“I’m just a little…depressed,” Derik said, sitting on the couch with his head down. “Sorry. It’s supposed to be a happy day.”
“Never mind the happy day. It’s meaningless if you’re not part of it.” It was her graduation day, but even though he wanted to rejoice with her, to celebrate with her, he wasn’t having a good day that day. Why? He didn’t always have a reason. His emotional state wasn’t stable, he wasn’t secure, and the waves hit him from time to time, with or without his consent. He used to embrace these waves, having gotten used to drowning in them from time to time. But everything was different now. This girl in front of him was more than deserving of his best, and he wanted to be at his best for her—especially on special days. When he couldn’t, he got even more depressed.
Ekko didn’t seem to mind. She put her bouquet down and pulled him in, doing nothing except holding him and keeping her lips on his forehead. “I don’t mind,” she had said, “All I want is for you to be happy.”
“But I’m not…”
“It’s okay. I love you either way.”
And so, for the whole afternoon, she stayed with him, until he smiled again.
Derik and Ekko stood rigid on the sidewalk, staring in the same direction at something clearly unpleasant. The scowls on their faces were different, but they were scowling nonetheless. He wrapped a protective arm around her shoulders.
“Is that Kellan?” Derik asked. “How long has he been stalking you again?”
“Yes…I think, four months.”
He grunted as the man called Kellan approached. The distain on Derik’s face was clear as day, since he never tried hiding his emotions from Ekko anyway.
“Ekko—” Kellan began speaking, but paused when Derik went to stand in front of Ekko by a step, blocking her from his view. “Who the hell are you?”
“You know who I am,” was the reply. “It’s been four months already. Get lost.”
“But you know I still love her. Ekko, I still love you,” Kellan insisted. The look in his eyes was not love. It held a certain kind of craze that signaled danger. He reached forward to brush Derik away.
“I said get lost!” Derik shoved him back. “She’s done, and so should you be.”
As contrary to what one would expect, it didn’t turn into a fight. Kellan simply said, “Ekko, I’ll be back again, when he is gone.”
Then, he left.
Later, as Derik and Ekko walked back home, she asked, “Are you going to leave?”
“Don’t believe what that bastard says. I’ll never leave your side.” He planted a small kiss on her forehead as reassurance. “And if he calls you or bothers you in any way, tell me immediately. The idiot just won’t get the hint.”
She believed him, smiling. “It wasn’t even a hint.”
“Where are you?” came his voice through the phone. “Can you come home soon?”
“I’m coming now. What’s wrong?” She had just finished lunch with a group of old friends. As she picked up the phone, she was stepping into the bus, moving to a space near enough to the door so that she could exit fast.
A rather strange young man was standing right next to the bus driver, acting as though he was on duty. “Passengers please move as far into the bus as you can! Make room for others!” People avoided having eye contact with him, staying as far away from him as possible. Ekko glanced at him. Had Derik not called with such a forlorn tone, maybe she would wait for the next bus.
“She called just now,” he answered.
“Yes…” it seemed that he had more to say, but let the thought trail off.
“I know.” She let him know that she understood the unspoken words. Pamela was the fifth girl who had broken his heart, before he met Ekko. Ekko knew just how much damage Pamela had done to him. She knew that the girl was the reason he was still suffering occasional episodes of depression.
And she didn’t mind. “Everyone has a past,” she said.
“Thank you, Ekko…”
The whole ride home, Ekko stayed on the phone with Derik. At one point, a middle-aged man couldn’t take the crazy-looking man’s grumbling anymore. He scolded the stranger. “Dude, stop that! You’re disturbing the driver.”
As anyone would know, when you provoke someone who is practically insane, he will only act more deviant than he already does. The man reacted to this line strongly, banging the glass, cursing, shouting back even louder. Other people grew uncomfortable. Ekko could see it in their eyes, and she, too, was a little scared. While paying attention to what was happening around her, she paused in talking.
“Ekko?” Derik’s voice reminded her that she was still on the phone.
“Uh…yes…” she was still watching, fidgeting. “I’ll be back soon. There’s a commotion…” then she hung up. The remaining seven minutes were spent in nervousness.
Upon hearing her footsteps, Derik opened the door. When he saw the relieved expression on her face, he hugged her before asking, “Can you tell me what happened?”
She told him, of course. She clung to his shirt. “For a moment I thought the bus would crash.”
“It’s okay now.” He lowered his head to sniff her hair, which calmed him. “I’m here. You’re at home with me now.”
She nodded. “And are you okay?” Ekko looked up from his arms.
“I’m fine now that you’re here.” He smiled, just a little. It wasn’t enough to be a happy smile, but it was a soft and soothed one.
After a moment of silence, she murmured, “You have me now. I know it’s hard to let go of the past, but you have me now. You can hold on to me.” It was a sincere confession, showing that Ekko was glad that he had chosen to go to her when Pamela had called. To her, it meant that he placed his trust in her.
“Yes…I’ll hold on to you. You’re my last hope.”
And those were the good times.