Here’s chapter 57 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.
While Agatha offered to cook for their lunch, Elizabeth looked around Valon’s place and saw the disheveled canvases and the clutter in every corner of the room. Then, she saw him sitting on a kiosk outside his cave house. Slouching, looking more relaxed than he was a moment ago. It seemed watching the sea, people playing and swimming with families, and boats floating around the horizon had some calming effect on him.
Slowly, she walked toward him with her flip-flops, feeling the sand grains and grasses touching her toes. She gulped, feeling her heart was ahead of every other emotion clogging her throat. But she kept moving, kept her composure intact.
Only when she sat beside him did she feel the strength of this man’s oozing charisma. As she ran her eyes over him, she appreciated the beautiful mixture of femininity in the way he looked in his maroon satin robe. From how his shoulders looked, which matched his collarbones, to how his long curls matched his facial features. He was an intimidating man yet, surprisingly emotional. A mysterious man whose presence possessed both a strong yin and a yang.
But when she looked into his eyes, she saw hurt. Deep sorrow. Anguish. You name it. It was all over his face, though he tried to keep his emotions from spilling into his path. Swollen eyes. Swollen face. Injured knuckles wrapped with bandages. Scratches on his arms and legs.
God. It was getting more and more painful to watch.
Thinking it was a nice distraction, she watched the sea in the distance, yachts floating around, people swimming, enjoying the turquoise water. When she lowered her head, she glanced at his exposed arms. Her eyes widened as those six lines that scarred his forearm surprised her.
And it didn’t end there.
When her eyes ran over his exposed chest, she saw horrific marks, a mix of horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines, that scarred his skin. She didn’t expect it. Patterns had emerged from the tangle of images and thoughts—the obvious had become clear. Underneath this man’s silence was an indescribable pain.
Elizabeth knew that feeling so well. She had that once. And it hadn’t been too long since it happened. She understood how it felt to spend days and nights wishing Clay would return, thinking about her, wishing she would see him returning to her. Then again, there weren’t many situations she could imagine herself in. His earlier words came to taunt her.
What if somebody stole him from you? What would you do?
Despite this, she felt lashing out and expressing her sentiment was wrong. If she wasn’t respectful, and if he wasn’t Agatha’s brother, she could have easily said, ‘See, what you’ve done?’ or ‘It’s all your fault.’
No. She shook her head. Besides, her chapter with Clay had already ended. It didn’t make sense to pick a fight, especially with a beautiful man looking like this. “Are you okay?” she asked quietly as if defensively, watching him take out a box of cigarettes from his pocket.
He put a cigarette between his teeth and lit it while eyeing her. “Yeah. I am.” He stuttered. The suddenness of it caught him off-guard.
Though his voice terrified her, she tried to muster more confidence, drawing it from her gut. She sighed, eyeing him. “Do you remember when we played at the pool?”
Valon hummed in answer, sighing a cloud of smoke.
Should she say it? That’s what she thought as a familiar sense of panic swelled her chest. She curled her fingers against the fabric of her dress. “Quite frankly, I was jealous.”
His eyebrows furrowed. His eyes widened in surprise and narrowed in suspicion. “Why?”
That was hard to answer as it went to self-doubt. Elizabeth knew her weaknesses, and she wasn’t proud of them. She was aware of what she had done. She couldn’t stay in denial. She had to accept them as truth. She sighed, straightening her arms while pressing her palms on her lap. “I couldn’t accept my knight in shining armor looking another man that way.”
“If you love him that much, why did you decide to let him go?”
Jesus. How should she answer it? She thought. What should I do? Should I have lashed out and embarrassed myself in front of your dad? “I really did blow it up, didn’t I?” she said in a small, discouraged voice.
“But it wasn’t entirely my fault!” She burst back, annoyed.
Valon didn’t know what to say. She was clearly hurt, but he was no healer. “I thought you admitted you were the one who blew it,” he said in a grim voice.
“I’d rather share the blame.” She felt the weight of responsibility on her shoulders. If he was going to be arrogant about it, he could take, even just a little bit, of that weight. That would be fair for her. “Anyway, our relationship wasn’t worth fighting anymore.” She paused and looked him in the eye. “Because no matter what I do, you have already taken my place,” she said softly but was unapologetic. If there was one thing she’d done right in her life, it was believing and fighting for true love.
Only after she had said it, she realized what she had done. She buried her face with both hands, breathing hard until she regained a bit of control. Then, she raised her head enough to speak clearly—softly but with clarity. “I’m sorry. I got carried away. It’s history. Dead in the water. There isn’t a lot I can do about what happened. But it still hurts. I guess I’m still angry.”
Her words had hit him like timber. He replied with a nonchalant twitch in his mouth before sucking the cigarette and puffing out another cloud of smoke. He was silent for a minute as if he was being careful of what he would say. “I’m sorry.”
There was firmness in his voice and a directness in his eyes. Annoyed, yes, and disdainful of her, but calmer.
Elizabeth shook her head. “No. Don’t be. It was meant to happen.”
“Do you think so?” Valon flashed a dry smile, though he didn’t answer at first, and when he did, his voice was low and tight. “Thank you for giving him up for me. But you see, it didn’t work.” After he consumed the cigarette, he leaned forward to reach the ashtray and pinched the stick, squeezing his fingers to put the fire out. Then, he had his head back, pressed against a metal frame, and his eyes closed. He was quiet.
She wondered if he’d fallen asleep. But she continued when he shifted, crossing his legs and threading his fingers. “Still, it was the best decision for us. I didn’t want him to suffer, even if it meant losing him. I’m thankful instead.” That reply left Valon confused. Though she stiffened when she noticed him staring at her, she gulped and cleared her throat. “Thank you for making Clay happy. That’s what matters to me.” She paused and sighed again. But this time, her grin reached her ears, feeling a profound sense of closure she needed. “Don’t worry. I know Clay loves you. And I know he would return to you. He isn’t the type of person who’ll give up that easily.”
“I hope so,” Valon answered with hopelessness in his voice. It was the unusual sound she had heard from this man. To her knowledge, he didn’t even need to scream to push away people. If not bossy, it was commanding enough to put people in place. Yet, when those words escaped his mouth, he sounded less confident. Exhausted. Lost.
“Don’t worry about Agatha. I’ll take care of her.” She looked at him and flashed a broad smile when she saw his face lit. She pursed her lips, thinking how she could make him feel better. Her eyes narrowed, reeling possibilities in her mind for a minute. Then, her eyes glowed, her face with sudden excitement. “How about a vacation?”
Valon looked at her, looking more confused. “Do I look like I’m interested in going off somewhere?”
She smiled. “You need it. We all need it. Besides, I want to pay you back.”
He shook his head. “Nah. You don’t need to do that.”
She shook her head in defiance. “Sorry. But I don’t take no as an answer.”
While driving on, Elizabeth noticed a notification on her display. When she saw Elvira’s name on the screen, she pressed her finger on the surface and answered the call. “Hello? Elvira? What is it?”
“Didn’t you hear what happened to Clay’s dad?”
That inquiry didn’t sound right to her. “What happened?”
“He’s at St. Luke’s.” Elvira’s voice sharpened.
“What?” Elizabeth sputtered.
Valon’s eyes widened in surprise. He remained silent in the backseat, swiveling his head to watch the surroundings to distract himself. Yet, he couldn’t stop himself from being curious. He wanted to know what happened. Knowing he was in the same car and the conversation was on loudspeaker, he thought it would be stupid to ignore what he had heard.
When they arrived at St. Luke’s, he and Agatha tailed Elizabeth, passing the emergency room and several wards, climbing upstairs to the private rooms. As she stopped and marched in, his feet slowed as he stood behind Elizabeth. His eyes narrowed when he landed on the man on the bed. He had been waiting for this moment to come, he thought. He would have done something terrible without blowing up his initial plan. It was something he knew he would regret later.
It would have been possible before. But not anymore. Despite feeling a strong urge, he couldn’t find reasons now. The longer he glued his eyes on the old man, the more he felt a new, indescribable emptiness. Like a void. Was it a change of heart? Was it solace? Man. He didn’t know.
“Are you okay, Kuya?”
He nodded in answer. Even though Agatha looked like she was anticipating his reply or a reaction, he couldn’t. Why? What happened? Perhaps, he may have forgiven the man, or he couldn’t find any hate inside him anymore. Whatever it was, it caught him off-guard. Unable to speak a word, he remained silent instead of crowing like a fool.
At the back of his mind, Agatha’s words did strange things to him. Was he okay? If so, how well was he? Something stirred inside him, something like compassion. It was totally uncharacteristic and entirely unwanted. But he felt a definite softening inside his heart. He didn’t feel like somebody sat atop him, or his gut was churning.
He guessed it was…
Seemingly disturbed, Elizabeth interrupted. “Is there something else I need to know about you?” She threw glances at the siblings, both frowning while eyeing each other.
The seriousness in her voice caught his attention. He thought, ‘Yeah, Liz deserved to know their shit.’ It was time.
Agatha sighed. “Well, it’s—”
“We lost our mother,” Valon babbled on, “Our father. Our life. Happiness. A home. All because of this man.” He crossed his arms, ignoring the surprised look on Elizabeth’s face. “Mama was his patient. And she died in his hands.”
“Oh, my God!” Elizabeth covered her face with both hands. She was surprised that he’d said as much. He’d been more laconic, keeping things personal. She thought he’d realized the impossibility of privacy in their situation. Or perhaps, her opening up had inspired a little in him. Or perhaps, it was simply exhaustion doing in his defenses. Whichever the case, she wanted to take advantage of it.
“Papa tried to fight in court. But the Elizondos were too powerful to be against. So, in the end, we lost. Then, shortly after, he died of a heart attack and left us two to relatives until we ended up in Dad’s care,” he added.
Elizabeth was beyond shock. She was even more shocked by Valon’s collected way of discussing things. She froze, struggling to keep her composure intact. But then, he continued the narrative. In her mind, she asked herself, ‘What else?’ repeatedly until they became screams. She was desperate to know everything, understand everything that went on. She thought she deserved answers.
“When I knew an Elizondo would be in-charge in Marco’s operation, I took advantage of the privilege I earned from Dad. I’ve set everything up. Planned everything. I was too angry to stop. I thought if I could do something against them to make me feel good.” His eyes suddenly turned bloodshot as he breathed in. “Without necessarily committing a crime.”
“Is that how you met Clay?” Elizabeth asked, hoping it would serve as a warning that she was on guard.
He swallowed, trying to keep his face. But, deep down in his heart, he knew it was over. And his brain recognized it. Guilt pushed him to correct the wrongs—the only way to find light in his dying soul. “Yes. I used him to cause this madness. Because of my selfishness, I destroyed families and relationships. Because of me, you broke up.” He paused and shook his head, trying to speak up a little bit more. But, when he couldn’t, he lowered his head and then moved his eyes to Elizabeth. “I’m sorry, Liz.”
“Don’t worry. I don’t hold grudges.” She flashed a kind smile, leaving him confused. “Clay and I had already settled. We both agreed to build our new chapters. Better ones.” Though in tears, Elizabeth tried to keep her composure intact. “But did you love him?”
“Whatever happened to us after that was unplanned. It just happened.” He wiped his tears and his nose with his scarf and straightened himself up. He looked her in the eye after he calmed down and nodded. His eyes were hopeful yet earthy. “But do I love him? Yes, I do. I still do.”
Then, to his surprise, she took Agatha’s hand while eyeing him. “I wish the same for you, too.”
“Kuya, it’s okay. You don’t have to feel guilty for being happy.”
That one-liner was enough to touch his heart. He covered his face with both hands, muzzling his mouth. His body kept the score, pumping tears like ravaging rivers during the storm. And it didn’t take long for Agatha to hug him, just like he always does when she needs it the most.
But then, her heart jumped when she heard a man speaking behind them.
“How dare you show yourself here, De Lara.”
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!
If you like to support my writing life, here’s what you can do:
- Get a copy of “The Rival” Uncensored Gay Romance Novel.
- Check out my upcoming book, “Non-Native Speakers Only.”
- Find more writing tips on my website (i.e., content writing, freelance writing, copywriting, self-publishing, novel writing, and many more!)