My father arrived as scheduled. He is after all, a stickler for precision. He knew right away that the flush on my cheeks had nothing to do with the excitement of his homecoming. He gave Joaquin a once-over and seemed to me he was trying his best to conceal a grin.
Joaquin on the other hand tried to be on his best business behavior while I naughtily tried to seduce him everything opportunity I got. Of course he failed miserably. It's not that he wanted to keep away from me although he seethed at me for knowing all of his weak spots. I thought it was rather uncomfortable each time he tried to manage a project meeting with a hard-on.
One blissful morning, I caught my father and Joaquin in a private huddle, they were talking in hushed tones so I grew very suspicious. I felt my stomach churned when I heard the mention of my name. I could not hear the words so I crept slowly behind them, but I started feeling woozy and from the side of my eyes I saw the light flickered. I barely made it through that I had to grab on a setee' to keep my balance. All of a sudden, the lights totally went out.
I heard muffled voices and the sounds of beeping machines, and a shocking wave of fluorescent light peered through my lenses rousing me from a very tiring sleep. There was a peculiar smell I picked up, one which brought sad and bizarre memories, it can only be a hospital. Hospital! My eyes widened I almost started to scream when a familiar warm hand squeezed mine. Joaquin... my Joaquin. I looked at him and saw how tired his eyes were, dark shadows rimmed the sockets making him look sallow and depressed. I looked around and I realized there were tubes all over my body and then I saw my Dad. He moved closer to my bed and beside him stood a man, a Doctor that looked so familiar. It clicked, Joaquin's father. I remember him for being my mother's oncologist. Then it dawned on me, a bitter realization, Dios mio! I am sick and I must be really bad sick in a way. I searched for Joaquin's face to give me comfort and see that assurance of love, and in his eyes I saw that he knew I have broken into an epiphany. I held back my tears and stroked his jaw-line, "You need to sleep my love, you look tired." I smiled and he weakly smiled back while his eyes were teared-up. I wanted to kiss him so badly but I could hardly move.
I raised one hand to my Dad and he rushed to hug me tenderly, carefully looking at the tubes that can be dislodged. Then I heard Dr. Nuñez official voice over the droning and beeping sounds, "You gave us quite a scare Angelica. We are still running more tests and things look optimistic but we want to be sure we don't rule out anything vital."
I smiled back at him and said thank you but I heard my voice raspy and my throat was too dry.
He continued, "... like your father and mother, Angelica, you have fighting genes in you and I am sure your father here is very proud of you. Don't worry hija, I will never allow anything to happen to you under my watch."
My father gingerly propped my pillow and buzzed me on both cheeks, his lips smiled but I must have gleaned some sadness in those eyes that I am too familiar with since my mother passed. Then he softly said, "Joaquin, watch my little angel will you? Your father and I need to discuss unsettled golf scores and debts." The three men laughed, lamely. I felt really bad making all these wonderful, strong men around me, look weak and defeated.
Once again, it was just Joaquin and I. I look at him and he was looking back at me with those soulful, loving eyes, then suddenly he knelt at my bedside, kissed my hand and said, "Maria Angelica Valdez, will you be my wife?" I was too stunned to say anything! All I could think of was, is he proposing to me in a hospital and I look like a terrible camper with hardly any make-up on?
"I know my timing is rotten, it has always been my flaw," he paused and smiled weakly and out of somewhere in his jeans or jacket, he pulled out a lovely looking ring. I caught my breath, and was too shocked to even squeak a sound, Joaquin went on,"... I would have asked you a long time back but I did not think myself worthy to stand beside you, I did not deserve you. I am still awed that you have forgiven me and decided to love me again. Please let me love you and take care of you for the rest of my life."
I found myself suddenly sobbing all I could do was nod and raise my hands to hug him. He slipped the ring on my finger and we both cried, I whispered, "I will never stop loving you Joaquin and I will love to be your wife." We kissed and on that particular moment nothing else mattered but my will to live as long as I can, so I can love this man I have loved all my life fully, love him until the last day I walked this earth. Whatever it was I was up against, didn't matter, I didn't care. I did not care how painful or how daunting it would be. Our love and the kiss that sealed it drowned all the aches, agony and grief.
I could swear at that moment in the midst of the bleeps and whirs of the medical contraptions, I only heard soft heartbeats in harmony, the birds singing and the flowers laughing, while the whole world stood still