Undiscovered

I’m not looking for signs of you
Or glimpses of what we were anymore
Our world like ruins undiscovered
Should remain so
Buried in the memories
Changed by times and feelings

Maybe what we had was greater
Than I remembered
Maybe our love washed out
Hidden by the storms of the seas
Maybe what we had was nothing
But warped memories

————————-
Written by Lauren Gancayco

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The “Art” of Heartbeat: Behind The Scenes

Hi, everyone! I’m not sure if anyone knows this but Heartbeat was one of the first pieces I’ve written publicly and one that I’m quite proud of albeit the constant nerves I had about it. I think it all stems from what Heartbeat meant to me. I know it can be a bit over the top with its cheese and seem unrealistic at times but I did explain or at least put in the disclaimer that this was a personal story based on some personal experience. Because of this disclaimer I had actually gotten some people who had asked me about the personal aspect of Heartbeat. Heartbeat of course, is completely personal, but more specifically, what about Heartbeat was truth or actual events? I think if you would have asked me this years back (had I created this work in the past that is), I would’ve been more hesitant about it but seeing as how much I’ve changed and grown from my experiences, I think it’s fair to let you in on a little aspect of this story and get to know me a bit more too.

Heartbeat came naturally to me and practically wrote the story for itself. All I had to do was type out the endless flow of words onto a computer or write it down on pages and make minor edits at most. This may have been one of the only if not the only story I ever wrote where I had a solid beginning, middle, and end with no setbacks. Of course, this wouldn’t have been possible without the experiences I have.

Leighton Jones is actually inspired by several people I’ve encountered in my life (both platonic and romantic relationships), especially one friend in particular.

My family and I moved a lot when I was younger. My mom has a habit of buying houses, remodeling them house then as soon as she’s done with the project, she sells it. I think it’s why I’ve become more of a nomad or a writer because I don’t think I’ve stayed in the same house for too long. I think the longest I stayed in a house was 3 or 4 years.

When I was younger I moved across America and started school late in the year. It was daunting as I imagine everyone who’s had experiences being the “new kid” knows. But the first friend I made after moving was a boy named Ralphie. He was little off and sunshine and rainbows happy all the time and a nice and good person overall which is a pretty rare combination. We were always sarcastic towards one another and calling each other by our surnames as opposed to our first names. We teased each other a lot but we ended up being good friends. And even if we were getting older, we liked playing on the playground and swings especially.

Unlike Leighton, Ralphie was open about having heart problems and getting transplants. What was surprising was that he never let it get to him. He always wanted to do things everyone else his age was doing and just be normal. Years down the line, he was set to have open heart surgery for the third time, this time during our spring break. Just a few days before his surgery, we hung out on the playground, having swinging contests when he wasn’t feeling too good by the end of it. But we still joked around like everything was normal despite what was going to happen to him. During the end of the day when we had to part ways, he said he was thankful we were friends and that he would see me again after spring break. He never did.

I used to be sad about it for a while actually. There would be times when I would hear a song on the radio and it was one he really liked and out of nowhere I would just start bawling. There are times when I would kind of wish I had done things differently or wished I had been nicer or asked him more about how he was doing and how I could help him. But I think it’s funny that even if he was the one that needed help so to speak, he was the one that helped me and a bunch of other people. He helped me grow more than I think anyone has helped me. He taught me a lot about how to be strong and kind and happy despite circumstances that arise. And I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to know him, even if it was for a little while.

I originally planned my ending to be one in which Leighton didn’t make it but I thought it would be too much not just for the readers but for my characters to go through as well (plus I don’t want anyone throwing bricks at me for killing off someone hehe). And I really like how the ending turned out.

 (The other inspirations for this story I’m not as open to talking about right now and maybe I’ll save their stories for another rainy day but I am thankful they were in my life as well, and even though they may not be in it anymore and we’ve gone our separate ways, I’m forever glad to have had the opportunity to get to know them and to have had them for the briefest moments in my life.)

But I’m thankful also to everyone who read this series and kept with it. Thank you for letting me share a bit of myself with you all. It’s been a complete honor. Until I grace you with another heart-wrenching poem or narrative, this is Lauren, signing out. I’ll be posting soon! 😉

Heartbeat

TITLE: Heartbeat
CHAPTER NUMBER/ONE SHOT: 7/7
AUTHOR: laurengancayco
GENRE(S): Romance, Drama, Angst
FIC SUMMARY: Charlotte Wolf and Leighton Jones have had a wonderful relationship but Charlotte can’t help but feel like Leighton is hiding something from her and she’s curious to find out.
RATING: T
AUTHORS NOTES/WARNINGS: It seems we’ve reached the ending of my first ever narrative. I have to admit, I was actually quite nervous to post this but you have all been so kind to me and it’s given me inspiration and confidence. Thank you, everyone, for all of your heartwarming and generous support! Thank you for joining Charlotte, Leighton, and me on this journey. It means so much. And now, without further ado, the final chapter of Heartbeat. Enjoy! Please don’t repost without credit!

Chapter Seven – Epilogue

Three Years Later…

“Can you see?” He asked, tightening the blindfold before his hands rested on my shoulders. I shook my head and I heard him chuckle from behind me. “Alright, good then. Off we go!” He began guiding me left and right to a surprise, something he and his friends prepared and deemed to be epic. All I knew was that I really hated being blindfolded with some itchy scarf and kept in the dark, especially after these past years. I wanted to rip it off of me but I knew it would ruin the surprise (and they wouldn’t let me anyways).

“Seriously, can I open my eyes now?” I whined impatiently. “You know how much I hate these kinds of things.”

He laughed. “I know. It won’t be much longer.” We took several more steps forward before we stopped. “Here we are! Ta da!” He sang off key before pulling the blindfold off of me. I saw a huge picnic blanket complete with a variety of food. Just seeing it made my mouth water. Natalie and Sarah beamed and gave me a hug.

Natalie suddenly brought out a bundle and placed it in my arms. “Someone wants to wish you a happy birthday, Char!” She exclaimed, her voice still as chipper as ever. I unwrapped the top half of the blanket bundle to see the cutest face with the rosiest cheeks squinting up at me.

“Hello there, cutie pie.” I cooed, nuzzling my nose against the infant’s face as he giggled.

After what seemed like forever in the making, my brother and Natalie finally tied the knot. It was a small ceremony, only with the closest friends and family members. And not long after that, they surprised us once again with their baby news. They had a baby boy that they lovingly named Max. He had wisps of dark blonde and brown hair, the chubbiest cheeks and a smile that could light up the room. Noah and Natalie were really hands-on parents, not that it was any surprise especially considering how caring Natalie always was. She enjoyed staying at home, taking care of her new bundle of joy.

“I made you these. It’s not much, but I hope you like them.” Natalie continued before scooping Max back into her arms. She handed me a wrapped present. I opened it to find a hand knit scarf with matching gloves.

“It’s beautiful, Nat. Thank you so much.” I let the scarf hang around my neck and tried fitting the gloves. Natalie beamed and gave me a one-armed hug while Max cooed in her arms.

Sarah smiled and gave Noah a round of applause. “Well, Noah, congratulations on getting Sleeping Beauty over here on time. She can seriously be one of the toughest people to wake up.” I glared at my best friend who only laughed at me. “I’m just kidding, sweetie. Happy birthday!” She gave me a hug and handed me a neatly wrapped present complete with a red bow on top. I smiled to myself. It was so typically Sarah to be impeccably neat. If it was possible, Sarah got even neater and more thoughtful over these past years. She started working for a humanitarian organization and in no time was heading their outreach program. She was always so busy now that it was hard finding a time where we could see each other. so I was more than happy she was here. I opened the presents to find a collection of poetry books from some of my favorite poets.

“They’re perfect! Thank you, Sarah.” I replied before giving her a hug.

Then my brother finally went in front of me and handed me his present. Even as years passed, Noah was still my loving, nosy, over protective older brother. He was there for me whenever things got rough and he worked hard to provide for Jennifer and Max. He ended up working as an elementary school teacher. I was surprised at first since he seemed like he would be too hyper or impatient with kids but they loved him and he loved them back. He was truly happy with how his life was going, and I was happy for him. I unwrapped his present and found a bunch of CDs from artists we used to listen to, some of the Beatles, some of Queen, all the way to some New Kids on the Block, Spice Girls, and Nsync.

“Oh, god! You remembered!” I blushed, laughing at the embarrassing moments we shared listening to all the songs.

Noah smirked. “Yeah and you couldn’t stop listening to them. I swear there was one week you had the biggest crush on — wait, was it Justin or Lance? God, I can’t remember which.”

I felt like crying from laughter. “Well obviously Justin. Come on, Noah! He’s Justin freaking Timberlake. How can you forget?” The two girls laughed while Noah just rolled his eyes at me. “Hey! You know I had good taste! That boy had a smile that could kill even if he had ramen for hair, okay?!” And I did what a mature person would do — I stuck my tongue out at him.

Natalie raised a brow, a playful grin on her lips. “Well then where does Leighton fit in your ranking?” My smile faltered and I clutched my CDs closer to me. Sarah whispered something to Natalie and she blushed, shaking her head. “God, sorry, Char. I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“You alright, sis?” Noah asked, placing a comforting hand on my shoulder.

I nodded and plastered a smile on my face. “Hey, you know me. I bounce back!” I grinned but my brother didn’t look too convinced so I sighed. “I’m fine, Noah. Really. Can I just have a minute to myself? You can just start eating. I’ll follow, okay?” Noah gave me a hug and left me alone. I walked off to a nearby maple tree and stood by it.

I looked up at the sky and shook my head, feeling a lump in my throat again. I missed my lovable idiot. I really did. I turned to go back towards my friends when hands suddenly covered my eyes.

“Miss me?”

My heart stopped in my chest and I whipped around. “Jones!” I squealed and threw my arms around the boy with the glowing face and perpetual mischievous smirk. “I thought you were already in London.”

He shook his head and his bright eyes twinkled at me, bluer than ever before. “And miss your birthday? Not a chance.” He grinned and kissed the top of my head. “Hm, what smells so good?” he asked, sniffing the air.

I rolled my eyes, a playful smile on my lips. “It’s always you and food, isn’t it?” I laughed. “Sarah decided to grab everyone some food from Granny’s–”

“Now I’m really happy I didn’t miss this!” He beamed and I raised my brow similar to what he always did. And just as I expected, he raised his brow at me too. “What? You know I want to see you too, love, but it’s Granny’s food! You can’t go wrong with her food, love, especially her pies. God, I’m craving some apple right now.”

I shook my head and laughed. “You’re such an idiot, you know that, Leighton Jones?”

Leighton smirked and tapped me on the nose. “Ah, but I’m your idiot, Charlotte Wolf.” He gave me a kiss on the lips and spun me around until I couldn’t see straight. Then he grabbed my hand and we both headed towards our friends.

Three years passed by and Leighton and I were still together. His surgery was a success, and he promised me that even if his body rejects his new heart one day, he will still live every day with no regrets and embrace whatever happens. He started working on his father’s business in London, especially after seeing how well Leighton had been improving himself after surgery. He worked really hard to get to where he was and soon enough, his father promoted him. Though he was busy with his work, he always made some time for his friends and for me. He still acted as dorky and crazy as he did three years ago but out of all my friends and I, Leighton had changed the most and somehow, everyone else around him, including me, changed too. Part of me thinks it was because we were inspired by him (but there’s no way I’m telling him that; it’ll inflate his already oversized ego). He was supposed to be in London now with his team, to promote the business but instead he was here with me. Our friends saw him and stood from their spots.

“Leighton!” they exclaimed. Noah pounced on him, giving him a big bear hug followed by Sarah. Natalie, Max, and I stood out of their way so we wouldn’t be trampled.

“But we thought you were supposed to be in London!” Noah remarked.

He laughed and rubbed his head. “I had a change of plans.” We paused, waiting for him to explain. “Turns out the old man’s bringing the business to an international level and he needs someone to head his program a little closer to home, let’s just say.”

I turned to gape at him. “So you’re staying then?” I asked. His eyes sparkled as he nodded and it was my turn to pounce on him while Noah, Natalie, and Sarah watched in amusement. Max giggled from his bundle as the both of us toppled to the floor in laughter. “This is the best birthday present ever!” I exclaimed.

Leighton bit his lip and raised his brow. “Not quite yet, love.” Then he drew out a heart-shaped locket. He opened it and our picture was inside. “Happy birthday, Char!”

I wrapped my arms around him again. “It’s beautiful, Leigh.”

He laughed a put the necklace around my neck. “Just to remind you that I love you.” he said and everyone said “aw” at us.

“Come here, you.” I smiled and pulled Leighton in for a kiss.

Noah groaned loudly. “Guys, really? We’re right here. God.” We just laughed and then Leighton placed his lips on mine for another kiss. “Oh dear Lord… This is going to take awhile… I’m going to take Max before you completely scar his poor eyes.” But I barely noticed my brother’s chatter. The only thing I noticed was Leighton and the beating of our hearts in sync and thumping for one another.

End

Heartbeat

TITLE: Heartbeat
CHAPTER NUMBER/ONE SHOT: 6/7
AUTHOR: laurengancayco
GENRE(S): Romance, Drama, Angst
FIC SUMMARY: Charlotte Wolf and Leighton Jones have had a wonderful relationship but Charlotte can’t help but feel like Leighton is hiding something from her and she’s curious to find out.
RATING: T
AUTHORS NOTES/WARNINGS: And now my dear readers, we have reached the pentultimate chapter in my Heartbeat series. I can’t believe we’re almost done! Thanks to everyone who has supported me so far and to all the new readers as well. Hope you enjoy! (Also I apologize in advance if there was any cheese).Please don’t repost without credit!

Chapter Six

My body shuddered as we waited outside the dressing room. Noah took off his jacket and put it over my shoulders before wrapping me in a hug. “Thank you.” I told him and he just nodded at me. I wriggled my nose as I stared at my surroundings. I hated hospitals. They always smelled bad and stale, like death, mothballs and medicine put together. And they were always so white. I didn’t get it. I shook the thought away as soon as Leighton walked out. He was only covered in a pale, dusty blue hospital gown. His operation was just about to take place but not before we got to wish him luck.

“Hey guys,” He said and we all approached him.

Natalie licked her lips and walked up to him, raking a hand through her hair. “Hey, we know you’ll be fine, Leighton.”She gave him a smile but even then we could tell how strained it was. Still Leighton gave her a small smile back. “We’ll be right here when you finish, deal?”

“Deal.” Leighton gave her a thumbs up.

Noah clapped him on the back. “After this, we better go out on taco Tuesdays to get our nachos on just like old times, alright?” My boyfriend chuckled and nodded.

“Take care of yourself. We’ll see you after, okay? You’ve got this!” Sarah said, giving him a short hug and a smile.

“I guess so.” Leighton replied before his eyes landed on me over at me. I looked over at Noah who nodded and motioned for the rest of them to leave. The three of them walked away but not before Natalie and Sarah gave me a small smile. I nodded my head and turned to my boyfriend. He looked vulnerable then in only his hospital gown. His confident smirk was replaced by an anxious half-hearted grin that honestly looked more like a grimace. The twinkle in his eyes were faded and their bright blue seemed more like a dull gray. His usual well-kept hair was messy and all over the place and his five o clock shadow had started turning into more of a beard and his hands were shaking. But even then, he still made my heart beat fast.

I grabbed one of his hands and held it in mine. “So this is it…” I remarked, trying to ignore the horrible feeling in my throat.

“This is it… yeah.” He said softly and we fell into silence before looking at me.

I looked up at him, squeezing his hand in mine. “My mom used to tell me that the coldest hands have the warmest hearts. Your hands are still cold and your heart… it must be so warm…” My voice cracked and I could feel hot tears in my eyes.

Leighton pulled me into a hug. “Hey, everything is going to be okay. Stop crying, alright?” I sniffed and nodded.

“God, I know. I know. I’m being such an idiot.” I sniffled, burying my head in his chest. “You’ll be fine. I know you’ll be.” You have to be. What scared me most is that I wasn’t sure if he would be and he knew it too.

He smiled softly and tucked a stray hair behind my ear. “I want you to know something before I go, okay, Charlotte?” He said and I nodded. He lifted my chin up to look him straight in the eyes and I could see them glimmer, a trace of that magnificent blue back. He took one of my hands and put it over his beating heart. “No matter what happens, no matter what heart I have, I want you to know that that heart will always beat for you, and even if for some reason it doesn’t beat anymore, it still belongs to you and will always belong to you.”

I could feel myself choke up and I embraced him more tightly, taking in his scent, his smile, his face. I wanted to be sure I would keep all of it ingrained in my mind just in case… “I love you, Leighton.”

He kissed me on the lips and I could still feel them tingle and wish for more after he let go. “See? You finally got used to saying my first name.” I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and he broke into a smile that lit up his entire face.

Another moment passed and his doctor came out from behind the doors. I could feel my heart fill with dread and I held onto him a little more tightly. “I have to go. Wish me luck?”

I kissed him once more and let my nose bump against his and he smiled, bringing his pinky finger up. “Char, pinky promise me that we’ll get ice cream after this. I still owe you one after all.”

I laughed and shook my head before linking my pinky with his. “Fine, it’s a promise.” We both giggled to ourselves. “I love you, you dummy.”

“But I’ll always be your dummy.” He chuckled and my throat constricted. “I love you, Char.” And with that I felt his hand slip away from mine. The hot tears fell from my eyes and my heart seemed to stop in my chest. I hoped and prayed that he would be fine but there was that nagging, itching feeling still inside me that somehow he might slip away.

Heartbeat

TITLE: Heartbeat
CHAPTER NUMBER/ONE SHOT: 5/7
AUTHOR: laurengancayco
GENRE(S): Romance, Drama, Angst
FIC SUMMARY: Charlotte Wolf and Leighton Jones have had a wonderful relationship but Charlotte can’t help but feel like Leighton is hiding something from her and she’s curious to find out.
RATING: T
AUTHORS NOTES/WARNINGS: Hello, everyone! Wow, can’t believe it’s over halfway done. And yet there are still some threads to tie. Hope you enjoy chapter five! Please don’t repost without credit!

Chapter Five

“So heart failure, hm?” I croaked. We both were on the swings again, the same ones we went on when Leighton had his coughing episode. We were swinging lightly, not even thinking about having another swinging competition. His hands grasped the side ropes while my hands were folded in my lap. He nodded and my throat started burning, “How long did you…” I trailed off, my tongue growing dry. I didn’t know how to finish my sentence.

Leighton raised a brow and looked at me with a half amused, half resigned look on his face. “How long did I…” I still was at a loss of words and continued gazing at him, hoping he’d understand what I meant. “How long have I been going through heart failure?” I nodded feebly. He looked away from me again, into a spot in the distance. “For as long as I can remember really… I think it was ever since I was four.”

I stopped swinging. “Four?!” I didn’t think I heard him right.

“Yeah.”

I was completely flustered. “But then what… wait why… how…?”

“This isn’t going to be my first transplant, Charlotte.” My stomach seemed to sink to the ground floor and I felt like I was going to be sick. “It’ll be my third…”

Leighton kicked at the ground beneath him and sighed, continuing. “When I was young, I was always really weak. I would get tired and sick easily. I couldn’t do many things kids my age could do because I’d end up being in pain somehow, sometimes something like getting completely exhausted to things like collapsing or sometimes being unable to breathe, having coughing fits–” he looked pointedly at me, “–among other things. My parents brought me to a doctor because they thought I just had some really bad asthma but it turned out, it was my heart. It wasn’t doing it’s job properly. It was overcompensating and overworking and just couldn’t keep up. So I ended up getting surgery. Everything was fine until I was about ten or eleven. I started having episodes again. My mother brought me to the hospital. Turns out that some transplants, as successful as they appear, aren’t all that successful. Sometimes the patient’s body accepts the transplant but even over a period of time, rejects it. So at lucky number thirteen, lucky me got another new heart. I hoped that would be the last time, but apparently it isn’t going to be.”

I could feel my whole body shaking at his last sentence. “Wait, what are you talking about?”

Leighton hung his head and kicked at the gravel below him. His voice was soft that I almost didn’t hear him. “Well… I might be having another transplant next month.”

My face paled and if I felt like I was going to be sick then, I was pretty sure I was ready to faint on the spot. “What do you mean ‘might be having?’ Leighton Jones, whether you like it or not, this is a life or death situation. It isn’t something small.”

Leighton shook his head and chuckled but his laugh was hollow. His eyes didn’t sparkle like they used to. “You don’t know what it’s like, Char — the pain, the recovery and the possible rejection — over and over again. I’m tired of it and I’m sick of feeling like I’m this ticking time bomb every day. I’ve cheated death enough times as is.”

“Don’t say that! God, Jones, you never know until you give it a shot… please give it a shot. For me? I don’t want… I couldn’t stand it if…” My tongue was drying up again and the lump in my throat was getting bigger. And suddenly Leighton’s arms wrapped around me. He used his thumb to wipe my cheeks. That’s when I noticed I was crying. I hugged him tightly and cried into his shoulder. His hand stroked the back of my head, his fingers combing through my hair. “Jones — Leighton, please at least tell me you’ll consider going through the operation. Please.”

There was nothing at first. Then Leighton chuckled once more. “I told you it wasn’t that hard to use my first name, now was it?” I laughed amidst my tears and whacked his arm. He laughed and kissed my lips and then the top of my head. “I love you.” And I held him closer to me, so close that I could feel his heart beat and break in his chest.

Heartbeat

TITLE: Heartbeat
CHAPTER NUMBER/ONE SHOT: 4/7
AUTHOR:laurengancayco
GENRE(S): Romance, Drama, Angst
FIC SUMMARY: Charlotte Wolf and Leighton Jones have had a wonderful relationship but Charlotte can’t help but feel like Leighton is hiding something from her and she’s curious to find out.
RATING: T
AUTHORS NOTES/WARNINGS: Without further ado, here’s chapter four! Please don’t repost without credit!

Chapter Four

Brring! Brring!

“Shouldn’t you answer that?” My friend asked, leaning against her pristine coffee table and trying to make eye contact with me. I didn’t reply and stared blankly at my phone. She looked as it started ringing and took a sip of her espresso. “You know, it’s been three times this song’s been playing this hour. Don’t you think you should answer it or at least check who’s been calling?” I still didn’t bother to respond. She sighed and pouted,tapping her manicured nails against the counter. “Seriously, please answer it before I throw the damn thing into my fireplace!”

“Well if my phone bothers you so much, you answer it.” I mumbled.

“Hey, there’s no way I’m going to be answering every phone call for you, Char!”

I sighed and finally looked up at her. “Did I ever tell you that you whine more than I do, Sarah?”

She smirked and took another sip from her mug. “And yet we’re still best friends.” I rolled my eyes but smiled nonetheless. No matter what we went through, Sarah and I were best friends, and though she had a tough exterior, she could always find a way to make me laugh even through the worst moments of my life. She was always strong, something I wished I could be more of. The song on my cell phone started playing again and she sighed loudly, setting her coffee mug down. “Look, can you at least check just once?” I didn’t answer her again and stared off into the distance at nothing in particular. “Well fine. If you really were serious before, do you want me to check for you?” I shrugged halfheartedly and she sighed, running a hand through her hair. “It might not even be Leighton, Char–”

“God — I really don’t need this right now, Sarah.” I hissed, glaring at her. Then I rested my head back on her coffee table and started flipping through one of her architectural magazines. “I don’t want to hear from him, from any of them. He lied to me. They all lied to me. For all I know, you could’ve been lying to me this whole time. You could’ve known everything. I wouldn’t be surprised at this point since everyone seems to know but me.”

Sarah placed her hand over mine. “That doesn’t matter, Char. What matters is that you know that they probably kept those things from you with good reason–”

I scoffed before stabbing at my perfect omelette with a fork. “Yeah, sure, to ‘protect’ me, but it’s such a load of shit.”

Sarah’s eyes softened and she sat in the chair next to me. “It wasn’t meant to be something bad, you know. They just didn’t want you to get hurt.”

“Oh and so not telling me until I find out that he is dead or dying or hurt won’t hurt me then? Is that it? Honestly, whose side are you on, Sarah?”

She rubbed my back and pulled the utensils from my hand and set them on the table. “Yours. Of course I’m on your side. I’m always going to be on your side. I’m just trying to find some logic in this so it’ll somehow make things easier for you.”

“It’s not helping.” I snorted.

“But talking to him will.” Sarah sighed. “I know you may not think so, but trust me on this, okay? And anyways, you’ve been staying in my place for three days and everyone is starting to worry. You need to start working things out with him.”

I looked over at her. “Can I still stay at your place? You have great food.”

She laughed and shook his head at me. “Sure but only if you start resolving everything.”

I pouted. “I hate you so much sometimes.”

“I love you too, and you’ll totally love me more after this. I swear.” She smirked and ruffled the top of my head. I hoped she was right.

————————

We walked together on the sidewalk in the rain but not quite next to one another at the same time. There was a distance between us that spanned deeper than the two feet that separated us. I adjusted the pale blue beanie I was wearing and then folded my arms. I tried looking at other things– the stores, the sidewalk, the trees, the cars, the splashing puddles and the rain that hit the pavement– anything other than him and the obvious tension between us. As of now, I found comfort in staring straight ahead, at the back of people’s heads or at their colorful umbrellas. Leighton had one of his hands in his pockets while the other was holding a large black umbrella over us. He tried talking to me or having eye contact but it wasn’t working. I didn’t want to talk and he didn’t know the right words to say.

He sighed and rubbed the back of his head. “So when are you going to talk to me?” he asked, raising his voice because of the sound of the rain.

“I’ll let you know.” I replied, and we kept walking in awkward silence.

Leighton bit his lip. “Char–” he began.

“So is it true?” I asked, looking at him under the black umbrella, searching for an answer that I hoped could somehow be written on his face or in his eyes. It was his turn to look away from me and focus on the muddy road ahead of us, and I could feel this awful burning in my chest. “Leighton Jones, is it true about your heart? Answer me.” I croaked, my voice cracking at the word “heart.”

He cringed as he heard me use his full name. “Yes.” He said after a pause.

“Why did you keep it from me?” I replied helplessly. “I don’t understand.”

He fumbled with his hands in his pockets and looked down at the wet sidewalk. “Can we talk about this later?” He asked, his voice low and shy, something that was so unlike him.

My cheeks grew red and hot and my hands balled into fists. I could feel the sting of tears against my eyes and I kept blinking to make them go away. “No! You were the one who wanted me to start talking to you again in the first place so fine. Let’s talk.”

“Maybe I like the silence better.” He huffed.

I rolled my eyes and scoffed. “Oh so now you want to do things the way I wanted to? Well guess what? I changed my mind. I think I actually like talking right now. Maybe it’ll somehow get me answers that I’ve been wanting to know over these past few days. Such as– oh, I don’t know– how about the fact that you are going through heart failure and you didn’t bother to tell your girlfriend but you managed to tell her brother and his girlfriend and probably everyone else on the face of the planet. Now why did you keep that from her, huh?” I snapped, suddenly stopping in the middle of the cold pathway. The people passing by us gave us odd, disapproving looks but I could care less. The only thing I wanted was a simple answer. Leighton blushed and pulled me aside to a more private, convenient area where there were less people around. I raised a brow as he mumbled an apology to the remaining people who were still staring at us.

“Well?” I asked. “I’m waiting.”

He fidgeted about himself, trying to look anywhere but me. “It was… I didn’t tell anyone… Noah found out since he’s my roommate and he’s nosy then Natalie and Sarah found out by accident because your brother is terrible at keeping secrets. And then you… Char, I didn’t mean it… I just wanted to protect you. You have to believe me. I just wanted to protect you.” He said helplessly, letting his free hand fall to his side.

I ran a hand through my hair. “How is hiding something from me protecting me?”

“I didn’t want to worry you or hurt you.”

I shook my head. “God, you can be so dense, do you know that?” I asked. “For all your smarts, you didn’t think that me finding out this way wouldn’t hurt me? I saw you collapse from coughing up blood in the middle of a fucking playground, Jones. What the hell were you thinking?”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t want to cause you pain –”

I could feel this uncomfortable feeling in my throat and I was torn between wanting to hug him and slap him. “Yeah well guess what? Of course there’s going to be pain. How do you expect it to be anything else? I was hurt when I suspected that you left me in the dark. Then I was hurt when I wasn’t able to see you. I was scared to death over what happened in the playground that day. I thought I was going to lose you. But even then, I was stupid. I should’ve known but I found out thanks to Noah’s big mouth! That hurts!”

Leighton fiddled with his hands and looked down at me. “I was going to tell you. I really was.”

I placed my hands on my hips and raised a brow. “Oh really? When?”

“Well I– erm, you see I– I don’t know.” He sighed in defeat and let his hands fall at his side again. “There were so many times where I was going to. I even prepared speeches and practiced them and then… I don’t know– I grew scared and tongue-tied and I chickened out.” He groaned before looking up at me. “I was scared, Char…”

My eyes softened and I could feel my anger begin to fade. “Scared? Of what?”

Leighton squirmed and began running his hand through his hair. I knew he was uncomfortable and that explaining things was hard for him to do since he was never really good with words. “I don’t know… I thought that if you knew, then it could change things between us.” He said slowly, contemplating every word he chose. My brows knitted in confusion as he bit his lip, trying to figure out the right words to say next. “It sounds so dumb but I thought that you might have a change in feelings for me and would look at me as someone to worry and care for. You might feel sorry for me instead of looking at me the way you do, as someone you can depend on and love just… just… regardless of what’s wrong with me.”

“But, Jones — Leigh –” I corrected myself, “Don’t you know me by now? I will always worry and care for you, whether you’re sick or not. That doesn’t mean I would love you less.”

His lip twitched. “You wouldn’t make me feel like I’m sick and dying then? Because sometimes people treat me that way. Like Noah always checks up on me to see if I’m alright, and he acts like my mother. He even goes to my appointments with me and nags me about my medications. And don’t even get me started on Natalie and Sarah. It’s as if I never get a moment to myself. I know they do it out of love but sometimes it’s too much.” He sighed and ran a hand through his dark locks. “God, I just want… I just want to feel normal and not some kind of charity case. You… gave me that and I love it. I really, really do, and I don’t want it to change.”

“Then it won’t change. I won’t let it.” I assured him.

He locked his blue eyes with mine. “Charlotte, I am sorry… You know I did it because I love you right? I didn’t mean any malice, I swear. I love you.”

“I know.” I whispered, nodding my head. “Just promise you won’t keep things from me because no matter what happens, we can find a way to work things out.” He nodded and I continued. “Pinky promise?” He laughed and we linked our pinky fingers together. Promise.

Heartbeat

TITLE: Heartbeat
CHAPTER NUMBER/ONE SHOT: 3/7
AUTHOR: laurengancayco
GENRE(S): Romance, Drama, Angst
FIC SUMMARY: Charlotte Wolf and Leighton Jones have had a wonderful relationship but Charlotte can’t help but feel like Leighton is hiding something from her and she’s curious to find out.
RATING: T
AUTHORS NOTES/WARNINGS: I’m so sorry for the delay. It’s been quite hectic for me lately but I really do appreciate everyone who’s stuck it out with me so far! I hope you enjoy this next installment! Also, special shout out and thanks goes to <a href=”https://theodditywriter.wordpress.com/“>Daniel</a> for all of his support for not just this story but for my work in general. If you guys haven’t, please check his blog out on WordPress and Tumblr! He’s a talented writer and person as well.

Oh and just in case anyone didn’t know, italics are normally used when someone is thinking something. Please don’t repost without credit!

Chapter Three

Leighton was getting sick a lot lately. My brother told me it was because flu season was finally picking up and unfortunately, his roommate was one of the unlucky people to catch it. I didn’t know if he was hiding something from me again like I thought he was, but whatever the case, that lovable dork still worried me. I saw him less and less. I tried seeing him but Natalie told me repeatedly that I should let him rest like he should be doing instead of coming over and making him lose even more energy. And when I didn’t listen, she found a way to stop me from going. So instead, I waited and waited by the phone, waiting and worrying for what seemed like endless hours until one day, Leighton decided to surprise me. And even then, I still was pretty wary of surprises.

“Char, I haven’t seen you in so long!” My boyfriend exclaimed, his voice raspier than usual. “Let’s go to the park today!” He declared through the phone.

I bit my lip and pulled on a strand of my hair. My heart was fluttering in my chest. I badly wanted to see him since I hadn’t seen him in the longest time but I was scared– not for me but for him. Something just wasn’t right and with Leighton’s health issues, I didn’t want anything worse to happen to him. “Leigh…” I began, trailing off.

“Finally using my first name! Not that hard, is it?” He chuckled briefly but was interrupted by erupting into a fit of coughs.

I shot up from my seat, pressing the phone closer to my ear. “Leighton! Oh god, are you alright?!”

Leighton eventually calmed down and I could hear his breath evening out. “God, Char, can you just not act like that? Frick…” He groaned, and I could just see him running a hand through his hair. “Noah has been getting on my arse everyday for being sick and I don’t need that right now.” He paused and I could hear the pain in his voice. “It’s just… I haven’t seen you in so long.”

I sighed. “You know I want to see you, you dummy. But you’ve been sick lately and I don’t want you to get sicker.”

“I’m fine. I just want to spend time with my girlfriend since I haven’t in a really long time! Please? Please? Pleeeeassse?” He pouted. I could just imagine his sad attempt at a puppy dog pout that could still somehow make me do or say the stupidest things (even if it was a little over the top). I was terribly afraid that I was about to make a stupid decision.

I clicked my tongue. “Alright. Alright! Just please stop talking like that, Jones. You’re killing me here.”

“You love it.” He retorted, chuckling as well. I didn’t disagree. “I’ll pick you up soon, darling. Love you.”

He arrived twenty minutes later with a bouquet of flowers in hand, and his favorite military green overcoat over his outfit. He had a light gray scarf wrapped around his neck and smelled like cinnamon and soap. “For you.” He grinned cheekily and handed me the bouquet. They were red tulips and smelled lovely.

“Thank you.” I smiled and blushed and put the flowers in a vase of water.

Then he put his hand out, raising his brow. “Ready?” I grabbed his hand and we were off.

After a few minutes of riding on his motorcycle, we arrived at the beginning of what looked like a clearing. The birds were chirping and the air was crisp and clean. I turned to Leighton with a small smile on my face. “Are we having another picnic?”

“No.” He smirked. “It’s even better, love.” He pulled my hand and we both followed a dirt path that winded between the trees before we stopped suddenly. “We’re going to play on the playground!” He exclaimed in excitement, pointing to his right. I turned and saw a tiny playground that had a swing set, slide, jungle gym, and sandbox. There were three little kids taking turns sliding on the slide while their parents watched. It reminded me of when I was a kid.

I raised a brow and saw his radiant face. “You’re kidding, right?”

Leighton snorted and his eyes sparkled in mischief, making him look almost like a child. “Don’t you know? We’re never too old to play on the playground, Charlotte. Come on!” He beamed. I stayed where I was. There was no way I was going to go through humiliation by playing on that playground. That was where I drew the line. “Come on, Char. Please. For me?” I still didn’t move an inch. His begging wouldn’t make me move. “Please? I promise no one will see us. Pleeeassse?” He began pouting loudly with his puppy dog face and got down on one knee.

I scrambled to his side, my eyes wide with panic. “Are you crazy, Jones?! People will think you’re proposing!”

“Please? Please!” He begged and clutched onto my hands. “Please!” His pleas were growing louder by the minute and I felt like I could die from humiliation.

“Ok! OK! I’ll play on the playground with you, alright?” I huffed, trying desperately to hide myself from the awkward stares of the parents. “Just get up please!”

Leighton smirked and hopped right up, never missing a beat. “Yes, ma’am.” He even gave a salute. I rolled my eyes as he tugged on my hand. It was official. I was in love with an idiot.

Still I fought back a grin. “What should we do first then?”

“Hmm…” Leighton tapped his chin and bit his lip. Then he turned to me with sparkling eyes. “Last one to the jungle gym is a rotten egg!” He squealed and began skipping towards the jungle gym. The three little kids stopped playing there as soon as we came over and took over their spot. Of course, being the person that he was, Leighton beat me to the jungle gym and joked around about me being the rotten egg.

He climbed to the top of the jungle gym with a smug expression on his face and I climbed up next to him and sat down. His eyes sparkled mischievously and he stood at the top and screamed, “I’m the king of the world!”

“Jones!” I hissed and tried forcing him to sit down next to me. I shielded my face with my hand. “Stop it. You’ve had enough embarrassing moments today.”

Leighton raised a brow and shook his head. “God you’re no fun, Char.” He sighed and looked around himself. “I mean, haven’t you ever wanted to do something like this, sail into the middle of the ocean or climb to the top of a mountain and just yell at the top of our lungs?” Leighton’s eyes lit up and he faced me enthusiastically. “We could be Peter and Wendy or we could be Jack and Rose — you know — from Titanic.”

I slapped his shoulder playfully. “I know where that’s from, you weirdo.” And he shrugged with a chuckle. I looked around at the expanse of the trees and playground around us and grinned. “So I’m your Wendy or your Rose, huh?”

He nodded.

“But we’re not even on a boat–”

“That’s the best part! Don’t you see, Char? We don’t actually have to be on a boat. Hell, we can even be on a plane or in a spaceship or a submarine or on a dragon or something! Anything! Whatever we want! We can play pretend and imagine like we did when we were kids and we can do and be whatever and whoever we want to be! We don’t have to worry. We can pretend that nothing’s wrong with life and that for once, every fucking thing is alright!” He was practically screaming now and going into hysterics, throwing his hands in the air. The birds around us fluttered away, frightened by the sound and the parents and kids had long since left us alone. I was pleasantly surprised they didn’t call the cops on us.

I tugged gently on his coat sleeve, noticing something was amiss. “Jones?” I asked and without warning, he sat down and scooped me into a hug. He was breathing heavily, as though he had just run a marathon. I didn’t understand what was going on with him. “Leigh… Leighton?”

“I love you, Charlotte.” He whispered and kissed my lips. His lips were dry and chapped.

“Are you alright, Jones?” He didn’t answer. He only whispered another “I love you” and we stayed there in that position for the time being.

It seemed like hours had passed. We were still in the same position with him holding me tightly against him with my head on his shoulder and his head on top of mine. Then suddenly, he lifted his head from mine and tilted my head up to face him. “Hey, Char, let’s go on the swings!” He said with sparkling eyes. I nodded and we both sat on the swings, holding hands in the cold breeze. The birds had come back and were chirping again. It was peaceful.

“Jones, I swear, your hands are always freezing.” I remarked, examining his hand in mine. They were ice cold and I shivered at his touch. I hesitated before looking up at him with a small smile. “You know, my mother always told me that the people with the coldest hands have the warmest hearts.”

Leighton’s eyes shone and he snorted. “Me? Warm-hearted? Darling, do you even know who I am?” I snorted and he started examining my hand as well. “Well, your hands are really warm.”

“What can I say? I’m evil, I suppose.”

Leighton shook his head and chuckled before pushing a stray hair from my face. “No, it’s not that. You’re just an exception.” I blushed and he squeezed my hand, giving me a gentle kiss on the lips. “Char, I have an idea. Let’s have a swinging competition.” He grinned, turning back to look at me.

“I don’t know, Jones… I don’t want you exerting so much energy.” I replied.

“I’ll be fine. Just can we? Please?”

I sighed. “But — ”

“Please? Just this once? I promise I won’t ask again.”

“…Fine. Just this once.”

He grinned and we both began kicking our feet in the air as hard as we could to go higher and higher. “I’m going to win! I’m going to win!” He exclaimed with a smirk. I didn’t respond at first until he stuck his tongue out at me and said, “Charlotte Wolf is going to lose and will have to owe me a shit ton of ice cream after this!” Then he began giggling like a child.

I found myself giggling along as well. “No, I’m going to win and you will have to owe me that ice cream, Jones!” His eyes sparkled and suddenly I wanted to win. I wanted to prove that I could do it and I wanted to win. We were both going higher and higher, faster and faster. “I’m winning! I’m going to beat you!” I cheered as I faintly saw Tanner’s swing begin to slow and lose momentum. “Ha! I win! Who’s the rotten egg now, Jones? ” I exclaimed before I heard loud, violent coughing and my heart seemed to stop in my chest. “Leighton?!” I immediately stopped in my tracks and the swing jerked forward as I dug my feet in the sand. I looked to my side to see Leighton doubled over on his swing, coughing as though there was no tomorrow. It looked like he couldn’t catch his breath.

I ran to his side and began rubbing his back in circles. “Shit. Stay with me, Jones! Stay with me!” I touched his forehead. It was burning hot; he was sick again. His overcoat was stained pinkish red with his coughs. He’s coughing up blood?! My heart raced as I continued trying to help him, and after what seemed like an eternity, it was slowing down. Then it stopped and Leighton lay limp on his swing with blood staining his face. “Let’s get you to the hospital–”

“No, not the hospital!” Leighton screamed before his voice broke and he began coughing again. I pulled him to me and began rubbing his back until his coughing seemed to die down. “Please, no hospital…” He croaked. “Please…”

I bit my lip. throughout our relationship, Leighton had always been the strong one. He had always been the one supporting me and helping me get through all my hardships but now I was terrified. I was terrified that I might lose him, that his coughing might not stop. I wanted to take him to the hospital so he would heal.

“Jones — Leigh — stop. You’re sick–”

Leighton tried pushing me away from him. “I said I don’t want to go, Char.” He snapped and I recoiled, shrinking away from him. He immediately noticed my reaction and stopped. He reached his arm out towards me and shook his head. “God — fuck — I’m sorry, Char. I’m sorry.” He whispered.

I felt my heart ache and break at the sight of him. He could barely stand. “It’s okay. It’s okay. Let’s just go home. OK? Let’s just go home.” I slung his arm over my shoulder and slowly we stood. He stumbled forward and I almost lost my footing. Then I hoisted him up on his motorcycle and I held him to me while I rode to his apartment (thank God he taught me how to use the damn thing).

“I’m s… sorry…” He told me. His voice was a cracked, hoarse whisper. He was breathing heavily and slumping over again. My expression softened and I held him closer to me. We made it to his apartment in due time. I knocked on the door and Noah opened it.

“Fuck.” Noah cursed as soon as he lifted Leighton from me and began helping me to his bedroom. I stepped inside to see Natalie with her face pale.

She gave me a quick hug before asking, “What happened?”

“We were just racing each other on the swings and then suddenly he couldn’t stop coughing. I didn’t know what to do. I told him he shouldn’t push himself since he keeps getting sick but he was so stubborn.” I panicked, shaking all over. “It’s my fault. I should’ve been firmer. I shouldn’t have let him get to me. I should’ve–”

She wrapped his arms around me again. “Hey, stop that. It’s not your fault.” I squeezed my eyes shut and hugged her. I wished everything was a dream.

After another moment, I broke off. “I need to see if he’s alright.” She nodded and I raced upstairs only to bump into my brother.

“Noah, can I see him? Please?”

He hesitated. “He’s resting right now so be quiet, alright?” I nodded and he moved out of the way so I could step into Leighton’s room.

The room smelled of him but also smelled stale, like there hadn’t been any fresh air let in for a while. Leighton was curled up in his bed, the blanket stopping at his mid stomach. I drew the blankets further up and put my hand on his forehead. He was still sick. His whole body was so pale and there was a thick line of sweat upon his brows and dark circles under his eyes. Thankfully, Noah had cleaned off the dried blood off his face. My hand trailed away and grabbed his hand. It was still freezing cold and now it was sweating too. I brought it up and hugged it to me.

“God, you’re such an idiot, Jones.” I bit my lip, trying to stop myself from crying and placed my head against his chest to hear his heartbeat for a moment. “You scared me so much.”

I stayed there for another moment before I began to let go when I felt his hand tug on mine.

“It’s okay, love. I’m here.” I said softly and wriggled my hand from his grasp. He groaned as my hand slipped away and I moved his hair from his forehead. Then I quickly made one ready for him and placed it over his brows before I realized that I needed to get him some water in case he woke up. I walked out and grabbed the lukewarm water quickly. I turned towards his room but I stopped upon hearing Noah and Natalie conversing in the adjoining room.

“But it’s not fair!” Natalie groaned.

Noah sighed and ran his hand through his hair. He licked his lips before continuing. “I know, babe, but we promised him.”

She stomped her foot on the ground and I could see her pale cheeks grow pink and rosy. “But she’s his girlfriend and your little sister! For god sakes! She deserves to know. Everyone else knows but her. I’m sick and tired of lying and covering up everything when it’s something this big. We need to tell her.” My heart started speeding up and my breath caught in my throat. They were talking about me again.

“Yeah and then what, she’ll be scared away? Nat, it’ll crush her.”

“It’s already crushing her, Noah, can’t you see it? She knows we’re hiding something. She needs to know before it’s too late.”

Noah scoffed and crossed his arms. Then he leant over the couch. “Oh, sure because you know it would be so easy to go up to your little sister and tell her just right out of the blue, ‘Hey, Charlotte, how are you? Lovely weather we’re having this evening. Oh and by the way, your boyfriend is having heart failure and needs a transplant.’” My eyes widened and my heart seemed to stop in my chest. Heart failure?! Suddenly it all started making sense… the whispers, the confusing excuses of Leighton being sick, the weird way Noah and Natalie were acting around me lately as if there was something I was missing, him breaking down on the swing, and the constant, strange way he assured me he loved me and surprised me… It was because of his heart. My head was spinning and I felt my knees grow weak like jelly. The glass of water I had slipped from my hand and shattered. The water splattered on the hard wood floor and the couple whipped their heads in my direction.

“Shit. Charlotte!” My brother exclaimed but I didn’t stop. I didn’t know what to do so I ran out of the apartment and into the cold, night air. I didn’t really know where I was going but I knew I wouldn’t go back to that apartment and I wasn’t going back home.