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Previous parts here. And here.

* * *

I thought I understood her, Lilly. I thought everything was clear in that afternoon in the playground...

We were happy in the first months of her pregnancy. The pregnant Sue turned out to be a puzzle which made me like her more. She would request random things: papaya, melon, duhat; funny I don't even know what duhat is prior her pregnancy, prior her. But I loved it; I liked treating her like a princess, and giving her all those things.

I was absolutely happy.

So it came to me as a shock that one day in June, she woke me up at 4 a.m. wanting to leave.

It was grey all over. I woke up with the sound of the rain beating rhythmically on the windows, and Sue, I only saw her shadows, stooped over a huge athlete bag packing her clothes and baby stuff. Inside her belly was our 5-month old baby.

“Sue, what are you doing?” This is probably just morning sickness, I thought.

“I can't do this anymore, Andrew.” she said, as she went on squeezing in several more of her clothes. “I have to leave.”

Maybe it's because it's still too early to be thinking rationally Lill, so I was thinking about the book, the book Sue recommended that I stopped reading after several chapters, I was muttering to myself repeatedly “I should have read that book”.

Maybe if I did, I would understand Sue that grey morning.

I have relived that morning over and over in my head Lill and up to now, I still could not point anything that would have led to her leaving.

I asked her a lot of questions that day. What went wrong with us? What did I do wrong? Please just tell me what to do. And she kept saying that it's not me, that it's her, that it's all her fault and can I please forgive her for this. I told her that whatever it is, we'll both see it through together and she was shaking her head and crying and I was crying too because it felt that even if I point out all the plausible reasons I have for her to stay, she would still choose to leave.

I didn't ask if she actually sincerely loved me because I was too scared of the answer.

“What about the baby?” I asked.

She cleared several things for me Lill before she left. She said she can't see me in the remaining months left, and that when the day comes the doctor will call me and I can father the child from then on.

There was no Sue in the picture.

She said she plans to stay at her parents in Quezon City. I offered her a ride but she opted to take a taxi instead.

She left at eight in the morning. It marked the longest four hours of my life.

When the taxi arrived, I couldn't make myself look at her. I was too tired, too worn out that I couldn't look straight to the person that caused all these. But she was standing in front of me even when the taxi driver already hauled her things in the trunk.

I wasn't quite sure if I wanted a formal goodbye.

“It's a girl,” she said. “I know you wanted to make it a surprise until the very day, but I couldn't. I had to know.”

I touched her hand and it felt different. “Let's not do this, Sue. Come back in.” I plead to her one more time.

She shook her head and I couldn't be more lonely.

“Can I at least have a hug home?” she asked in whisper.

And then I looked at her. And I saw the happiest and loneliest parts of my life in her, and I can't 
grant her that one thing because it was too much to bear for me in that grey morning. I think even now.

I looked at her. I made sure she was looking at me as I shook my head sideways, slowly because even that took a lot of strength too.

“I will never understand you,” I said.

With that, I bid her goodbye.

* * *

It had been four months since the last time I saw Sue. Early this morning, when the doctor called me for this very day, I went here the fastest I could; I think even exceeding the speed limit a few times. I want to see her badly.

I've had a lot of things to think about in the past few months Lilly, but most importantly, I want her. I want her back. And whatever her reasons are, I‟m sure we can get past those. I'm certain that after this, when she sees me, she actually had already changed her mind, and would choose to live with me and our little girl.

“Mr. Buenaventura,” a nurse called in the waiting area. I walked to her and followed her to the ICU. A doctor approached me, a different doctor from the one I talked to earlier. He introduced himself as Sue's ob-gyne, and in-charge of her operation. His name is Dr. Gil. Gil with an 'h', and he looked me from head to toe and in an instant Lilly, I knew that something was wrong.

“What happened?” I asked.

“We're afraid that it had come to this, though we were expecting this from the very beginning,” he began.

“Sue wasn't meant to give birth to a child.”

It was weird Lilly. I couldn't understand it, but it feels like everything will start to make sense.

“Sue was never fit to give birth. She knew this three years ago, when she got pregnant and suffered internal bleeding for months. We had to take the baby out three months early, but the baby was dead after just a week.”

It felt like Dr. Gil's voice was distant. It's not true; I was shaking my head in disbelief. But slowly, everything fell into place, just not their right kind of place.

“When she came back here last June, we were surprised to learn she's pregnant. It's even more surprising that the baby had fully grown. It didn't made sense to us considering her previous condition. We knew we could only hope for the worse.”

If there is anything worse than this, I didn't want to know.

“The baby is healthy; she's a healthy five-pound baby girl. But there's a danger in getting her out.”

And I am so, so far away Lilly. I want to see Sue. To comfort her, to be there for her. I want our good moments, our best moments. I want to turn back time and relive my entire relationship with her.

“It would definitely risk Sue or the baby, although we're pretty sure we can save at least one. But there's a risk, albeit a very high risk.”

Most definitely I want to take back the last words I said to Sue, because now I understand her, and I need to tell her that but now, I may not have the chance.

“We have our precautions, but we still need to prepare in case the worse will come.”

I want to get out there, and leave this guy in white who doesn't know anything about the “worse” that may come.

“In case we have to decide of the life we will save, we need you to choose…”

I am numb, and so far away...

And she was staring at me, waiting for my response. I nodded and smiled, and she pushed the door open, and there was this long flight of stairs, with another door at the top. She turned to me and bid me to come.

And I am taking the long flight of stairs that first night with Sue. It was dark. Except for the faint light outlining the door ahead of us, I could see almost nothing. I smell her mild flowery scent that turned out to be lavender when I asked days after we began dating. I hear her footsteps, her breathing, the way her right hand brush with the handrail. I hear her fingers combing through her dark, long hair. I hear her, and felt her.

And we were standing before the door, and she opened it, without fiddling with her keys, without troubling with the lock.

And I am there, in her room, on that first night.

She asked, “What do you like? I have coffee,” and I am just staring at her, just taking this all in. 

Can we still do this? I wondered. After a while, she continued.

“And just that, coffee.” She laughed, a short laugh. “Or water.”

And I couldn't help it.

“I want you, Sue. After this, after tonight, it won't take us long to decide we're right for each other. I won't ask you for a second date through text. Or wait three long days to call. Because this, us, is what you and I want. I'll spend the next day with you, after work. And the next day, and a lot more days after.”

“Because I love you. I knew that after one date. And I have never been more right in anything in my life than when I was with you. 

"So I will choose you, in any place, in any date, from any one. 

And we would live our lives together because that's all I've wanted to do since this night.”

And she smiled, and I walked to her with big, bold steps. And I kissed her. I kissed her face, her cheeks, her neck, her eyes, her lips. I kissed her all through the night...

“What if I don‟t choose?” I asked. I need to be back.

“We‟ll try to do as much as we can, save as much lives as we can.” Dr. Gil answered.

“What if I don‟t choose?” I repeated. Slower, firmer.

“If we have to make a decision, then we‟ll save the one with the more chance of surviving after the operation.”

And I had to ask, Lilly: “and who would that be?”

“Do you really want to know?”

I needed to ask, but I didn't need to know because I think I already do. He handed a piece of paper, for formality, he said. He promised to come back for me when I'm ready.

And there's this white sheet of paper before me, needing to be filled up. I already know who it will be, I made her a promise.

But then I think of my life, and it had been four solitary months. And this is what I do. This is how I pass my time now, Lilly, talking to you. Reliving moments, sharing them with you, the stories: little short stories of me and your mother. Imagining a life with you, sometimes our life with Suzanne, but always my future: a life with you.

And I can't not choose you, Lilly.

And I can't not choose Sue.

And for this one, it may be okay to let the stars decide.

* * *

First part here.

And there's the day when everything changed:

“I'm pregnant.”

It was a weekday morning before we get off to work. I was making coffee for both of us, hers with two more spoonful of sugar. I looked at her, her hair uncombed, her polo shirt still two buttons not done. She was holding the stick that shows two pink lines, tightly as though it might break.

“I'm –“

“I love you,” I told her. I thought I should just continue or one of us will start to cry.

“I love you, and I didn't know how long I can hold not saying it. But I just did, and I love you. And if I'm going to have a kid, I wanted it with you. And –“

She dropped the stick, but she didn't seem to bother. It's like she's decided not to pick it up. So I did. And I was holding it with both of my hands, and I was looking at these two pink pale lines that would change my life forever. Our life.

I kissed her. I held her cheek as I did, though I'm not sure which of us needs support. I held her, and I kissed her. And after, when I looked at her, her eyes were watery and I know mine were too but I won't cry. Not in this perfect moment, no.

“Let's get married,” I said for the first time in my life.

But she was shaking her head, and I couldn't understand what's happening.

“No. No, you don't understand. I don't want this.”

* * *

I can't remember how long we were not talking to each other since that morning she said she was pregnant. I tried to listen, Lilly. But all I could see was Sue shaking her head, crying, holding me, giving me the reason. But what reason?

She told me Lilly that she never really wanted a baby in the first place. And I couldn't understand, because it's no longer a matter of wanting one. There's already one and soon we'll both be parents to a little angel. It's not our choice anymore.

The sports channel showed a basketball finale but I couldn't really care. How long had this thing been on, I wondered. I lowered the volume. Lower, to zero.

Sue came out of the kitchen with a glass of orange juice. She was talking about something but I wasn't really sure, maybe it was something in the TV because when I didn't respond, she held the remote and switched to HBO.

I began to hear voices, little normal voices from the TV. It didn't feel real. What was she saying again?

I stood and walked to the window overlooking the condo's park, with the pool and the playground filled with kids and their nannies and their dogs. They didn't feel real too, but at least it's not like kids and dogs and lazing in parks had ever been real to me.

“I'll go out for a walk,” I said.

“I'll come with you,” and she did.

* *

We were sitting by the pool deck. In front is the playground I saw earlier. There were just a few kids playing in the lot. Most of them were accompanied by their nannies.

I noticed a boy; he was led by an elderly, perhaps his lola to the slide. He was probably around three, or four, I can't be sure because I was never really familiar with kids. He went up the round stairs leading up to the slide quickly, very eager, but upon arriving at the top, he stopped. His lola waved a couple of times from the bottom to the little boy up the slide, urging him to sit. But the boy remained standing.

Several minutes passed by, a couple of kids stepped pass the little boy to take their turn on the slide, but the boy would not move. At some point, his lola went near him, now urging him to climb down from the stairs, it had been too long for the elderly. But the boy was transfixed.

This went on for a couple more minutes, but alas, the lola threatened to leave the boy in the playground. It seemed he wasn't scared of the threat until his lola actually left the park perimeter. He looked down the slide and was near to crying.

And then slowly, as if all the weight of the world is on him, he sat at the top of the slide. Forcibly yet lightly, he pushed his bottom forward, inch by inch, until he came down and away to touch the ground.

With a triumphant smile, the boy ran to where his lola had gone.

I noticed Sue suppressing a smile, and I knew she witnessed the same thing.

“I'm sorry I said that,” she said and I instantly knew what she was talking about. “I‟m sorry but I was just so scared, and – ” , I shushed her.

“You don't have to be scared Sue. We‟re in this together.” I reassured her, holding her fist with mine. And she was nodding vigorously and I hoped she deeply understood that I am with her in every step from then on because I really was.

I hugged her and held her tight as the moon inched its way up the night sky.

* * *

We left Diliman nearing 11. Now almost midnight, she gave me directions to her apartment.

“Thank you for tonight,” she said as I pulled the car over in front of her building.

We stood before a red door, which was probably mahogany, I noticed as she searched her bag for the keys. It took a while before she got hold of the keys, and finding the right key, fitting it to the lock, surprisingly took a while too. But I didn't mind. It was only then that I noticed her perfume, something mild and flowery.

I was going through all the features I didn't notice earlier: her purple blouse, her penciled skirt, the length of her hair, the way it slightly curls at the end.

I was fighting the urge to ask her out on a second date while we're still in the first. Maybe I should ask her out through text instead, or call three days after. I was thinking all these things when alas, she opened the door and turned to me and asked,

“Would you like to come up?”