As promised, here's chapter 9. My deepest gratitude to my friend, Yan, for beta reading this chapter. Also, the year is gonna end in a few days. Damn, time sure is fast. o.o
Stage 9 – Reconstruction and Working Through
"I think I should read it."
Ruby blinked his eyes, looking at her quizzically. He felt his heart anxiously thumping fast and loudly, almost bringing it off his chest. He heard it correctly, right? "W-What...?"
"Your dad said I should read it, and I should have weeks ago." Sapphire said, gripping the letter. Remorse was present in her tone. She swallowed hard. Whatever it contained, she was ready for it. There was no way she could turn back now.
Ruby nodded at her answer, gently removing his grip on the letter, handing it to her. He watched her stare at the letter for several seconds before reluctantly opening it. He sighed, placing his hand on her forearm.
The warmth from his hand made Sapphire's arms stop from trembling. She jerked her head to her right. Her reluctant, anxious eyes met his concerned, anxious ones. She bit her lip.
There were no words needed for her to know what he was trying to convey. Despite what the letter could contain, he would never leave her side and she appreciated it, wholeheartedly. However, she couldn't help but to be anxious. The letter may be from her aunt but it could contain anything. Sapphire and her aunt did talk about some important stuff like finding a new apartment for her to stay and their old house's bills before she passed away. She feared this letter could be either one of it or both. Her aunt was a classy woman, after all. Though her aunt appreciated the current technology, she just thought it was relevant to not forget the old stuff like written letters or bills for instance.
Sapphire let out a sigh in hopes to calm her fast heartbeat. Her aunt may be that weird yet classy, but she still admired and respected her as the person her aunt was. She shouldn't be overthinking. She didn't want to waste Norman's and Ruby's efforts for delivering this letter. "I'll be fine, Ruby."
"I'm still here. I won't leave you." Ruby reassured, removing his hand on her forearm.
Sapphire slowly opened the letter, her gaze never left Ruby's, however. She scooted closer to him, closing the small gap between them. "Ruby," She called, swallowing hard. "I-I don't know why I'm nervous about this, but..." Sapphire slightly opened her mouth, breathing slowly, gathering her strength to tell him what she had in mind. "I... C-Can you... I mean, Ruby... C-Could you..."
Ruby understood what she meant. A small smile plastered across his lips. He placed his left arm around her waist, pulling her close to him. He slowly pressed his soft lips against her right temple, hoping to drive her anxiety away. "You want us to read it together...?"
Sapphire bit her lip, nodding slowly. "If it's alright with you."
"It's alright, but... I should be asking you that."
"I'm just... I'm just scared... I don't know why I'm scared. This is from my aunt, and... I shouldn't be scared."
"I'm scared too, don't worry..." Ruby confessed, taking a deep breath. "But we can face it together."
Sapphire averted her gaze at him, fixing it on the letter. She could see some old handwriting in there, which was somewhat similar to her mother's. The paper used to write the letter seemed old too. It seemed like it had been used for more than a year. She swallowed hard. Could it be...? She took a deep breath, unfolding the letter. Raw tears slowly started forming in her eyes.
It was her mother's handwriting. But... how?
How did her aunt find this letter?
Did she had this letter all this time?
Why would her aunt give it to her nineteen years since her mother passed away?
Did her aunt think she was too young to understand her mother's handwriting?
Did her aunt think she wasn't ready to read this?
"Sapphire... is this...?" Ruby asked, scanning the old paper, reading it slowly. He could not believe Sapphire's mother left her a message nineteen years since she passed away. Sapphire did tell him her mother's last words were only her constant guidance since her death. But he didn't know her mother managed to write this letter.
Sapphire told him her mother passed away on June twenty four. And according to the date where Sapphire's mother had written in this letter, she wrote it on June twenty three, a day before she passed away. He could feel his own tears welling up in his eyes. Despite her mother's inability to do any simple tasks due to her disease, she was able to put all her efforts in writing this beautiful, heartwarming letter just for Sapphire.
Ruby didn't personally know Sapphire's mother, but based on Sapphire's stories, she was the kindest person she knew. This letter was one proof of her mother's unconditional love for her only child, and it was beautiful. This letter alone made him more determined to be always be there for Sapphire in spite of any circumstances. He would always reassure that Sapphire would always be safe and happy by his side. He swore he would take care of her, especially in her condition.
"M-Mom..." Sapphire mumbled, rereading the letter more than once, understanding and feeling every word her mother had written in it.
"Sapphire, if you're reading this, then you must be in your teens, or even in your twenties. I told your aunt to not give this letter to you until you're old enough. Sapphire, I know you have grown to be a strong and successful person. I know you enjoy everything you do, because that's what your father and I wanted. That's what we all wanted for you. We want you to grow and to become a successful and happy girl.
I'm sorry I couldn't be physically there to watch you grow and become the woman you are now. But I can tell you're going to be smart, strong and kind when you grow up. You may not be at your most successful time, but I am already... so proud of you. Sapphire, you're the greatest gift and blessing we have ever received. I am so happy that we were blessed to have a beautiful child like you. I know you will have many friends who are just as kind and caring as you. I know you will have a successful career once you finished college or maybe you're already successful once you read this letter.
I may not see you, your father and your aunt tomorrow, but just remember that I am not gone. I am not gone completely. I will always be there for you, guiding you, protecting you, and living with you. You know I've always wanted to help people because it's the right thing to do. It was my passion to help others, and I know you had found yours. The world may not be what you think it is by now, but just remember that a simple act of kindness can make someone feel better. It could help them. It could have a positive, massive impact on their lives. It will go a long way. I just know it.
I love you so much, my dear daughter. I know you're somewhere in this world, doing your best and doing what you think is right. I am so proud and happy for you. Thank you for being my daughter and the greatest blessing we ever had.
A tear broke, falling on Sapphire's cheek as the rest followed in an unbroken stream. She didn't know her mother had written this letter just for her. Her dad said her mother was not capable to do any tasks despite its simplicity, but she never expected her mother would write this heartwarming letter a day before she passed away. Her mother's last words were always significant to her. She had never forgotten every single detail of it. It was her source of strength every time she felt the world crumble on her shoulders, telling her to give up and step away from that challenge. Now that she read her mother's full message before her death, it was more than enough to help her conquer her grief. She took a deep breath, sobbing.
Her mother was right.
They were not necessarily gone completely.
They would always be there for her in spite of their presences.
They would live on through her and influence the choices that she would make.
She sniffled closing the letter, placing it on her chest, hugging it. She knew what she had to do, but she didn't know if she could do it. She sighed, calming herself.
She could do it.
They were always there for her, guiding her... protecting her from any harm.
And her mother's words through that letter wanted her to continue and embrace life.
She would gladly do it. She would do it for them. For her friends. For Ruby. She would do it.
It was time for her to embrace life again.
After all, life may sometimes contain some crap and negativity, but it was still a blessing. It was only given once, and she shouldn't waste it. Her family wanted her to do what she yearned and dreamed for. Her family wanted her to be successful and she was close to achieve it, right? She didn't know how she would do it, but she knew she could. Her family would always be there for her... Her friends were here for her...
Sapphire felt Ruby's arms around her waist as he pulled her close to him, allowing her to cry on his chest. She sobbed, gripping the fabric of his shirt, and let her tears flow freely on his shirt.
She cried. Tears of joy continuously stream down her eyes from her mother's wonderful letter... from her mother's words. She felt the intense grief in her heart was slowly yet surely fading just by reading her mother's letter.
"I'm here. I'll never leave you." Ruby continued, pressing and brushing his lips on her hair, and poured every bit of his feelings for her.
"I..." Sapphire let out another sob, followed by a hiccup. Ruby grabbed a water bottle on the table, giving it to her to which she declined. "I'm alright... I... just can't believe my mom wrote that for me... H-Her disease prevented her from doing any task. I remember she was always lying or sitting in her bed all day. My aunt would always come to her room or to the hospital just to feed her, and almost doing everything for her..."
"Your mom never stopped thinking about you..." Ruby said. A smile slowly plastered across his lips. "She knew it would be hard for you to... y-you know..."
Sapphire nodded, her lips slowly curved into a smile with her fangs poking from her top lip. "I'm pretty sure dad and auntie wanted me to continue too... Right?"
"They do." Ruby's smile widened, his right hand cupped her cheek, stroking it affectionately. He used his thumb to remove another tear flowing down from her left eye. "I'm certain."
"Thank you... I... I mean... R-Ruby... I..." Sapphire bit her lip, feeling Ruby's constant, affectionate touch, making her heart thump wildly at it. She swallowed hard, gathering all her strength to not choke on her words. "I-I'm sorry..."
Her response made Ruby's lips curve into a frown. His mind wondered about it. Why was she apologizing? She did absolutely nothing wrong.
"For four weeks, you never stopped checking up on me... You were always there and I feel like I'm bothering you." She continued, her depressed gaze was fixed on his soaked shirt.
She just hated depending on him. It was true depressed people needed some comfort from their friends and loved ones besides the medication or therapy they were taking, but every fiber of her being just couldn't help but to feel guilty from being dependent on him every time she had an emotional breakdown, and for taking most of his time. She couldn't help the guilt from spreading, honestly. It just broke her heart every time he tried to help her, only for him to not know what else he could do besides hugging her and being there for her. She wished she would be one hundred percent okay whenever he did those, but its effect were only temporary.
"Sapphire," Ruby spoke, tracing his thumb around her cheek, making her look at him. "You were never a bother to me... Remember that... I understand how you feel... That's what I also felt when I had that argument with my dad... You never ceased to give up on me, and I couldn't help but to feel guilty every time you go to my room just to check on me... You should have used your time to do something else, but you chose to stay there and help me... a-and... in the end... your willingness saved me... You helped me... Sapphire. You helped this lost and broken soul and gave him another chance to do something better in life." He swallowed hard. His heart started beating wildly. "S-Sapphire, I..." He bit his lip.
How should he put this? He couldn't just say that he indebted her.
It was absolutely more than that.
Sapphire helped him be the person he was now.
Sapphire taught him to never give up in his problems and face it with courage and determination.
If it weren't for Sapphire, he would have kept on running away from his problems, making reckless decisions and fearing what the future had in store for him. If it weren't for Sapphire, he would still be a lost and a broken soul. Those where the days he felt that his future was dark and empty. It scarred him and fragmented his heart.
And frankly, Sapphire was the missing piece of the fragmented puzzle in his heart. She completed him.
She taught him to follow his heart and his mind when it comes to making decisions.
She accepted his flaws and himself as a person. She was always there for him despite how rough the road may be.
And he was eternally grateful to have her.
He never regretted to move from the city to the province because of his father's research project with professor Birch.
He never regretted to accept the professor's favor just to watch over Sapphire, making sure she was safe from harm despite how perfectly capable she was when it comes in protecting and taking care of herself.
He never regretted every one of his decisions that involved Sapphire.
She became a huge, positive impact in his life, and he felt blessed at it.
He wouldn't have it any other way.
"I love you... I'm not doing this because I owe you for being there for me in my tough times. I'm doing this, because... I love you... and... I know I don't need a reason for me to do this, honestly."
Another tear fell from her right eye, making Ruby use his thumb to wipe it off. She always considered him as her best friend from the moment they had settled their differences eighty days after her father's favor. She admitted there was a time she liked him more than a friend, but she wasn't always certain.
She may be a girl who liked cute and girly things, but she still had her wild and her boyish sides. She always thought he could never fall for a girl like her, which was the reason why she decided to focus on her studies and at her job. It was true they may be together most of the times, but they always act like friends and nothing else. In the end, she was right about him not having a crush on her.
But knowing that he loved her was something she had never expected.
Ruby was always good at hiding his feelings. Maybe it could be the reason why she never noticed how it developed throughout the years.
Or it could also be the fact that she never paid attention to it, thinking he deserved someone better than her. Someone who was in his standards and shared his interests. Someone who was more feminine and less brash than her.
"I love you, Sapphire." Ruby felt his chest tightened, making him breathless. He was never expressive when it comes to his feelings. But whenever he was with Sapphire, he always felt comfortable to show it wholeheartedly. Maybe they had known each other for twelve years. Maybe she was the only person he felt comfortable to show his true feelings. After all, she had never badly judged any of his feelings. She was always open-minded to accept his beliefs, his opinions and his ideas once they resolved their differences. It was one of the many qualities he loved about her. "I've always had..." He said, smiling.
"I..." Sapphire was speechless. She could only stare at Ruby with tears welling up in her eyes.
She felt her heart skipped a beat, happiness slowly building up in her chest. As another tear fell from her eye, the rest followed, all streaming down with such happiness that no money could ever buy and with no words that could ever perfectly describe.
She always knew and believed that she was never good enough for him as a friend or more than that. But knowing he would go through great lengths for her, how much she meant to him... that he would always be there for her despite any circumstances were more than enough for her, and she wouldn't have it any other way. She felt blessed to have met him.
"Hey, it's alright."
She felt his warm hand touch on her cheek, using his thumb to wipe off the streaming tears of happiness from it, followed by a soft chuckle escaping from his lips.
"I'm not expecting an immediate response from it, don't worry." Ruby pressed his soft lips at the tip of her nose, increasing the heat from her cheeks, widening his sincere smile. God. She looked so cute. "I should have told you this at the right the time, actually..."
"N-No," Sapphire said, lightly coughing from the tears. She looked into his eyes, telling him how much she appreciated his feelings for her "...it's fine... You may be good at hiding your feelings, but... At least you have the guts to show it to me completely, and... I'm honored..." She gripped his shirt, balling her fists, and returned the sincere smile.
"It's the least I could do..." Ruby responded, gently stroking her cheeks. His mind thought of something. Although he had no idea on what she would feel about it, but he could tell from her eyes that she needed it. Taking a deep breath, he placed his forehead on hers, touching it. His hand continued to hold her cheeks affectionately. "May I?"
Sapphire found herself slowly nodding her head at his question, an act she still found a questionable thing to do.
It was not that she didn't like their first kiss, really.
It was their first kiss they had in her lives, and the fact that her first was Ruby made it special.
She didn't know why it felt great, though.
She didn't know why it made her feel safe from harm.
But one day, she would know why she felt that way.
And maybe, just maybe... she would come to her senses to know and realize what she truly felt for him, explaining her rampaging emotions every time he kissed her.
Sapphire held her breath. She felt the small gap between them slowly closing, followed by Ruby's soft lips pressed against hers. She felt his left arm pulled her closer as his right palm continued to stroke her cheek affectionately. Her eyes slowly closed along with his, feeling his burning emotions in every fiber of her being through their kiss. She found her arms snaking its way around his back, pulling him closer, further deepening their kiss. She felt warmth started spreading throughout their chests and their cheeks, contrasting the cold, stormy breeze outside, as their heartbeats became synchronized, allowing it to beat the same rhythm.
After what seemed like an eternity, both slowly pulled away with their mouths hung open, gasping for air.
Ruby smiled, staring at her cute form, observing her reaction. In spite of the cool breeze outside, making the weather somewhat cold, heat continued to rise on her cheeks. It made him let out a soft chuckle. She looked so cute. He mentally shook his head at the thought.
Saying she looked cute in this scenario was an understatement.
Sapphire always looked cute before and after they settled their differences, and learned from each other years ago.
"Thank you..." Sapphire managed to say, her sincere eyes locked on Ruby's passionate ones. "I may not be one hundred percent alright yet, but... thank you, Ruby... I appreciate every one of your efforts..."
Ruby planted a soft kiss on her forehead, making her arms around his back return. He always knew on how to make her feel twice as better, temporarily or permanently. "You're welcome. At least... your mother's letter helped. Slowly yet surely... you're feeling better... I'm glad you're feeling better..."
"I don't know how long it will take me to conquer this grief though." Sapphire confessed, returning her hands on his chest. Uncertainty flooded her eyes. "I'm scared that it may take another week or months for me to... I mean, reading mom's letter helped a lot, but... I still had this shallow feeling left in my heart... And..." Confusion now struck her eyes, making her fix her gaze on his chest.
She was one hundred percent certain her mother's letter helped her. It made her realize that they are not gone completely. They would never be gone as long as she remembered them and let them live on through her, helping her, influencing her at the choices she would make. She bit her lip, gripping Ruby's shirt. But...
What was this shallow feeling left in her heart?
She knew what she had to do after reading her mother's letter, but the shallow feeling in her heart made her question her grief.
Grief was such a heavy feeling for her. It made her depressed and hopeless for weeks, feeling every kind of negative emotions she didn't even know she could possibly feel.
She knew how much her friends did their best to help her conquer it. She appreciated their efforts, in fact. But she feared this shallow feeling may return her intense grief any time soon.
She swallowed hard.
Her mother's letter made her feel better, there was no doubt about it. It almost removed every ounce of grief flooding in her heart, in fact. This shallow feeling, however, was making her question her emotions. "Ruby, I don't know what this shallow feeling is. I mean... I'm feeling better... slowly, but this shallow feeling is making me feel like there is something missing to fully help me conquer this grief... I don't know what it is..."
Ruby's lips curved into a small frown. He could perfectly see it in her eyes her mother's letter helped her a lot. The dullness and grief in her eyes were slowly fading. However, instead of seeing the usual glee and feistiness slowly formed in her eyes, confusion utterly struck her eyes. He bit his lip. He wished he knew why she felt that way. "Sapphire, don't worry. Conquering one's grief takes time. I will stay by your side... no matter what..." Ruby reassured, placing his left hand on hers, gently squeezing it. Until the end of time... I'll be with you... "And... I'll help you figure out why you felt that way..."
"What you're doing is too much, Ruby... I mean, I appreciate it, but..."
"I want to do it. We're in this together... just like when were young..."
"Which one?" Sapphire asked, arching an eyebrow. Her lips curved into a slight pout with her left fang popped out.
Ruby let out a contented chuckle, smiling at her cute form. "Both... our first meeting was in my home city's national park. We were five years old back then."
"It was only for a day, and I didn't know it was you until you told me five days after my birthday."
"Me too, actually. But I'm glad we didn't recognize each other until I told you about it... who knew the woman I love was both my childhood friend and my best friend... and... not some random person..."
Sapphire could only smile at his words. He was very blunt at it, which she found cute. She always knew there was more than to him that meets the eye, and he just kept on proving it. She sighed, jerking her head to her left. The strong rain slowly died down, leaving the suburbs' environment dripping wet from as a result. Some people started leaving their apartments, walking their ways to their respective destinations.
She returned her gaze at Ruby. She could tell he also knew the storm's disappearance was a representation—a symbol of hope, in fact. It represented that her road in conquering this grief would end soon. All she had to do was to push herself further, believing she could get through it. After all, her mother's letter already made her feel better. She just needed to take her time, and things would eventually be better.
Ruby found himself in the same position five days ago.
He was staring at the dark sky, feeling the cool wind on his skin. He watched a man charging through the rain with a jacket placed on his head. For the past three weeks, he decided to stay at Sapphire's apartment, accompanying her, making sure she was safe from any harm. But most of all, he chose to accompany her just so she had a shoulder to cry on and someone to bear the pain with her. He sighed, turning his attention back to Sapphire. The city had been having some thunderstorms lately. He didn't know why it came frequently. His mind couldn't help but to think it was a bad sign, making him vigorously shake his head at the thought.
It was not a bad sign.
It shouldn't be a bad sign.
Sapphire was feeling better these past, five days. She was able to eat her meals properly—a massive difference compared to her lack of appetite or skipping one or two meals a day in the last four weeks. If he wouldn't be able to beg her to eat, then she would just sit on the couch, staring at the window.
The intense dullness and depression in her eyes were slowly fading. Though not completely, but he was certain it would surely fade slowly. He had faith in her. He always knew she could conquer this grief.
Ruby sat beside Sapphire on the couch, placing his right arm on its back pillows. He observed her typing some important data in her laptop and closed it, placing it on the table. A smile appeared on his lips once he felt her head placed on his chest. She seemed tired after working on those data in her laptop all day.
"You alright?" Ruby asked. She didn't respond at his question, however, for she was too focused on her mother's letter placed beside her laptop. He could only sigh at her serious form as his smile disappeared.
She seemed to be in deep thought, but what was she thinking? Did she need his help? She didn't seem depressed, right? He bit his lip. He should stop overthinking such negative stuff. After all, ever since Sapphire read her mother's letter, she hardly cried in grief. She hardly felt hopeless. She hardly had any nightmares. There was never a single night, for five straight days, that she would wake up at two or three in the morning, gasping for air, going to the kitchen to drink some tea in order to calm herself.
She was slowly returning to the Sapphire he once knew and loved.
And it was all because of her mother's letter.
He quite was thankful at it. If he didn't had the guts to tell her about his curiosity at its content, then she wouldn't be able to read it until she was in the mood. He had to thank his father for delivering it to him, though. Sapphire wouldn't be feeling better if it weren't for it.
Who knew that letter gave her enough strength to slowly conquer her grief?
"I think I know..." Sapphire managed to say, making Ruby look at her with confusion struck in his eyes. What did she mean by that?
"No," She shook her head. Her gaze still fixed on the letter. "I know..."
"Sapphire, what do you mean?" Ruby asked, placing his right arm on her shoulder. "Are you alright?" He didn't understand her sudden realization, but one thing is certain. He wouldn't hesitate to help her.
"I'm not sure, Ruby..." Sapphire turned her confused yet sympathetic gaze at Ruby, making him furrow his eyebrows, looking at her sympathetically. She bit her lip, exhaling deeply in hopes to calm her fast heartbeat. "N-Not until I forgive the man..."
"Wait," Ruby felt a lump in his throat as he choked the words out. How long was she thinking about it? How come he didn't even notice it? "S-Sapphire... I..."
"This shallow feeling I had for five days..." Sapphire placed her left palm on her chest, gripping the fabric of her shirt tightly. She swallowed hard, feeling her fast heartbeat through her chest. "I don't know what it was until now... I don't know if forgiving the man will remove this shallow feeling in my heart, but I have to try... I have to forgive him and find out..."
Ruby could only stare at her. Normally, people usually don't forgive someone for killing their loved ones, intentionally or accidentally, for they believed the killer didn't deserve their forgiveness. Killing someone, accidentally or not, was nothing but an unforgivable crime. Apologizing or making up with the person's family after killing their loved ones was never enough to make them feel better. It could never replace the life they took. Ruby swallowed hard, taking a deep breath. He felt proud yet speechless at her constant consideration and empathy. Sapphire truly was the kindest person he had ever met. He was blessed to have met her.
"I need to forgive the man... because… it's what they want... If my mom were here, then she would surely do the same as well... and also dad and auntie... I know they'll forgive the man if they were still alive... and... it's time I do the act for them..." Sapphire continued, determination slowly building up in her tone. She met his worried gaze, making her place her right palm on his, giving it a soft squeeze. "And... I need to do this because... It's the right thing to do."
A small smile plastered across Ruby's lips, making him squeeze their linked hands gently. He nodded at her words, his worried gaze slowly disappearing. "And I'm always here to help."
Chapter 10 will be out next year in January. Until then... have a great new year.