Well, my hope was immediately shattered.
Nang makapasok ako sa campus ay tinry kong tawagan sina Yna at Alice pero bago ko pa man mailapat sa tenga ko ang phone ko ay nawala na ‘yon sa kamay ko. When I turned around, the most annoying face came into view.
“Yo, Tiffany,” he greeted with that ever-annoying grin on his face.
“Give me back my phone,” I calmly said, trying to be the bigger person.
He lifted my phone higher as I attempted to get it from his hand. I honestly wanted to punch him on the stomach but there were people around us. Baka ma-report pa ako.
“How are you?”
With the sweetest smile I could muster, I looked at him straight in the eyes. “I am really annoyed right now.”
He chuckled in return. “Really? You’re kinda cute when annoyed.”
“Give me back my phone. Now,” I repeated, this time, with a hint of warning.
Nagulat ako nang bigla niyang ibinaba ang braso niya at marahang iniabot sa akin ang phone ko nang nakangiti. Was this some kind of a trick?
“Okay,” he softly said. “If that’s what my girlfriend wants.”
Halos mabilaukan ako sa gulat nang marinig ko ‘yon mula sa kanya. Was he serious with playing with me? Ano bang problema ng taong ‘to sa akin? Why does he act like the world revolves around him? Sobrang narcissist!
“Oh, god, please kilabutan ka nga!” sabay tulak ko sa kanya palayo.
I walked away from him after securing my phone, but he started following me. Ngayon ay kasabay ko na siyang maglakad at kahit anong madali ko ay naaabutan niya ako. Curse these wedge shoes! Sana pala ay nag-sneakers na lang ako.
“Oh my god, they are together!” a student squealed.
“So it’s true na sila na nga?”
“Maybe? Kasi they are walking together oh!”
“They look good, in fairness.”
“Man, I want a girlfriend, too.”
Now, students are talking about us. Ugh! And he had the audacity to smile as if he was enjoying what he was hearing?!
Fortunately, malapit na ako sa building kung saan ang first class ko kaya noong malingat siya saglit ay tumakbo na ako kahit mukha akong sira. I heaved a sigh of relief when I got into the classroom. At last, peace.
“But he’s such a tease! Nakakainis na minsan.”
“Maybe because you’re easy to tease.”
“See? You’re already provoked. Well, kung hindi madaan sa pakiusap, then do it the hard way.”
“Do it his way. Get aggressive, too. Para ma-realize niya kung anong feeling. Malay mo ma-intimidate.”
I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation of my classmates. Somehow, I could see myself in one of them and the latter had a point. But would that be effective against that freak?
Dumating naman ang prof namin at agad na nag-discuss. After the class, halatang dejected ang ilan dahil may homework at reading assignment agad na ibinigay si Ma’am.
I have a thirty-minute vacant period before my next class kaya balak kong mag-stay muna sa library or garden pero napatigil ako nang makita ko ang lalaking ‘yon sa first floor. He was surrounded by girls and guys, maybe from his earlier class, and it looked like he was having fun. If I didn’t know his personality, I would think he’s a warm person, but that was just a façade.
Our gazes suddenly met each other. He smiled and waved at my direction, prompting others to look at me, too. I turned around to escape but halted when I remembered what my classmates were talking about earlier.
“Do it his way. Get aggressive, too. Para ma-realize niya kung anong feeling. Malay mo ma-intimidate.”
Would that really be effective? If it would be, then that would be for the better. If not, hindi ko na alam kung ano pa ang dapat gawin nang hindi masyadong nakaka-attract ng attention ng iba.
Huminga ako nang malalim at muling humarap sa direksyon niya. I smiled in return and for a second, he looked confused. Did he not expect it?
Somehow, my confidence to do this was slowly building up. I walked toward his direction without breaking our gaze. His classmates were suppressing their giggles while looking back and forth at us. Huminto ako sa harapan niya at muling ngumiti.
For the first time, that annoying grin was nowhere to be found. He looked bewildered with my unusual response. Hah. Maybe it was, indeed, effective.
“Darryl,” I called.
“Oh, sorry, bebe boy,” I corrected. “You want me to call you that, right?”
Pagkasabi ko no’n ay nagtawanan ang ilan sa mga kaklase niya. One said it was too corny; others cringed at it so hard, and I silently agreed. This time, Darryl looked offended kaya bago pa siya makapagsalita ay nagpaalam na ako.
“Ah, m-may class pa pala ako. See you later, bebe boy.”
I didn’t wait for him to react and bolted through the hallway.
Oh my god, what the heck did I do?! Bebe boy? Kadiri! That was so cringey!
I was in the library, all curled up on my seat because the embarrassment had caught up on me. My god, dapat hindi ko na sinunod ang narinig ko sa classmates ko! But . . . he seemed too appalled by it. Maybe he’d stop now? I hope so, because that humiliation was enough for this lifetime.
“That was really embarrassing,” I muttered, covering my face.
My body shivered in disgust as I recalled what I did earlier. Ang init din ng pakiramdam ng mukha ko. I never did something like this in my whole life kaya sana ay tigilan na niya ako. I hope he felt so embarrassed that he’d deny everything and tell them it was all lies.
For the next two days, I was anxious. Fortunately, I hadn’t crossed paths with him. Maybe he really hated that endearment and decided to stay away from me. Then that’s good.
“Alam mo, Steff, kung may magsasabing may ginawa kang krimen, maniniwala ako,” Alice said while we were eating snacks in the garden.
“You kinda look like guilty, Steff,” added Yna.
“So, may ginawa ka nga?”
Dinivert ko kaagad ang topic sa iba at buti na lang ay interested sila sa gossips. Yna said she was spending a lot of time reading articles from the university’s portal—a gossip site about students, staffs and activities in the campus. According to Yna, it mostly contains rumors and hearsays but those are what the students want to read. It had become an infamous site that almost all students know about it.
“Actually, one of the trending articles few days ago was about you and Darryl—”
“What?!” Halos mapatayo ako nang marinig ko ‘yon.
I suddenly felt bad because Yna looked taken aback. “I mean . . . a lot of students heard him saying . . . saying he’s your boyfriend.”
“Then, is it still trending?”
She slowly shook her head. “Not anymore. The Elites from the higher batches are dominating the trending list right now.”
Para naman akong nakahinga nang maluwag nang marinig ko ‘yon. At least, it was just one article. At mukhang hindi naman lumabas ‘yong pagtawag ko sa kanya ng bebe boy. Kinikilabutan pa rin ako kapag naaalala ko ang ginawa ko noong araw na ‘yon.
Nagpaalam ako sa kanila na mags-stay muna ako sa library para basahin ang reading assignments na binigay ng prof namin sa Eng 1. Malapit na ako sa library nang mapansin kong parang may kulang . . . oh, god. I forgot my mini attache case on the table.
“Stupid,” I muttered. “Why am I so distracted?!”
I fished my phone out of my bag to call Alice but before I could even open it, I bumped into someone. Natumba ako at nabitiwan ko ang phone ko. What’s worse was there were a lot of people on the hallway. Nakakahiya!
“I’m sorry,” I said while standing up.
“Okay ka lang?” Napahinto naman ako nang marinig ko ang boses ng nakabanggaan ko. When I looked up, his face came into sight.
The students started whispering to one another, and I immediately got conscious.
He stepped closer and smiled. “Please be careful, bebe girl.”
His words sent shiver down my spine, but what made me want to disappear was the sudden cheering and teasing of those around us.
“Oh my god, did you hear that?”
“Bebe girl? What’s up with that endearment?”
“That’s kinda corny, no?”
“Eh, it’s kinda sweet, tho?”
Realization suddenly hit me. He didn’t back down. He was waiting for the opportunity to get back at me. And he succeeded. Because instead of retaliating, I ran away.
Boyfriend? Oh my god, this guy is totally insane. What’s worse was a lot of students heard his words.
Muli siyang ngumiti. It took me a few seconds to realize I hadn’t refuted his nonsense yet but he already turned around before I could say something.
“See you tomorrow, Tiffany,” he said while waving his hand at me.
Napatigil ako dahil ang dami nang nakatingin na estudyante sa akin. Some were whispering to one another; others, looking back and forth to me and that freak. I suddenly wanted to vanish into thin air.
“Uhm, S-Steff . . .”
I flinched upon hearing Yna’s voice and when I turned around, they had a variety of expressions on their faces.
“Gwapo nga,” Alice commented. “Pero omg bakit may pa-ganon?”
“Hala ka Steff, he set you up.”
“But don’t they look good together?”
Napabuntong-hininga na lang ako. “Please. That guy is just making fun of me. Ang kapal ng mukha talaga.”
“Pero ang funny,” said Alice. “Ikaw raw nagtanong kung pwede mo siya maging boyfriend.”
I grimaced. “Eww. You know that I have no interest in men.”
“For now,” she retorted.
“Right. Steff would rather date a strawberry cake than a guy,” Yna chuckled.
Halos hindi nila ako nilubayan sa mga tanong hanggang sa matapos ang vacant period ko. Kahit ang classmates ko at ibang estudyanteng nakakasalubong ko ay kakaiba tumingin sa akin. I mean, wow, rumors do fly fast.
By the end of my last class, I was mentally and physically exhausted. Halos wala na ring pumapasok sa utak ko dahil sobrang nakaka-conscious ang tingin ng classmates ko. I was about to call Dad but he beat me to it.
“We’re here at the parking lot near the entrance,” sabi niya kaya nagulat ako.
Dad rarely comes out of the house during his day offs unless we plead when we want to go somewhere. Magpapasundo sana ako sa kanya ngayon dahil napagod ako, but I didn’t expect that he’d be already here.
He sighed. “Yeah. I’m with Venice.”
Ah, kaya naman pala. Now, I know why.
“Okay, I’ll be there in five minutes.”
I drew a deep breath as I walked toward the main gate. Gusto ko na lang sanang magpahinga sa bahay pero mukhang lalo akong mapapagod ngayong araw.
Venice, my younger sister, likes to shop, and she’d always drag me with her to ask for my opinions. Mas maganda raw kasi ako pumili ng clothes and shoes kaysa sa kanya. Dad would sometimes accompany her pero lagi niyang sinasabi na it’s tiresome lalo na at ilang oras siyang naghihintay kaya alam kong deep inside, mas gusto niyang ako ang kasama ni Venice sa pagsho-shopping.
I saw our car in the parking lot kaya agad akong naglakad papunta ro’n. Venice was already checking some items on the stores’ websites when I got inside.
“Ate!” she beamed. “Shopping tayo.”
Halos sabay na kaming napabuntong-hininga ni Dad pero wala naman na kaming magagawa. Dad drove to the mall while Venice and I settled quietly at the backseat. After fifteen minutes ay nakarating kami ro’n pero sinabihan kami ni Dad na mag-taxi na lang pauwi dahil may pupuntahan siya. I suddenly missed Kuya Felix dahil madalas ay siya ang naghahatid-sundo sa amin but he’s on a leave due to family matters.
Agad namang pumunta si Venice sa favorite brands niya na stores. She started browsing the dresses and I joined her after seeing some cute and cool designs.
“Will this suit me?” sabay pakita niya sa akin ng isang yellow dress.
“The white looks better,” I suggested.
Napangiti naman siya ro’n at agad na kinuha ang white variant na katabi ng kinuha niya. She rushed to the fitting room with several more stuff.
After four fittings ay binili niya ang mga iyon. We also bought shoes and bags from different stores. Okay na rin palang sumama ako sa kanya, at least, I got to relieve my stress.
We were about to leave the current store when she suddenly pulled my sleeve. “Wait, Ate.”
She was staring at the men’s section with a bashful expression on her face. Wait, don’t tell me . . . ?
“You have a boyfriend?” I intoned.
Her cheeks reddened. “W-wait! Wala pa!”
“I mean, it’s just . . . just a crush, okay?”
Venice had a lot of admirers in her school, but she didn’t really care about them. Akala ko nga ay magiging tulad ko rin ‘to na walang paki sa mga lalaki pero these past few months, she was always on her phone, smiling and giggling.
I crossed my arms and narrowed my eyes at her. “Crush lang pero bakit parang may balak kang bigyan ng gift?”
“Masama bang magbigay ng gift?” she muttered.
“No, but you clearly have an intention.”
“But he’s really cute! And he’s nice din—”
“Tigilan mo nga ‘yan at mag-aral ka muna, or I’m gonna tell Dad about him.”
She averted my gaze in return and pouted. “You know, ate, I’m the first honor in our batch last year. I can multitask.”
Halos mapanganga na lang ako sa sinabi niya. Wow, this kid is growing up . . . and learning.
“Ikaw kasi, ate, maghanap ka na ng boyfriend para naman sumaya ang buhay mo.”
I rolled my eyes in distaste. “I’d rather study—”
Bigla ko namang naalala ang mga nangyari kanina. I’ll be willing to be your boyfriend. Those words echoed in my head and made my skin crawl in disgust. God, even without his presence, that freak is torturing me.
“Anong nangyari sa’yo, Ate?”
My mind jarred back to the present upon hearing her voice. “Nothing.”
She gave me a skeptical look and grinned. “You’re hiding something.”
“I am not,” sabi ko at nagpatuloy maglakad.
Sumunod siya sa akin and this time, curiosity gleamed in her eyes. “Oh my god, ate, don’t tell me ikaw ang may boyfriend—”
“I don’t have a boyfriend,” matigas kong sagot. “And never will I have one.”
Napatigil naman siya at na-realize kong masyado kong sineryoso ang tanong niya. Parang ang guilty tuloy ng dating ko.
“Okay, fine,” she said, clearly hurt by my tone. “Bakit ka galit?”
I heaved a deep sigh. “I’m just tired, Venice. Tara na, let’s go home.”
We booked a taxi and arrived home after thirty minutes. Dad was already there when we got home. It was already dinner time but I wasn’t in the mood.
“Hindi ka kakain?” tanong ni Dad.
“No, Dad, antok na ako.”
Dumiretso ako sa kwarto ko at nag-shower saglit. Pagkahiga ko sa kama ay naramdaman ko kaagad ang pagbigat ng mga mata ko. It was such a long and stressful day.
I hope tomorrow would be a better one.
“I think she’s in love with me.”
I still couldn’t believe that he did that. This guy just took boredom and revenge to another level. Halos sinusumpa ko na siya sa utak ko pero ayaw ko namang mag-eskandalo. I took a deep breath and stood up.
“Sorry, Ma’am, for the disturbance. Don’t mind him. He said your class is boring so he’s doing this.”
I shot a glare at him and our professor’s expression turned grim. Halos nagbubulungan na rin ang classmates namin at ang iba ay nakuha pang humiyaw.
Ma’am Cruz cleared her throat and she looked . . . angry. I realized what I just did and wanted to take back everything I had said. Ang sabi ko hindi ako gagawa ng bagay na maglalagay sa akin sa spotlight, but here I am, doing exactly what I said I wouldn’t.
“Being Elites does not give you the rights to disrespect your professors,” Ma’am Cruz said and I just knew she already had a bad impression on us. “Am I clear, Mr. Garcia? Ms. Damian?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” sagot ko.
Dahan-dahan akong umupo habang nakayuko. That was indeed disrespectful. Naiinis ako sa sarili ko dahil nagawa ko ‘yon. I shouldn’t have responded to this freak’s absurdity.
I took a deep breath and reassessed my priorities. Right. Kahit na bwisit pa rin ako sa rankings and titles na ‘yan, my academic performance would still take precedence.
Narinig ko naman ang mahina niyang pagtawa. “Really interesting.”
For the whole duration of the class, I only paid attention to the lecture. Fortunately, he didn’t bother me anymore, but his silence was kind of unsettling. Pakiramdam ko may binabalak na hindi maganda ang lalaking ‘yon.
Right after our prof dismissed the class ay nagmadali ako sa paglabas sa room. Finally, I could breathe. God, that was suffocating.
Agad kong tinawagan si Alice dahil ang alam ko ay vacant period na rin nila. “Saan kayo?”
“Garden,” she answered. “By the way, kasama namin si Jess.”
Her words didn’t sink in for a few seconds and I was surprised when I realized what she just said. Wow. Nagkita na sila? At close na agad sila?
“Dalian mo, Steff, malapit ko nang ikwento high school life mo sa kanya.”
Alice chucked. “Heto na nagtatanong na siya about sa kung sinong naging crush mo—”
“Fine, I’m running, okay?”
Agad kong in-end ang tawag at halos patakbo na ngang pumunta sa garden.
The school garden was one of the few things that I like in the university. Each table has a wooden shade, vines coiling around them, and different kinds of shrubs and flowers between spaces. You’d feel like you were in a fairytale setting, especially with its aesthetic touch.
I looked around, trying to search for my friends, and a grin grew on my face when I saw Yna waving at my direction. Agad akong naglakad papunta sa kanila pero bigla akong na-conscious dahil nakatingin sa akin ang ilang nasa garden din.
“You’re finally here,” Yna remarked.
Umupo naman ako sa bakanteng upuan. As expected, we were receiving attention because of Jess and I. Paano ba naman, dalawang “Campus Princess” ang nandito. After all, we were treated as public figures in this university. I hope people would come to realize that we were the people that they should admire.
“Don’t you think that guy’s hot?” bulong ni Alice kay Yna.
“Hay naku, magkaiba talaga tayo ng type!”
Napangiti naman ako dahil kahit papaano ay hindi gaanong affected ang dalawang ‘yon. Sana nga lang ay hindi rin sila idamay ng iba.
“Kevin Fuentez is looking this way,” Yna remarked.
Alice suddenly froze and suppressed a squeal. First week pa lang pero may crush na agad ang isang ‘to. Worse, Campus Prince pa. Parang nagbago na ang tingin ko sa kanilang lahat noong nakasalumuha ko ang lalaking ‘yon.
Jess gasped. “Omg, oo nga. Baka crush ka?”
Tumawa naman si Alice. “Asa! Baka isa sa inyo ni Steff kasi Campus Princess kayo.”
“Jealous?” Yna taunted.
She flipped her hair. “Hindi naman masyado.”
Nagtawanan kami dahil sa kanya at mukhang magka-wavelength nga sila ni Jess dahil nasasakyan nila ang jokes ng isa’t isa.
“Speaking of stories,” sabay tingin sa akin ni Jess. “May narinig kami kanina habang hinihintay ka.”
“Oo nga, Steff. May kaklase ka raw na Campus Prince,” dagdag ni Yna.
“Eh? Who? Patrick? Calvin Gisel? Ian Darryl?”
Okay, ngayon ako na ang nasa hot seat. I was trying to forget about that annoying encounter but these girls were persistent. Idagdag pa na ikinuwento rin ni Jess ang nangyari noong nasa corridor kami.
“I can’t believe it. For the first time, Steff had a verbal argument with someone,” Yna chuckled.
“Wait, never ka pang nakipag-away sa kahit sino?” gulat na tanong ni Jess.
Natawa naman si Alice. “Ano pa bang aasahan mo sa dalawang ‘to,” sabay turo niya sa amin ni Yna. “Ako ang taga-away sa mga nang-aaway sa kanila.”
Alice looked angelic and her smile could melt everyone’s heart, but she could also be deadly when serious. Mabuti na lang at wala naman kaming nakaaway nang malala noong high school. Kadalasan ay ‘yong mga nagpaparinig lang, but we just ignored them since that was the best way to deal with those kinds of people.
Yna smiled teasingly. “Did he tease you during class, too?”
I was hesitant to answer it at first but their stares were clearly asking for the details. “Yeah,” sagot ko. “I almost got into trouble because of that jerk.”
Alice chuckled at my reaction. “Wow, jerk na ang tawag. Mukhang hate mo nga.”
“He’s seriously hateful,” I retorted.
“Akala ko ba playful lang siya, sabi ni Jess?”
“’Yon ang sabi ng iba kong classmates. Medyo flirty rin pero sa nakakainis na paraan.”
“Please let’s not talk about him anymore,” I commented. “Nakakasira ng mood.”
We continued eating and talking about our respective classes. Last class na raw ni Yna habang si Alice ay hanggang 3 PM pa. Meanwhile, pareho naman kami ni Jess na 5:30 PM ang huling klase.
Mabuti na lang talaga at nalipat ulit ang topic kay Alice at sa crush niya raw na si Kevin. Si Jess wala pa raw crush, but she admitted that Kevin and Darryl were handsome. Nagtaka naman ako nang bigla silang tumigil sa pagtatawanan habang nakatingin sa akin.
It was already too late when I realized they weren’t looking at me, but at someone behind me.
The hair on my nape stood up upon hearing that familiar and displeasing voice. I turned my head but flinched when I realized our faces were just inches apart. An impish smile grew on his face while I drew back a little to put some distance between us.
Pero bakit ba ‘to nandito? Was he really serious about getting interested with me? Ano bang problema niya sa akin?
“What are you doing here?” matigas kong tanong.
“Yes,” he answered, earning a confused look from me.
Bigla naman akong kinabahan. Anong yes ang pinagsasabi nito?
He gently pulled back and stood straight, his hands inside his pockets. “I was musing on your proposal a while ago and I think it’s not bad.”
Napakunot ang noo ko dahil hindi ko masundan ang sinasabi niya. What proposal was he talking about? Ni hindi ko na nga siya kinausap pagkatapos ng ginawa niya.
“What are you—”
“Alright, then, Tiffany,” he said, cutting me off. He gave me an innocent smile, which was obviously fake, and held out his hand. “I’ll be willing to be your boyfriend.”
I heard collective gasps from the students near us. For a second, my mind was blank, unwilling to process the words I just heard. When I realized what he just said, I almost lost my balance, but he swiftly held the chair in place.
“Oh my god!”
“Did you hear that?”
“Wait, for real?”
Words got caught in my throat and I ended up staring at him. Boyfriend? Where the heck did that come from?
Oh my god, this guy is deranged.
I was in a bad mood for the rest of my morning classes.
Hindi ko nga rin inaasahan na classmate ko ulit si Jessica sa Eng 1. After our class ay sabay na rin kaming naglakad pababa ng building.
“Oh, god, sorry talaga kanina,” she said with an apologetic expression.
I forced a smile. “It’s okay. That guy needs a good smack on the head to wake up from his delusions.”
Natawa naman siya sa sinabi ko pero bumalik din agad ang worry sa mukha niya.
“You’ve already butt heads with Ian Darry Garcia, the third on the Elite list. The first Campus Prince. Medyo nag-aalala ako sa’yo.”
My eyebrows knitted. “Bakit naman? Masama ba talaga ang ugali niya?”
“May mga nagsasabing mabait siya and he’s just playful. Pero sa nangyari kanina, I say mukhang may lahing demonyo ang isang ‘yon.”
This time, it was my turn to laugh at her comment. Despite her short stature, she looked like she’d fight someone who’s taller than her. Though natakot siya kanina kasi raw nakaka-intimidate si Darryl at dahil ang daming estudyanteng nakatingin sa kanila.
“I really owe you one, Tiffany,” ulit niya.
“It’s really okay,” I reiterated. “And just call me Steff.”
I told her that my name was supposed to be Steffany but the nurse misheard my Dad and wrote Tiffany instead. Mom was quite upset because of that so they started calling me Steffany, despite it not being my official name. Kaya rin Steff ang naging nickname ko sa family and close friends ko.
“Ang cute naman, may history pa,” sabay tawa niya. “You can call me Jess. Haba ng Jessica, eh.”
“I see. Alright, Jess, mauna na ulit ako. May class pa ako, eh.”
“Okay! Bye, Steff!”
Buti na lang at last class ko na rin ito for the morning. Gutom na rin ako at gusto ko nang mag-lunch. I went to my class less annoyed, thanks to Jess, but I was already running late. Paano ay late din nag-dismiss ‘yong last class.
I was already half-running on the stairs at napapikit na lang ako nang makita kong nandoon na ang prof namin. I was hoping that she wouldn’t see me but I halted when she called my name.
“Ms. Damian?” she called and almost everyone in the class turned their heads to my direction. Great.
“Sorry, I’m late, Ma’am.”
She heaved a sigh, clearly disappointed. “Please sit next to Mr. Garcia. That’s the only vacant seat.”
Tumango na lang ako at nagtuluy-tuloy sa upuang tinuro niya. I was already a few steps away from the seat when her words started to sink in.
Mr. Garcia? Don’t tell me . . .
I slowly raised my head to see who would be my seatmate, desperately hoping that it wouldn’t be the guy I was thinking of, but his annoying smile was the first thing that came into my view.
Ha! And he had the gall to sneak a wave?!
“Ms. Damian? Please seat,” the prof ordered, now with a hint of annoyance.
Wala naman akong nagawa kundi umupo sa tabi niya. Nakakainis lang dahil fixed ang seats kaya hindi ko mausod palayo. I didn’t want to deal with him so I tried not to look at his direction.
Our prof started talking about the course and our requirements for her class. I thought everything would be fine, but he suddenly leaned forward, enough for me to see him on my peripheral vision.
He let out a sly smile. “Didn’t think I’d see you this quick,” he said in a whisper. “You’re dead, Ms. Tiffany Damian.”
The hair on my nape bristled as he said those words. Oh god, tama nga si Jess. This guy’s a devil’s relative. Mukhang ako ang pagdidiskitahan niya.
I ignored him but he kept on kicking the leg of my seat and it was messing my handwriting! Sinamaan ko siya ng tingin pero nakatuon lang ang atensyon niya sa harapan. Hah. As if he was really listening to our prof!
“So annoying,” I murmured as I clicked my tongue.
Huminto naman siya sa pagsipa pero nag-lean back siya at umusod palapit sa akin. Annoyed, I shifted on my seat and turned slightly away from him. Narinig ko ang pagpipigil niya ng tawa kaya lalo lang akong nairita.
“You’re really interesting,” mahina niyang sabi.
“I’m not,” I replied. “Please just find someone who’s willing to tolerate your annoying antics.”
He chuckled in return. “No one’s more interesting than you as of this moment.”
Huminga ako nang malalim para kalmahin ang sarili ko. “Please get away from me.”
Napapikit na lang ako dahil malapit ko na siyang sabunutan sa inis. I tried to focus again on the orientation but this guy was making it hard for me! Bakit ba kasi siya ang katabi ko? Pwede bang makipagpalit sa kahit kanino? I couldn’t stand this jerk any longer!
Nagsimulang mag-lesson si Ma’am about our first topic in the syllabus. Fortunately, tumigil siya pansamantala sa pambubwisit. Tiningnan ko naman ang oras dahil medyo inaantok ako sa lecture. Buti na lang at last fifteen minutes na lang. Gusto ko nang kumain.
“Boring,” he murmured.
Saglit akong napatingin sa kanya. He was cupping his chin with both of his palm and his eyes looked drowsy. Nagulat ako nang bigla siyang lumingon. Crap. Our gazes met each other.
“Looking at me, huh?” pang-aasar niya and I rolled my eyes in return.
“Oh please, you’re not that good-looking to be stared at,” I returned.
Parang gusto ko na agad ‘yong bawiin dahil baka lalo lang lumala ang attention niya sa akin. Pero kasi, he’s really getting into my nerves!
“Talaga lang, ha?” sabay tingin niya sa mga babae sa bandang front row.
Sinundan ko ang tingin niya at nakita ko ang ilan na lumilingon-lingon sa direksyon namin. My god, ang yabang! Alright, he’s got the looks pero basura pa rin ang ugali.
“Don’t lump me with them,” I retorted.
I really should shut up pero ayaw kong patalo sa kanya. Feeling ko kasi kapag hindi ako gumanti, iisipin niya na nanalo na siya. And I hate how he would always smirk whenever he thinks he already won an argument.
Ugh. Don’t call my name! Kinikilabutan ako kapag siya ang nagsasabi.
“Shall I start?” he whispered.
Start what? What kind of monkey trick would he do this time?
Nagulat ako nang bigla siyang tumayo at tinawag ang attention ng prof namin. Oh my god, what is he doing?!
“Ma’am, can I switch seats with the guy over there?” he asked while pointing at a guy on the front row.
“Why, Mr. Garcia? Is there something wrong?”
Buong klase ay nakatingin sa kanya kaya para akong binuhusan ng malamig na tubig nang bigla siyang lumingon sa akin. An impish smile escaped his lips before he turned back to our professor.
“My seatmate’s bothering me,” he announced. “I think she’s in love with me.”
My mouth hung open upon hearing his statement and I suddenly wanted to vanish from existence. What the freaking heck is wrong with this guy?!
“See you later, princess,” Alice teased as she walked away while Yna was just chuckling beside her.
The two went to the fifth floor since doon ang next class nila. Sa totoo lang, ayaw kong humiwalay sa kanila dahil for sure ay hindi ako tatantanan ng magiging classmates ko once makilala nila ako as a Campus Princess, but I had no choice.
With a deep breath, I went inside the room and hoped that nobody would recognize me, but that hope was short-lived.
The girl in front of me suddenly turned and smirked. “You’re the top 5, aren’t you?” she asked.
My immediate impression with her was that she was adorable. Her big eyes and soft features, along with her small face and petite figure would be enough to say that she was the cutest student I have seen so far. However, I still didn’t like how she called me top 5.
“Please don’t call me that,” I murmured.
She chuckled in return. “Oh, sorry. Jessica nga pala,” sabay abot niya ng kamay niya.
Napakunot naman ang noo ko. Jessica? Don’t tell me she’s Jessica Morales? The second placer in the Elites.
“The top two?” I asked.
“Please don’t call me that,” she retorted, using the words I said against me.
Lumipat naman siya ng pwesto at umupo sa tabi ko. Some of our classmates were already eyeing us and it was honestly getting annoying.
“Nakakainis, no?” reklamo niya. “Students pa rin naman tayo pero kung tratuhin tayo eh parang celebrities na.”
Exactly! I agreed inside my head. I’m glad someone is on the same page as me!
“For real,” I replied. “Hindi ko pa rin gets bakit kailangan may title pa. It’s honestly burdensome.”
“Di ba?! May scarcity ba ng magaganda at gwapo na matatalino rin sa university na ‘to para gumawa pa ng titles for that?”
I chuckled at her remark. In fairness, I didn’t feel awkward while talking to her.
After that, we talked about the things we experienced as Campus Princesses and how we hated it as soon as we were informed about it. Nakakatuwa rin dahil mabilis ko siyang nakagaanan ng loob dahil sa mutual dislike namin sa titles namin.
After our class ay nagpaalam na rin siya sa akin dahil medyo malayo raw ang next class niya. Sakto namang pag-alis niya ay dumating sina Yna at Alice kaya naglakad ako papunta sa kanila.
“May ikukwento ako,” bungad ko sa kanila.
“Wait, don’t tell me may crush ka na agad na classmate mo?” Alice commented.
I rolled my eyes at her. “Oh, please.”
Yna chuckled. “Steff, who loves strawberries and chocolates more than boys? I doubt it.”
Nang makarating kami sa isang bench malapit sa entrance ay hindi pa rin sila tumigil sa pang-aasar. They kept on commenting how I would more likely to marry food than guys . . . well . . . they might be right.
“So, ano na nga ‘yong kwento mo?” tanong ni Alice.
“I have a classmate na Campus Princess din,” pagsisimula ko.
“O akala ko ba ayaw mo silang makasalamuha?”
“What’s makasalamuha?” Yna chimed in.
“Encounter,” we simultaneously said. Since high school, parang automatic na kami ni Alice na mag-translate kay Yna once may hindi siya alam na word.
“Anyway, she’s different,” I continued. “She doesn’t like her title din. At least may karamay ako.”
Yna knitted her brows. “Eh? She also doesn’t like to be a Campus Princess?”
I nodded as a smile escaped my lips. “Yup! Someone finally feels the same as me. This is a great start. Anyway, kayo kumusta classes n’yo?”
They exchanged glances and Yna suppressed a smile.
“So, you do have a story to tell,” I commented.
“I don’t, but Alice has.”
Alice furrowed her brows but I could tell that she wasn’t really sulking. Instead, mukhang nagpipigil ng kilig. For sure may bagong crush na naman siya.
“Kevin is in our class,” sabi ni Yna kaya sinamaan siya ng tingin ni Alice.
“Shut up, Yna—”
“What happened?” tanong ko agad.
“He smiled at her,” she chuckled, “and her expression was kinda funny.”
Nagsimula kaming asarin si Alice. She’s the type to like someone fast, but it also fades away quickly. If I remember correctly, pasok si Kevin sa standards niya, pero mukha kasing playboy ang isang ‘yon. I don’t know why but that was the kind of vibe he was giving off when I first saw him in the cafeteria. Baka nga hindi niya na maalala si Alice after that.
Isang oras lang ang vacant period namin kaya agad din kaming nagpaalam sa isa’t isa after magkwentuhan. I went to my next class pero napahinto ako dahil may crowd na nakaharang sa corridor na kailangan kong daanan.
Almost everyone was whispering to one another and I didn’t want to attract the attention, pero ‘yon lang kasi ang daanan papunta sa room ng next class ko. My god, bakit ba kasi sila mga nakaharang sa daan?
I whispered ‘excuse me’ as I tread through the crowd but I halted when I saw a familiar figure in the middle. It was Jessica, the Campus Princess I befriended in my previous class.
She looked like she was about to cry so I ran next to her.
“Hey,” sabay tapik ko sa balikat niya.
“Who are you?” a voice demanded.
Hinanap ko kung sino iyon at sa bandang gilid ay may lalaking nakatingin sa aming dalawa.
A few second glance and I already knew that this guy was a Campus Prince. His look was different from Kevin’s masculine beauty, in a way that pretty suited him more. Matangkad at maamo ang mukha pero parang masama ang ugali.
“Tiffany, why are you here?” whispered Jessica. “Madadamay ka lang.”
“Why? Ano bang nangyari?”
She glared at the guy. “He overheard me talking about him. Tapos nagkasagutan kami. He thought I like him. Eh hindi ko nga siya type.”
I was just staring at her for a few seconds, unsure if what I heard was right. Akala ko naman kung ano na ang nangyari. Pero bakit parang ang laki ng issue bigla?
“Talking about me again?” he teased and I suddenly had the urge to wipe that smirk off his face.
What’s with his overinflated ego? Akala niya ba importante siya?
“You’re not that worth it to be talked about,” I commented, earning a chorus of gasps from the spectators.
“Tiffany!” Jessica warned in whispers. “Ano ka ba, don’t taunt him. Mamaya pag-initan ka rin niyan.”
“But he’s annoying,” I muttered.
Medyo tolerable pa ang inis na nararamdaman ko kanina from the murmurs of the students. Self-centered and arrogant jerks are among the things I hate the most, at mukhang kabilang siya sa set na ‘yon.
I held Jess’ wrist and started pulling her away from the crowd and that annoying guy, but I froze when he called my name.
“Tiffany Damian,” he repeated. “That’s your name, right?”
For a second, I realized how everyone was already looking at us. I said I didn’t want any attention yet I was making a scene. Gusto kong batukan ang sarili ko dahil minsan ay ang impulsive ko. But this was the right way. Jessica needed help and I wanted to save her from the situation.
I turned to his direction and smiled. “Yes, that’s me. Who are you anyway?”
Someone from the crowd stifled a gasp. “Oh my god, ‘di niya kilala si Darryl?”
Darryl? Hmm, if this guy was indeed a Campus Prince, then he must be that Darryl. Sana sinasama rin nila sa qualifications ang personality at behavior as a student para naman hindi nakukuha ang mga tulad niya.
He chuckled and put gently stroked his chin, as if he was planning something that would be bad for me.
“Tiffany, huh? Interesting,” he said. Tumalikod naman siya at nagsimulang maglakad palayo sa amin pero saglit siyang huminto at lumingon. “See you around.”
I was about to retaliate but Jessica pulled me away. Saka ko lang naalala na may class nga pala ako kaya agad din akong nagpaalam sa kanya. Fortunately, wala pa ang prof.
While waiting for the class to start, I thought about what happened few minutes ago. Seriously, what the heck was that? And what was his problem?