Battery Godfrey, San Francisco, California
After their heartbeats synchronized and breathes slowed down, Josh slightly pulled Emma's face away, tenderly gazing into her misty hazel eyes like the most precious jewels in the world. Lowering his face and leaning in towards her, he closed his eyes and locked his soft lips with hers, sealing all her doubts, insecurity, and fear. The touch of his skin on hers formed a blazer against the blow of the bitter wind, as if the air had stopped flowing in their embrace.
When their lips parted, Josh took a deep breath, straightened Emma's shoulders, and dropped to one knee, one hand still holding onto hers, "Emma, let's get married."
He looked straight into her eyes with eagerness, stopping his words right there without adding any reasons or promises, as if these words said it all. Really, it was not even a proposal, but he presented this with such honesty and confidence as if it was a plan they had both agreed on long ago, a reality that only needed the formality of a wedding ceremony, or an offer he would not allow Emma to reject.
Breaking her hand free from Josh's gental hold that had passed both affection and pledge to hers through the rapid pulse on his fingertips, Emma stumbled a couple of steps back, shaking a hard "no" with her head.
"I, I, I can't! You don't know..." Thawing her frozen lips, Emma gathered herself and collected the courage to continue, "I have epilepsy since I was a baby. I, I meant to tell you a long time ago, but I couldn't bear to lose you."
She looked away from Josh's warm gaze like she had committed a crime that would condemn her to a life sentence of loneliness. No! A life without Josh would be worse than hell! The thought of suicide came back once her fear became a reality. Emma quickly turned around and ran to the edge of the platform under the dim moonlight as if she were being chased by a ghost.
"No! Emma, no!"
Josh gasped, racing to her with a dash. Getting a hold of Emma's wrists in a tight grip, he cried with the sadness of a heartbroken man, "I didn't come here to lose you! I knew! I knew it all along!"
Emma stared at him in shock, "What? What do you mean you knew it all along? Since when?"
"Well, you know, the crazy writing, stares, and muscle twitches you sometimes have at night. My best friend in high school has epilepsy, so I know what it is."
"Then why didn't you say something? Did you know how terrible I felt every time I wanted to tell you but didn't?" Josh's confession ignited an unexpected rage in her. She tried to yank her arms out of Josh's control, but was instead jerked backwards this time, landing on his firm chest. She was not at all interested in waltzing with him right now, but his warmth was irresistible.
Cradling her with one strong arm, Josh turned Emma's head sideways and pressed one of her ears against his heart with a palm. Along with pounding heatbeats came his apology and declaration in a deep, soft voice, "Emma, I'm sorry I didn't tell you. I figured I should leave it up to you to decide when to tell me." He paused, gazing down at her glossy hair dancing in the wind, "But it's okay. Trust me, it's okay. I love you. That's what matters, isn't it?"
"No! Not if there's an incurable illness involved." Desperation flooded her face, moisture in her eyes blurring her vision.
"Isn't marriage about staying with each other in sickness or in health? I wouldn't have stuck around if I cared."
"But you've never lived with it. You don't know what it's like to fight it day in and day out." Emma inhaled, then poured out all her fears, "You may be okay now, but what if I run away again for another suicide? Are you sure you wouldn't get tired of it? And what about your parents? Do you care if they find out and say no? What about children? What if they inherited my epilepsy? Don't make your decision on impulse, Josh. There's romance and there's reality. They don't go together."
She looked up, her long eyelashes trembling like wilting leaves clinging to branches of trees. But when her gaze met his, time stopped. Josh dropped a kiss lightly on her forehead and spoke into her ears, determined, "I am the one marrying you, not them. Forget about the what-if's. If one comes along, we'll face it together. Aren't I worthy of your trust?"
Yes, TRUST. What a powerful word. With a sudden release of emotion, Emma finally let go of the tears welling in her eyes, freeing a soul sealed for 28 years to honor this man with a lifetime companionship.
After what felt like hours of sobbing with sorrow and then happiness, Emma returned to her normal self, chuckling at the sight of Josh's Hawaiian shirt, wet in the middle where a yellow hibiscus was blooming.
He climbed down the ladder first, and before Emma stepped her foot on the first bar, Josh hollered from the concrete floor below with open arms, "Come on down this way, I'll catch you!"
Emma watched him, laughing at his silly suggestion, "Are you serious? I am not gonna pay for your hospital bills if you get hurt!"
"Don't worry, I know how much you weigh." He winked with a wicked smile, "It's our first test. Do you trust me?"
Besides her petite figure, she did feel much lighter at heart, rules and boundaries removed like weighing stones from her chest. Why not just go with it? "Okay, I get it. Well, then get ready! On three: one, two, three!"
With a cautious leap, Emma surrendered herself to gravity, replacing all her doubts with a faith in Josh.
When they were finally ready to leave, Emma suddenly realized Tim was gone. "Did you see someone up there when you found me?" She asked.
"No, it was just you. Who's this Tim you are looking for?"
"He's a bus driver that showed me around the city today, and also lead me up there." He must've gone home, Emma figured.
"Okay, let's go back to the hotel first. How did you get here?"
Josh briefed her about Officer David Hope's clever finding, which reminded him to call Kayla. There was no doubt they owed David big time.
"Hi Kayla. I'm okay. Sorry about this suicide thing." Emma glanced at Josh with a sneaky smile. She wanted to save their engagement as a surprise for Kayla when they went back to Big Island.
"Thank David for us, Kayla." Josh joined their phone conversation.
"I couldn't find him when I checked the status at the police station. They said there's no one named David Hope."
How was it possible? Hanging up the phone, Josh continued with his story, "A taxi driver showed me this path and ran down to the bridge after."
Checking the dark surroundings, Josh realized the taxi that had stranded him and the driver was gone too. Now come to think of it: if finding out she had come here for a suicide was the result of David's logical intelligence, then locating Emma at a place where she didn't plan to visit would be a coincidence too good to believe.
On their bus ride back to the hotel, Emma asked the night shift driver about Tim. "What Tim? There's no Tim. Who are you talking about?" He replied like they were talking crazy.
Emma and Josh looked at each other in disbelieve.
A true blessing.
They sat quietly, shoulder to shoulder, fingers entwined.
November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. Although I do hope this story passes a message about the physical and emotional struggles people living with this disease face everyday and how others can support them, I would also like to dedicate it to those who care for their loved ones in sickness, whatever it is, with full devotion.
Last but not least, bless you for finishing this story!
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