For the previous chapters
Time always moves, regardless of whether you want it to or not. One more day. One more day and Lara will turn 25. One more day and she would become a millionaire. One more day and I will leave everything behind. The time was 10 pm. I held onto Lara's hand and walked over to the playground. I figured she may not make such a big scene, if we were outside. As least, that was what I hoped.
On the way to the playground, I was trying to gather my emotions. It wasn't difficult. The trick to crying on demand, was to think of something extremely sad. Usually for my other projects, I would think of that night I lost my whole family. However, tonight, I was focused on the thought of leaving Lara. Soon, I would never see her again. I sat down on the bench at the playground. Lara sat next to me. She could sense something was wrong and hasn't said a word. I looked up at the moon, it was a crescent moon tonight, and then I started to cry.
“Ethan, what's wrong?” Lara asked, alarmed. I was crying like a child, big wet tears started flowing down my cheeks. She put her arm around my shoulder and looked at me concernedly. I couldn't stop crying.
“The doctor...” I said, amidst sobs. “The blood test results came back....the results are not good.” I started sobbing even more heavily.
“What happened?” she asked. Her eyes were starting to water too.
“I have leukemia. It is at a very serious stage. Since I have no family, they can't find a donor. However, there is a surgeon in New York who could help me...He will be able to do a transplant. But the cost is so expensive and I have no money. If I don't go for the operation immediately, I will die within a month.”
Lara gasped in shock. “No, you can't die Bunny!”
I continued crying like a little child. “How much do you need?” she asked.
“The operation and flight there will cost close to a million dollars.”
“Don't worry, Bunny. Come with me to the bank tomorrow. I can give you the money.”
“But, that money is for your scholarship fund. I can't take it,” I said, looking at her sadly.
“No Bunny, your life is more important. As soon as the bank opens, I'll be able to get you the money,” she said, patting my back. “But promise me, Bunny, that you will come back alive.”
The next morning, just like Lara said, she brought me to the bank without a second thought. I could not believe how easy it was for her to give the money away like that. She approached the private bankers who had been in charge of her great grandfather's inheritance. After signing a few forms, she was able to receive a cheque for a million dollars.
“The cash will be credited to your bank account,” she said, as we left the bank. My eyes were swollen from crying the night before. I started to cry again.
“Don't worry Bunny,” she said, hugging me tightly. We stayed on the pavement, holding each other. She whispered, “Promise me you will come back, safe and sound. I didn't not find you to lose you again so quickly.”
And then, I left her. I checked my bank account, and as she said, the money was credited in my savings account. Again, I couldn't believe how easy it was. I went to another bank and took out half of the cash. The money was going to be used to pay the last of my mother's debt. I intended to return the remaining cash to Lara, but that would be after I crossed over to the other world.
The Boss was in his office. He looked pleasantly surprised to see me. I passed him the envelope where the cash order for $500,000 was issued. He clapped his hands when he saw it. “You are an amazing person Ethan,” said the Boss.
“No I'm not. I am a horrible person and I don't deserve to live,” I muttered.
“So now you are a free man. Free to go anywhere you want. Also you are $500,000 richer.”
“Goodbye Boss,” I said, turning to go. My mobile phone suddenly rang. It was from a number I had never seen before. I decided to ignore it. After all, I wanted to meet Ming soon. I left the Boss's office and my mobile phone rang again. Irritated, I answered the call. “Yes?” I said.
“Ethan, is that you? This is Keith, we met at the art gallery.”
“Yes?” I said. He better not be asking me out on a date or something.
“I just needed to tell you. Annabelle told me to deliver some pictures to this female friend of yours.”
“What sort of pictures?” I asked, taken aback.
“Pictures of the both of you in bed together,” he said. “I delivered it to the doorstep of your friend. But no one has picked it up yet. I thought I should tell you.”
I quickly started to run. Lara! She must never see those pictures! I started to run with all my might. Beads of sweat started to trickle down my forehead. I could see her flat in the distance. “Argh!” I shouted in frustration as I ran and ran. I finally reached her flat and climbed up the stairs in desperation. I finally reached her house but I stopped in my tracks. Lara was standing at the doorstep, looking at the contents of the envelope. There was a note in the envelope too and I could guess what the contents was. Annabelle had blown my cover. She probably wrote about how I was a conman, only interested in Lara's money. Lara looked up and saw me in the distance.
“You lied to me?” she said. Her voice was trembling.
“So you are not really dying from leukemia?”
“You were not really my bunny?”
“No.” I couldn't look her in the eye.
“You were only interested in my money?”
“Everything you have told me, was a lie?”
I walked towards her and said, “That's not true!”
“I don't believe you!” she shouted. Lara was crying. But those were tears of anger. “Get out of my sight!” She turned and slammed the door in my face. I could hear her lock the door.
This is hopeless, I thought. Everything was falling apart. My neat little plan was falling to pieces. Initially, I planned to write a letter to Lara, telling her that the operation was a failure. She would cry, of course, but I would have been a beautiful memory to her. Now, whenever she thought of me, she would feel hurt and angry. I rather it was the former. It was selfish of me though. This was karma. My karma for being alive for so long.
I had to see Annabelle. I took a taxi to the art gallery, hoping that she was there. She was. It was as if she was waiting for me. As if, this was the only way for us to meet one more time. She looked at me coldly as I entered the gallery. No one else was around.
“It's been a long time,” I said.
“You look horrible,” she said, cuttingly, but I knew she was right. What with my swollen eyes and sunken spirit, I was exhausted.
“Here, this is for you,” said Annabelle. She passed me a white envelope. I looked at her suspiciously as I took it. “What is this?” I asked, looking inside. She had issued a cheque of $500,000 dollars to me.
“What is this?” I repeated.
“The painting you did. It fetched a good price at the Tokyo auction. Some rich bastard bought it.”
I didn't know what to say. Was this even possible? For the second time, that day, I was in possession of a million dollars. But there was something fishy about all this. Why would someone pay so much for an amateur artist?
“Annabelle, your husband likes rabbits?” I asked.
“He was born in the year of the Rabbit, why?” she said, raising her eyebrow.
“Nothing. But will this affect Lara's chances of winning the writing competition?” I asked.
“Why should it? The writing competition is based wholly on the writing itself, right?”
I heaved a sigh of relief. “Thank you Annabelle. I wish you nothing but happiness.”
“I can't say the same for you, but maybe one day I will.”
I felt a little lighter as I left the gallery. I realised it didn't really matter what Lara thought of me. I just wanted her to have a good future, I wanted her to fulfill her dreams and just be happy. I think, she would be a happier person without me in her life. I knew who would be a better person to take care of her. I picked up my mobile phone and called Ming.
It was already late at night, by the time Ming was finished with his lessons. He met me at the McDonald’s that was close to his house. “What's up?” he asked, sitting down at the table next to me.
“Ming, I have a big favour to ask of you.”
“What is it?”
“I'm leaving to a place, somewhere far away. I know that you care about Lara, and maybe you maybe even love her. Can I leave her in your care?”
“What are you talking about? Where are you going?”
I took out the instruction manual and passed it to Ming. “I know the Lara you see now is a little different from the Lara you knew from your childhood. Here is a book about her I've complied. Hopefully, it can help explain anything you are unsure about.”
Ming cautiously took the manual from me and flipped through it. He was looking increasingly worried. I wondered if I passed him a burden that was too heavy for him to bear.
“And this is important too, please pass this to Lara when you see her,” I said, giving him a sealed envelope. I doubt he would ever imagine a cheque for a million dollars was inside. I was glad I was able to return the full amount to her. Maybe it may make her hate me less, at least I hoped so.
“Ethan, are you having any problems? You can tell me, you know? You look really pale.” asked Ming.
“Can you promise me you will take care of her?” I asked. I looked at him pleadingly. I could see that Ming was puzzled by this turn of events, but he nodded. “I will take care of Lara.”