Most of her writing topics are around family, hope, and love. A few of them are fiction but the majority is opinion. If she could live long enough, she would like to interview cancer survivors as well as those who are struggle with cancer and share their stories with public. 

On another note, Sonny Sunshine has been supportive to her. Gray has been trying to detach herself from him because she is afraid that her presence will disrupt Sonny’s work. Sonny always accompanies her when she goes to see a doctor or to the lab. Gray was worried how she could repay Sonny’s kindness. Gray already liked Sonny when they met on the first time. She tried to get to know Sonny more at that time, though it appeared to her that Sonny had no interest to her. Now, she regrets it because she does not know how to “undo” their relationship. 

Mr. Gram, who is Gray’s teacher, knows that Gray has a strong interest in writing stories of cancer survivors. Mr. Gram offered her to join him to travel to London for 6 months to interview parents of children with serious medical diseases. He said this would be a good start for her. Gray wants to do this, but she doesn’t know how she would tell Sonny. 

Gray and Mr. Gram will leave for London tomorrow. Sonny has been out of town for a week and won’t return until the following week. Last night, Gray called his cell phone and informed him about her trip. Sonny did not like her idea. He said it would not be good for her health. Gray quietly listened to Sonny’s words. Gray then said, “Let me go because I will go back to you. I will take care of myself. You could use the next 6 months to focus on your work and enjoy your life a little bit. I am sorry that I cause you a burden. I should not have approached you last time. I did not foresee that I would get sick. I promise I will be okay. I will return here because you are my home.” 

Sonny knew he couldn’t do that much since he was far from her. He could only wish her a safe trip. With that said, Gray is off to London the next day.