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Let our love be your guide

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[LETTER]

Love is the opposite of war.

War is tragedy, is suffering, selfishness. War breaks, destroys, and corrupts. It is the worst side of humankind, there isn’t space for humanity.  I see despair, emptiness, death. There is no color, nor light.

Love is what recreates, multiplies and reconnects. Love make bonds, fixes and educates. It is what keeps me on my feet, gives me strength. Then I see hope, faith, and God. There is no space for pain, hate, nor violence.

Peace is not the opposite of war. We only have peace when love is present. Love is like the sunlight for a flower; without it, the seed can’t survive the storms, or get its energy to grow. Peace is when the blooming happens, it’s the prettiest part of all process that love has done.

For each three bad feelings, I close my eyes and I say three simple words (I LOVE YOU).

Love is the opposite of war.

Yo te amo [and always will]you keep me human and there is nothing I can do (or say) to thank you enough for that.

Forever yours,

Juls.

June 1st, year three - AFRICA

 

June 13th

I get home after a stressful day at work. I open the mailbox and grab a bunch of paper from it. Bills, bills, some advertisements, more bills, and a letter. My heart almost stops. I let the papers escape my hands and the wind blows some away through the sidewalk. I run to catch it all and I head inside the house.

Turn lights on, keys on the table, the letter in my hand. I pass my finger on it to feel its texture, as if I could feel the soft skin I so desperately want to touch. Wanted to. I can’t force myself to not read it, my curiosity defeats me this time. I see her cute handwriting, so unique – SO hers. I cry. I cry hard until my body falls to the floor. Why does she do that to me? Isn’t the distance enough suffering? Well, I am on a war as well! An internal war and I am not winning. 

In a quick move, I go to my room. I open the closet, find a box hidden behind some winter coats, take out the lid, and throw the letter inside of it. It sits on top of the some other letters, a few unopened but in a safe place where I cannot fall in temptation to read all of them. I place the box in the background of the closet where it was before.

Finding myself on the couch looking at the TV screen playing something I am not sure of what exactly it is, I notice it is beyond late. Glancing quickly at my cellphone, I realize it is almost midnight. I haven’t eaten or done anything else besides thinking about the goddamn letter and its author. And I shouldn’t.

I hear the front door opening slowly. I turn my body and I see a drunk person entering. “Where have you been?” I ask. “With some friends” he answers. I am tired of his childish attitudes, but at least he comes back to me. I know this isn’t probably what love should be, but it is the one I have. “Have you been drinking again?” I know the answer to that. He is terribly exhaling alcohol from his pores.  “Fuck off. Give me some rest!” he is always sweet when drunk.

I sleep on the couch. I am not in a mood to fight him tonight, or ever again. I am tired of him. Why do I still keep trying this? I am not good at relationships; maybe I just should be alone. Forever lonely. FUCK! I hate receiving those letters, I hate this day, and I hate everything! Love sucks. I cry myself out another night

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Why doesn’t she ever answer my letters? Should I stop trying? But it was our pinky promise, I cannot break it. I’ll keep writing to her, and always loving her. I never stopped loving her, and I am sure I never will.

“Doctorora Milagros, we need you here!” Someone calls. They keep calling me Milagros (Miracles) as if I am anyhow a kind of saint or God. I am none of that, I'm just a doctor. I’m just a person who is willing to diminish suffer and pain for these people that already have enough of it, or more than should have. Suffering is not a normal thing, and we must not make it natural. Although particularly it became normal for me.

I ran towards the bodies, or the pieces of it. Another man lost his legs. I do what I possibly can to save his life, but the pain is inevitable. I apply an injection of morphine and the body stops twitching. Unfortunately, I cannot use the same medication on me. My pain is not physical. I wish I could have some cure for it, but I will only have it when I’ll be able to hold her in my arms again. And I don’t know when this will happen, or, if it ever will.

The dawn settles the combats and it is when I can hear the crying louder, the agony in our improvised ward. These sounds are not pleasant, at all. It keeps repeating inside my head and even after three years serving in this endless war, I can’t sleep properly.

I medicate all soldiers, then I get myself clean. I take a freaking cold shower at two in the morning; it is damn cold outside. Another lovely freezing dawn in the desert. I put some comfortable warm clothes on and I sit on a bench outside my tent. I look up at the sky and I pray. I whisper some words to God, in hope that He can protect her in the way I am not able to do.

She is all I have, or had. I don’t exactly know. I spend a few more minutes admiring the moon and the stars. Its brightness give me some comfort. ‘Oh wait a shooting star!’ – Please, take me back to her – I make a wish.

Suddenly it becomes brighter. Wait, what is this? Is the star falling in here? First the light, later the sound. And then impact.

I feel my body aching. I am on the floor. I see fire and smoke all around. I hear some screams but there is also a deafening buzzing in my ears. There is some heated liquid running in my left arm; I lift it to see what it is. Shit! It’s blood. My blood? I don’t know what is going on, my sight gets darker, but I can still hear a voice. Her voice. Val? Baby, is that you? My eyes are closed but I can see her perfectly in front of me with her arms wide open. I walk to her and kiss her soft lips. Mi amor, I am tired. I think I’ll fall asleep . . .

 

August 27th

Things are going fine. My professional life is getting better; I just got a full-time job as a photographer in the most important newspaper in town. Everything I ever wanted. I also haven’t received any letter in two months, which helped me to focus on what really matters. My real life, right here and right now.

I broke up with Lucho three weeks ago. It is great now, I must admit. I needed some time for myself and I am definitely not in love with him. Love. I don’t even know what it is anymore.

I go to my favorite bakery in town. Sweet smell of sugar and the freshly baked cakes just coming out the oven. It reminds me of my childhood. And it also reminds me of her.

Shit! I tried to escape from my thoughts of her, but it is almost impossible. I find the table that I like most in the place, it faces the street. There, I can observe people without being noticed by them.  It’s interesting, the art of watching. By watching you can comprehend that every single person on this planet is after something or someone, and you’re not struggling alone. Everyone has plans, worries, many things to do, battles to win . . . battles. Shit shit shit! She comes into my mind again.

I hope she is winning her battles, or being safe at least. She was the one that taught me to watch people, to truly see people. She’s always been so attentive. So human. But she isn’t here anymore.

I eat my piece of strawberry cake and drink my coffee. Before I leave, I notice people running towards the TV near the cashier. Taking some steps, I approach to a place where the many heads in front of me don’t hinder my vision. The news are from the civil war in Africa. The reporters were reading a list of missed soldiers. The media had just found out that the UN base had suffered a missile strike two months ago in the middle of the desert.

I try to move closer, not wishing to hear her name. But there it is. Doctor Juliana Valdés, her name comes out of the reporter's mouth. My body trembles. I feel dizzy and weak. I run towards the street and before the cake can even settle on my stomach, I throw it up. Some old lady try to help me, but I just kept running. To where, I don’t know.  I even forgot that my car was parked in front of the bakery. I run as fas as I can. There is no finish line, there is no prize at the end of this race. There is no winner in this history. 

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There are some voices around me. They are not speaking Spanish, neither English. Is that French? No. Portuguese? Nope! I can't identify what language is that. My head is heavy and my sight is dim.

I try to open my eyes, and FUCK, it all hurts so badly! I'm thirsty. I try to swallow some saliva but my throat is sore. Where am I? I finally can recognize some objects around me. I see a bright lamp over my head and a green plastic curtain around. Wait what is this? Oh, it's a bed.  I am lying on a hospital stretcher. As I lift my eyes, I see a few people in white coats smiling at me. They say something to me, something I can’t understand. I try to speak back but I have no strength in my body to do that. It is a horrible sensation. 

One of the women gets closer to me and starts caressing my left cheek. I smile at the touch. It's soft and truthfully comforting. My body aches, head to toe. I fall asleep.

I wake up and my head is less sore now than the last time. I succeed in moving my stiff neck to the side and then I see a smiley face. I recon him from the battlefields, he’s nurse José. It feels good seeing him, but at the same time, it doesn't. I notice that he is badly injured. He has lost both his legs and the left arm, his face is completely red and blue, but he still manages to smile at me. He is usually a funny guy, he always tries to ease the tensions with his terrible jokes. Some are good though, I must admit. He realizes that I am staring at him with a shy smile. His face lits up.

“Buenos días doctora Milagros! I am so ugly that I didn’t even need to make a joke to see your smiley face! I am the joke myself, isn’t that right?” I laugh, almost crying, at his comment. My throat stills a little sore, but at least I am able to generate some noise this time. “I am so glad to see you alive and sound! You truly are a miracle, Doctor! Someone up there is really fond of you and gave you another chance. You deserve that chance, you deserve it!” José has tears in his eyes.

Even though I can't remember what happened, I know that I am badly hurt as well. Now, also physically. I cannot tell exactly how bad it is, but something happened last (?) night. For how long have I been sleeping? Wait! Who am I???

I try to speak, and again, nothing comes out. Only a few noises but nothing as a word would sound like.

José locks his eyes on mine, a tear rolls down my cheek. “You are going home Doctor! Don’t worry, everything is going to be fine. Do you think it’s warmer in Mexico City? I know for sure that in Rio it is. I wish I could go to the beach!” he winks at me.

Mexico City? Rio? Where are you from? Where am I from? FUCK! What is happening, I can’t remember anything. I try to speak again but the sore in my throat doesn’t allow me to. I close my eyes once more.

There she is, with those wonderful blue eyes. Her smile, God! She is so beautiful, kind, sweet, smart. Te amo hermosa! I tell her and she gives me that perfect smile in return, it melts me completely. Suddenly the pain is not in evidence anymore, the love I feel for that woman fills every single cell of my body. I don’t know exactly who she is, but I keep dreaming about her and it makes me feel good.

 

 

August 28th

Hi baby! I was worried about you. I am sorry for everything, perdóname por favor. Te quiero tanto! Juls, don’t leave me again, please! Don’t leave.

I wake up screaming and crying. I just had a nightmare . Another one. It’s a torture I have been through since she... 

“Val, is everything ok? We’ve heard you screaming"  That is my brother Guille. Yesterday I ran to his house after I saw the news. He’s been helping me since she… left.

In his arms is where I can find some comfort. Sitting next to me in bed, I wrap my arms around his body tightly and I cry. He tells me everything will be all right. But it won’t. She is missing and she is not ever coming back to me.  

I’ve hated her for a while. She left me, how could she leave? And now, she might have left forever and thinking about that hurts deeply. I never could stop loving her, even though I fought myself to it. I even tried to date Lucho... I mean, that was despair in the maximum level. No one can replace her, no one ever will.

Renata, my sister in law, takes me to the bathroom. She helps me to get in the shower. I don’t have strength for anything. The warm water hits my body softly, but it all seems cold. The world somehow became black and white just by the fact she might be gone. "She promised me she would come back, and now she is gone!" I say it aloud without intending so.

“Lo sé Val. She is not actually dead, she is just missing. You have to keep your faith up. She is fine and she will eventually fulfill her promise and return". Renata tells me so I can stop crying, but it has the opposite effect and I almost cry my eyes out.

After showering, I lay down on the couch. Guille and his wife are talking in the kitchen, probably discussing what to do with me. I hear some whispers like "We should tell your father" and "I’ll call Mateo to see if he knows anything else that could help us". But I don’t care what they’re actually planning, I just want this pain to go away. I can’t sleep or I’ll end up dreaming about her. I can’t be awake either, or I’ll create in my mind the scene of the missile hitting her… "DIOS! Why is that fucking happening?"

I wrap myself around her black jacket, the only piece of cloth I kept from her. It’s been three years since she last wore it, but I swear I can still feel her scent on it. I breathe deeply to make her perfume penetrate my lungs with more intensity. I close my eyes and for a split second I can feel her in my arms.

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I wake up and this time I am able to sit down in bed. I look around and I don’t see José, his bed is empty. In less than a minute there comes what I think must be a nurse.

She speaks in a not identifiable language, pointing her index finger at my back and towards the mattress. I can tell she's not happy to see me in a sitting position, and I understand that she is telling me to lay down. I do what she demands. Every part of my body still a little sore, but at least the nurse gave me some water and I was able to swallow it. Minutes later, I see some people approaching my bed. I’ve never seen them in my life.

“We’re glad you woke up! Do you understand me? Can I speak English with you?” I nod at the kind man in front of me. Dr. Abu, it’s the name embroidered at his very white coat. He notices that I'm reading it and he introduces himself. “I’m Doctor Abu, and you are?”  That is a very good question, who the fuck am I? I struggle with my mind and memory, I try to remember but I can’t. I feel my blood pressure rising up. My heart speeds up in an uncontrolled manner. I burst into cry.

“Calm down, it’s ok! It’s fine if you don’t remember now. You suffered a very strong impact on your head. It might take you some time to heal. It’s ok, we’re here with you!” he says while his left hand caresses my hair.

“They call me… Doctora… Milagros, I don’t know if that is my name… Yo no sé!” My voice vanishes at some point.

“That is great. You can remember how they called you in the battlefields! Awesome. Really good news Doctor! José told me that too and you just confirmed. It proves that you didn’t lose all your memory. Now, I can see you’re a Spanish speaker. Can you remember which part of the world you come from?”  I close my eyes trying to focus. Nothing comes to memory, only that girl I’ve been dreaming with recently. Her sky blue eyes and her soft smile. I don’t even know her name. I called her 'Val’ or ‘amor’ in my last dreams, which indicates we probably were a couple. I don’t know for sure.

“I don’t know. José said something about Rio or Mexico City last time I saw him. Where is he by the way, he must know it!” My voice is slowly getting stronger. I try to connect the dots, but there aren’t many dots to connect. I detect a sad look in the doctor’s eyes. By that, I can imagine what just happened. Even though I don’t recall everything properly, I still remember that I used to be a doctor as well, and that expression is the one I would also do when I'd just lost any of my patients.

“I am sorry Dr. Milagros, José passed away last night. He was badly injured, we tried our best” I feel so bad for hearing that. First, because he was a good person and I’ll miss him. Second, because he was the only one I could even remember. What am I going to do now? Tears come down my face.

“Dr. Milagros, I’ll be honest with you. Unfortunately, your entire base is gone. Every single person that were there with you at that camp died. Until yesterday we had two survivors, now only you. We actually are very happy to see you alive. You didn’t have many injuries in your bones or muscles, however, you went through a quite bad situation”.  He takes some breath before continuing. I attentively listen to him. “Your base was attacked by a missile strike, not letting any chance to scape. You were found by some locals that brought you to our tribe. They felt your vital signs pulsing and took care of you until you arrived at the hospital. We don’t exactly know how you survived, it truly is a miracle. Your name makes you justice".

“For how long have I been here?” I desperately want to know everything I possibly can.

“You’d been in a coma for about two months now. You woke up a few days ago, but you just have regained your consciousness yesterday. I’ve been trying to comunicate with you but you spoke very few words and all of them in Spanish. As all material and your personal belongings were burned at the attack, we weren’t able to identify your name, or your age precisely.  We collected your fingerprints and sent it to the UN headquarter in New York, but because the confidential law, which protects your identity, we must wait until the International Court of Justice sanctions in our favor to know your ID. It can take a few months to the approval”.

“So no one knows who I am, including myself?!” I ask and then I speak in my mind ‘that is awesome, isn’t it?’    

“Unfortunately that is exactly it. Your body was thrown at least twelve meters from where the locals think you initially were before the missile hit the camp. You probably collided your head, you were found next to a tank. The result to that was a hemorrhage, but fortunately, we had time to do a blood transfusion. Now, we must see what you can remember. Could you please tell us a little about yourself? Anything”

“I don’t know!” I shout angrily. I didn’t intend to be that angry, but I am. “Sorry, I’m confused and stressed out”.

“It’s ok. We understand”. He is very kind. “Since you hit the back of your head, my hypothesis was that your long term memories could be affected, since the little box in our brain that stores it was knocked with the impact. By not remembering where you from, or what your name is for sure, it gives me some confidence that, unhappily, I was correct in my assumptions. Do you recall when have you first came to Africa?”

“I don’t know for sure. One year or two years ago, maybe”. Why in hell is that happening to me? I can’t remember a damn thing about my life. I just have flashes of myself saving people on the battlefields.

“It’s ok doctor. We’ll figure it out together, and take care of you. We will assume you’re from Mexico City, since José was the one from Rio. He told us he was from Brazil, so taking into account he mentioned Mexico with you, we will start searching from there” I nod gratefully. “We also have something to show you. We found a picture in your pants pocket. It’s somewhat dirty because of the blood, but we managed to clean it without damaging it too much”.

He hands me the small Polaroid picture. Only the blue eyes. Her blue eyes, the woman I’ve been dreaming with. I try to remember her name but I can’t, I just have “Val” in my mind. He tells me to turn the pic around to read what is in the back: Forever yours, Val!    

“Do you recon it? Do you know who that is?” he asks, bringing me back to reality.

“I don’t know. I’ve… I’ve been dreaming about her but I don’t know her full name. I usually call her Val in the dreams”. I inevitably start crying, couldn't hold it back anymore.

“Try not to blame yourself. It’s not your fault you can’t remember. We’ll do everything we can to help you recover, I promise you. For now, get some rest and sleep tight”.

He leaves and all the nurses follow him. How can he expect me to sleep well after all he had told me? I put the picture on my chest and hold it firmly against my heart.

"Por favor, help me to remember. Por favor!" I keep repeating it like a mantra until my eyes shut down.

Chapter Text

September 1st

After an unproductive day at work, which I haven’t paid any attention to what I was doing, I can finally go home. Oh shit, I forgot about the meeting at my father’s house! They will probably be waiting for me with pitful faces and words like “she will eventually appear”, “maybe she is not dead, let’s keep praying” or, “Val, you need to keep hopes up”. Besides my lack of disposition to be around people, I end up arriving at the Carvajal’s mansion.  

Surprisingly, my family is not very talkative tonight. We have dinner in silence. Well they have dinner, because I am not hungry, I don’t have any appetite. They don’t speak but they stare at me, and it can be far worse than actually saying something. At least with words I can pretend I am listing, even though my mind is far away, but with looks I can’t pretend.

“Please, I don’t want to be rude but stop looking at me like that!” I finally say. My father glances at me with a worried expression, I try to look away. I lose myself in thoughts of her, how my family also adored Juliana. Guille was the first to know that I was in love with her, he supported our relationship since the very beginning. Lucia, my stepmother, also loved Juls from day one, they had so many things in common… Eva was a bit harder to please, but she’s always hard to please. I don’t happen to know how Mateo, such a polite and kind man, can stand being married with her. Love really is a weird thing. But even her, with time and after getting to know Juls better, she also started to adore her. It’s impossible to know one person in this entire world who didn’t like my chiqui… well, Juliana.

I look up from my plate again. My father still have his eyes on me. Dad loved Juls as if she were his own child. They got along so easily, it was impressive their relationship and the respect they had for one another. Of course, he loved the idea of me dating a doctor. He would always say that having a doctor in the family was very necessary since he is getting older and needs medical care – for free. He would always joke, because everyone in Mexico knows how rich he is. And despite all, Juls had many other skills, and she was so easy to love and to admire.

Even though there are phases in life that we can’t understand why things happen, and I mean it for the good and the bad, I know most of them have a meaning behind it. I believe in destiny, and mostly, I believe in the power of love. Juls loved to the hilt, her own heart sometimes couldn’t even handle it, and it made her so scared. Scared because she tried to be in control of everything, but let’s be honest, no one can be fully in charge of all matters all the time. We’re puppets in fate’s hands just waiting for its next move.   

I’ve always been so proud of her, of how she'd take care of the ones she loved. Until that happened…  

I just noticed that I’ve been thinking about her in the past tense. It is just so hard not to. I really want to believe that she's still alive, but the circumstances tell me that it is almost impossible. A missile attack, in the freaking desert. I can't accept the reasons why she had to go, I just can't swallow it. It was her fault, she couldn’t have chosen for both of us. But my feelings seemed to don't count for her decision. It doesn’t matter anymore, not then and especially not now. What counts is that she left me, and she may never come back.  

I stand up crying and I run towards my car. I hear steps after me, but I don’t look back and I lock myself inside. I drive until I make a good distance, then I cry even more. That is the only thing I can do to maybe relieve this pain inside my chest.

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I am already walking around the room. The nurses help me to move slowly. The soreness in my muscles is almost gone, and so is my memory.

I couldn’t recall anything else before Africa, and besides ‘Val’. I keep dreaming about her, however, it is always the same: I look at her, call her amor, kiss her lips and she smiles. She doesn’t say anything that could help me remembering her full name, what we were, or at least who was I. This lack of memory sucks.

Doctor Abu didn’t find anything that could help me figuring it out, neither UN has released my identity yet. Inside my chest, there is a desperate call to act. I need to know where I come from, who I am, and especially, who that woman is.

“Dr. Milagros, is good to see you on your feet!” Dr. Abu says. I smile at him as he sits on a chair to watch me moving to here and there. “You truly are a miracle! That’s just wonderful to witness”. He keeps repeating that. I feel grateful for being alive considering the turn of events, but likewise, I wish I could remember things.

“Doctor, do you think I can regain my long term memories at some point?” I ask and he explains to me that it’s possible, but there is no way to know when it will happen or if it ever will.

We do some exercises, for the body and for the brain. Nurse Nalu is helping me with the physiotherapy, she’s a very sweet lady. Her English is not very good but we are able understand each other through care. She’s so kind and attentive that not many words are needed between us. I appreciate her love for the profession, it’s something I know for sure I also had, otherwise I wouldn’t leave my life behind to cross the world and help people in another continent. My life. I wonder how it was. Why did I leave that woman? I hope she can forgive me for leaving. And now, I can’t even remember her name. 

Those thoughts make me cry, nurse Nalu tells me to rest. I’ve been looking at the blue eyes picture minute to minute. I dream about her, I only think about her. I HAVE TO FIND HER!

“I want to go to Mexico!” I shout. Dr. Abu seems to be surprised, but he laughs. I keep my expression serious, I don’t know where this impetus came from, but I'm not kidding.

“We don’t know for sure if you are from there, or if you just lived in Mexico. We are going to find it out, and when we're certain of it, then you will be able to go back to where you from. Patience is a virtue!” He answers calmly but I don’t settle.

“I don’t care about being virtuous right now, I want my life back. I need to find her” Tears roll down my face. This is not a simple impulse, that’s my heart guiding me.  

The Dr. tells me that I won’t be able to travel any time soon. He says that I must wait until the court defers the solicitation to release my identity, and only then I’ll be apt to go home. The problem is that it can take months, or even a year. I don’t have that much time to spare, my heart is urging to find ‘Val’. I must do something.

 

September 14th

Ouch! My head never been so heavy. Why is the ceiling spinning? 

Despite the blackout curtains preventing the sunlight to invade the apartment, I notice it’s already morning. I don’t give a shit, I’ll sleep all day! I grab a bottle of mescal, but it’s empty. I stand up from the living room floor and try to walk to the kitchen. I fall twice before I get there. I succeed on reaching to the counter. I open the cabinet’s door and I acknowledge that all my alcohol stock is gone. Mierda! Throwing myself against the couch, I give up and end up sleeping, or passing out, anew. 

“Juliana, I can’t believe you’re willing to move to another continent. Our relationship doesn’t mean anything to you? Don’t I mean anything to you? … I’ll take care of you chiquita, let me help you to heal that pain…. Yes, everything is about what you’ve been through, but it doesn’t mean we can’t overcome it together… Please Juls, don’t decide for me!  … You know what, GO! FUCKING LEAVE! If is that what you want, leave. Just don’t expect that I will be waiting for you.” 

*Sounds of heavy knocks at the door, repeatedly*

I wake up in tears from what seemed to be more a flashback than an actual nightmare. We were so hard on each other that day.

I still feel dizzy. The noise coming from the front door scares me a little. I stay in silence pretending I’m not home so whoever that is, can leave me alone. Suddenly the door explodes open. Someone kicked it. "Que mierda es esa [wtf] Guillermo?” My brother enters the place with my father, Lucia, Eva, Mateo and Renata following him. Oh great! Family reunion. Just what I needed!

“Que mierda te lo digo yo, Valentina!” he bawls back, angrily. Eva opens the curtains and the sunlight almost blinds me. They don’t seem to care about my protests, in fact it seems that no one ever does. “Valentina, you are drunk!” Eva screams and my head pounds. “Well noticed, hermanita!” I provoke lifting my left hand waiting for a high five that never happens.

“Valentina, stop it! Enough of that tantrum. Get yourself up and go take a shower, NOW! We will have a talk and it doesn’t matter what your excuses will be this time, you’re not running away, not anymore”. My father yells, he sounds like a lion roaring.

“Por Dios Val, we’ve been calling you and you don't answer. It’s been three days without any news. It’s been a week that you are not showing up at work Valentina! Look at your house. It’s all dirty and smelling terribly” Eva says with a softer tone, and then I look around. She’s right, my apartment looks like a pigsty, but with alcohol scent.

I don’t complain about taking a shower, I do what they demand me to do. It would be far worse to contradict them. I don’t even have strength to say no. I guess I’ve never been good at making myself to be heard by others, not even at once. After cleaning myself up and wearing fresh clothes, I sit back on the couch in the living room, where all six of them are waiting for me. They start lecturing me about my self-destructive behavior of the past days. It’s already been twenty minutes that they’re taking turns in speeches, which I didn’t even hear a word from it all to be honest.

“Do you know what day is today?” I say and they all shut up. They know what it means to me, what it meant to Juls and I.

My brother hugs me. I let tears roll down while the silence fills the environment for long, just until Mateo has the courage to say something.

“I’ve called a few friends in NY who could help to get more information about what exactly happened. They are digging information from UN and from all the most important newspapers in US and Europe. I believe we will have more news pretty soon… All of them told me that we must keep our hopes up”

“Can you all please do the favor of leaving me alone? I am not asking for too much, am I?” I just don’t want to hear any of this anymore.

“Yes, you’re asking too much! We’re not going anywhere until we make sure you won’t drown yourself in alcohol again. That won’t bring her back Vale”. Lucia goes straight to the point. She is the only person that seems not to be stepping on eggshells to talk to me. I value that.

“So what do I do then?” I hesitate, but I also give it a try. 

“You stand up, recompose yourself and fight. We’re here to help you, you're not alone. Let’s try to find out what happened to your girl!” After all that occurred, it’s the first time I smile. Lucia’s words referring Juls as my girl made me feel alive again. There is a little flame of hope rekindling inside my heart.

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‘Would you like to eat something? Hamburguesas?’

‘Val, you look beautiful’ She smiles at me, how can someone be that perfect? The curve of her lips joining her rosy cheeks. Her wild ocean eyes looking at me, with hunger, passion. I can tell she loves me profoundly. I feel my heart beating faster and a delicious warm takes control of my body. The blood in my veins run faster and my mouth dries unexpectedly. She scopes my hand and knots her fingers through mine. ‘Mi hermosa, te amo. Don’t ever forget that Val!’ I say and then I kiss her soft lips slowly, availing each second of the contact. ‘I won’t mi amor, only if you also promise that you won’t ever forget me!’  her answers makes me shiver. I am failing her. I am failing to remember ‘Val, help me! I don’t want to forget about you, HELP ME!’

I sit up in bed crying desperately. I can’t stop having those dreams about, of and with her. I stand up to get some water. My shaky hands barely hold the cup. I look around and I acknowledge that people are still sleeping. I don’t know for sure what time is it but I can tell it’s past the midnight. 

That’s it! I had enough waiting. I am leaving right now!

I walk to my bed again. I pick up the blue eyes picture under my pillow and kiss it. "I won’t forget you, I promise! I will find you at any costs" I whisper and turn around to face nurse Nalu staring at me. “Please, help me. I have to find her Nalu, I can’t wait any longer”. I beg with tears running down my eyes. She doesn’t say anything, the woman just turns her back at me and walks away. I wait for her. I am not clearly sure of what she’s doing.

Few minutes later she comes back accompanied by a young man. Mierda, she’ll denounce my intentions of running away.

“Doctora Milagros, my name is Lino. Pleased to meet you and to see you on your feet. I helped to bring you here a few days ago. I’m Nalu’s son. She doesn’t speak English very well but she can understand everything. My mother has told me that you are a wonderful person who treats her kindly and she's very fond of you” his words warms my heart, that woman is so very special. I look at her and she smiles at me, I return the gesture.

“She said you lost your memory and that you’re suffering… and that you want to find home”. He states more like asking.

“Yes. But I don’t know for sure where home is. Somehow, I feel it’s in Mexico, and no one seems to be willing to help me to find out” I'm desperate, I can’t control my frustrations.  

“Well, you’ve helped my people so we will help you too! There is an UN cargo plane leaving in a few hours. But to the US… It’s dangerous, I won’t lie to you. We could find a way to put you inside of it. And from there, you will have to act on your own.”

“I will go. Please help me to get inside that plane”. I don’t listen to the voice of reason. I don't care. I just want my old life back. And satying in Africa won’t help me to get any closer to what I was before. 

Nalu gives me some clothes, a backpack, some cereal bars and fruits, bottle of water, a pulse watch, a notebook and a blue pencil just like Val’s eyes, a small bible, and even a few dollars. I should reject the money, but I eventually will need it, so I accept it gratefully. I thank her a million times. We hold each other in a long affectionate embrace.

I know that what I am doing is not morally right, but fuck that! I have to recuperate my life, there’s no space for willing to be righteous when fate hasn't been fair with me.

Lino leads me to a motorcycle outside the improvised medical compound. I climb on it and turn my neck around to give Nalu a last goodbye. We leave the tribe and I don’t look back, there is no space for regrets. I need to find her. I will find Val.

In about twenty-five minutes, we arrive in a hangar. There is only a big boing airplane with the UN symbol and many wooden boxes all around. People are moving too quickly, enough to no one notice when we sneak through the place. I look at the watch on my wrist, it’s about to be six in the morning. Lino has told me that the plane would lift off at seven local time. He explained to me that I would hide inside one of the boxes, which were all unloaded. It had stored medical supplies when it arrived, and now, everything is empty to be shipped back to the state of California.

Exactly as Lino advised, I enter in one of the big wooden boxes. There were some other people, Africans who were willing to make a better life in America. Most of them are very young, but I don’t judge them for leaving their homeland. Only the ones who suffer knows its own pain. It’s not my place to point fingers to tell what's right or wrong.

We stick together, and then, precisely at seven the plane takes off. It will be a rough flight, for sure. But I don't mind. I will do everything I possibly can to find my Val.

 

September 16th

 It’s been two more days and zero news about her. Mateo’s friends haven’t given us any feedback yet, neither have the news talked about the occurred in Africa anymore.

It seems like the media is trying to hide the details, or the facts. I am trying to stay away from alcohol, but it's hard. When Juls left, it was the only thing that could keep me sane, or taking away my sanity so I wouldn’t think about the pain. And now, she abandoned me again. But, this time it maybe is forever.

Luckily, my boss gave me the week off so I can put my mind back on track. Actually, he’s one of my father’s oldest friends, you know… businessmen always have contact with one another. As Leon Carvajal is one of the richest men in Mexico due to his successful distilled drinks industry, it’s hard to know any person in the country who would deny him a favor. Alcohol has always been present in our family, as you can see...

I hate being known as 'my father’s daughter'. I just want to be Valentina, recognized by my own merits and efforts. But at this point, I am glad that dad could help me with this. I’ve been working so hard the past years to receive an opportunity to work in an important newspaper like this one, so I can’t afford losing this job. However, my thoughts are all in one person.

I met Juliana five years ago. After a college party, my friends and I ended up in an emergency room. Sergio, a stupid but nice dude, got so drunk that we thought he was in a state of alcoholic coma. Juliana was the doctor responsible for quick treatments that day . Actually, that dawn, since it was about four in the morning. By that time she was a resident doctor. She took care of Sergio, applying some serum directly into his veins for hydration. Juliana talked to him so patiently and gracefully that I couldn’t stop staring at her. She seemed to notice my observation and she smiled at me many times. I was also very drunk. But I was sure that, somehow, that woman would be mine.

“Your friend will be in observation until his intravenous glucose returns to function and his body replenishes the B1 vitamins and so it can regulate the levels of electrolytes” that was the first thing she said to me and I didn’t understand a word, but I smiled to her. “He’ll be fine!” She made it simpler in the second time. I couldn’t form proper sentences in my brain and it wasn’t because the alcohol, I was hypnotized by her.      

I spent the rest of the morning at the hospital waiting for Sergio to recover. Juls saved me with some coffee and a pan dulce (bread). We didn’t talk much, she was busy with her tasks but she would come to check on my friend each twenty minutes, smiling largely at me and I returning the gesture. We were…

“Valentina! Earth to VALENTINA!” Guille's calling me, for how long I don’t have any idea.

“Sorry, I was…” I didn’t need to finish, he knew that I was thinking about her. 

“It’s okay Vale, but we gotta go. Unfortunately there isn’t much we can do for now. We must wait for Mateo’s friends to ascertain what they possibly can”. Spoke my brother in a cautious tone, trying not to hurt me, as if it was even possible to hurt me more than I already am.  I nod at him and we leave Mateo’s office. My brother-in-law is a renowned lawyer. He knows many people and has a lot of influence in his social circles, maybe he'll find some information. The only thing I can do now is wait.

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After a twenty-six hours flight with no way to stretch my legs, or even worse to pee, the plane lands. All my body hurts, I wasn’t able to sleep or to rest. I desperately need some water. I shared mine with the others, and it was gone before the first hour we took off. I have the blue eyes picture in my hand and a terrible sore in the back of my head, probably where I was hit in the accident.  

We hear the plane doors opening, and we remain quiet.

Someone abruptly opens the big box where we are hidden in. The natural light almost blinds me, but the pure oxygen finds my lungs again and it feels great. The good sensation lasts only for a few seconds. It fades away when we see cops pointing guns at us. Of course, we were arrested.

They literally throw us inside a compound, separating the women from the men in opposite sides of the room. There are two teenagers girls and I, plus five young men in the other side. Our bodies are pressed against the wall while they search our belongings. Obviously, I don't have any documents, none of us do. I had hidden the dollars Nalu gave in my socks and Val’s picture in my bra.

“Does any of you speak English?” One robust man shouts. At first, I hesitate to answer but I found courage from where exactly I still don’t know yet.

“I do sir!” he walks towards me, staring with a mad face. I look at him in the eyes, not flinching for a second.

“You’re not from Africa are you?! What is your nationality young lady?” I wanted to say that it was a million dollar question, but it wasn’t the adequate moment to make jokes, that's for sure.

“I’m from Mexico! I just want to go back to my country, I don’t want to stay here in the States”. I answer firmly.

“Well, your wish is an order madam! What else do you want, sleep in a five stars hotel room and a first class ticket flight?” he mocks me and all men start laughing. I felt so ashamed, so powerless. But I don’t cry. I wouldn’t break in front of those douchebags.

“No sir, I would appreciate if you permitted me to use the toilet, please!” I said before he turned around. I tried to be as polite as possible, to do not sound angry as I indeed felt. 

In an abrupt movement, he hits me in the face. I fall hard on the floor, my body is weak and I'm so tired. I couldn’t hold my own weight on my feet. My sight grows dim but I see the African boys defending me, preventing the man from hitting me again. I slowly stand up and lean my back against the wall. I just came from a war, none of this could be worse than all the suffering I saw there… That, unfortunately, I still can remember.

They all leeave the room and we wait in there for probably over an hour, I couldn’t exactly tell since they took my watch away. I feel some heated liquid running down my legs, I look down to realize that I had urinated in my own pants. I feel so ashamed that I start crying. I feel as if I were a baby, who doesn't know anything about its own life, incapable, insecure, and needy. I just want my mother, but I don't even know if I have one. It makes me cry even harder.

One of the African girls tries to comfort me, but I couldn’t look anyone in the eyes. I keep my head down towards the floor when I hear the front door opening again. I hear my fellow friends chanting for some reason, but I'm too ashamed to look up. In instants, a woman walk in my direction, she stops in front of me and places her hand on my chin forcing me to look at her.

“It’s ok dear, they won’t hurt you anymore. Can you understand me?” She's so kind and secure that I nod. “My name is Barbara, I work for the UN Human Rights and I’ll protect all of you. Now, do you allow me to help you?”  I say ‘yes’ in a very low tone, but I'm so deeply relieved for hearing that.

Barbara helps me to get in an improvised bathroom. I take a quick shower and change into clean clothes. She gives my belongings back and then takes us to a van.

They took us to a shelter in downtown Sacramento. For what I could understand, the place is a species of housing for refugees. There are people from all over the planet, it's impressive how crowed the place is. I was very glad when she showed me a bed where I could lay to rest. I'm exhausted, so I just lay down and in a matter of minutes, I pass out.

“Wake up baby! It’s time… Don’t give me that look mi amor, wake up!” 

I wake up to see an unfamiliar face smiling at me, very close to my face. Too close, in fact. “Queee linda sonrisa (what a nice smile)” the boy says.

I stand up as fast as I can, grab my backpack and hug it against my chest, pulling my body away from him. “Who is Val?” he asks.

“Stop it Juan! You’re scaring her, your aberration”. A girl reproaches him while holding out her hand towards me. “I’m Claire, this is Juan the freak! But don’t worry, he won’t hurt you. We control him under medication” she mocks and laughs.

“I am not medicated and I’m not crazy. Stop saying that to people. They might believe it!” They start laughing, looking at each other. I didn’t move an inch or said a single word.

“Where are you from?” he asks too many questions. I didn’t want to answer but the girl was equally staring at me as if she also waited for a response.

“I… I'm from Mexico”. I thought about explaining that I don’t know for sure, but I just wanted them to stop the inquiry, so I made it simple. However, it didn’t work as I planned, because they began to interrogate me.

"How old are you?", "Are you going to be deported too?", "Why did you leave your homeland?", "Who is Val?"...

That last one made me look at the boy with questioning eyes.. how could him know about that?

“You said this name while you were sleeping. You were smiling so beautifully, I can tell that’s love. Am I correct?” he explains before I could ask. I just nod in response. I don’t know that people, so I won’t be talking about my private life with strangers.. well, about the little I know about my life.

They finally realized that I wouldn’t talk much, so they did the talking themselves. Juan is from Venezuela and he is in the shelter for five months now. He told me that he managed to illegally succeed on arriving at the States but the immigration caught him in the first week. Claire is from Brazil, which made me think of José. She also travelled to California in an illicit way, and she had been taken to the shelter two months ago. The girl is about my age, and Juan is a bit older than us.   

The two incessantly talked for a couple hours, telling me all about their lives and also about the shelter. They just shut up when we heard a siren, it was lunchtime. I couldn’t be more thankful; first for eating, because I was starving to death, and second for them occupying their mouths with food so they wouldn’t talk for a while.

 

November 12th

After two other months without any news, despite my protests, my family arranged a funeral service to Juls. My father said that it had to be done in respect for her soul and for all she meant to them, and especially to me. I refuse to accept that she’s forever gone, she promised me that she would come back.

The Mexican army generals and some UN personnel are present, many other soldiers and doctors too. They make the military salute in honor to their fellow of duty. There is a trumpet sounding while gunshots are fired in a synchronous manner.

I place my head on my father’s shoulder and tightly hold Lucia’s hand while we watch the tribute. I forced myself to be here, I didn’t want to come. Her body is not here, so I can’t put in my mind that Juls is actually dead. I can’t coerce my heart to simply accept it.

After most people are gone, I finally walk towards her grave. In memory of an amazing woman who lived and died for love. Forever our Juls. It's just next to her mother’s grave, for whom we’ve said our goodbyes only three years ago. I burst into cry while punching the ground. Guille holds my arms in order to prevent me from hurting myself, but I don’t care. I just want her back, or let me die too. ‘Why did you have to go? Why?’ I yell to the winds.

The last words I said to her were “don’t expect that I will be waiting for you”, but I was lying because I was mad at her. I would have waited forever, if necessary. And now, I can’t tell her this anymore. I never responded to any of her letters, all over those years. I was in so much pain for not having the love of my life with me anymore… We do unthinkable things when we’re suffering. I should have sent her a letter, at least one saying that I still loved her, that I still do and always will.

"Te amo Juls, por favor, come back to me!" I repeatedly implore in between my sobs.

......... .......... ......... ........... ............. .......... ............ .............. ............. ........... .............

Te amo Juls, por favor, come back to me! Another dream with her… I quickly reach to my notebook to write it down. She said a different word this time. She called me Juls. What my name could possibly be? Julieta, Juldith, Julie, Julia… Juliana?

“JULIANA, my name is Juliana” I scream.

Juan and Claire run towards me to check if I'm ok. I had told them my story. After the past two months, we ended up becoming friends. They in fact talk non-stop sometimes, but they’re good people. Both even tried to help me to do some memory exercises, but nothing had worked, until now. 

“My name is Juliana, I… I don’t know how to explain. I just know!” I shout excitedly.

“Okay. Did you dream with her calling your name?” Claire stands in front of me, holding my arms so I could stop walking in circles.

“Not exactly. She was crying and begging me to go back home. And... then she called me Juls. I began writing down names that could possibly begin with those letters, until it rang a bell. Juliana is the most familiar to me” I explain.

“All right. That's a good thing isn’t it?” She warmly smiles and I nod. We sit in our respective beds and I take the picture in my hands to thank her. I’m talking with the blue eyes everyday, more likely every minute, as if she could hear me. “Gracias Val. I’ll go back to you, I promise!” I kiss the picture a few times.

Barbara is still trying to find any information about me, but I haven’t been totally honest with her. I didn’t tell her about my background and what I was in Africa for. I just said that I need to go back home. I was afraid of telling her the truth about the war incident because they could maintain me in a hospital, or don’t allow me to go to Mexico since I am not completely sure where I am from exactly. After two months with no success on finding any source of data about me, she decided that I could be deported.

It's much easier to allow me to go back 'home', than if I wanted to stay here in the States. For those who are willing to stay, like Claire and Juan, the process takes longer. Arranging the legal permission and the documentation necessary for it, sometimes can take over a year. As I want to leave, they would put me in a plane back to Mexico not even caring if I have any Mexican citizenship documents, which I obviously don’t.   

She told me that same day, later in the afternoon, that I'd be flying home in the following morning. I'm allowed to take my backpack and my belongings with me. In less than twenty-four hours from now, I will be in Mexico City.

My heart is so full of joy and excitement! I can’t wait to put my feet in Mexico. I've no clue of what's going to happen, but my heart speaks louder than my fears, and it’s telling me I am in the right path. I might not be entirely confident about what I am doing, but I am completely sure about my love for Val.

Chapter Text

December 1st

Nineteen days have passed, but my pain hasn’t.

I returned to my old routine, but the thoughts of her are constant. I can’t eat, sleep, or properly breathe. It feels like I’m living in an empty world, nothing happens to motivate me, surprise me, or to touch me. I hear honking in the streets, people talking outside, the whistle of the wind in my ears, but nothing more than sounds. The music and the poetry behind it all are gone.

I’ve became a robot. I don’t smile or cry. I don’t have appetite, I just eat to be able to keep myself on my feet and because my family forces me to. I don’t rest or relax. It’s impossible to appease my brain in a comfort state. I just work. I wake up and head to the newsroom where I grab my daily tasks then I take the pictures needed for the day and go back home at night. Just waiting for one more day without purpose, another worthless twenty-four hours.

I woke up this morning missing her even more. Juls used to love Decembers, due to Christmas celebration. That woman loved this holiday, its meaning. For her, it was beyond any religious or capitalist explanations. It was a bit deeper than that. 

The celebration, according to old civilizations, started seven thousand years before Jesus Christ’s birth. The motive to celebrate was the winter solstice, when happens the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere, taking place in late December. From that dawn on, the sun stays longer in the sky, until the height of summer. It is the turning point of darkness into light, it represents the "rebirth" of the Sun.

Juls would always say that it was an obligation to every living person to spend the longest nights of the year in the best way possible, "throwing light in the obscurity". She'd always work as a volunteer in the first hours of the night, distributing food and blankets for homeless people, helping shelters to cook Christmas’ eve meals for those in need, working in emergencies rooms for free. The rest of the dawn, Juls enjoyed spending it by watching the stars, talking about the meaning of life, or simply making love. We did the latter as our own tradition. It was our way to turn ‘darkness into light’.

I miss her and her way of envisaging life. Every little detail had a meaning for her, a purpose, and a magnitude. She has taught me so much that I can’t even describe. I began to see the world through her eyes, but pain change us. It just altered me now and it also changed her back then.

When Juls told me that she would leave for another continent to work as a volunteer to find her ‘light’ again, I got so angry at her that I selfishly couldn’t understand her reasons. I just thought about my own pain of not having her with me, I didn’t realize how suffering has unimaginable powers of destructing any sign of beauty or faith inside our hearts.  

If we were able to travel back in time, I would do things differently. Starting by letting her know that I would always wait for her and that she was, and still is, the love of my life.

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Nineteen days have passed, and I'm more hopeful than ever. I arrived in Mexico City a little more than two weeks ago. The two first days were very hard, I can’t lie. I slept under a viaduct at downtown. The cold season made it a little rougher. But nothing, and I really mean it, can take the hope from my heart. Not even the terrible cold weather.

Saying goodbye for Juan, Claire, Barbara, and the Africans in the shelter was sad. In the other hand, it could likewise mean myself being closer to find ‘Val’.

On my third day in this amazing and huge city, I found a job. I searched through places that sell hamburguesas, since I had dreamed with Val offering me some. I don’t have many clues to follow, but the details of my dreams are all listed in my notebook, so I must start with something. That’s the main reason I got a job as a burger fryer at a restaurant-bar: Perlita’s.

The place is named after its owner. Perlita is an old lady, very gentle and goodhearted person who accepted me as an employee even though I don’t have any documents. And luckily, she didn't think I'm a crazy... I mean, I hit my head but I'm not mentally mad, I'm just lacking a few things inside my mind.

I had to tell her the truth, everything I know about myself. I can’t lie as I did with Barbara in the shelter. The most people in this city knowing about what happened to me, bigger are my chances of finding Val.

Perlita was moved by my story and she even offered me a bedroom to rent while I am not able to afford a better place to stay. It’s annexed to the restaurant, it actually is on the second floor. It has a bed, a small cabinet for clothes which is totally fine because I only have two pair of jeans and four t-shirts, a mirror, and a tiny desk with a three leg chair - the forth is broken. I don't mind it. I didn’t come to Mexico City after comfort, I came to find the blue eyes. My blue eyes.

In the mornings, I've been walking through the city searching for her. I know it is populated by over eight million people, I've googled it in Perlita’s computer, but I must try something. I don’t know her name, I don’t even know my name for sure… I obviously didn’t plan it right. In fact, I haven’t traced an strategy at all. Though, I don’t sadden myself. My heart is beating faster since I’ve firmed my feet in this place, it must have some meaning. I hope it does.

Afternoons, I’m going through hospitals. Maybe I can remember something about my past as a doctor, or I can discover where I used to work and someone might help me. According to my search online, there are more than four thousand hospitals in downtown Mexico City and its metropolitan area, which is very encouraging. So far, I visited a total of… ten. "Oh well, I am so screwed!" The funny thing is, I always end up in a park after my expeditions. I don’t know if it has anything to do with my life before, but it’s like a magnet. I sit in a bench under a palm tree and even if it doesn’t have any connection to whom I was before, at least I feel good just for being there near the nature.

Evenings, I return to the restaurant to work. I hope that the smell of the burgers can help me to remember something. But so far, it only added some more greasy to my hair and skin. It’s ok. Well, I can’t work as a doctor anymore. First, because I don’t have any documents to prove my capacity to exercise the profession, and second, I don’t know if I am able to recall all the things I studied. I lost my long term memory, so I basically can remember how I used to fix broken bones and stanch open wounds in the battlefield. I can’t recall my time in college, which obviously I'm not able to remember procedures or technical methodologies. Frying burgers don’t require long term memories to its modus operandi, or any document to prove my capacity to fry meat. I accept the challenge.

After a busy night of work, I shower and change myself into clean clothes. I sit outside my windowpane to watch the night sky from the rooftop. It has just became a new habit. I look up at the stars and smile at it, the cold wind touching my lips makes me shiver. Not even noticing, I reach to the notebook and I open it in a clean page. I start drawing her blue eyes with the blue pencil Nalu gave me. I let the sensation conduct my hand. When I finish it, her face is perfectly pictured on the paper. I just discovered that I have talent to draw. What amazes me the most is how beautiful she is. 

 

December 22nd 

Fridays are busier than other days. I barely have time to breath. Only this morning, I already had three photo sessions, which is good for the money, can’t deny, and also to occupy my mind a little.

When I finally have some time to sit and check my phone, I acknowledge that Guille has called me fourteen times, my father seven, Lucia and Mateo another five times each. Something very serious must be happening. I call my brother, who seems to be more desperate than all.  

--- Phone call ---

“Valentina! Finalmente. Where are you? I’ve been looking for you all morning”

“Que pasa Guillermo? I am working, something serious?”

“I wouldn’t say serious in a bad way. But you need to come to Mateo’s office right now. Leave what you’re doing and come here hermanita!” I could sense the tension in my brother’s voice.

“I can’t, I still have more stuff to do in the afternoon...”

“Valentina! Come here, now. Por favor!”

--- End of Phone call ---

After the distressed words I heard, I did exactly what Guille has told me to do.

I arrive at Mateo’s office without knowing for sure what’s going on, but I'd trust my life to my brother. As soon as I enter the room, I see Guille, Renata, my father and Lucia, Eva and Mateo, and two other people I’ve never seen in my life.

“Oh my holy Father, it’s her! The blue eyes”

I don’t understand what that's supposed to mean, and it creeps me out a little. Mateo offers me a chair, telling me to sit down. I refuse to sit until someone would explain me what the hell is happening. Everyone is tense inside the room, my family is exchanging looks with one another and with the other two people. I lose the little patience I had left…

“Entonces, is someone going to tell me what is all this about or what?” My voice trembles but I manage to appear firm, just appear. 

“Miss Carvajal, My name is Abu, and I’m a doctor from Africa. I’m here… we are here because we have to talk about Juliana Valdés”.

The man speaks and my body weakens instantly. Just for hearing the word Africa, my brain immediately malfunctions and my legs lose strength. That was it, I couldn’t control my emotions. I pass out.

I regain consciousness after a couple minutes. My body is stretched in a small couch that Mateo has in his office. Everyone is staring at me with worried eyes. As soon as I remember why I fainted, I quickly switch my body to a sitting position. Before I can say anything, Lucia hands me a glass of cold water with sugar.

“Drink it Val. You’ll need some sugar in your blood, it will help you to calm down a little”. She says with a soft tone, both trying to tranquilize me and not to scare me more than I already am.

“Que saben sobre Juliana? (What do you know about Juliana?)”

They look at me with affection and much hesitation. I lock my eyes with the man’s eyes to ensure him that I want to hear anything he could possibly say about my Juls.

“Miss Carvajal, what I am about to tell you isn’t easy to hear. Please, I need you to try to be comprehensive and to remain yourself calm”. I don't flinch, so he keeps talking.

“In June, my medical base received two patients badly injured from the missile strike near our tribe. One man and a woman. The man, José, who was a nurse and unfortunately passed away. The woman, a doctor, remained in a state of coma for two months, but she survived”.

“Was it Juls? You’re… telling me that…. Juls is al… alive?” The man nods in a shy reply. “Oh my fucking God!!!” I start crying compulsively, it’s a mixture of feelings. 

“Por favor Val, let’s listen to what they still have to say” My father tells me after a couple minutes and I try to control my tears and my breathing, permitting the man to continue. He takes a deep breath before continuing, and he tells us everything that happened.

“You’re saying that Juliana couldn’t remember me?" I interrupt him after a while.

“In reality, she remembered you… but not completely. She described to me constant dreams she had about your blue eyes and calling you ‘Val’. She was very desperate to find you and to discover more things about her life previously the accident”.

“Why are you referring to her in the past tense? Did something…” I couldn’t finish the sentence, he knew what I meant.

“No, she didn’t die. At least I hope not”

“What do you mean by that, where is Juliana? I want to see her!” I stand up but my father pulls me back to the couch. 

“Well, I must say with a heavy heart that we don’t know where she is with precision… She managed to escape back in September. Even not being sure that she was from here, Juliana kept the idea that she had to find the blue eyes… she still has that polaroid picture of your eyes. One of my nurses helped Juliana to enter in an UN cargo plane destined to US, and I tried to follow her steps in hope to find her. Which leads me to introduce you to Miss Barbara, she's a UN Human Rights representative”.

The woman steps forward and shakes my hand. Hitherto, I was just trying to digest the whole thing the doctor have said, but the woman throws on me more unimaginable things that Juliana has been through. She told me that Juls stayed in the refugee shelter for two months and that she took a plane to Mexico City a little more than a month ago. My head spins with all the information.

“What the fuck! How did you let a woman, without any memory, to escape and cross the planet? Can you imagine how much she probably has suffered?” I madly shout at the man, and he just bows his head down.

“And you, how do you approve a deportation for someone in that health condition?”

I am pissed. I am not measuring the weight of my words and I don’t even care if someone gets offended by it. I am hurt, JULS IS HURT!

“I didn’t know she had lost her memories, she didn’t tell me that. I tried to find information about her but not a single data was found. When Doctor Abu arrived in California looking for her, I acknowledged why. Because of the UN confidential law, that protects all soldiers in service to Peace Operations, my team and I weren’t able to discover her identity. And as the shelter works on full capacity, we were "obligated" to concede her will to come back home”. Barbara had tears in her eyes, I felt sincerity and that she’s truly sorry for the outcomes.

“The International Court of Justice sanctioned the release of her identity a month ago, that’s why I was able to find you. The emergency contact person in case of accidents or fatalities is you. When I read your name and I searched for your picture, I knew for sure you were her blue eyes.”

I cry. I don’t know if I’m crying for happiness for knowing that my chiquita is alive, or because she is alive and doesn’t know exactly who I am… and worse, she is lost and hurt. My heart shatters.

“We have to find her, papa... Juls is alive! I’VE TO FIND HER!!!”

“Hija, por favor cálmate!”

“No papá! Juls is lost and she needs us! Can you imagine how much she’s suffering right now, thinking that she’s out there alone? Let’s spread her pictures on TV and…”

“You can’t! I am sorry, but the higher authorities don’t allow us to share that sort of information with the media. It’s confidential and only relatives can…” I interrupt Dr. Abu whatever

“That’s bullshit! What you’re actually saying is that you don’t want to let the population know about their lack of competence to really protect the volunteers in your stupid wars! My girlfriend deserves a little more respect from your ‘higher authorities’ don’t you think?” I am mad, deadly mad. My father tries to hold me and ease the tension, but if I could I would punch every single motherfucker who let my Juls suffer that much.

“I am sorry Miss Carvajal, I truly am. Please believe me!” The man has guilty tears in his eyes, but nothing can appease my anger.

“We can still look for her, ourselves Vale. The law only states that we can’t share the information with the media, but it tells nothing about us doing our own research campaign. We can print her picture in paper fliers and distribute through the city”. Mateo is really an excellent lawyer and person.

“That’s it Vale, maybe she will find one of the papers herself and come to us. We can also search in every centimeter of this city, by foot if necessary. I told you we would fight to find her together. We’ll find your girl Vale!” Lucia is already standing up and planning what to do next.

My family is very supportive, which gives me strength to face whatever might come…

I’ll find my chiquita!

    

......... .......... ......... ........... ............. .......... ............ .............. ............. ........... ............. 

After a few weeks with no memory progress, I will be doing things differently today. I’ve searched for medical schools in the area, which the amount is substantially inferior comparing to the many hospitals I would have to visit. Since early this morning, I’ve been going to campuses, three so far, but still nothing new.

When I arrive to the next university of my list, there is a sudden anxiousness taking control of my body.

{Escuela De Medicina Ciudad de México} 

The sign at the main entrance seems quite familiar. I'm not sure if it’s because I want it to be, or in fact, it really means something.

With trembling steps, I walk towards the information center. The three previous universities couldn’t give me specific information about the students, it would be against the privacy policy. What I could do was asking for the graduation students’ books, which are available for everyone. This is also facilitating my search. Basically, because I don’t know such thing as my full name, and consequently, it’s easier to go through the pages looking for my own picture.        

The secretary kindly hands me the graduation books from the previous six years classes. I start from the oldest one, no pictures of myself. Next, and nothing again. This one has a different cover, I open it and first page has a picture of the students at the campus front yard. I pass my eyes quickly through each of the faces until… “Me, it’s me!” Unintentionally, I shout. I close it to see the cover once more and it is from four years ago. Quickly, I go through the summary to look for the profiles pages. Of course, it wouldn’t be ordered by first names, so I have to flip one by one.

Seventeen students and the last profile… Valdés, Juliana. Tears come down my face. I don’t recall anything, but it’s my picture and the name JULIANA. My guts were right. I pass my fingers on the page, feeling its texture. I looked very happy, proud and free. I start crying compulsively until the young secretary places her hand on my shoulder.

“Todo bien? You’re feeling the graduation feels all over, aren’t you?” She asks, being nice and extremely polite.

“You have no idea!” I answer with a chuckle after my words. 

“You can keep that book if you want. There are others in our archives!”  I thank her and hold the book against my chest as if it were a treasure. I leave the hall towards the front yard. The campus is beautiful, lots of tress. I end up sitting under one of them.

I open the book and I read the following statement under my picture:

‘I would like to dedicate this personal accomplishment to: I) my mother - Maria Guadalupe (Lupe) Valdés who has always been by my side; woman of fiber and courage, my anchor, my safe place and my role model. II) Mr. Sancho Pancho (Panchito) – the best teacher (in this university and in life matters) . You’re a great man and I’ll be forever grateful for everything you’ve done for me; I won’t ever be able to thank heavens sufficiently for having a friend like you. III) Valentina Carvajal (Val) – the best girlfriend in this entire planet. My muscular organ that pumps the blood through my circulatory system by rhythmic contraction and dilation works only for you. What I mean to say is that I’ve never loved anyone as much as I love you. IV) And also to all my amazing classmates who were with me through this journey’.   

"Valentina. Her name is Valentina!!!!!!" I get up from the floor and start jumping. I just discovered I have a mother and Val’s name. In a sudden click in my brain, I have the idea to look for Mr. Pancho. The way I described him, it seems he probably was a close friend of mine. I pick up my backpack and the book from the floor and head to the teacher’s office room.

There is a small board on the wall with all teachers names and its respective office's number. Mr. Pancho – room 47. I almost run to the front of his office, but I try to contain myself. Poorly, but I do.

What am I going to say? ‘Hola, I lost my memory could you please help me?’ ‘Hola, I have no idea of who I am… do you know me?’ 

I rehearse what to say while walking in circles in front of his door. When I look up, there is a man with an open mouth staring at me. He probably thinks I am crazy.

“Juli…? Not possible! DíosNow I’m seeing ghosts!” he walks closer and pinches my arm in disbelief.

“I guess so… hmn” I don’t know what to say, so I just wait. His face has turned so white that I could tell he is really seeing a ghost.

“Juli, you’re dead… aren’t you dead? I…. Juliana?” 

The man runs in my direction and holds me tight in his arms, almost suffocating me. I don’t recon who he is, but by that instense reaction, he must like me very much. He puts his palms on my cheeks and touches my head as if trying to make sure that I am not a spirit or an illusion.

“Estas viva (You’re alive)!” he states in awe.

“Sí, guess I am… but I don’t have memories… I mean long-term memories. I need help!” I know it wasn't the best way to say it but… how I was supposed to give this kind of news?

“What? What do you mean?”

“Sir, are you Dr. Pancho?”

After my question, he begins to understand what I meant. He confirms to be Panchito and invites me to his office. I tell him every detail of what has happened to me and all I could remember. I must trust someone, after all, I’ve nothing to lose. So I just threw all my story on him. He stayed completely mute for a while, but after a few minutes, he finally talked to me again.

“I’m sorry that you have been through all of this. You were like a daughter to me, and still is. Even if you can’t remember me, I want you to know you’re not alone anymore. Count on me Juli! I am so glad to see you alive, I was so devastated with the news of your death…” he lets some tears scape from his eyes.

“So it means that everyone thinks I’m dead?! I’ve imagined that possibility, but hearing it isn’t very pleasant”.

“Perdon, es que... It’s hard to measure words in such situation”.

“Por favor, don’t. I need to know everything about my life, no matter how hard it could sound to be. Do you know where my mother lives, do you think we could contact her?” He remains in silence for long seconds. His face transformed to a sad expression.

“Juli, I don’t think we should talk about it right now”

“Sir, por favor! I need to know”

“Well, your… your mother has passed away a little more than three years ago, one year after you graduated”

Shit! I feel my throat closing in. A wave of sadness washes through my whole body and I can sense hot tears burning my eyes. I don’t cry, I hold it and find courage to keep asking.

“What about Valentina, the blue eyes girl. Do you know anything about her?” I look at him in the eyes, and he still have a sad expression on.

“Sí, I know her. As you read on the book and saw in your dreams, she was your girlfriend. I must admit that she doesn’t like me very much. She'd always say that I kept stealing your free time from her, giving you lots of work to do…” We both laugh at his comment. “She hates me even more now… I couldn’t go to your funeral service, I wouldn’t be emotionally capable to watch it. So she texted me the day after saying that I disrespected your memory for not showing up and that I’m a… what was it.. Oh yeah… a coward and a selfish hijo de puta!”

We both deeply laugh. I feel good for knowing that someone cares about me that much… and not simply someone, my blue eyes.

Panchito offers to take me to her house, but I decided that it wasn’t the best way to let her know that I’m still alive. I mean, it could be scaring. As much as I want to see her, I also know it won’t be easy for her. Not for her, neither for me. I need to let all this information sink in before I can decide what to do next, at least for today.

My professor isn’t an specialist in brain matters, he’s a cardiologist. But he contacted one of his colleagues, Beltran Camacho, who is one of the best neurologists he knows of, as he said. I spend the rest of the afternoon doing exams, after all, there's no time to waste. I already lost so much. I’m up to anything that could help me to regain my memory.

Later on, Panchito gives me a ride back to Perlita’s, promising me that he would pick me up at six in the following morning to do some extra exams. I hug him, very gratefully. Now I'm more hopeful than ever.

 

December 23rd  

It was impossible to properly sleep the past night. I got up from the bed at five this morning. Eva and I are going to downtown while the other members of my family are spread through all over the city to keep looking for Juls.

“What if she doesn’t want to be ‘found’?” I whisper my frustrations and paranoia to myself, but Eva hears it.

“Do you really think so? The woman is lacking memory but she still managed to cross the world to find you. And you, silly woman, thinks that she doesn’t want to be found? Vale, por favor, no digas tanta pendejas” Eva replies impatiently.

I can tell that even my sister is nervous and anxious to find Juls. Her words bring me back to sense. I must be strong to be able to keep looking for Juliana. Tomorrow is Christmas’ eve, and my heart aches even more just for thinking that my chiquita might pass one of the longest nights of the year in the ‘darkness’, lost in the streets.  

It's around ten in the morning when my phone rings in my pocket. So far, I only had received supportive calls from people saying that they were praying for us to find Juliana. It’s a great gesture, but it keeps the fucking line busy, what could prevent us from receiving any real important call with precise information.

I look at the screen to read Dr. Pancho’s name. That prick! I refuse the call. I am not in a mood to talk with him. But he insists, two, three, four times. Eva loses her patience with me and takes the phone from my hands, answering the forth call.  

--- Phone call ---

“That’s her sister speaking! She has all rights to be mad at you and…”

I didn’t imagine that Eva would stand up for me like that… She is carefully listening to him and the wait makes me curious to know what he could be telling her on the other side.

“Estas de broma? Because my sister has suffered enough, and if you’re lying for any reason I'll kick you as…” 

That last sentence just caught my attention even more. I ask her what he’s saying but Eva waves her hand into my direction telling me to shut up.

“Okay. Please give me ten minutes and we call you back. I need to talk to Vale… Gracias. Bye”.

--- End of phone call ---

Eva has her eyes dilated and she swallows hard before speaking to me. My sister is a tough person, never breaks easily, but right now she seems to be very fragile. She holds my hand and pulls me to a near bench so we can sit and talk. I don’t understand what’s happening but I can imagine that she’s trying to find the right words to tell me what she just heard from Panchito. I wait until she finds courage to do so.   

“Vale, that Pancho man just told me that… he… he…”

“He what Eva? You’re scaring me!”

“He says that Juls is in his office right now and that she wants to see you.”

“Qué? Como?” Tears form in my eyes and my heart races.

“He said that she showed up at his office yesterday asking for help, how I don’t exactly know how…”

“Como? What if he’s lying Eva? I… don’t know what to think”

“Why would he do such thing Vale? He’s a jerk but he is not dishonest, otherwise Juls wouldn’t praise that man so much if he weren’t a good person… Don’t you think? I guess we’ll have to go there and check”

“Vámonos!”

We rush to the car and Eva drives to his office. I have a billion things going through my mind... What if she is really there? What am I going to say, or do? I’m scared and worried about how she’ll react on seeing me again. I want to hug her and say that I’m sorry for all she’d been through, and that I love her… I love her so much! But what if… I shake off the bad thoughts and try to focus on positive feelings.

Juls is alive and she needs me. I repeat those words in my head the entire way to the university.

......... .......... ......... ........... ............. .......... ............ .............. ............. ........... ............. 

Yesterday, I spent all my time with Dr. Camacho and Dr. Pancho doing exams. They basically checked my body inside out to know which traumas my brain had suffered, and what treatment is possible to maybe help it to heal. I couldn’t stop thinking about Val and how much I want to see her. But I controlled my urgencies to put her well-being first. It's not clear how she will react when knowing that I am still alive.

I used the past night to create courage to ask Panchito to call her… I mean, what if she doesn’t want to see me? I’ve been so focused on finding her for my own good, that I selfishly didn’t think about her. I can’t remember what we’ve been through before I left her to move to another continent. It scares me a little. A lot, to be honest. But I came here because my heart guided me, so I can’t be a coward now. I’ve been through so many bad situations, now is time to face up my fears and talk to her. Oh Díos, what am I going to say? I’m freaking out. 

I’m walking side to side in Dr. Pancho’s office. He said that they would call back in ten minutes, but it's already passed twenty minutes and the phone didn’t ring back.

“Juli, sit down and try to relax! If you have a heart attack before she arrives all your efforts until now will be in vain”. He jokes, but I don’t find it funny. Maybe it’s a doctor kind of joke that I used to laugh on before losing my memory, but right now it just makes me even more nervous.  

Suddenly, his phone desk rings. I freeze in front of him with wide eyes. Panchito answers it and after hanging up he tells me to wait inside the room. He leaves the place and closes the door. My throat dries and my hands shake while cold sweat contours my fingers. I hear some loud talking coming from the hall, and out of the blue, it all quiets down letting the silence dominate the enviroment. I can hear my own pulse loud in my ears, my knees are fighting hard to keep my body weight under balance. The door's handle moves and I can’t take my eyes from there.

“Juls? Juliana?” the sweet voice of my dreams...

“Val?” I instinctively yell.

I run towards the door to see her. My world stops.

“It’s you… the blue eyes… it’s you!” I burst into cry and she holds me in her arms. She cries desperately too. I hold her face to stare at the ocean eyes, which currently is bustling with many waves. Tears roll down her cheeks and I place my forehead on hers.

“Mi amor, eres tu! Juls… mi amor…” She fights for breath trying to speak. I don’t have any strength to say a word. I just push my body into hers, hold her firmly against my chest, so maybe I can calm my heart a little. But none of it is enough, we both keep crying non-stop. She pulls her face from the space between my neck and shoulder to shower my face with kisses. My cheeks, my eyes, my nose, my chin, every little spot was kissed, until she reached my lips.

At first I just felt her lips searching for mine, I froze. I don’t know if it’s correct to kiss her, I mean, I don’t remember what I’ve put her through in the past. I left her and I… the heat and passion takes control, so I simply allow myself to feel. I hold her neck and in seconds, we deepen the kiss. Our tongues find one another, the wetness from our mouths combined with the teardrops continuously falling from our eyes.

Nothing else matters. I feel safe in her arms, as I hadn’t felt for so long. Her arms are around my waist. My arms are holding her back with vigor. I don’t want to let her go, I’ll never lose her again.

“Juls…” She breaks the kiss so we both could refill our lungs with some air, but we dind't separate our bodies entirely. I don’t know if she regrets kissing me. I don’t want her to feel like this, so I just capture her lips on mine anew. This time we kiss gently, no rush and not many tears as before. We avail every second of our joined lips. I feel the soft texture of her tongue on mine. I inhale the smell of our desire and exhale the tension from my soul.

I pull my head back and open my eyes slowly. She is already staring at me. Her thumb slides on my lips and I can’t hold back a smile.

“It feels much better than my dreams!” I whisper to her and she smiles in return.

“I missed you Juls!” her words invade my heart with so much love and affection that no pain, no worries, and absolutely no fears can reach my soul.    

 

Same day – Few moments later

Juls is so much skinnier that it has scared me a little. She clearly lost a lot of weight; it’s understandable, after all she’d been through… I just heard from other people what has happened to her, but I don’t have courage to ask her personally. I don’t think it’s the right time for that…we just passed the last minutes holding each other in silence. When she's ready, she will tell me. It just breaks my heart to see her in so much pain and uncertainty. The way she kissed me though... it felt like our first time. Maybe it's our 'new first time'... I hope it is.

“Are you ok?” I ask her trying to respect her space, but I need to know how I possibly can help her.

“Can you forgive me?”

Her question makes me shiver. ‘Why exactly she's asking forgiveness for? For leaving? For our last discussion?' Right…she lost her long-term memories… but what for then? I ask myself unsure of what to answer.

“Perdon, but I don’t remember things. I just… I can only recall your blue eyes, and your face in my dreams… the love I feel for you… But, I lost my memory and…” She explained while tears kept falling down her eyes.

“Please, don’t do that to yourself! You don’t have to ask forgiveness for this or anything else… I already know what happened to you. And not remembering my name means nothing compared with you recalling about our love. That’s what matters to me!”  I can tell she’s relaxing, but obviously there is a hint of doubt behind her eyes. Who wouldn’t be scared in such circumstances?

“What do you mean you already know about what happened to me?”

“Well, does Doctor Abu, or a lady named Barbara, ring a bell?” her eyes widened in fear and shock.

“Queee? Como?

“They came after me yesterday, saying that you were alive and that you’ve crossed the planet to find your blue eyes. They’ve told me everything that happened to you Juls… and I am so sorry for how much you’ve suffered!”

She leans her head on my shoulder and kisses my cheek softly, I move my head and kiss her forehead to reassure her.

“They’re after me then? What will they do with me… I mean, I escaped and…”  

Amor.. perdon.. Juls…” I hesitate in how to call her; she is definitely the love of my life, but I don’t know if she feels comfortable with me calling her as I used to do before.

“You can call me as you like. You used to say things like that in my dreams too… it makes me feel safer, not alone…” her words are heavy as anchors, but the smile on her lips melt me completely.

“Bien! It was how we used to do before you… before”. I shut my mouth ahead of saying anything that could make our restart more difficult…

“Before I left you? Please, don’t measure words with me! We need to be honest with each other… I need you Val!”

“I’m here for you Juls! I won’t let anyone hurt you or take you away from me… I’ll take care of you chiquita, if you allow me to. I’ll help you to overcome that pain!”

My words sounded as the last conversation we had before she left. My heart pounds in despair for remembering that in the past she didn’t stay. I do my best to hold my tears, she noticed it. With much care and respect, she moved closer to me and kissed my hands. It made me feel so relieved that I could soar. 

......... .......... ......... ........... ............. .......... ............ .............. ............. ........... ............. 

Our reencounter went fine. I feel that she is worried and hurt, but she is trying to seem as calm as possible. We spent the last hour talking. Well, I was the one talking. Dr Panchito and her sister Eva - who I sadly can’t remember as well - joined us inside the office. I went through the details of the ‘recent’ events in my life, since the day when I woke up on that hospital bed in Africa until now.

Val and her sister cried a few times, but I didn’t stop for a minute. I had to say it all at once, or I feel like I wouldn’t able to finish it just for seeing such sadness in Val’s eyes. She hugged me when I finished. I can’t lie, being in her arms is one of the best sensations in this world, if not the best itself. Panchito suggested that we had some break, to let all this carousel of emotions settle down.

We had lunch together and I used some more time to explain details I've forgotten to mention before; Val wouldn’t talk about our past and I pretended not to be anxious to ask about it. We just are getting used to each other’s presence again; I’ll guess that this small discomfort is quite normal in such circumstances. Then, after a while, Val invited me to come over to her father’s house. She said that the rest of her family was equally longing to see me. I couldn’t say no to her, so I thanked Panchito promising to be back the next day and we left to the Carvajal’s house.

Eva drove in silence all the way. Valentina and I also didn’t share a word inside the vehicle, but we held hands interlacing our fingers. Arriving at front door of the Carvajal's mansion made my head spin. I can tell I’ve been there before, but not even a single past scene came to my mind. We enter the house and there are many people crying silently looking at us, or at me. I don’t recon any of them, it’s the worst sensation I've ever felt.

One by one they approach me and embrace my body in a fraternal manner. Lucia, who said to be Val’s stepmother, even kissed my cheeks.  I try to keep my shit together, but the emptiness of not remembering about any of them makes me cry. I cry hard. Valentina takes me to the couch holding my body while I let all the hot tears roll down my face. I don’t know why I can’t control myself right now, but I just need to let it all come out. I look up and everyone is staring at me with incredulous faces, I can’t take it… I run outside to breath.

Valentina comes after me, but she doesn’t touch me at first. I look at her and I feel so embarrassed and stupid… “Perdon, I don’t know what is happening to me… I’m…”

“Scared. It’s ok Juls, I should be the one apologizing. It’s too much for a day, I should’ve known it. I am so insensitive…”

“Val, no! Please. It’s not your fault, if anyone is to blame that’s me! I mean, how on earth could someone in perfect sanity ever leave you? I don’t know what was wrong with me, I just can’t quite understand…”

She doesn’t let me finish and shuts me up with her lips on mine. I didn’t expect that, at all… but I liked it, definitely.    

“Stop torturing yourself. I need you to trust me, I’ll help you. Ok?”

“Okay! I trust you!” I truly do. “I know we just arrived, but could you please take me home? I don’t think I’ll be able to handle any more emotions for today”.

“Of course Juls… but where do you call ‘home’?” I feel the anxiousness in her words, like if she was expecting me to remember anything about us, but I don’t. So, I just tell her about Perita’s place and she gives me a ride back. 

I invite Val inside the restaurant, introduce her to Perita (who is all about tears and hugs), and then I take her upstairs. She looks around and I feel bad for how humble the place is compared to the mansion we just visited, but in a matter of seconds, she surprises me.

“Did you draw that?” She observed not the poorness of the room, but her picture on the mirror. I just instantly knew why I had fallen for that woman, and I’m falling hard again in less than a day with her.

“Yes! You’re hanging inside my mind too often, so I decided to put your entire face on a piece of paper. That way I would have a material part of you to contemple, and not only my imagination or the blue eyes pic”.

“Juls, it’s impressively beautiful”

“That’s because you’re impressively beautiful!” I feel a tension building up after my words, but not a bad kind of tension, most like a desire tension…

“That’s not what I meant… I was referring to your skills to draw so perfectly. I didn’t know about that gift of yours, and I could swear that I knew more about you than yourself” She let a sweet laugh come out her mouth, one of the most beautiful sounds I’ve ever heard in life.  

“I didn’t know about it either. I am just (re)learning things about myself day after day. Indeed, I would appreciate your help, if you wouldn’t mind...”

“Claro que sí Juls, I promise I'll help you!”

 

“Pacto?” 

She jumps in awe after my question, I don’t know if I said something wrong.. or..

“Pacto!”

She leans her body and kisses my cheek. We certainly are flinching about how to behave to one another, but somehow I feel safe and sound around her.

“We could start tomorrow. Would you like to spend the day with me?”

“Yes, I would!”

Chapter Text

December 24th 

Exactly seven thirty in the morning as early as it is, I’m already outside Perita’s bar. I had to convince myself to do not arrive too soon. I’m so anxious to see Juls again that I could've slept on my car, outside her place, just to make time pass ‘faster’. However, reluctantly I went home last night to fail again in the simple task of sleeping. This time, it wasn’t due to nightmares or bad thoughts, but because I was unable to stop thinking about Juliana and the way she kissed me.

Juls walks towards the car and my heart speeds in excitement. I haven’t felt like this for so long, I almost forgot how good is this sensation of being in ecstasy just for seeing her. ‘God, that walking’. She has a unique way to move… I don't know how to explain, it’s so hypnotic to watch how her hips wiggle. I try not to stare, but it’s quite impossible. Juls smiles at me on her way, I smile back trying my best to keep myself steady and don’t run to her arms. 

“Buenos días”

“Buenos días, como estas?”

We ‘dance’ in front of one another indecisively trying to choose the best manner to greet – ‘should I kiss her, give her a hug, or can I inhale the sweet smell of your neck?’ I pull her into a quick hug and then kiss her cheek.

“I’m better now! Y tu?” I ask.

“Tambien. Better now…” she answers with that corner smile that takes me off the tracks every time.

We get into the car and then we head to our favorite bakery for breakfast. I thought about taking Juls there because maybe it could help to bring up some of her memories, considering that we used to go to that place quite often. When we arrive, I’m the one to have some memory flashes instead. The first time we’ve been here together we confessed being in love with one another, and the last time I’ve been here, I heard about the news of her ‘accident’ and I haven’t returned since. I swallow my emotions to make sure that Juls doesn’t notice my discomfort. We’re here because of her and it's not about me, so I’ll do everything I possibly can to help her to heal even if it means that I must ignore my own pain.

We sit by the window, our favorite table; she seems to be analyzing the place, passing her eyes through each and every detail. Suddenly, her eyes find my gaze. I feel ashamed for being caught staring at her, but she holds my hand and softly smiles at me. ‘Is the oxygen lacking in this environment or what?’ I think to myself while trying to push some air into my desperate lungs.               

“Gracias” After long minutes of silence, she breaks the ice.

“For what Juls?” I rub my thumb on her fingers gently, the little contact provokes so many sensations trough my whole body that it’s almost maddening. I can feel some hesitation in her eyes as if she is looking for the exact words to say.

“For doing this”. She moves her free hand pointing her index finger at her and then at me to elucidate what she meant. “I know it must not be easy for you to pretend that all of the sudden everything is fine between us … and even so, you still here with this beautiful smile on your lips supporting me”. 

I can see tears forming in her eyes. Juls passes her hand on her neck, as she would always do when nervous, bits her bottom lip while looking down. I reach her chin to lift her head, then she looks at me and I can barely take it. My thumb finds her dimple and I caress it slowly, trying to show her through my gesture that all the affection I have in my being belongs to her.

“You’re right. It’s no easy to pretend that things are all fixed instantly, because they aren’t yet. But, having you alive here in front of me, after thinking you were dead… that’s more than ok for now, isn’t it?”  I whisper the words to her, very close to her mouth. My heart is telling me to kiss her, but my brain is advising me to not to.

She takes my hand and places a soft and wet kiss on my palm, I shiver head to toe. I naturally lean my body, and our foreheads meet. Juls passes her fingers through my hair and I move my nose against hers. Our lips are so close, the heat of her breathing on my skin.  We pull apart when our order arrives at the table. Enjoying our coffees and our pastries - mine strawberry cake, hers lemon pie, we just keep looking at each other cautiously.

In an abrupt movement, I see her fork coming towards my plate to steal a piece of my cake. “Juuuls!” I protest in awe, not only because she did that, but especially for this being something I used to do, just to annoy her. I freeze my body waiting for some logical explanation, but she looks embarrassed and confused.   

“Perdon, I don’t know why I did that!”  She says while returning the tiny piece she had stolen. I can’t hold the guffaw that forms on my throat. Her cheeks are red as a cherry wine.

“You don’t know why you did that, hum?”

“No. It was something we used to do, wasn’t it” She asks me already guessing the answer. I just nod at her and she lowers her head in frustration. I feel so sorry for this situation of lack of memory, but she’s alive and that is what matters the most now.

“Juls, it’s ok, give yourself some time to adjust. I know how hard you can be on yourself…” She smiles again and I melt for the hundredth time in less than one hour.

“Why do you think I did that?” She has a curious look on her face, so genuine and so freaking sexy.

“Well…” I let a small laugh unintentionally escape my throat. “One day we were… we were here and I stole your pie and ate most of it for pure fun, but you got so annoyed at me that I had to redeem myself somehow… and for that I ‘gave’ my body to you that night as an apology. And, hmm... loving each other in bed you called me ‘postrecito’. It was funny, but also very excitant for me to hear you whispering that in my ears. Since then, you used to call me that way in our intimacies…”

I try not to stare, but she is biting her nails and those brown eyes are so focused on me. Santo Díos bendito, I miss her so much. Juls doesn’t say anything, I can tell she’s struggling as well.       

“Come on, do you want to go somewhere? Anything that you could think about and that seems like a memory for you?” I must be the strong person right now, and I try to change the subject before I lose my sanity and jump on her.

“There is… hmm, I don’t know if it’s a thing… Yo.. hmm, I ended up going to a park every afternoon after my morning searches. It was involuntary. I walked through the city but I always felt like I had to go there, for a reason that I don’t exactly know…”  

I’m sure my eyes are very dilated, and not only because the arousal from seconds ago. It’s impressive how she keeps recreating old habits, even though she’s lacking memories. Juls was absolutely right, it won’t be easy for me, at all. My brain is malfunctioning after hearing her talking about the park… our park.  Well, I must answer something, so…

“I think I know what you’re talking about. Vamonos!?”

......... .......... ......... ........... ............. .......... ............ .............. ............. ........... ............. 

Valentina precisely knew what I was talking about. Without asking for directions or further details, she took me to the exact park I was referring to. I can tell that this ‘park’ is probably one more of ‘our things’. We walk around the place side by side, the morning weather is quite pleasant despite the cold wind that hits our skin now and then. We arrive at the bench that I’ve been sitting on for days, I look at her trying to catch any reactions that could affirm that 'it' means something. And then she smiles. It does mean something.

“Would you like to sit?”

I answer her with a shy smile and then we sit. Our bodies are slightly far, but I can notice her eyes on me. I look at her and there are tears rolling down her face, my heart breaks in million. I feel so bad for seeing her like this, so vulnerable and at the same time trying to hold her emotions in order to ‘be strong’ in front of me.

“I am sorry Val!” That’s all I can pronounce.

“Please Juls, stop apologizing! Crying will be inevitable at this point, it’s just too much to handle at once. But I need you to stop apologizing for everything. We’re in this together; we must be mutually patient, ok?”

“Ok. Sorry for… sorry for saying sorry! Mierda. Perdon… Ok, I’ll shut up!” She let the sweet laugh of hers escape and I felt fine again, just for making her smile.

We spend a few minutes contemplating the little lake ahead of us, I’m very curious to know more about our history behind it all. I turn my head towards her once again, and afterward taking a deep breath, I finally find to courage to ask. 

“Would you be comfortable in telling me about this… I mean, what is the history behind that park? There must be a reason… right?”        

She nods bashfully, her eyes still focused ahead in some place far away. I’m not sure if she is actually looking at something or if she’s just ‘trapped’ in her own mind. After a while, she looks at me and starts speaking.

“Bien, I’ll tell you everything but only if you promise me that we won't have to dance later…”   

“Okay…” I agree with her proposal even though I don’t understand what she means by that.

“We’ve met around five years ago in one of your night shifts when you’re still coursing the last year of med school.  A friend of mine was so wasted after a party that he couldn’t even walk, and for this, I took him to the hospital. You took care of him while I watched you working… I had a crush on you instantly, we didn’t have much time to talk that dawn. So, the following day I went back to the hospital pretending I was sick. The nurses in the triage said I hadn’t fever or anything more urgent, thus it wouldn’t be necessary to be transferred to the emergency room. I needed to see you, so I… that’s going to sound ridiculous but… I pretended that I passed out”.

I can’t hold a deep laugh after hearing that. This woman is not from this world, I wish I could remember that… After laughing with me for good minutes, she keeps telling me the story.

“I succeeded on getting to the emergency room, and you were there with a glamorous pony tail in your hair and your seductive half smile… I almost fainted just for seeing you, but this time for real. You examined me and of course, you found nothing abnormal. I think you knew right away that I was pretending. You’re too good on your job, and even more on reading me.” She softly smiles at me while pushing some of my hair behind my ear. I lean my head to the touch, we both remain in silence for a few minutes before she continues.

  … … …

“Hey you! Your friend was wasted last night and today it’s your turn?” Juls enters the room taking the clipboard from Valentina’s bed to read her medical record from the triage. 

“I’m not ‘wasted’. I just need care… can you take care of me doc?” Valentina answers with her ‘sexiest tone of voice’ making Juliana lift an eyebrow.

“Definitely Miss…. Carvajal!? What are you feeling? I can see that you’ve slept for a few minutes down at the triage… hmm?” Juliana places her hand on the girl’s forehead to measure her temperature, which was totally normal. 

“Sí, I passed out. I have a… hmm… a headache?” Val would do anything to make Juliana touch her again.

“Are you asking me, sleepy beauty?” Juls laughs while she takes the stethoscope from her neck and puts it in her ears, while the other extremity is placed on Val’s chest. “Please, breathe deeply for me!” Val inhales deeply to fill her lungs with the black-haired woman’s perfume.

The cold touch of the instrument on Valentina’s chest makes the blue eyes girl shiver, but Juls' hand is so close to her skin that it's such a warm reward. Her heart speeds up frenetically, and it wasn’t because she was feeling any illness. Juliana counts the woman’s heartbeats and everything is normal, so the doctor asks her to move her body to a sitting position. Valentina obeys readily.

“Okay, open your mouth for me and please make Aaaah…” Juls holds her neck to be able to see the depths of Val’s throat, and again, nothing wrong. The doctor caress her cheeks sliding her thumbs on each side gently, provoking a smile on those perfect pink lips. ‘This girl is gorgeous!’ Juliana states to herself in her mind.

“Have you already detected what is wrong with me doc?” Valentina is definitely flirting, and Juls much enjoys it.

“Not yet, but I have some assumptions. Let me see this… okay, open your eyes as wide as possible and follow my finger, not the flashlight”. Juliana has seen innumerous eyes as she did this checking in so many other people while working as a resident doctor, but none of them - and absolutely no eyes - were quite as beautiful as Valentina’s.

“Can I tell you something very cliché? I know you probably have heard this so many times, but it still worth saying it…”

“Yes, you can tell me whatever it is doc. I can handle it!” Valentina teased.

“Your eyes… they’re… awful!” Juls said seriously, trying to control her laugh at the girl’s reaction.

“Yeah? They’re that bad hmm..” Val followed her play, they were just entering in a teasing war.

“Sí… es como [it’s] too blue. It’s horrible! I know you must hear that a lot… sorry for not being original, but just saying...” Juls now had a side smile on her face, proud to surprise the woman.

Valentina was so enchanted that she forgot to speak. She could stare at that woman for the entire day without getting bored. Juls moved through the place grabbing something that Val didn’t perceive what, she was too occupied taking a look at the doctor’s body. Juliana noticed the blue eyes hungrily gazing at her, which made her smile even more widely.     

“Here, take this pill. It will make you feel better”. Juls knew that Valentina wasn’t anyhow sick, she was healthy as a professional athlete. However, watching the woman’s reaction would be funny. Val didn’t say anything, what would she say? Juls placed her hands on each of her coat’s pockets staring at Valentina.

“Que? Have you lost your voice now?” The doctor mocked.

“Es que…”

“It’s ok. It’s not a medicine, it’s a candy. You were such a good girl allowing me to exam you without crying. So, in reward for your great behavior, you deserve a sweet!” Juls laughed so hard that her cheeks heated up as if it was on fire. Valentina looked embarrassed but she managed to smile at the brunette.

“Now, I must say that it’s not nice to pretend you’re sick. There are many people that are truly sick and don’t have the privilege of medical care.” Juls spoke with a serious tone, but not trying to give Valentina a sermon as parents do. It was more like a friend’s advice.

“Perdon!” Valentina said ashamedly.

“Todo bien, no te pongas esta carita [don’t do that face]”. Juls rubbed Val’s cheek gently. “I think I can forgive you if you tell me why you’re truly here…”  The brunette knew it, but she wanted to hear the girl saying it.

Valentina smiled at her as a child winning a candy…oh, she just did. But the candy she wanted was beyond bigger than the one on her hands, it was in fact standing in front of her.

“I would like to know if you could give me your number… and if... you would go on a date with me?” She let the words come out her mouth fast enough so she wouldn’t lose the courage of saying it aloud.

Juls didn’t answer her. The doctor grabbed her prescription book and started to write on it. Not a single word was pronounced, and Valentina was so nervous that she even tried to lift her head to sneak a peek on what Juls was doing. The brunette pressed her stamp on the paper, signed the bottom of the page, and handed it to her.

“You’re discharged, ugly eyes! Enjoy your candy and take some rest.” Juls winked and left the room to check the other patients and Val couldn’t understand a thing until she looked at the paper.

--- Prescription ----

Symptoms - increasing rates of blood circulation, speeded breathing provoking fast pulsation and dilatation in the (awful - too blue) eyes.

Treatment – meet me at the town park at 12pm. I’ll be waiting for you at the bench by the lake. I’ll do my best to help you to heal.

--- ---

When Val finished telling me all this I felt a mixture of emotions. She was smiling so intensely at me that I couldn’t control myself. I leaned my head slowly to give her the freedom to reject my kiss if she didn’t want it, but instead, she came into my encounter and placed her forehead on mine. I rubbed my cold nose on hers and we both smiled at the touch, it didn’t take too long until our lips moved together.

We started softly. Feeling each second of the moment, listening carefully to every sound of our mouths connecting, tasting slowly the other’s flavor. Her tongue was sliding on my lips; I opened my mouth to suck it carefully. We both moaned at the sensation, and after that, things got a bit hotter. Her fingers locked on my neck and my hands were pulling her hair, our tongues gliding intensely against one another, and our moans becoming louder. We completely forgot we were in a public place and we just 'woke up' when her phone rang.

We separated our bodies and she answered the call. I stood up and stepped ahead just enough to give her some privacy to talk on the phone. I almost lost control. After hearing all this, it just reassured me that what I feel for her is more than real, and considering the way she looks at me and touches me, I can tell that eso es amor

She turns her phone off and walks towards me. We stare at each other in an unutterable bliss, we intertwine our fingers and she kisses my hand.

“It was my dad on the phone. He wants to know if you would like to come for Christmas’ eve at his place”.

“humn.. I don’t know if it’s a good idea Val. I was so rude with your family. I mean…”

“Juls, they love you. I know you don’t remember them, but they absolutely care for you as much as I do. However, if you don’t feel comfortable to go, it’s ok. They’ll understand. We don’t want to pressure you, and you don’t have to do anything that isn’t cozy for you!”

“Cierto, gracias!” I don’t exactly answer her about the invitation because I’m still thinking about it, and she understands that and respects my time. I feel a tightness in my heart because I am really curious to know about my family. Right now, it seems that her family was all I had… so I can’t hold this question for any longer. 

“Val, could you please tell me about my mom?” I am almost sure that she doesn’t want to talk about that, by her reaction. But again, she takes my hand and leads me to the car. 

......... .......... ......... ........... ............. .......... ............ .............. ............. ........... ............. 

I knew that question could be made at any time, but I just hoped it wasn’t too soon. It’s inevitable not to worry on how she’ll react when she finds out that… well, I can’t private her of anything, it’s her history. I hold the steering wheel firmly, we don’t speak to each other until I pull over. It was a five minutes’ drive from the park, but it seemed like an eternity due to the tension we're both feeling.   

I parked the car right in front her mother’s place. I haven’t been here for so long... I feel tears forming in my eyes but I hold it. Juls unlocks her seatbelt and turns her body towards me. I look at her, and she’s desperately awaiting for some explanation.

“Juls we don’t have to do this today… I mean, I don’t know if I can do it to be honest”. My hands are cold and I can feel my body shaking. It’s unfair and selfish of me to be like this, but the past days have been so hard and I truly don’t’ know for how long I can handle this tornado of emotions. 

“Valentina, I need to know about my mother”. She almost chokes up while a tear rolls down her cheek. My heart can’t take it. I swallow hard trying to keep my shit together.

“Panchito told me she passed away three years ago, if is that what you fearing to tell me… you just don’t need to feel pity. I am willing to face any pain, I’ll be strong”.

“You weren’t the last time! You just opted to leave…” I say harshly, but without intending so. I regret my words instantly, but they already came out my mouth and there’s nothing I can do to ‘unsay’ it. 

I look down, I am not able to meet her eyes. A wave of rage takes control of my body. I’ve kept it on my chest for all over those past years, and now it’s mixtured with the remorse of being mad at her when she doesn’t even know why I am yelling.

“Perdon!” I whisper.

“No apologies. If I ain’t allowed to say sorry, you aren’t either!” She offers a shy smile.

“How can you be so adorable Juls? Sometimes I just accept that I don’t deserve you…”

“Que? Stop it! If you’re saying that because I left you… please don’t! I don’t know why I was so stupid to actually leave you… I mean, I’ve been trying to recall the past because I need to find a reasonable explanation to myself for doing such imbecility. Look at you woman! You’re absolutely gorgeous, and not only that. You’re so clever, gentle, human… I’ve been hanging out with you for a few hours and I am totally falling for you. Val, you’re a dream! I mean, many people are searching for someone like you, and I just left you. how stupid could I be….”

“You stop it! Enough Juls”. I yell at her again. I don’t even know why I am so angry right now. 

“Val… mirame!  Por favor… I know it is not easy for you, and I am feeling terrible to see you suffering like that, believe me. But in order to know who I am, I need to know who I was”.

“Okay”

“Okay!”  

I wipe the tears from my face and we step out of the car and then she joins me on the sidewalk. We knot our fingers and I lead her into the building. The elevator stops on the third floor and I take her to her mother’s apartment. We stop at the door, in silence. I look at her and she doesn’t seem to remember about the place. I take the key from my purse and Juls stares at me.

“You used to live here with your mother. You gave the keys to Guille, after I refused seeing you before you…. left. My brother passed it to me not so long ago. I just came here once, but I couldn’t stay any longer than five minutes. All your belongings still here, exactly as you left them… well, not all. I took one of your jackets… you know…just to have a piece of you with me”.

“Val… Yo…” She tries to say something but I interrupt her.

“Please Juls, don’t!  Let’s go inside to see if you can recall something ok?!”

“Sí” She answered with a low tone of voice. I almost couldn’t hear it, but her nod reassured me that she was ready to keep going.  

I unlock the door and before opening it, I take her hand on mine. She holds it firmly, as if she is afraid of seeing what's inside. I can’t deny that I’m scared too, I don’t know what to expect from now on. 

We enter the apartment and the smell of dirt is quite intense. I reach to the windows to open it, to let the sunlight and some fresh air enter the place. The entire furniture is covered with blankets, and the other objects were all wrapped in cardboard boxes. Juls is hesitant, she stares at me as if she was waiting for my permission to touch the things. I encourage her to explore the place and she finally begins to look around.

My stomach is twisting and my hands are sweaty. This apartment ‘stores’ many memories of us and I’m really not feeling well of being here. Juliana walks around the living room, quiet, focused. I don’t dare to say a word, I just watch her. She pushes the blankets from the sofa, and then she sits down. Her hands are placed on her face; she rubs her eyes and sighs.

“Val. I don’t remember a thing. Not a single damn thing”. Her voice is dominated by frustrations and confusion. I swallow my feelings trying to remain myself on my feet. My knees are weak and the weight of my own body seems too much to be held. Suddenly, I hear some crying. She cries desperately and I just can’t take it. I run towards her and I kneel in front of her body. I separate her legs to place myself in between them and I hug her. She places her head on my shoulders while I caress her back trying to give her some comfort. We cry together letting part of the pain, the sadness, and the despair out.

After a few minutes, I pull my body from hers to join our foreheads. Juls settles her breath to a normal pace and I dry some of the tears that still rolling down her face. Her hands are around my waist, holding tightly. Without any control of my acts, I kiss her lips. It was a soft kiss. A kiss that meant to replace the words that I wasn’t able to say at that moment. It meant that she wasn’t alone, and especially that I still love her. And she answered me at the same intensity. Between the unspoken, we felt the reciprocation of our feelings for each other. 

......... .......... ......... ........... ............. .......... ............ .............. ............. ........... .............

I stand up after a while, pulling Val from the floor into my arms. We embrace each other for a couple more minutes. I lock my eyes on hers and a smile forms on my lips.

“You really have awful eyes, don’t you?!”  I tease her and then I taste another soft kiss. I feel so good in her arms, it’s just amazing how time seems to stop when my lips find hers.

"Hey. Why don’t you go take a look into your room, maybe it could help you to remember something”.             

“Yes, that’s a good idea. Will you come with me?”

“I show which door to enter, but I think I will wait for you in here. If that’s ok…”

“All right, I won’t push you. If you want to leave I will understand Val”.

“I won’t leave you. I just don’t want to go inside there. Not yet, I need some more time to adjust”. 

I agree with her and respect her pain. She’s being a warrior, and I wasn’t lying when I said that I am completely falling for her (again). She shows me the door and I enter the bedroom. The first impression isn’t so bad; I feel comfortable, as if I am truly at ‘home’. There are many boxes spread on the floor, most of them labeled. ‘Med books’, ‘med gadgets’, ‘med articles and works’. It seems that my life was about my career…  Then, I look to the other side to find a cardboard box labeled as ‘Us’. I open it to find a few objects; sitting on the floor with my back pressed against the bed's foot, I start digging into the box.

I find a peach-shaped cushion, a t-shirt with the writings on red ‘more than friends’, a pair of horrible sunglasses that make me laugh, and a picture of myself standing with Val and a woman. I stare at the picture for a while, I can’t tell for sure who that woman is, but I have a good guess though…

… … …     

“JULIANAAAA…. Andale hija. We’re going to be late for your graduation ceremony! Santo Dios!!!”

“Ya má, I am almost ready” Juls runs to the living room where her mother was impatiently waiting for her. She had the pair of heels still on her hands, which had to be already on her feet a long time ago.

“Are you still barefoot? Ai Juli!”

“Má, don’t worry. Everything is under control. You can go ahead and meet Val downstairs, she’s already outside. I’ll catch up in a couple minutes” Juliana was standing next to the sofa where she placed her hand to find balance while wearing the shoes.  

“I don’t know how that girl can handle you, she’s a saint! I don’t how I can handle you… APURATE, YA!” Lupita left the apartment murmuring some other words making Juliana laugh.   

“It’s because you both love me so much Lupee...” Juls yelled to her mother already heading down stairs. 

Juliana started to run like a mad woman through the house to collect everything: purse, wallet, extra battery for Val’s camera, grad's gown and hat, cellphone… ‘Damn it, where is my phone?’ She cursed to herself until she found out that the phone was already on her hand and she didn’t even notice it.

“You look incredibly sexy running around on those heels, but we really need to go baby!” Valentina was standing at the door for a couple minutes watching her gorgeous girlfriend. She was wearing a red dress that made Juliana’s chin drop in fascination. Her shoulders were uncovered, as much as her long perfect tuned legs.  

“Wow!” Juls couldn’t think properly after staring at the most beautiful woman she’d ever seen in life.

“Amor, we really have to go, now!” Valentina reached Juliana’s body and placed her index finger under her chin forcing it up to close her mouth, and then she gave a quick soft kiss on her lips. Juls pulled her closer and held her waist firmly to kiss her deeply.  After allowing Juliana to kiss her collarbone, her neck and her shoulder, Valentina decided to push herself away before losing control and getting even later for the ceremony.

“Hermosa! You’re absolutely stunning, do you know that?” Juls whispered against her ear, pulling their bodies back together.

“Mi vida, if you keep saying those nice things I won’t be able to leave this apartment”. Valentina moaned in response.

“Then we stay. I don’t even care about that stupid ceremony; I rather be here, cherishing you, kissing you, loving you…” Juliana started to slide her hand on Val’s thigh, making her way up until she stopped at her ass. Valentina almost lost her mind, and before it happened she grabbed Juls’ hands and took’em away.

“Mas amor, if you don’t graduate properly I can’t give your graduation gift later…” Valentina teased and walked away heading to the door quickly. Juls took a long breathe and smiled. She once again collected her things, but this time she left the apartment to join her girlfriend and her mother.  

… … …

"Lupe! that’s my mother. Well, she was my mother…” After the vision, I kept myself staring at the picture for a little longer. I had imagined how my mother would look like, after I've read about her in the grad book, but I didn’t make her justice. She was beautiful, and she looked so happy on that picture…

I stood up to open the closet and verify what was inside of it. There were some well-folded t-shirts and some other clothing. I passed my fingers through the closet’s door, and then I curiously opened one of the drawers to find a necklace inside of it. Once I touched the golden object, my sight grew dim and my head started to spin.       

… … …

“Por favor, don’t hurt them Macario! You want me, not them!” Lupita had put herself in front of Juliana to protect her.

“No! Ma, get back here!” Juliana pleaded trying to push her mother away from the gun’s direction.

“Shut up stupid! That’s between Lupe and I, go to your fucking room or run away like that chicken just did!” Macario yelled at Juls while taking Lupita forcefully by her arms. As Lupe tried to get away from his hands, he madly stabbed her on the face with his gun, making it bleed. In an unthoughtful - but instinctive - act, Juls jumped on him to push the drunk man away from her mother.

“Ma, are you ok?” She embraced her mother in her arms, both on the floor.

“Juliana, leave the house. Let me deal with him!” Lupita ordered, more like a supplication.

“I’ll protect you ma. I’m not leaving, I’m here with you!” Juliana answered crying.

“Oh yes, you’re protecting her? So stand up and face me, your piece of shit!” his voice was trembling due to the high level of alcohol in his body, but Juliana was so mad that she didn’t considered his lack of sanity and she stood to stab him on his face.

“I hate you! You’re the piece of shit, and you’re never going to touch my mother again. You won't ever hurt her anymore; only over my dead body” Juls was like a lion defending its family.

“As you wish!” Macario lifted his gun and pointed it at the brunette.

Sounds of dry shots.

… … …

‘NO!’ I desperately try to push some air into my lungs; placing my hands on my chest, I seek to diminish the pressure I’m feeling in my heart. My eyes still closed but I know I just had another vision. I hear rushed steps towards me. Valentina probably heard me screaming.

“Juls, que pasa? Are you ok?” She hugs me and I can’t speak. There isn't enough air in my body to allow me to do so. We sit on the bed and after long minutes of silence, I find the courage to talk to her.

“Val, can we leave? Yo… I need fresh air!” I’m still confused about everything I just ‘saw’. The back of my head aches substantially. Valentina takes me to the living room and I swallow the sadness to contain the tears that were forming in my eyes, I don’t want to break in front of her. It wouldn’t be fair after all I am putting her through.

“Do you want to talk about it?” She whispers.

“No”. I reply sharpely. “Perdon! I didn’t mean to be rude”.

“It’s fine Juls. We can leave now…”

“Thank you! Do you think I could borrow some clothes from that closet before we go? I mean, I just have a four t-shirts set...”

“Are you asking me if you can borrow from your own closet? You’re unbelievable!” Valentina laughs and for the first time since the occurred, I relax. I go back to the room to take some of the clothing but I don’t dare to look at the boxes or at the drawer again. I quickly grab some jeans pants, shirts, jackets, and a pair of sneakers. Val helps me to carry it all and we leave the apartment.

 

Christmas’ Eve  

Juliana and I didn’t talk about what happened earlier this morning at her mother’s place, we’re just leaving it for later. When ‘later’ exactly is, I just don’t know. Right now, I am glad that she accepted to come to my dad’s house for Christmas’ eve. She seems to be more comfortable around my family this time, which is what I expected since they’re like her family too. Chivis - protective and lovely as she is – has been trying to make Juliana eat for the entire time since we stepped inside the house, a couple hours ago.

“Hey Juls, would you accompany me to the garden?” I propose and she, in a jiff, agrees. 

We sit by the pool area, the breeze is at the same time cold but refreshing. She seems to be distant, I can’t blame her after all she’d been through.

“You know that you don’t need to stay if you’re not enjoying to be here, right?”

“Yes Val, gracias”. She tries to smile but I just know her too well to be sure that something is bothering her.       

“It is ok if you don’t want to tell me yet, but when you’re ready I am here to listen”. I caress her cheek and place a soft kiss on it.

“You’re too good! You know what… I am the one who isn’t enough for you and not the contrary, as you said earlier in the car”. She whispers in a sad tone.

“Juls, por favor. Don’t…” I don’t even have a chance to finish my phrase.

“No, Val. It’s not fair! You don’t deserve that”.

“What do you mean Juliana?”  

“You don’t deserve half of me. It isn’t right to keep you suffering that much for me. Yo…”

“You what Juliana? Don’t fucking start with that again!” I shout madly, I can feel the anger rising on my insides.

 “We shouldn’t be together. I can’t be selfish at the point to make you tolerate my lack of memory and pretend that everything is fine. I won’t put you through the pain of having to wait until the day I miraculously regain my memories… it might never happens”.

“And so what, you’re planning on leaving me again? How on earth it isn’t selfish?” I stand up and I try hard not to cry.

“Val, it’s not what love supposed to be. Eso es una basura [It’s garbage]”

“No, it’s not. But you’re making it to be Juliana!” She stood up in front of me.

“I should…”

“What, leave again? You’re not going anywhere before you listen to what I have to say. The last time I let you go, this time you’re fucking listening to me!”   

She gave me her back and started to rub her head and then her neck, I couldn’t control my fury, so I just kept going.

“Who the fuck do you think you’re to leave me like you did, come back after all that time and decide for me whether I want to be with you or not?”

“I don’t know who I am Valentina, that’s exactly the point!” She answers yelling too, just to balance our elevated tone of voice.

“I’ll tell you who you’re. You’re an egotistical dumb-ass! All that I wanted was to help you overcome the pain you were feeling Juliana, but you weren’t courageous enough to let me take care of you. You always thought that you were able to heal everyone at any time, but you couldn’t heal yourself. I’m tired of not being heard, of not having my will respected. I wanted to be with you, no matter how long it would take for you get over your mother’s death, I would be there for you. But what did you do? You just fucking decided for both of us, you decided for me without asking me if that was what I wanted. You left me. Didn’t my pain matter? Wasn’t my love sufficient for you? Isn’t it enough now?”

I cry, I cry hard. I rush inside the house and my family were all watching the fight. I pass through them and I don’t stop besides all the concerned words they spoke to me. I get to my room and shut the door roughly. I can’t control the tears falling down, my heart aches so badly that I wish it could just stop beating. I would rather die than seeing her leaving me once more. Suddenly, the door opens.

“Valentina!”

“Fuck off Juls!”

“Come here… hey, I heard you. I am not going to leave you. Not this time Val… I heard you!”

She hugs me tightly even though I tried to push her away. I finally settle in her arms, it’s warm and it’s real. She’s here in front of me swearing to stay, so I just believe in her words and I hug her back. We kept ourselves in each other’s arms for long minutes until Lucia knocked at the door to make sure everything is fine. Juls talks to her and then my stepmother leave us alone. Juliana asks me if she could close the door and I just nodded in permission.  

We sit on my bed and we stare at the other’s eyes. Both of us have our noses, eyes, and cheeks red from the crying. She wipes my tears away with one hand and caress my arm with the other hand. The silence fills the room. It’s comfortable, or at least convenient, after all the shouting.

“Are you feeling better?” She whispers.

“I’m feeling lighter”. We both laugh.      

“Good!” Juls passes her fingers through my hair and I close my eyes at the great sensation from her touch. I notice her hand shaking, as if she still unsure about touching me. I pull her into another hug, but this time we’re on a sitting position, so my body almost goes on top of hers. I push her hair away to inhale the smell of her neck then I feel her skin shivering. Her hands are steady on my back and I just feel she pulling me closer to her. I sit completely on top of her, spreading my legs to each side of her waist. We stay in this position for minutes; I haven’t felt safe like that for so long.  

......... .......... ......... ........... ............. .......... ............ .............. ............. ........... .............   

“Val”

“Hum” She pulls herself back and places her forehead on mine. Her blues eyes still have red shadows, and it makes me feel so freacking guilty. But at the same time, I feel like she needed to expel all the unspoken pain from her chest. It might help us to keep going on this unknown path.     

“I promise you that I won’t leave”. I whisper the words looking straight into her eyes, my mouth very close to her lips. Tears roll down her face all over, and I really didn’t mean to make her cry again. She notices my despair, and she ensures me that she’s alright.

“Allow me to cry. I’ve been holding it for so long... I’m just happy that you will stay”. She rubs her nose on mine and I barely can handle the heat growing on my body.

“Is it too soon to say that I love you?” I can’t control my brain and the words just come out.

“Is that how you’re really feeling?” She smiles after the question.

“Yes!” I don’t hesitate to answer.

“Then I guess it’s ok! Actually, it’s quite late, don’t you think? It’s been a few years since you whispered it on my ears for the last time”. She teases.

“It wasn’t the last time. I came back to tell you that again!” 

I take her hair away from her ears. I lean her body against the mattress carefully and settle my body on top of hers. I kiss her neck and then her eyes. Gently, I caress her lips and she takes my jacket. My hands explores underneath her shirt, and her skin is perfectly warm. I look at her and she licks her lips, her blue eyes are fiercely wide watching every movement I make.

Val takes one of my hands and intertwine her fingers with mine. I kiss the back of her hand making my way up to her arm, shoulder, and then I suck her pulse. She lets a soft moan escape her throat, and I am too excited to stop now. I lick slowly her jawline, and then I kiss the skin in the back of her ear.

“Valentina, I’m in love with you for the second time in this life. I’ve always been and I always will!” I say word by word to emphasize how I truly feel about her. The response is immediate. She takes my head between both her hands and pull me into a fervent kiss. The taste of her tongue is something heavenly; I can’t have enough of her.

Quickly, she takes my shirt off and I do the same with hers. I try to use some time to admire her semi naked body underneath mine, but she pulls me back into another kiss hungrily. Her hands find my back, her nails scratch my skin softly, but sufficiently maddening. She unclasps my bra and a wave of uncertainty invades me.

“Are you ok?” She kindly asks.

“Val, what if I… what if I don’t know how to do that anymore?!” Bashfully, I say what’s in my mind.

“Juls, I don’t think you could ever forget how to make love. I mean, if you want to stop we can stop…”

“No, I don’t us to stop. I just need you to be patient…”

“Te amo Juliana, just love me!” her words are like adding gasoline to my body already on flames.

I denude the rest of my body and I repeat it on hers. Our skin touching without any impediment is absolutely delicious. I touch her with care and respect; it’s like the first time for me. Valentina is extremely delicate at the beginning, but as the things were heating up faster and faster, she guided me to a more intense pace. I just let myself feel without reasoning my actions.

I rubbed my thigh more firmly against her center; her moans were becoming louder, and each time I pressed it more intensively. My hand automatically found her abdomen and she opened her legs even wider so I could touch her. I pushed my body to the side, placing my legs on top of one of her thighs and my hand on her clit. We perfectly moved together, pulling our bodies even closer. After kisses and moans, she started to tremble underneath my body, and I came hard just for watching her coming on my fingers.

Breathing sharply into her arms, I settled my head on her chest. I could hear each heartbeat of hers, and it's one of the best sounds I’ve ever heard, just tied with her laugh. I couldn’t help the smile taking shape on my lips. Her hands were around my waist and our legs tangled so tightly that I swear that I could live in this bed with her forever.

“I am glad I stayed”.

“I’m too, mi amor!”

 

January 31s t

I’ve never imagined that Juls and I could be so connected as before. Actually, we seem to be even more united now. She still doesn’t remember many things, but she’s trying hard. Dr. Pancho and his friend Dr. Beltran, are doing everything scientifically possible to help her to regain her memories. Juls is also doing psychological treatment with my father’s old friend, Camillo Guerra. Not only her, I have been participating in some sessions too; he said that it’s important to both of us as a couple to share our insecurities and fears. I can tell it is really helping. At least, in the past month, I could sleep better and I even was able to face the entire tempest without drinking my ass off. 

The nights of sex are helping too, can’t deny that. We’ve been too long apart, it’s just hard for me not to want to make love with her every single day. But we’ve decided to take things slowly, as if we were just dating for the first time again. Juls still working at Perita’s even though Mateo had finally cancelled her obituary, and she’s got back her documents and bank account. Everything she had previously her death is back into place, but she is too virtous to don't work. She cannot be in idleness, as she says. Juliana just moved last week to her mother’s apartment. Camillo and Beltran told her that it could force her mind to exercise her memories, so Juls accepted that it was for the best. We haven’t talked just yet about that day I took her there. She seems to be hiding something from me, but I respect her time. At least, she decided to stay this time and face her pain. I’m proud of her, very proud.

I also got back to work, so we're just seeing each other at night. She switched her shifts at the bar to work only at lunchtime, that way she has mornings to exercise her body and her brain, and the nights to spend with me. That’s exactly what we’re doing tonight, movie date at her place.

We’re laid on the sofa with our bodies intertwined watching ‘About Time’, one of my favorite movies of all. Well, I am watching it, she's already sleeping with her head on my chest while I play with her hair. I just love to watch her sleeping so peacefully, like an angel. Suddenly, there’s a scene when a car crashes and the noise from the TV is quite intense. She jumps away, scared and confused.

“The missile! I’m dead, where… Val!”

“I am here Juls. Calm down, you’re alive baby. Calm down!” I try to hold her as close to me as humanly possible, until she settles.    

“I was… I just dreamed about the missile”. She whispers.

“Okay, tell me about it baby”.

“I thought it was a shooting star… I was praying before it hit the camp. I don’t know…” She starts crying and I decide not to push things any further.

“It’s ok baby, good thing you were praying. God brought you home; He guided you back to me”.

We hug each other and we decide to try to sleep, right there in the living room. Hopefully the warmth of our love will give us the comfort to rest through the night. 

......... .......... ......... ........... ............. .......... ............ .............. ............. ........... ............. 

I woke up with a pain in my head, I had dreams about Africa all night long. It’s hard to know what is real and what is just part of my imagination. Val has been so patient... sometimes I wonder how good I was in my previous life to deserve that woman on this one. It’s Saturday, we both don’t have to work today. I let her sleeping for a bit more, she must be tired after waking up each pair of hours through the whole night with me screaming at my nightmares.  

I cover her body with the blanket and she moves herself to a comfort position. I head to the kitchen to prepare breakfast for us. She wakes up an hour later with the smell of the coffee invading the entire apartment. She approaches and kisses me tenderly, I smile against her wet lips.

“Buenos dias hermosa!”

“Buenos dias mi amor! What have you prepared for us?”

“Pancakes, and kisses…” We make out for some time and then we stop to eat before the food gets too cold.

We eat in silence. My mind is too far away, in another continent to be more accurate. I look towards the living room and I see someone running. I jump at the sight. I blink once, then twice… but I see the figure again.  

“Juls, what’s that?"

I look back to Valentina who’s watching me with a spooky face. She probably thinks I’m crazy… maybe I am. I don’t have time to answer, when I turn my head around to see Macario pointing his gun towards us.

“Val, run! Macario’s here, run!” I shout and I stand up to place my body in front of her.

“Juls, mi amor… There’s no one besides me and you in the apartment. Calm down…”

“You’re not going to hurt her, you’ll have to kill me first!” I yell at him and he laughs ironically. He lifts his arm and aims his gun in front of my forehead, my body shakes completely. There are voices of a woman in the background, but I can’t hear it properly.

“I’ll kill you if you don’t move!” he says.

“Then kill me, I won’t let you hurt the love of my life”. Then I hear the sound of two dry shots, my head spins and it all goes black.

 

February 5th

It’s been four days since Juls had that hallucination. We’ve brought her to the hospital that morning and doctor Beltran decided to keep her here for a while, at least until he can figure out what is happening with her brain. She is under medication, since she was fighting ‘with Macario’ all the time. I haven’t left her side for a day. By now, probably I’ve already lost my job, but I rather lose a stupid career than losing her again.    

The doctor just said that she might wakes up at any time soon, they’ve cut the medication to see how she’ll react. Not so long, she opens her eyes and desperately calls my name. 

“I’m here mi amor, calm down. You’re okay, and I’m here with you!” I caress her cheeks trying to comfort her, but it didn’t work so well.

“Val, what’s happening? I’m scared…” She cries and I keep myself strong in front of her.

“Amor, it’s ok. Dr. Beltran and Dr. Pancho are helping us. You’ll be okay, you’re ok”

“I’m going crazy Val. I am mental!” She holds my hands forcefully and I reciprocate the touch.

“You’re not mental corazon, you just need to have some patience. Okay?! Do you trust me?”

“I trust you”. She closes her eyes and tears fall down. Guille is in the room with me, watching everything in silence. I look at him and he smiles at me to give me strength.

Dr. Beltran enters the room after a while to check on Juls once more. She's better now, calm and relaxed. Not a single vision during the past three hours. Dr. Pancho is with him, and there are a few other resident students accompanying them.

“Why am I not able to remember good interactions with my mother? I just recall painful moments, the same thing over and over again”.     

“Jualiana, to be honest your brain has recovered completely. The last exams just showed me that there isn't a single part of it that is still damaged. It’s completely healed, even where the collision was stronger. I am not a psychologist, I’m a neurologist but I’m not a stupid scientist who doesn’t consider all possibilities. My guess for those repeated visions of yours is that you’re trying to recreate a memory that impacted you considerably”.

“What do you mean doctor?” she asks him. He looks at me and then stares at Pancho before answering her.

“It’s not my place to tell you anything about your life previously the accident. I’m here to help you to physically heal your brain, and it already happened. So, what I am saying is that those visions can be related with your psychological state. I recommend you to intensify the treatment with Dr. Guerra, I’ll personally talk with him”.  

“You’re saying that I am going insane?”

“No, absolutely not”. He laughs. “I’m just saying that emotions can be the motive that you still didn’t regain all your memories yet. Now, you might need to overcome your own resentments in order to heal emotionally as well”.

They all left the room, she looks at me with scared eyes and I don’t know what to do or say. Guille also leaves to give us some privacy. She sits up and rubs her face anxiously. I sit on the bed, next to her legs, facing her.       

“Valentina, Macario killed my mother didn’t he?”

“Yes, he did!” I answer without hesitation, she needs to trust me and I just can deserve her trust if I am honest with her.   

“Why?”    

“He was drunk” That wasn’t a lie, but it wans’t the entire truth either.

“Why? Val, please!”

“He was your father Juls, and your mother divorced from him long time before he… well, he never accepted the divorce…”

She starts crying and I just tell her that I’m not saying anything about this subject again, at least until she recovers. She agrees.   

......... .......... ......... ........... ............. .......... ............ .............. ............. ........... ............. 

Camillo and I are talking for about two hours now. He’s been trying to map my emotions' patterns, so he might finds out a way to help me to ‘heal’ completely. We’ve talked about my days in Africa, my dreams about Val’s eyes, the nightmares with the missile strike, and my recent visions about Macario.  

"Juliana, I need you to understand, and more than understand, you have to accept that things won’t be easy. There is no way to overcome the pain without facing it. Embrace your feelings, all of them. Fear, love, hate, hope… Let yourself feel, free your own mind and heart”.

"Beautifully spoken, doctor!” I tell him with an ironic tone. Val shoots a sharp look at me and I breathe deeply.

“Perdon, I don’t mean to be rude. It’s just not easy to do as it is to say” I try to retreat myself and then she smiles at me.

“I acknowledge that, you’re right. Eso es sobre creer or no creer (it’s about believing or not believing), I can’t force you to think as I do. What I am trying to say is that, the rough times can seem to last forever, but it doesn’t. Think about the seasons of the year, for example. Each of them has the same amount of months (three each), but each period of our life defines how long it’s going to last. In the summer, the heat can be too much that we might get dehydrated and lose our strength to keep fighting. In the fall, everything can appear to be falling apart. Winter, the cold and the dark days may seem to last an eternity…”

“Just like this one…” I complete his sentence.

“Just like this one for you Juliana! You got the idea. But, nothing lasts forever. Life is made of cycles: hours, days, years, seasons… life and death. Sometimes we have the chance to restart, as you’re having right now. So, as a homework, I want you to think about how you want your next cycle to be”.

“Like, what I wish to happen in the spring?”

“Yes, that’s a good point of view. How do you wish your spring to be?” After that, Camillo closes his notebook and leave. Val takes him to the door and hugs him. She comes back to my side and kisses me softly and I completely melt. I look at her and I try to find the courage to ask her something that has been on my mind for quite long.

“Val, did I hurt you that day when I ‘saw Macario’ for the first time? Sorry to bring it up out of nowhere, but I’m just kepping this doubt inside my head for a while now...”

“No you didn’t. You actually said you would die to protect me Juls”.    

“I really would” I smile, but she seems worried.

“Don’t say that, please. I don’t want you to die. Not again Juliana".

“Val, oye.  Se me muero, que sea de amor por ti.