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"This short story is dedicated to Tara Benwell who showed me that I can write something totally alien to me. To Mickey for always come up with many interesting stories. To my dearest friends, Grape and Eric who first motivated me to write. To all my EC friends, thank you for the friendship."
"Knock, knock". Just looking at that simple words, suddenly my dreadful day seems to be of the past.
"Where have you been?" I asked.
"I haven't seen you in a few days."
"Are you okay?" I know I was bombarding her with too many questions, but I just couldn't help it. It had been a week since I saw and talked to her in this Chat Room. I missed her. Finally, I admitted to myself that without realising it, I love her. Without having met her, or even knowing her face, I had fallen into the trap of internet love.
Me, a guy who scoffed at such things as real virtual friendship and real virtual love. I was a guy who was married to his work, trying to prove to everyone, especially my parents that I was as great as my other siblings. That my youth mistakes and follies were behind me. I had turned over a new leaf.
Due to my stressful work, I often spent my social time in this Chat Room. I was so tired by the end of the day, that I just wanted to spend my time with endless and mindless chat with strangers. By doing this, I knew that these strangers would not put any expectation towards me, nor did I expect anything from them.
I was an old member of this Chat Room. I had never revealed anything about myself, nor did I have any true friends. I watched with fascination when I saw some members became attached to each other, like brothers and sisters, some even became more than that. I don't recall any chat members that could say out loud that they knew me. I preferred it that way. For me, this Chat Room was just an outlet to release some of the stress and sometimes my anger to some strangers. It was just like talking to a psychiatrist without having to pay for anything.
I can't remember exactly when she first entered this Chat Room. But I remembered that she seemed so bright, so friendly, that in a very short time, nearly everyone was her friends. I felt so left out. So I started to chat with her. I just wanted to know what made her seem so bright and shiny. So, I started my first conversation with her with "Knock, knock" on her private box.
After a long time, I saw her reply "Knock, knock".
"Why didn't you immediately respond?" I asked.
"Because you seemed snobbish. LOL" I was surprised with her reply. First, I didn't think she would dare to say it out loud to me. Second, I never thought that she would respond to me because we had never chatted before.
From that day onward we started to chat. From simple things such as my frustration with my parents high expectations of me to my hobbies and dislikes. I liked her views on everything. She seemed so positive on everything. Sometimes, jokingly, I called her Ms-So-Sunny-Optimistic. She just laughed.
"Why don't you have a girlfriend?" Out of the blue, she asked me that one day. I was stumped.
"Emm .. I just haven't met any girl that I want to spend my day with" I said. Her simple question made me take a better look at myself. Whether I was the one who put myself too high on the pedestal, or whether it was my parents and my siblings, of which ended up that I have to ignore other things including love.
"Don't any of your neighbours have any young girls that you would like to know. LOL?" She asked me a few months back.
"Well, there is my neighbour's daughter. I like the way she handles herself. I like the way she laughs with her parents and her siblings. But we never talk to each other. We just exchange smiles". I said.
"Why not". She asked me.
I did not answer her. She knew when not to push for an answer, and would talk about something else. That was what I liked about her. She gave me space when I needed it.
We had been chat friends for more than nine months. She never even asked once for my photo, nor did I ask her for one though lately I had asked her in a subtle way for her picture. I noticed that she would not enter the Chat Room for a few days. When I did not see her for a few days, I would start getting worried. I started to think something was wrong. I promised myself that when I saw her again, I wanted to know the truth. But then every time I saw her again, all those things seemed so trivial. I was just glad to see her and totally forgot about my silly questions.
Lately, she seemed a bit quiet. Every time I asked her what was wrong, she just said, it was her work.Though her answers seemed to be obscure at time, I could relate to the pressure of workload. So I did not push her. I trusted her. I just told her that she could count on me and she could tell me all about her problems. By this time, I think I realised that I no longer thought of her as just my virtual friend, but much more than that.
I did not want to tell her my real feelings. I did not want her to feel awkward to chat with me. Furthermore, we did not even know each other's names and had never seen each other faces. But, I had a feeling that she felt the same things towards me. That was maybe the reason for the long silence at times. I thought she was dealing with her feelings differently.
Last Monday, when I reached home, I saw a lot of people gathered at my neighbour's house. I was told that her daughter had just died due to cancer. Being a neighbour, I went to their house and paid my respect though, like I said before, I did not know her nor her name. It seemed, she had been living with the cancer for a long time. At first every one thought she had combated her illness, and it was in remission. But, in the last three months, the cancer came back with a vengeance. And there was nothing a doctor could do. I did not know about all of this, since I always heard her laughter in the house. She was always teasing her siblings, especially her youngest brother. I felt sad because she was young, and it made me realised that time awaits no one.
That night, I was waiting for her to come to the Chat Room. I wanted to tell her about my feeling towards her. I did not care if she laughed in my face after I said it. I waited for hours, but she did not come. Okay. I thought maybe she was busy with her work. The next day, I waited and waited. Still she did not come. I was getting angry with myself for not asking for her telephone number. I was getting worried. She did not come to the Chat Room on the third day either. I asked every member whether they had seen her, but no one had. Now my worry was full blown and at the same I was getting angry at her for not leaving me any messages.
This evening, when I reached my home from work, Amin, the youngest brother of the girl that just died, was waiting for me at the gate. His face was solemn. I know he still misses his sister. In his hand, there was a letter.
"My sister wanted me to give you this letter" he said and left. I was surprised. I did not know that girl or even her name, and yet here I was holding a letter from her to me.
With much puzzlement, I opened her letter.
"Dear Hadie". I was surprised she knew my name.
"By the time you read this letter, I will be no longer in this world. My cancer finally defeated me. I wish I had more time to know you better and spend some real time with you. Not just in our virtual world. For the past few months since I knew you in our Chat Room, you made my life richer, more bearable. For the first time, I asked "Why me?". Why did I have to endure this disease when finally I found someone who was fun and understanding and I wish I could love forever.
Hadie, finally I am brave enough to say, I LOVE YOU. I wish I could say it in front of you, but I was too much a coward to say it before. I love you and I wish you would meet a woman that will love you back. Do not close your heart. Be the man that I know you can be.
Good bye dear.
Amira aka Cancergirl"
Her letter dropped from my hand. My tears were flowing down my cheek. How I wished things were different. How I wished we had been brave enough to say what was in our hearts, and had spent the last few months together or even a few minutes. How I wished I could hold her hands even for a few seconds and say everything would be be okay and that I love her. How I Wish.
P/S : Thank you Tim New for all the corrections
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