The boy wandered, his hand on his chest. Daniel was a senior and a few months from joining college. Grades? Check. Good Looks? Double check. Fraternity? Almost. He needed to pass the initiation process and that was to complete the alphabet, Alpha Zeta style: each letter representing the first name of the girls from high school; he must go out with them before he got accepted. The test was simple, especially for a guy who had everything a girl wished for: charm, stability, and romance; but Daniel, more than anyone else had known pain his entire life and didn’t think he had the heart to hurt an innocent girl, let alone twenty six girls. Keen to be a part of the brotherhood, he was left with no choice; he figured and promised to make up for the pain he would aversely inflict upon those girls. Everything went smoothly according to his plan. He went out with girls A to J without troubling himself from parting with them – he always told them their heart would heal in time. Girls K to V were the practical ones, they heard about Daniel’s previous girl collections – although, no one knew about the initiation – yet they didn’t mind. They were honored to be seen with him rather than mourn for the brief relationship. But what Daniel didn’t realize was no matter how cool these girls appeared to be after he told them it’s over, these girls when they’re alone in their room, wept like it’s the end of their romantic life. They cried for losing the chance to love and be loved.
Four more letters and the alphabet’s complete. Willow was a transfer student and she’s just what Daniel was looking for – Miss W. They dated longer than the previous letters. Daniel was confident he would complete the alphabet before graduation, so he procrastinated his mission, he wanted to spend more time with his current letter: the most real among the letters. Willow, on the other hand, had received warnings from Daniel’s victims the moment she stepped into the campus; she kept her guard regardless of her obvious ability to turn the situation around. Either would fall into each other’s trap because the more time they spent together, the more they got to know the other, and the more they liked each other. With Willow, Daniel forgot about his mission but only until his most kept secret was revealed.
Daniel had a weak heart and he had been fighting it since he was a boy. He was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy but never let anyone outside his family find out about his condition, afraid he would be treated differently, weakly. For the past years, he had managed to hide it from his friends and the people from school; but it’s true what they say: the heart is a traitor, because Daniel’s heart exposed him to Willow. It was when he invited her to their farmhouse where she would meet his parents and grandparents. He had a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital. It was a shocking news for Willow. Daniel didn’t want her to find out about his condition, especially not this way, when the attack was severe and Willow had to witness him crippled. This experience fortified the connection between the two. Willow helped Daniel’s folks in nursing him and soon he was back in school. He also needed to complete his lately forgotten mission, and in order to do this he had to break up with Willow. The latter thought she had him for herself, permanently. She didn’t expect he’d go back to his stupid quest after she found out about his secret; after she stayed up late with his family at the hospital, a place she hated the most, where death is a frequent visitor. Daniel did not walk away without his promise to commit to her after he’s completed the letters. (He knew he had lost his chance when he said the latter statement). But he wanted her to know he was willing to continue what they had started.
Proceeding to the next letter – knowing he already found the girl for him – was tormenting for Daniel; he had fallen seriously in love with Willow. Only three letters left and the alphabet was complete but he couldn’t go pass W. Few days after he was released from the hospital, he was brought back in again.
‘Giving heartaches to girls like that is outrageously inconsiderate for someone who’s got heart problem himself,’ said Willow.
‘You were nicer the first time you were here,’ said Daniel, pretending to be strong but his face showed the opposite.
‘That’s because I thought you stopped.’
He breathed uncomfortably and he frowned when he did. ‘Their pain is nothing compared to mine,’ he said. ‘They’ve only been feeling the pain for days or weeks, I’ve had this pain ever since I was a little boy. Their heart will heal, my heart will never. Sooner or later I will die.’
‘Pain is pain no matter how long you’ve been carrying it. You broke those poor and innocent girls’ heart. You broke my heart all for your stupid test.’
‘It’s not about the test; it’s about fulfilling a dream.’
‘A dream to be a member of a fraternity, a pretentious brotherhood?’
‘A dream to be a part of a group. To belong with those who truly cares about you and not with the people who walk around you to share your fame.’
‘You think those frat boys care about you? Where are they now? I don’t see any of them visit you.’ In spite of Daniel’s delicate situation, Willow refused to be gentle with him and wanted him to realize his inconsideration.
‘I’m not officially part of the group, not yet.’ Daniel looked away in defeat.
‘What if you didn’t make it out alive in this hospital? What if –‘
‘At least I’ll have the face when I see my brother up there. We shared the same dream but he was killed in an accident (in a riot) before he could join the group, he was five letters away. I don’t want to die without being accepted because that would be failing his dream twice. I’m dying, if not today, tomorrow. I can feel my heart getting weaker each day. I’m sorry for refusing to leave this world without trying to fulfill a dream.’
Willow still found the test outrageous, but somehow she understood his reasons. ‘What a liar and inconsiderate boy you are! I thought you told me we’re going to continue what we started? How can you talk about dying?’ She walked away after giving Daniel a quick blow in the arm, but before she could get away he grabbed her to his chest and held her still.
‘You don’t really hate me, do you?’ He whispered, his cheek touching hers. ‘I’m genuinely sorry. I can bear my heart being weak, but I can’t bear it when my girl is hurting because of me. I will make things right, soon as I recover I will make things right.’
Daniel felt his neck damp; the shoulders on top of him jerked. Willow’s soft cry filled the still room. ‘I love you, please don’t die,’ said the girl, tightening her arms around the boy’s body.
‘I love you, too. And I promise I will make it out alive in this hospital.’
He kept his promise. He found a donor and had a successful heart transplant after graduation. Although he failed to complete the alphabet, he crossed the “burning sands” after the fraternity members found the cause of his incompletion reasonable. As soon as he recovered he flew to pursue Willow – she had to leave after her visit to Daniel to see her ill sister – but she never returned. He knew where to find her. He reached her place and found everything to be exactly the same as she had mentioned to him, but she was nowhere to be found. Daniel was greeted by the housekeeper and a letter from Willow. The handwriting was weak and the letter was brief, they were phrases: last boy loved, always with you. Willow had been sick all along. When she found that she would die eventually she quit her treatment and lived like she was never sick. She traveled and transferred from one school to another. One day, she felt her body talked to her: it was time. She left, keeping the truth to Daniel; and soon she died, leaving him with a letter. Her last wish was to give her heart to the boy. The hopeful boy was now hopeless. He wandered, his hand holding his new heart – Willow’s heart. He could’ve just given up right then, but he didn’t; he remembered his promise to Willow: to continue what they had started. He went on to finish college and became an artist; his paintings, which told his undying love for Willow, were among the highly praised. His most famous painting was “Daniel’s Alphabet: A – W”.