In case you missed it, read Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5, Episode 6, Episode 7 and Episode 8
I stepped harder on the accelerator as I moved through the light traffic. I was blessed that this was not one of the days when there was ‘bumper to bumper’ traffic. I was just two minutes from the hospital, but I wished I could somehow do the minutes in seconds. Two minutes was too long to wait to see Gloria.
I drove as fast as I could and in two minutes I pulled into the hospital. I got out of the car, confirmed her room at the reception and ran up the stairs.
I stopped in front of her door breathless.
I straightened my jacket and took several deep breaths. I had to appear calm, I could not show my panic. I wiped my brow with the sleeve of my jacket and pushed the door open.
“Welcome Jude.” Mrs Damijo – Gloria’s mom said.
“How is she?” I asked.
“I don’t know. The doctor said they are cautiously optimistic.”
I moved closer to the bed and pulled a chair. I held her hand in mine; they felt so cold. Her face looked like she was barely sleeping but I could tell she was not the same. What if she actually died? I shook my head, that was an awful thought. There was no way she was going to die, not now. It was almost three months since the night we got back together but more importantly, it was less than a week before I had to leave for Finland. I had plans and none of them included her lying in the hospital unconscious.
“Did you get the drugs?”
“Huh?” I looked at Mrs Damijo.
“The drugs I asked you to get on your way?”
“Oh, yeah I did.” I had gotten them but they were in the car. “I’ll go get them from the car.”
I looked at Gloria again and squeezed her hand. Don’t leave me please, please love.
I stepped out of the room and headed for the parking lot. It was supposed to be tonight, I had it all planned out. The beautiful garden, the perfect moment, the perfect diamond ring, but now I could only pray Gloria survives. What if she doesn’t wake up before I have to go to Finland? Then I’ll have to postpone the journey. There was only one problem, there was a grand opening with top government officials coming, I could not exactly postpone that. I covered my mouth to keep from screaming.
Gloria would wake up. She had to.
I got to the car and picked the drugs. It was strange how things always seemed to get bad just when they were going good. Maybe we were not meant to be, if there was anything like ‘meant to be’.
I shut the car door and headed for the room. Gloria already had fears about my going back to Finland and I thought asking her to marry me would ease them. Now, all I could ask for was that she was awake when I flew to Finland.
“Are you okay?”
I looked at the man who asked the question. I knew his face, I was sure I knew who he was but I could not place it. I was in no mood for chitchat anyway.
“Yes, I am thank you.” I said and walked on.
“Jude.” He called and I stopped.
He knew my name?
“You don’t know who I am?” He somehow expected me to.
I looked closely at him and then it struck me! Oh my God!
“Gloria’s dad.” I whispered. “I’m sorry sir.”
“I would imagine that the man dating my daughter would bother to know her father.”
“I do sir. I’ve seen several of your pictures. I was just distracted by the… I’m sorry sir.” I said.
“Come with me.” He said and headed towards the hospital restaurant.
“Sir, I have to deliver these drugs to her room.”
“She won’t need those; I already bought all the drugs she needs.”
I looked at the drugs in my hand and Gloria’s dad who was already walking away and I followed him. I had no idea what to expect from him. I had always hoped that when I eventually had to meet Gloria’s dad, she would be there. Or at least her mom would be. I had not exactly created a great first expression when I did not come to see him the first time I travelled to Finland. My second impression was not very great either, I did not recognize him. I could only worry about one thing at a time though and Gloria’s health was my priority.
He picked a table and we sat. He waved a waiter over.
“What will you have?” He asked.
“I’m fine sir.” I replied.
He ordered for some food and we waited in awkward silence for it to arrive. I studied him through the corner of my eyes. Gloria told me he was a University librarian. I don’t know how Librarians are supposed to look but he looked like one to me. He had slightly greying hair and one of those very maturely handsome faces.
He looked like a man difficult to please.
The silence was making me uncomfortable.
“When did you arrive, sir?” I asked.
“I got in last night.” He said.
“Oh.” I said.
He looked at me and for a couple of seconds I held his gaze but that was how long I could go. He shook his head and smiled. What was this man up to?
“You know when Gloria told me about you, I told myself you were not right for her.” He started. I tried not to show any expression and he continued. “She told me how she met you again after such a long time and how you cared about her but I wasn’t convinced.”
The waiter brought the food. He started to eat while I waited and wondered where he was going with this. He looked up and saw me looking at him and he dropped his spoon.
“Jude, I don’t know you but it is obvious my daughter loves you. That means she’s probably blind to some things she should be seeing. So tell me, what do you want from my daughter?”
I sat up in my seat. “I love your daughter, more than I knew was possible. What do I want from her? I want to marry her.”
He smiled. “Marry her? Okay. When do you plan to do that?”
“I’ll have to decide that with her.” I said.
“Oh, so she knows you want to marry her?”
“Well, I think so but I’m yet to propose to her.”
“And you plan to do that when?”
I sighed and said. “Today. I had it planned for today but then I got the call that she was in the hospital.”
“Why the hurry? According to what she told me, you have not been in this relationship for up to a year.”
“I have to travel out of the country in a week.”
He nodded and kept quiet for a while.
Finally he said. “Do you believe in fate Jude?”
“Yes, fate, destiny, the universe?”
“I believe in God having a plan but I think my decisions affect that plan.” I was confused. “Why do you ask this sir?”
“Don’t you find it interesting that on the day you plan to propose to my daughter, she suddenly collapses?”
I opened my mouth to answer but I did not have the words. My phone rang, it was Mrs Damijo. I picked the phone.
“I thought you were going to get the drugs from your car.” She said
“Yeah, I got them but then I met Gloria’s dad in the lobby. Do you need any of them?”
“No, he already bought all the drugs. I need you to come stay with Gloria for a while, I need to get some food.”
“Of course ma, I’ll be right there.” I said and ended the call.
“Where are you going?” Gloria’s dad asked.
“I need to go stay with Gloria for a while, her mom wants to come downstairs for a while.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll go stay with my daughter.” He said.
“Sir, you’re not done with your food and your wife is coming here. I can stay with her.” I said, but he did not look convinced. “Wait a minute sir, you don’t trust me with your daughter? Is that it?”
He did not respond but it did not stop me from continuing.
“You don’t even know me, why would you not trust me?”
“You answered the question yourself, I don’t know you. And you better watch your tone.”
“I love your daughter, what else do you want?”
“Love? How long have you known my daughter for…you love her? Do you even know her?”
“It doesn’t take years to know a person. I love your daughter and she loves me, shouldn’t you trust her judgement?”
He rose to his feet. “You do not have the right to teach me how to treat my own daughter!”
I grabbed the drugs from the table and walked out of the restaurant. The day was just going from bad to worse. I knew I had completely ruined my chances of getting Gloria’s dad’s approval. What got over you, idiot!
I got to Gloria’s door and entered.
“Are you okay?” Mrs Damijo asked.
“Yes, I am.”
“Are you sure? Did my husband say something to you? If he did, don’t worry about it, I’ll take care of that.”
“We argued and I walked out on him.”’
“What? Why did you do that? What did you argue about?”
“I was just frustrated with everything happening and I took it out on the worst person possible.”
“Okay, I’ll talk to him. Gloria will be fine, okay? She’ll need you to be strong for her when she wakes up.”
I nodded and she left the room.
I pulled my seat closer to Gloria and watched her peaceful face. Her dad was wrong, I knew her enough to love her as much as I did.
I held her cold hand against my cheek.
“Wake up Gloria, I need you here. I want to spend my life with you, every second of it.”
Her fingers moved against my cheek and her lips turned up in a faint smile.
I jumped off my chair. “Gloria, are you awake? Please open your eyes.”
She opened her eyes and she squeezed my hand.
“Oh God! You’re awake. Gloria you scared me! Please don’t ever do that again.” I could not help the smile that spread across my face. “Are you okay?”
She nodded very slightly. What was I doing? I should get the doctor.
“I need to get the doctor and your parents.”
“Wait,” She whispered. “Don’t leave me.”
“I won’t be long, I need to get the…”
“all I need is you.” She said.
I smiled and took my seat.
“So what were you saying just now? ....You want to spend your life with me?”
“You heard that?”
“Jude, nobody proposes in the hospital. What happened to all the romance I taught you?”
“Do you know how many hours I spent googling the best way to propose to a girl you don’t deserve?”
“Really? When do I get to see the result of your research?”
“You were supposed to tonight.” I said before I could stop myself.
She looked at me and saw I was not joking.
“Oh my God, really?” Tears formed in her eyes.
“Do it now.” She said.
I sat back. What did she mean? “What did you say?”
“Do it now. Propose now.”
“But Gloria, you’re on a hospital bed. I look like something a pig ran over. This isn’t the perfect moment for a proposal.”
“I am here, you are here, it’s perfect from where I’m standing.” She said then added. “Or lying.”
I could not believe this was happening. I was getting engaged today? Well, I was proposing tonight. But I had very little doubt she would say yes. So yes I was getting engaged today!
There was only one problem.
“The ring is in the car downstairs.” I said.
“Well, go and get it then.” She said.
I jumped off my chair and headed for the door. I paused and looked back at her.
“Please be here when I get back.” I said.
“Well, I can’t go anywhere even if I wanted to, can I?” She replied.
She had a point. I left the room and walked as fast as I could. Her father was wrong, fate or destiny was not keeping us apart, it could not. I was meant to be with Gloria and even if it wasn’t...I would be with her anyway. I would still have to deal with her dad later, but one thing at a time.
I opened my car and picked the box. I opened it and smiled at the ring, it was going to be used after all.
I closed my door and hurried upstairs. Once Gloria said yes, we would start planning the wedding, the sooner the better. She would join me in Finland as soon as we were married and I would never let her out of my sight again.
I opened the door to her room and stopped. Her parents were back in the room with two doctors. Her mother was crying. The doctors were talking but I could not hear a word of what they were saying. I rushed to the bed. Her eyes were closed and she lay still on the bed.
The ring dropped from my hand. Tears fell from my eyes. I stumbled away from bed.
“She was awake just now.” I whispered
No, she could not be gone. I walked back to the bed and dropped on my knees.
And I asked…...no I begged,
“Gloria, please don’t die on me!”