Here’s chapter 24 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.
If they had known how awkward their breakfast would be, none of them would have wanted to sit together, facing each other. Even when Valon had finished cooking the meals and prepared the table for them, nobody was excited. It was as if they had been mourning the whole night rather than enjoying their Christmas breaks.
As silence reigned, an older man in his early fifties walked in with his dog barking while running around the grounds. When he reached the dining area, he stopped with his mouth opened and arms raised. “Wow,” he paused as he turned his head, facing the maids, “Why didn’t you tell me we have visitors? I could have come earlier and greeted my guests.”
Valon interrupted as he stood and raised both arms, welcoming the old man with open arms. “Don’t worry about it. We didn’t want to interrupt your vacation, dad. Besides, they’re our friends. Not yours.”
“That’s the best news I’ve gotten so far. After years of waiting, my children finally brought home friends,” he paused to walk closer to the table and see the new faces in his home, “You’ve got some pretty good-looking faces around here, eh?” His laugh was contagious that he unknowingly diffused the tension they had been enduring all the time.
As he extended his hand, inviting the guests to shake it, Clay and Elizabeth stood, pushing back their seats while reaching for his hand. “I’m Albert De Lara, and I’m their father. May I know the name of this stunning woman?” he paused as he took Elizabeth’s hand and kissed the back of her palm. “Oh, Lala, you look gorgeous, young lady. Where did you find her, Valon? Isn’t she lovely?” he said, sniffing the heavy scent of vanilla on her skin.
Elizabeth smiled, blushing while fluffing her auburn hair as she extended her hand. “Thank you. I’m Elizabeth. You can call me Liz.”
“And how about you, young man?” Albert said after releasing Elizabeth’s hand, extending his arm to catch Clay and shaking his hand.
“I’m Clay,” he said, leaning forward to reach Albert and see him closely. It was as if he studied the older man’s face. Maybe it was his habit to do the same way as he did to his patients. A doctor’s habit.
“It’s nice to meet you, Liz and Clay. How did you find my place? I mean—” Albert paused. “Thank you,” he said as he sat on the empty seat Valon had reserved earlier.
“We love your place, Albert. Thank you for letting us in, though Clay and I crashed in here and disturbed your Christmas plans,” Elizabeth said.
“No, darling. It’s okay. In fact, I’m happy to know you’ve come here to celebrate with us this year. Having a few guests here during the year is nice, but it’s special during Christmas time. Because they say it’s the most wonderful time of the year, isn’t it?” Albert sang and then laughed before moving his attention to Clay, observing him from afar.
He drew his eyebrows as he continued eyeing the young man. It was as if Clay was familiar, though the idea was as the tip of his tongue. He couldn’t figure out where and how he could probably have met him. Of course, he didn’t want to judge the person. It isn’t right to judge someone during the first date. Nobody does that, though first impressions last. But his gut feeling was telling him something he disliked, even though it was unclear what it was.
That was if his assumption was correct.
If he were, he would want to know more about the lives of his guests, especially Clay, who have stood out since he returned a while ago. If not, he was glad Valon wasn’t too socially isolated, which had bothered him since he arrived in his life.
When Albert could not find the facts and the silence became more awkward, he dismissed them with a chuckle. “Right. I was right on time for breakfast. My son has cooking skills, though he never pursued culinary school. My daughter,” he paused again and sighed, shaking his head. But when he noticed Agatha rolling her eyes, he chuckled. “Hopeless.”
“Come on. I can cook,” Agatha sputtered.
“You do, but you’re just a lazy woman.” Albert clucked, shaking his head before moving his attention to the food. “This looks good. Shall we dig in?” he said excitedly as his face glowed like a child who couldn’t wait to taste the cooked meals.
“Sure,” Valon said, gesturing for everyone to proceed and waiting until they had their portions. While Agatha served a scoop for their dad, having brief discussions with him about her recent whereabouts, he had the time to glance at Clay helping Elizabeth. But when he closed his eyes briefly, a blurry image of Clay kissing Elizabeth.
But it wasn’t the same in Clay’s mind as he pictured himself tasting Valon’s lips instead.
While Agatha saw him gazing at them, leaving her scoffing, she tried not to make it evident to Albert. Then, she stared at Elizabeth, smiling while murmuring words to Clay. The couple was endearing to look at, and their oozing sweetness with each other oozed out, filling the void for the De Laras, who, in turn, unknowingly became their audience.
At that exact moment, Valon swiveled his head back to his plate and caught Agatha staring at Elizabeth while he was eyeing the couple. He observed her in silence until she turned her head in his direction. As their eyes linked, Valon saw her eyes widen. He sighed and flicked his head, trying to ignore what went on before his eyes.
If his assumption was correct, Agatha falling for Elizabeth surprised him a lot. If that were true, damn, he didn’t expect the situation was getting more complicated than it already was. When he recalled Agatha’s warning that night, he scoffed, thinking, how could his beloved sister become involved in this drama when she was the one who tried to stop getting in this mess?
Wow, that’s what he thought, shaking his head before he went on, scooping his food while eyeing Clay in the distance. Little did he know it didn’t skip Albert’s eyes as he had noticed how the look on his face had shifted. He sighed while eyeing the new guests, who looked like love birds. While his children appeared, they had walked out from someone else’s funeral. That made the old man curious.
“What do you do, Clay?” Albert asked.
“I’m a surgeon,” Clay said.
“How about you, Elizabeth?” Albert asked again.
“I work in a foundation,” she said.
“By the way, Elizabeth and Clay are a couple. They’re engaged,” Agatha said.
“Oh, really? When are you getting married?” Albert asked.
“If everything goes well, hopefully, it will be next year,” Elizabeth said while exchanging endearing gazes with Clay, holding his hand and squeezing it.
“Great. And you will become Mrs…” Albert beckoned.
“Mrs. Elizondo,” Elizabeth said with a smile, without noticing how the look in his eyes had changed. She squeezed her eyes while glancing at Valon and Agatha before she moved her attention to Clay.
“You’re an Elizondo?” Albert asked as if he was trying to verify what he had heard while his eyes glued on Clay.
“Yes, I am,” Clay said, nodding and flashing an awkward smile. When he noticed a slight change in Albert’s face, he wondered why, though he quickly ignored it, thinking he was misjudging the person the same way as he did with Valon before.
No, there was no way he was going to do that again. That was crystal clear in Clay’s mind.
“I didn’t expect to meet an Elizondo in my house, did I?” Albert exclaimed before letting out an awkward laugh and glancing at Valon, piercing him with a menace in his glowering eyes.
“Why? Is there something special about the Elizondos?” Elizabeth asked while her mind reeled over Alain and Anais’s unexpected heated argument.
“Nothing special, my dear,” Albert paused, looking down at his plate with the utensils in his hands and sighing deep breaths, “I’m just in awe right now. I still couldn’t believe that I could meet someone in that family in person. Not in my house,” he exclaimed, laughing to attempt easing the tension. At least they could relish their breakfast to start their day.
It was a dark room. A dark, silent vast space.
Valon had been convinced he would die and had prayed for the darkness. He had only wanted some peace, an end to suffering. After all, he thought it was impossible to see Agatha again. He had lost hope in seeing her smile and do more for her sister, who had been waiting for his return.
Chains wrapped around his arms and feet. His body dripped dark red drops that stained the cold floor, trembling after barely surviving the whips he earned. He squeezed his eyes as tears began to well up around his eyelids. He looked down and saw the dark bruises surrounding the streaks of red lines covering his chest down to his abdomen.
He grunted, trying to pull himself up from the pain when it hit. It had racked his weak body, starting in his back and radiating outward until the tips of his fingers and toes.
As his legs wobbled, losing strength, he dragged his feet to stand, grunting as he forced himself to get up and look around when he still had the time alone. When he stood, he raised his head, swiveling, searching for clues about where he was. He shut his eyes, trying to remember each event that happened that day and figure out what happened to him that he ended up chained in submission.
And by whom?
Who was responsible for this?
Before he could continue, he flinched when he heard the loud creaking sounds of the steel door. He looked at it as it opened and winced from the bright light beaming at him. After a while, he slowly opened his eyes and saw a man’s silhouette walking toward him. It wasn’t until the man stood closer to him that he saw the details of this man’s figure.
He looked as if he was around his late fifties. Gray and black strands of hair covered the sides of his head, leaving the top bald spotless. Though he looked massive in height, he was stocky and heavy, with his beer belly almost bursting the buttons of his polo top.
He leaned closer to Valon and grabbed his chin as if forcing him to look into his eyes. When Valon saw him, he hissed and spat at his face. “So, it was you all along?” he said, which made the old man giggle and let out a loud, insulting laugh.
“Yes. Are you surprised?” the old man asked and cocked an eyebrow.
“Why did you have to do this, Uncle Elmer? I was supposed to trust you because you’re my mom’s brother. How could you do this to us? What have we done wrong to you?” he said, begging him for answers, only to find himself looking foolish as the old man continued laughing as if he was having fun with what he was doing.
“It doesn’t matter anymore, Valon. You’re mom died. That means you’re not my nephew anymore.”
“Why are you doing this?” Valon asked in tears, looking down as he felt dizzier and too weak to feel hate towards this man.
“If you’d only been a good boy, you wouldn’t end up here. I only asked you to sign those damn papers. But you were so arrogant that you refused and ignored my pleas until I had enough of being this kind uncle. I snapped. So, I ended up doing this to you, and I’m sorry,” he said before stretching his lips widely and letting out a boisterous laugh. He stood and turned his back as he was about to walk away.
But when he heard Valon pulling the chains, he turned and saw the young man trying to attack him while screaming at the top of his lungs. He scoffed and shook his head, walking back towards him. Then, he bent his knees to Valon’s eyes and planted his palms on his hind legs.
“I’ll give you another chance if you’re that desperate to see Agatha again. All you need to do is grab a pen and sign. That’s all, and both of you will be free. Doesn’t that sound agreeable to you, young man?”
Valon spat at his face, glowering at him. “Fuck you!”
Elmer rubbed his face with his hand, wiping off the spit on his skin. To Valon’s surprise, he laughed again and pulled away to stand. “As you wish,” he said, flashing a menacing smile as he turned his back and walked away, leaving Valon in the dark after the door slammed shut.
As he struggled to accept his defeat, he screamed, trying to pull his arms and legs and release himself from the chains. “Agatha!” he repeatedly cried, rasping as guttural breath hurt his throat as he tried to hang on until he had blacked out and fell unconscious.
Coming back to the present, he heard someone knocking on the door.
It was Albert.
“Can I come in?” he asked, peeping through the door, with a smile.
“Yes,” Valon said, flashing an awkward smile as he turned in his direction and saw him entering the room. “I’m sorry for the clutter.”
“Don’t worry,” he paused, gesturing it was alright while walking baby steps towards his son. When he stood closer to him, he missed his son so much that he couldn’t stop looking at him. He sighed, looking in the same direction Valon was looking and smiled when he saw the magnificent view of the turquoise waters flashing its noon lights. “I know it’s been a while since you last were here, has it?”
Valon nodded. “I guess for around six months. I’m not quite sure.”
“Yeah, and I guess a lot of things happened around that time,” Albert paused and eyed him, wondering if it was the right time to ask something he’d wanted to know since breakfast time. He gulped as he looked away, sighing worries, which increasingly disturbed him. “I didn’t know you befriended an Elizondo.”
Though surprised, Valon remained unfazed as he kept staring at the distance with his hands tucked inside his pants’ pockets. While in mental chaos, he didn’t want to say something until his mind was ready to organize himself.
But now, it wasn’t the case.
Though he had anticipated Albert would ask more about Clay, he still felt unprepared. He didn’t expect it to happen today. He thought he could have probably devised excuses to dodge this question if given more time. He couldn’t even look at his dad, to whom he owed his life.
Nevertheless, he had no option except to face the day he had wished not to come.
“Why you don’t seem concerned?” Albert sputtered as he swiveled his head, facing his son. His contagious smile was long gone as the look in his eyes had shifted.
“No, I am not,” Valon said.
“Have you already forgotten what that family has done to you?”
“No, I didn’t, and I don’t think I will forget what happened to us. It’s not like that, dad.”
“If you were this aware of it, what game are you playing?” Albert asked.
“I understand your concern about me being friends with Clay,” Valon paused and looked at his father, studying his face with eyes, “But he has nothing to do with this.”
“How could you say that such bullshit, Valon?” Albert sputtered, raising his flushing face while clenching his fists. As much as he wanted to scream at him, he briefly shut his eyes, attempting to contain his anger.
Valon looked away, turning his head to hide his bloodshot eyes and the tears he was about to shed. He didn’t want to look vulnerable before his dad or this conversation. No, he didn’t want that. Never.
“I know you wouldn’t like me telling you what to do. And I’ve never meddled with your personal life, either. But this. I don’t know if I could allow you were doing this longer,” Albert said.
Valon looked into his eyes and saw his dad’s concern before shaking his head. “I don’t know either, dad.”
Even though his mind understood what Albert meant, his heart had a different story to tell. As much as he wanted to be mad as his dad wanted him to be, he couldn’t.
But, God, for how long?
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 to 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!