Here’s chapter 11 of the new book, Dr. Clay, I’ve been writing since NaNoWriMo 2022. Enjoy reading. Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.
“Wow, your room is awesome, Clay!” Valon said in a loud, excited tone as he walked into the apartment, which startled Clay initially. Although successful, this young man seemed unused to having someone by his side. Let alone someone as bright and cheerful as Valon, whose presence brightened the space. When Valon turned to face him, he couldn’t help but flash a smile watching Valon’s eyes glowing with fascination and wonder like a child, as if there was something in his room that was flashy enough to catch his attention. “Are you living alone?”
Clay nodded. “Yeah, though my brother visits me sometimes.”
Valon nodded, turning in circles while he leaned his back against the plush velvet surface of the couch. Then, as he continued strolling, he looked down and stroked his fingers against the sheet before moving his attention to Clay. “For a single-person apartment, this is quite a space, Clay,” he paused and sighed, “Yet so clean. I mean, it’s so empty. I guess I could even hear my voice echoing. Hello? Hi? I’m Valon. Nice to meet you, Clay!” he said, shaking his head and giggling in disbelief with what he was seeing. “Was that why you cried before?”
Clay was defeated, and all he could do was stare at Valon, who looked more concerned this time. He couldn’t find the right words to express his frustration with his life. As they continued exchanging gazes, Clay was in utter chaos when his mind began reeling the events that had happened lately. Though he knew his life was in deep trouble, he knew he couldn’t do anything about it.
However, it has been too much for him lately. After the last night’s dinner at Elizabeth’s home and watching Valon before him, he felt more disturbed than he thought. When his mind found itself comparing how Valon looked at him and how his fiancee’s eyes looked at him in the eyes, he felt an unfamiliar emptiness toward the woman he was supposed to feel affection for. While Valon walked towards him and reached his hand, it slowly sunk into Clay’s senses even though he couldn’t find any sense.
“How about a cup of coffee?” Valon said with excitement in an attempt to ease Clay before he let his hand go.
“Yeah, of course,” Clay said and turned towards the cupboards, grabbing two cups and scrambling into the kitchen to prepare. When he turned his head, he saw Valon walking around and found himself staring at him before he blinked for a moment and continued his actions.
Valon went to the living space near the couch, where he found the remote and clicked a button without qualms. When he saw the curtains being shoved sideways, his eyes widened in awe at what his eyes saw as soon as the wide windows revealed the picturesque urban view. Then, he walked towards the tall window and figured out it was the entry to the balcony. As soon as he opened it, his jaw dropped when he walked out and shut his eyes, inhaling deep breaths of fresh air. While planting his hands in his pockets, he walked towards the rails and looked down the busy streets below him.
After Clay finished, he brought the steaming cups to the counter. But when he placed them on top, he looked around to find Valon until he saw the window blinds open. He found him standing on his balcony, relishing the silent and beautiful place for urban escape—planting his elbows on the rail, leaning forward, pressing his chest against it while looking up on both sides.
When Valon saw Clay standing beside him, he pulled himself away and stood, facing Clay. “Your place is beautiful,” he said with a smile.
“I’m glad you liked it here.”
Valon looked away, moving his attention towards the streets below, having fun watching other people’s lives. “I do. But you know, it would look different when we arrived at my dad’s villa. It wouldn’t look the same to you.”
“Wouldn’t it be exciting for me?” Clay paused as he smiled and looked at Valon, “You seem close to your dad.”
Valon looked at him and nodded. “Yeah, though he’s not my biological dad,” he said that surprised Clay. It wasn’t something he was expecting to hear that night. When Valon noticed Clay’s expression, he chuckled, glancing at the cup of steaming coffee on the counter. “Don’t worry. It’s fine. How about we go inside and talk about it? You seem to become more and more curious about me.”
Surprised, Clay looked away and let out an awkward laugh as they headed back inside the apartment and sat on the chairs at the counter. When he sat and saw Valon grabbing his coffee on his seat, his eyes wandered as if he was feeling unease about the revelation he had heard. Indeed, Clay was a softie. “I won’t mind if you don’t like to talk about it.”
Valon shook his head and tapped Clay’s hand on the table, dismissing the doctor’s concern. “No, it’s okay. We’re friends anyway.”
Friends? Oh, right. I guess we are. “If you think it’s right for us to talk about it, go ahead. I won’t mind.”
“Now that you’re asking, I realized I haven’t discussed this with someone before.”
“Yeah, it’s the first time I’ll be telling a bit more about myself,” he paused and sighed an exasperated sigh before sipping the steaming liquid, “But I trust you as much as you trust me, Clay, so it’s fine to talk about it. I think it will be a great idea before heading there.”
“Would you be alright with that?”
“Sure,” Valon paused again as if he were preparing his mind, organizing lots of details rushing through his head. After he took a stern look straight into Clay’s eyes, he sighed and continued. “Well, I came from a troubled family, and things got so bad that I lost my parents when I was only eighteen years old.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” Shit. His life was rough. That’s what Clay thought upon hearing Valon’s story.
Then, Valon continued, “At that young age, I had to become a father figure for my younger sister.”
“How did you manage?”
“I did everything I could. Everything. That I even had to swallow my pride for the sake of Agatha,” Valon said, tearing up a little bit. Even though he was still trying to get himself together without getting too emotional, his neck down to his chest felt like it was going to burst. His face flushed, and his breathing was deeper, as if he was sucking the air in the room.
And Clay noticed them all. Though he barely moved and kept his keen attention on Valon, Clay took mental notes of every nuance Valon made. He noted how the look in Valon’s eyes had changed in a blink of an eye. That fact reconciled how intimidating Valon was when he first appeared in his clinic with how warm he became a moment ago. But at that point, while Valon kept talking, Clay sensed something dark in his eyes.
“While we were sent to an orphanage, there was this young businessman. He was in his early thirties at that time. So, back in the day, he was pretty young for a successful entrepreneur and became involved in politics. But for whatever reason, he decided to retire in his prime. He said he wanted to build his family. While he remained single, he adopted me and my sister, Agatha.”
“That’s your sister’s name?”
“Yeah, Agatha De Lara.”
“I’m not sure if I heard that name somewhere.”
“You probably have,” he paused to grab his phone and scroll into the social media platform. After scrolling a series of photos saved to his device, he leaned forward and showed Clay how Agatha looked. “Look. That’s her.”
Clay studied the young woman’s face with his eyes while Valon continued scrolling to show more photos of her. After a few pictures, Clay squinted and widened his eyes as if he had realized something. “That’s her? That influencer I always see on my fiancee’s social media is your sister?” he said with his index finger, pointing at the screen.
Did I hear it right? Fiancee? You’re getting married? Valon nodded before he looked at the screen, smiling though his eyes looked displeased, and then tucked the device into his pockets again. “Yeah. That’s her. Isn’t she beautiful?”
“She is. How old is she?”
Valon hummed, pulling his face up to the ceiling and tapping his fingers at the counter as if he was manually calculating Agatha’s probable age. He’s indeed her sibling. “1998… hmm…. 2022… She’s 24 years old this year.”
“Oh, cool. How about you, Val?”
“What about me?”
“How old are you?”
“I guess we’re the same age. Probably, you’re a few months older than I am.”
“How did you know about my birthday?”
“I guess it’s always printed on every year’s graduation book.”
When Clay realized his mistake, he scoffed, letting out a giggle to ease himself and his paranoia. What the hell was he expecting Valon to say? That he was stalking him? Come on, Clay. When would you stop suspecting Valon as if he would do something bad to you? “Oh. I don’t know. How would I know every employee’s birthday? We’re hundreds of us working at San Carlos. Besides, why would I want to do that in the first place? I don’t have time for that when I have a whole workload at the hospital.”
“Right. I was born on November 23, 1992, and yours, Clay?” Valon said, beckoning him—more like a demand to answer his question.
“July 2, 1993.”
“Oh, you’re a year younger?”
Valon nodded. “I see. Anyway, are you hungry? I’m starving.”
Clay nodded. “Yeah, I am. Should we order online?”
“That’s fine. You don’t have anything in your kitchen?”
Clay shrugged. “Nah, I’m not sure what Alain brought the last time.”
“You really don’t know your kitchen, Clay.”
“Not at all. It’s funny.”
“Yeah. You have turned your brother into a maid.”
That struck Clay’s heart, and ouch! It was painful to hear that line. It wasn’t because Valon was intentional but because Clay understood something he didn’t want to. He couldn’t see Alain’s mothering with a positive reaction, which greatly challenged Clay. However, Valon was right. No matter how much he would like to dismiss this. In the end, he became so dependent on Alain that he barely touched his own kitchen.
“So, do you want me to look and see what I can do?” Valon said as he pushed away from the counter and stood, heading to the kitchen.
“Sure, if you like to.” Clay pulled himself onto the seat and stood, looking surprised. When Valon began scrambling to check his cabinets, Valon found the pantry and opened the refrigerator afterward.
“Great! You have noodles, spices, oil, and a few vegetables. That will do,” he said as he nodded and took the needed ingredients, which surprised Clay again.
“Do you cook?”
“Yeah, though I’m no chef.”
“How did you learn how to do it?”
“I also live alone like you, so I have to learn how to save more, and I found out that cooking my meals is the best way to go. So, yeah,” Valon said before he turned and focused his eyes on washing the vegetables he had gathered from Clay’s fridge. Then, he cut them skillfully, leaving Clay, who had barely cooked in his life, in awe of what he was watching. But when he glanced at Clay and saw him staring at whatever he was doing, he couldn’t help but smile and chuckle. “You look fascinated, Clay.”
“Why? You don’t cook your meals yourself?”
“No, Alain usually does more here than I do. I’m usually fine ordering stuff online.”
“My elder brother.”
Valon nodded. “So, what does he do here?”
“Cleaning most of the time.”
“How about you?”
“After surviving a day at the hospital, God, I don’t want to do anything and throw myself to the bed and sleep. With the shifts and all that, the hectic, volatile, fast life, this is where I could be alone, free from absorbing people’s emotions and feel so empty. Unlike the hospital, I hear nothing here unless Alain plays his Lo-Fi music the entire day whenever he’s here.”
“That explains why it looked so wide, unlike mine. It’s pretty cramped in my rented apartment. So, I want to return to the villa and spend time in my art room there.”
“Is your apartment nearby?”
“I live a town away from here.”
“Really?” Clay said with excitement.
“Yeah. By the way, there’s one thing I’d like to ask you, though?”
“Sure, what is it?”
“If you hated your lifestyle right now, why did you want to become a doctor in the first place?”
“Why do you say that? Did your parents force you to become a doctor?”
“I came from a family of doctors, so I was expected to be one, too. My father told me recently that being born into this family is like living in prison. An inescapable prison.”
“Do you mean saving Marco was just out of that painful choice?”
That froze Clay, and he caught himself in conflict with what he said. “No, it’s not what I mean,” he said, looking down, sighing in defeat.
“I won’t feel bad if you say yes,” he paused when he saw Clay pulling his face up and looking into his eyes, and added, “I guess you want to know why.”
“Yes, if you wish,” Clay said with anticipation. Please, Val. But when Valon showed a kind smile, Clay’s heart sank.
“Though it was painful for you, I am grateful for your choice. If you didn’t become a doctor, you wouldn’t have had the chance to save Marco’s life. As a doctor, you know better than me or everyone. Not even the patient knows better about his body than the doctors themselves. Despite the life-staking and almost impossible circumstances, you still chose to take the risk because you wanted to save my friend’s life. You could have just agreed with what others thought, especially those from your higher-ups. But you saw the situation differently and thought outside of the box. That compelled me to do something for you to show you how deeply thankful I was. So, I arranged with the artist and organized the event.”
Clay jolted when he realized something. “That’s why you crashed into my clinic that day. Wait, am I missing something here? I know this kind of conversation doesn’t belong to me, but I think I missed something with what you’ve said.”
Valon pressed his lips, knowing Clay had figured it all out before he let out an awkward chuckle. “Yeah. You got me there, Clay.”
“Why did you do that?”
“If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t have met your favorite artist in person. Would you?”
“I may have lured you into the art exhibition, but still, it was the least that I could do compared to what you have done for me,” Valon said, lifting the chopping board with the sliced vegetables on hand, and then turned facing the steaming pot. Then, he shoved the vegetables into the boiling hot water before he grabbed packs of rice noodles that were available in Clay’s supply.
As he was doing it, Clay froze as he returned to his seat, still reeling what Valon had just told him, trying to reconcile the sense of the events that had happened to him lately. His words seemed to have gotten into him that he kept drinking the coffee to ease his parching and constricting throat and ease himself.
When he realized his empty cup, he placed it on the surface and began observing Valon showing impressive cooking skills, skillfully flipping the pan to cook the noodles in high heat.
After Clay heard Valon’s revelation, he began recalling what he had told Dr. Hawkeye and other expert doctors that day. As the conversation turned more serious than he thought, he realized, while watching Valon looking so serious with his cooking, that this man was much more intense and firm than how he looked.
Though he looked interestingly gay, carefree, and free-spirited from the outside, Valon was a lot more serious and had something more profound to show than he knew, Clay guessed. For an unknown time, he couldn’t stop himself from staring at Valon until he got his senses back when he saw Valon turning with the pot in hand, heading to the counter.
After scraping off the stuff from the pan, Valon returned to the sink and washed it before heading back to check on Clay, still amid an overwhelming gush of emotions. Surprisingly, Valon didn’t have qualms answering the weight of the doctor’s gaze even in that heated moment. He seemed unaffected and continued saying something that unknowingly got Clay the most.
“As a doctor and Marco’s attending physician, there are no words to describe how grateful I am for saving my brother.”
“Why would you feel like that towards me?”
“I guess you were hoping that at least, maybe, just maybe, he would be alive if you could give more. It’s rare to meet passionate doctors like that. I’m happy that I met you, and I know I haven’t said enough thanks to having someone like you,” he said as he landed in Clay’s eyes, looking at him with interest and teary-eyed.
“Me, too,” Clay said.
As they went on, Valon thought, what have I gotten myself into?
It was the first gaze they had ever had that made them freeze, as if the time stood still for both of them, as if something between them was blooming, igniting something unfamiliar inside their beings. Despite the chaos they were feeling at this point, clueless, for whatever reasons these two men have, something has become more evident to them.
Thank you so much for spending time reading this chapter. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did when I wrote this part three months ago. This chapter, in particular, reminded me of those times when I sat before my desk, seemingly prepared to type in words, but I struggled to keep it up.
It took an external motivation to get it through, and, at that time, the NaNoWriMo event was upcoming. At that time, I thought, “This could be a great opportunity to try and give this a shot one more time. You’d done an excellent job with ‘The Rival,’ so you could do it, Mecyll.”
You know, it’s easier said than done because writing a chapter with a clear intent to finish it requires more than just a skill. Since I started writing fiction, I realized how much this work demands my ability to be naked and the guarantees to answer whether I was mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepared to face my fears, conscious or unconscious.
So, being able to write this down meant I managed despite the countless times dancing around with depression and enjoying the roller coaster rides my anxiety provided me.
This is why I don’t know how I could thank you for your support, regardless of the scale or contribution size, from sharing my work with others or buying my books. It doesn’t matter because, for me, every small act you show is appreciated.
Again, thank you, and have a great day!