The passing of time had never been so significant to her until then.
Even the mere ticking of the clock was enough for her to become uneasy.
Maria walked down the corridor and took a left turn. She knew where she was heading to. She had been taking this route for more than a month.
Your friend, Tim Janssens…
She walked up to the door of the ward. Inside, she felt her heart beat as every second passed.
How many seconds has it been since he had been diagnosed?
He is left with six months to live.
How many seconds is six months equal to? How many days does he still have?
It will be the patient's choice whether or not he will want to stay in the hospital or with his family. After all, sadly, we can no longer do anything for him anymore…
Not wanting to waste another precious second, she leaned forward and pushed the door open.
The first thing she noticed was that the curtains were drawn. Sunlight streamed into the plain, lifeless room. Tim was standing. He was dressed in a jacket and trousers instead of the hospital gown. He was facing the window. His green eyes looked distant and he appeared to be in a daze. Taking in a deep breath, she walked up.
"Hey," she called out softly.
Tim turned around. "Hey."
"What are you doing?" Maria asked as she stood beside her childhood friend. He looked at her briefly before driving his gaze back to the view outside. There was not much to see aside from several high-rise buildings and a vast, endless bright blue sky.
"Nothing much," came his quiet, almost wistful reply.
Even though he concealed his emotions well, Maria knew that he was counting in his head. Counting how much more time he had left. He was taking in the mundane view of buildings and sky while he could.
Because he wouldn't even get to see them when his time was up.
She placed her bag on a chair next to his bed, and stood next to him. "For once, the view is actually quite nice, don't you think?"
Tim sighed, and a small smile crept on his face. "Looking at it all day is better than lying around doing nothing."
She actually laughed at that. "You think?"
He smirked. "And I suppose sometimes it's a good substitute for your company as well…"
She whipped around to face him. "What are you saying? You mean I'm just as boring as that?"
"You were more fun when you were younger. At least you didn't always worry about everything."
"But I have to worry! If I didn't then I would take pleasure in seeing my hands disintegrate."
"Well, that nearly happened before. You grazed your hands against a rock when you fell down."
"I didn't fall down! I was pushed!"
"Then you stood up and suddenly started attacking me."
"Because you pushed me!"
Tim chuckled and Maria glared at him. "What's so funny?"
"Good old times, weren't they?" He smirked.
Maria's expression softened as she grew quiet. She began to think back. How many seconds, months, years, sections and chunks of time has it been since that incident where he had pushed her while they were running up the slope in the meadow? It was just over 10 years ago, wasn't it? It felt as if it was just yesterday, when they were just young children, best of friends. How come so much time had so quietly and sneakily slipped past her? It seemed like a few minutes he was a young boy with dark blonde hair hanging over his green eyes, now he was a tall young man with broad shoulders and styled hair so his grass-coloured eyes were clearly seen, and so was that vertical scar above his eye.
Catching her drifting look, Tim leaned forward and did a bursting hand motion in front of her face. Maria nearly jumped in surprise. She saw him leaning towards her, one hand in his pocket and one in front of her face.
"Dreaming again?" He teased her.
"N-Nothing," Maria stammered back, realizing that heat was rising to her cheeks and she quickly stepped back.
"Seriously, you always suddenly drift off like that. It scares me a little," Tim said. "Sometimes you just sail off to another world that sometimes…" he let his voice trail off for a while. Silence hung. It was strange for him not to complete his sentence and leave it hanging in the air. After a while, Maria stepped forward and tugged his sleeve.
He was gazing at the floor, his teeth gritted, as if holding back his emotions. He remained quiet for a few moments, as if observing solemn silence in a funeral, until he managed to choke out in a soft, raspy voice.
"Sometimes I wonder if you'll notice when I'm gone."
She was speechless.
Both of them just stood there stoned, Maria's hand clipped onto Tim's sleeve. Suddenly, a sniffling sound could be heard, followed by soft whimpering.
Tim turned to look at her. Maria's head was bowed, refusing to meet his gaze, and her grip on his sleeve tightened. Her shoulders shook as tears began to stream steadily down her pale cheeks. For once in a long time,—exactly how long was it? 10 years?—he was seeing her cry. She hiccupped.
"I-I don't w-want you to go."
He looked at her. He lifted his hand and placed it on her shoulder. Just like what he had done to comfort her in the past, when she used to be bullied and teased by the other boys. Back then, at this point, she would begin to rant and complain about being pushed around in between hiccups. But this time, it was completely different.
Instead of bursting out the injustice of it all, she suddenly threw herself at him and sobbed into his chest.
He was taken by surprise as he stumbled backwards a little. Her arms were around his waist and she was crying nonstop.
"P-Please don't go… I don't want you to die. You're my best friend, how can I live without you?"
A strange feeling bubbled inside him. At one hand, he was torn and melancholic in his heart. On the other hand, he wondered if it was an indirect confession. After all, he had always liked her more than a friend. Or was he simply fantasizing it?
"C-Come on, don't be like this," he said, gulping. "You've got Ian and Arthur. Not to mention that brother of yours. You don't need me."
She slowly pulled herself away from him, and looked at him. Her eyes were red and her cheeks stained with tears. She quickly brushed away her tears with her wrist.
"You're not Ian or Arthur or Antonio. Nobody can replace you. I-I need you. I-I…" She gulped. "I love you."
At that moment, she immediately regretted her words. How could she be so selfish, burdening him with the thought of leaving yet another person behind when his time was up?
Just then, Tim extended his hand and gripped her wrist. "I-I love you too… But it's a little late to say that now, isn't it? After all, I only have a little more than five months left. We won't be able to have our one-year anniversary, celebrate each other's birthdays or Valentine's Day together…"
Maria sniffed and nodded. "I always used to think that you and I would have all the time in the world for everything. I thought we would graduate from university together, go for a group summer vacation together, see a friend get married and attend their wedding together… and have the time to tell you my feelings… But it's too late now, right?"
Tim sighed wistfully and sadly. "It's too late for me… But not too late for you."
"What do you mean?" Maria asked in surprise.
"You could do all those things you just mentioned, but just without me."
"B-But I can't!" She protested. "I-It'll be different…"
"I know that, but we don't have a choice. I know I don't have much time left, but you still do. Promise me now that when I'm gone, you'll move on and find yourself a guy and live on happily without me."
Maria shook her head wildly. "No, I-I can't! H-How can I? I…"
She was cut off as Tim closed the distance between them, not allowing her to continue as he sealed her lips with his own. The kiss felt gentle, but sincere. They lingered there for a few moments before he reluctantly pulled away.
"O-Okay," Maria stammered, turning pink.
"Thanks," Tim gave her a small but grateful smile. He squeezed her hand.
"No problem," she smiled back at him. She stole a glance at the wall clock. "Sorry, but I have to go now. I promise I'll come to see you soon."
She turned to leave, but he still gripped tightly onto her hand. She turned to face him, bearing an expression of question.
"Before you go," Tim said. "I need to ask you a favour. Can you… be my girlfriend until my time is up?"
Maria smiled. She stepped closer to him and kissed him on the lips. "I'll be yours until the day you die."
Written by Korrosive.
A/N: We actually took a long time to think up of a title. From the usual titles to hearts, we decided on rabbits and lavenders. It was the genius and creative phanzi who suggested 'Rabbits in a Lavender Field'. Thanks buddy!