**Revised on 11/25**
Panel 1. A hospital room in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. JUAN holds up a fat, palm-sized white seashell with sparkly-eyed glee for bedridden ISABEL. They are both eighteen years old, and while Juan is fit and handsome, Isabel is approaching the end stage of cancer. Her frame is frail and her hair is all gone, but she still has a pretty face and big, dark eyes. Juan’s enthusiasm elicits a meek grin from Isabel. There is a window opposite the door to the hallway, and across from Isabel’s bed hangs a standard analog clock. It is roughly 6:00pm.
The best shell I ever found! Can you believe my luck?*
But it looks the same as all the others.
*Translated from Spanish.
Panel 2. Juan raises a finger, a mischievous smile accompanying it. Isabel crosses her arms, her head leaning to one side to suggest playful doubt. We’re going to keep the true nature of their relationship purposely ambiguous, but they are not brother and sister.
Isabel, I’ve been collecting one shell a week since we were five years old.
Let me tell you--not a single one of them looks the same.
Panel 3. Isabel snatches the shell away from Juan in a sudden burst of energy, all of which makes Juan nervous.
And when do you plan to return them all to the sea?
Well, I don’t know.
Panel 4. Juan closes his hands around Isabel’s hand, which still contains the shell. They lock eyes.
But I want you to have this one. I found it for you.
It reminds me of you, actually.
Panel 1. Isabel inspects the shell in her hands more closely, depression apparent in her features.
Of me? Am I so pale?
Panel 2. Juan grimaces, disgusted with himself, a hand resting on Isabel’s shoulder.
Of course not! And neither is the shell.
I see so much color.
Panel 3. Isabel gives Juan a pensive stare. He doesn’t really know what to make of it.
Like with leaves?
There are places where the leaves turn beautiful colors in autumn. The leaves never change color in Aguadilla.
Panel 4. Isabel rolls over in her bed in the foreground, facing toward the window (and us) and away from Juan, but she continues to clutch the shell. Juan, feeling disconnected from her now, has backed up closer to the doorway.
I wish I could see the leaves change color.
Panel 5. The hospital hallway. Juan stands in place with his head down, his eyes and mouth scrunched tight, a single tear headed down his cheek. “Pabellón del Cáncer” (cancer ward) is printed on a sign on the wall. Children’s drawings colored in crayon litter a pin board. There is a calendar displaying “octubre” (October, naturally). No dialogue.