This is the story of a good friend of mine. I have changed her name here to respect her privacy, even though she has passed on. She left me her diary and this is my story for her, of her.
Daniella Robertson was a tall, confident woman with a shocking head of red hair. She enjoyed a Starbucks coffee every day. As a freelance make-up artist, she had a relaxed schedule and could afford a long mid-morning break every day when she would walk to the Starbucks nearest to her house and have a Venti Caramel Latte. It was an early autumn’s day when she walked into Starbucks for her regular coffee and met a new man working behind the counter.
She was smitten at first sight. He was young, only nineteen, athletic, not too tall, tanned and very good looking. His slightly ruffled hair and cheeky smile drew out the youth in him. She described him in her diary as a hot surfer boy with mixed Hawaiian-Japanese parents. He was supporting his part-time college education through working part-time at Starbucks. Having signed up for the morning shift every weekday, they inevitably saw a lot of each other.
Daniella couldn’t help herself as she teased and flirted with him each day. Being still just a teenager, he blushed at her approaches and was too polite to rebuke her, secretly enjoying the attention as well. If he was at the till, she would always linger with her fingers on his palm as she gave him the cash. If he was serving the coffee, she would be cheeky and sit at a table instead of waiting for her coffee to be served like everyone else. Because she was a regular, the staff would bring the coffee to her and soon it would always be him bringing the coffee to her.
Daniella knew that the other staff teased him endlessly about the attention she was giving him, but she enjoyed seeing him blush too much to care. She was under his spell and he didn’t even know it.
On Tuesday mornings, when the shop was generally quiet, he took to bringing Daniella her coffee and even sitting down and having a quick casual chat with her. He had an air of confidence about him, but also a sense of naivety.
It was precisely a month from their first meeting when Daniella decided to make her move. From her diary entries, she had clearly not been able to stop thinking of him, and now, she wanted more and was ready to make the first move. Near the end of her visit that day, he stopped by her table as he was going around the shop.
”Do you have a girlfriend?” she asked nonchalantly.
”No,” he answered as he blushed from his neck to the roots of his hair.
”Are you embarrassed talking about this with me?”
He fumbled before saying, “Slightly… but I like it”.
She smiled and reached out to touch his hand. He let it linger for a second before pulling away, looking around to see if anyone was looking at them.
”Do you know what’s happening… what we’re doing?” she asked him.
”Do you mind that I flirt with you?”
He shook his head and only just managed a whisper in reply. “I like it”.
She smiled. ”Thanks for being open with me. With the same honesty, do you think I’m pretty?”
He nodded more vigorously and smiled, encouraging her further.
She reached into her bag and pulled out a piece of paper. On it, she wrote her name, Daniella Robertson, her mobile phone number and the name of a hotel nearby.
”Meet me tomorrow after the end of your shift. Text me and I’ll reply with the room number. Is that ok?”
His eyes grew wide as he stared at her, unable to respond immediately.
”Just nod if you’re ok with this.”
”Ok. I’ll see you tomorrow,” she smiled warmly and reassuringly as she gathered her things. Her shaking hands betraying the excitement she felt.
Daniella did not go to Starbucks the next day, or any day after that. They met at the hotel as she had decided, and that was the beginning of their affair. Daniella wrote about the details of each visit and how they explored each other. It was slow but what seems to be a very satisfying relationship for the both of them. He was however a virgin when they first started and not wanting to scare him off, Daniella kept it that way for the first few months, exploring other ways of pleasuring each other, teaching him, I guess like Mrs. Robinson. Hah, now that’s funny. Mrs. Robertson, Mrs. Robinson. I wonder if Daniella ever thought of herself as the movie character.
They met once a week for a strong nine months, both always looking forward to each meeting and never wanting to leave the room afterwards. He adored Daniella in the beginning, worshipped the ground she walked on, until he started to develop a stronger love for her, which reared its ugly but passionate head after the nine months. He asked her to marry him.
Daniella laughed the first time he asked.
”Why do you hurt me by laughing?” he asked her.
”You’re so young and I’m not exactly a spring chicken. People will talk.”
”Do you care about what people will say over our love for each other?”
”No, my love. You are still young; you have your life ahead of you. I am just grateful that we have the chance for these moments together.”
”So don’t push me away. I might be young, but I know what I want.”
”You think you know what you want now, but you won’t be able to bear society laughing or looking down at you.”
”Yes, I will. Anyway, they’ll laugh at you too, so we’ll both be laughed at together, which is fine with me.”
”Me? Society has laughed at me for all my life. I never belonged and they never understood. You, on the other hand have never experienced anything like that.”
He groaned into his hands as he realised that he wouldn’t win the fight. Not at that moment anyway, and dropped the matter. It was a few weeks later when he asked again, and then he didn’t stop asking… until Daniella got ill.
”We can’t see each other anymore.”
”Why not?” he almost shouted, shaking from the fear of losing her.
”I am ill. The doctors told me that I have cancer and it is very advanced. I only have a few months to live.”
”Then let me stay by your side and help you through it.”
”No. This is something I have to do by myself. I can’t explain it and I won’t.”
”That’s not fair,” he sulked.
”I know,” she said as she laid a hand on his head and drew him close for one last embrace. ”You have your life ahead of you, please promise me you’ll live it to the fullest and don’t ever look back.”
He started crying as she got up and left the room. She left him in the room alone that day and vowed never to see him again.
He got scared after two weeks when he couldn’t reach her on her mobile and she didn’t reply to any of his texts or messages. He realised that all he had of her was a name and the mobile number, which she promptly cancelled a few days later. He missed her and wanted to show her that he was mature enough to take care of her, like all the films that he had watched where the hero would go after the girl in the end and make things right. He wanted to make things right for her, especially for her last days.
He tried looking up more information about cancer to prepare himself, but he realised that it could be any kind of cancer and there are so many. Feeling helpless, he searched everywhere for a trace of her, but he couldn’t find her in the telephone book or on the internet. He didn’t know what to do, until one day he overheard a conversation by two people who came into Starbucks for a coffee. They mentioned the name Daniella, cancer and the Red Cross Hospital. He kept quiet and didn’t try to start a conversation or ask for more information, but it was after his shift that day that he went directly to the Red Cross Hospital.
At the reception, he asked for Daniella Robertson and they told him that they did not have any patients there by that name. Unsure about what else to do, he left for a walk and returned a while later when the receptionist had changed shifts to a different person. This time, he asked for the cancer department.
”Oh, you mean oncology?” the receptionist asked.
”Yes, thank you.”
”It’s on the fifth floor, just up those lifts through those doors,” she said.
He nodded and hurried in the direction.
When he arrived at the department, he decided not to ask at the reception for Daniella, rather he went straight to the wards, to the patients’ rooms. He started at a section where each room had four patients sharing the space. It was very quiet and all he heard were the machines pumping and beeping. His heart raced as he gathered his wits to check each room, staring into the faces of each patient to find Daniella.
Quietly, as he made his way, he finally found her face. She was asleep on a bed by a window. She looked peaceful, but something was not right. It was her hair. She did not have any. He took a deep breath as he reminded himself that cancer patients lose their hair in treatment, so this was normal. Feeling ridiculous and not knowing what to say to her, he kept quiet and let her sleep. He moved towards the foot of her bed and saw her patient’s chart hanging off the end of it. Curious, he picked it up.
His eyes scanned the page and on the top, it said, “Daniel Robertson @ Daniella Robertson”. He looked at her again, bile rising at the back of his throat. His mouth shaped a ‘no’ as he mustered more courage to have a further look. Further down the chart, it said, “Prostate cancer”.
He was young; he had his life ahead of him.
He ran, not realising that he ran straight past me, standing in the doorway, holding on to my paper cup of Starbucks coffee.