Tahimik lang kami habang papunta sa campus. Well, the truth was, I could only glance at him because I was too nervous. I mean, people would see us coming together and being with him would cause another wave of rumors, unless . . .
Napatingin naman ako sa kanya. “Y-yeah. A little.”
“Just a little?” he asked while smirking.
This guy . . . how could he be so calm in this kind of situation? Gaano ba katas ang confidence nito at parang hindi man lang natatamaan ng kahit anong kaba o kahihiyan sa katawan?
“Sobra,” I confessed. “I mean, they’ll see me with you. Normally, Campus Princes at Princesses ang magkakasama.”
“Why would I be with them? You’re my girlfriend.”
Napahinga ako nang malalim nang sabihin niya ‘yon at naramdaman ko ang pag-init ng mukha ko.
“H-hindi ka ba nahihiya sa mga sinasabi mo?”
“No,” he responded while glancing at me. “Why?”
“W-well, maybe the one hearing them is.”
Pumasok naman kami sa campus at nag-park siya sa vacant slot. Akala ko nga ay bababa na kami pero napatigil ako nang humarap siya sa akin. He stared at me with a smile on his face and I got nervous that I ended up fiddling the seatbelt.
“You asked me if I get flustered when I’m being straightforward.” Tumango naman ako. “The truth is, I do but the embarrassment gets replaced with courage and confidence and maybe it’s because you’re the one hearing them.”
Wala na. Talo na ako. The further I ask him about this, the more I get flustered. Lalo na ngayon na mukha talaga siyang prinsipe at parang mas nakakaakit ang mga tingin niya. I was actually surprised that my heart could still handle this kind of attack. Stay strong, please.
Lumabas kami mula sa sasakyan niya at ang dami na ring students ang naglalakad papunta sa green field. Tumingin naman siya sa akin at inilagay niya ang kamay ko sa braso niya.
Nahihirapan pa rin akong huminga nang maayos dahil sa kaba lalo na’t may ibang nakatingin na sa amin habang papunta kami sa green field.
Looking at the venue, it felt like we were really living in a kingdom. The green field was transfored into a huge garden outside a castle—bushes cleanly shaped and trimmed; and footpaths made of paving stones and gravel while being surrounded by trees and flowers of different colors. The stage was designed to look like a castle’s ballroom with a wide staircase that leads to the it, fancy ornamental elements, marble floor and royal chairs for the Campus Princes and Princesses.
Seeing the students, professors and staffs dressed in elegant suits and gowns was such a spectacle and the royalty theme felt real.
Napatingin naman kami sa isang staff at tumango si Kevin. She gestured us to go to the photobooth where several photographers were waiting. Naglakad kami papunta ro’n at napunta agad sa amin ang atensyon dahil isang Campus Prince ang kasama ko.
Agad naman kaming kinuhanan ng pictures at halos mabulag na ako sa dami ng flash sa harapan ko. It was getting uncomfortable but Kevin suddenly tilted his head toward me and I looked at him.
“You okay?” he softly asked with a look of concern in his eyes.
The lights from the camera made his eyes more mesmerizing. Looking at him made me regain my composure for a bit. Funny how the person that makes me nervous is also the same person that can calm me down.
After that, we walked to the castle’s garden and I immediately saw Steff and Darryl sitting around the table on the leftmost area. Pagdating namin doon ay agad akong napaupo at naramdaman ko ang panghihina ng mga tuhod ko.
Sinalubong naman ako ni Darryl ng isang nakakalokong ngiti kaya tinaasan ko siya ng kilay.
“Is your Ke—ouch!”
Bago niya pa matapos ang sasabihin niya ay sinipa ko siya sab inti at buti na lang ay medyo maingay ang paligid kaya hindi ‘yon narinig nina Steff at Kevin. After a few minutes, halos sabay na ring dumating sina Jess at Patrick at kasunod nila si Yna.
Nagsisimula nang tumugtog ang ilang bands na in-invite sa Fair habang ang ilang estudyante ay lumilibot para bumili ng pagkain at iba pang stuff na nasa iba’t ibang stalls sa paligid. After several songs ay ipinatawag na ang mga Campus Prince sa batch namin dahil magpe-perform din sila. Nang umalis sina Kevin, Darryl at Patrick sa table namin ay lumapit naman ang isang staff para kausapin sina Steff at Jess kaya naiwan kami ni Yna.
“So . . . how’s the princess?” she teased.
“Ayon, kaaalis lang nila,” I responded, pertaining to Steff and Jess.
Hinampas naman niya ako sabay tingin sa direksyon nina Kevin na paakyat ngayon sa stage. Inabutan din sila ng crowns ng isang staff at na-excite naman silang isuot ang mga ‘yon. The crowd started screaming when they saw them with their prince attire and it looked like they would attend a world meeting rather than perform.
Nagsa-soundcheck sila nang lumapit sa amin ang isang staff at sinabing for faculties daw pala ang table sa leftmost part kaya napilitan kaming lumipat ni Yna. We were about to go to the assigned tables for students when the lights suddenly illuminated toward our direction. Nagmadaling maglakad si Yna papunta sa table pero hindi ko naman magawang bilisan ang lakad ko dahil sa heels at gown na suot ko.
I was surprised when I heard collective gasp and murmurs around us so I lowered my head and wished I could just teleport to our table.
“Is that Alice Diaz?”
“Ah! The girl who was rumored with Kevin Fuentez?”
“For real? She looks like a real-life princess.”
“Is the rumor true? Does she have a boyfriend?”
Sana kapag nag-uusap sila, ‘yong hindi ko naririnig, ano? My god, nakakahiya! Bakit kasi ang layo ng pinili ni Yna? At bakit ang bilis niya maglakad? Paano niya nagawa ‘yon?
Pagkarating ko sa table namin ay umupo agad ako sa tabi ni Yna at napainom ng tubig sa sobrang hiya. We were about to talk about what happened when a guy suddenly approached us. Judging by the table where he came from, he must be a fourth year.
“Alice Diaz, right?” tanong niya.
“Uhm . . . y-yeah—”
Napatigil ako dahil bigla na lang may malakas na tunog ang nanggaling sa stage. Pagtingin namin ay tine-test ni Kevin ang drums pero mukhang napalakas siya sa palo sa cymbals. Ang sakit tuloy sa tenga.
“Just checking the sound’s quality. Sorry,” he said using his mic and some students chuckled.
The four of them continued checking the instruments and the guy in front of me looked at me again, but before he could say anything, a loud bang caught our attention. It was Kevin. Again.
“This drum sounds good, too,” he said as if he didn’t do anything surprising.
He suddenly looked at my direction and I flinched when his face turned serious. What happened—wait. Don’t tell me he’s . . .
♪ I’d be jealous, too, if she was with you ♪
Darryl sang a line while strumming his guitar and he looked at Kevin with a contemptuous smile.
♪ If you felt the way it feels the way she looks at you
I'd be jealous too, I'd be jealous too ♪
Sinundan naman siya ni Patrick at natawa sa kanila si Gisel. Hindi ko alam kung bakit ako napangiti sa kanila. They looked too cute and it seemed like I was right.
“Looks like all the instruments are in tune,” Gisel noted while the three of them were still grinning at Kevin’s actions a while ago.
Natatawa pa rin ang ilan sa pinaggagawa nilang apat sa stage kaya ang light ng atmosphere kahit papaano. Nandito pa rin ‘yong lalaki pero muli na naman siyang napatigil dahil biglang dumating si Jon at . . .
“Oh my god, Jon, I’m so proud of you,” sabi ko habang nakatulala sa kanilang dalawa na sabay dumating.
They sat beside us and I thought Yna would also be surprised but it seemed like she was already expecting it. However, people around us were murmuring about them and I could hear the same remarks I encountered before. Why him?
“You look good together,” Yna commented while grinning at them.
“Kaya pala blooming ka nitong mga nakaraang buwan,” dagdag ko naman at nag-blush si Karla.
Yup. It was, indeed, Karla.
Hindi rin ako makapaniwala noong una dahil hindi kayang lumapit nitong si Jon sa mga babae maliban sa akin. That was why I was surprised when I realized he was exchanging messages with Karla. I didn’t know he had enough courage to talk to her.
“Alam ba ni—” Hindi ko na naituloy ang sasabihin ko dahil agad din ‘yong nasagot nang makita kong nakatingin dito si Kevin na para bang hindi makapaniwalang magkasama sina Karla at Jon.
“Do you think I’ll still be alive after this?” Jon whispered while Karla was busy fighting with glares with her brother.
“No,” I joked. “Marami kayang may gusto kay Karla. Good luck.”
Nagsimula namang tumugtog ang banda nila at napahiyaw agad ang crowd dahil sa familiar na strumming ng gitara.
♪ Lift your head, baby, don't be scared
Of the things that could go wrong along the way ♪
Darryl’s voice was really soothing. And even though he couldn’t see Steff, I knew he was thinking about her while singing. Si Patrick naman ang kumanta ng sumunod na lines at nakisabay na rin ang mga tao sa pagkanta nila.
♪ You'll get by with a smile
You can't win at everything but you can try. ♪
Napangiti naman ako at nakisabay na rin sa pagkanta. I could also see couples looking and mouthing the lines of the song to each other.
♪ In a world where everybody
Hates a happy ending story
It's a wonder love can make the world go round ♪
We jammed along the song and they received a big round of applause after singing it.
“Good evening everyone!” bati ni Darryl habang nakangiti. “Kumusta? Nag-e-enjoy naman ba kayo? I heard the food in the stalls are good.”
“What? Hungry already?” tanong naman ni Patrick kaya nagtawanan ang mga nanonood sa kanila.
“Hungry? I’m not hungry. Someone else is,” Darryl retorted and he immediately looked at Kevin’s direction.
“Oh, Kevin’s angry?” dagdag pa ni Gisel. “I mean, hungry.”
Hindi ko alam kung matatawa ako o maaawa dahil pinagtutulungan na siya ng mga kasama niya pero ngumiti lang siya sa kanila.
“A little bit,” he responded.
“Hungry or angry?” Patrick asked and people started laughing at them.
“Maybe both,” Gisel said.
“Definitely angry,” sabi naman ni Darryl sabay tingin sa direksyon namin. “Right?”
Kevin started playing the drums because he was being ganged up. Ngumiti lang sa kanya ang tatlo at nagsimula na rin silang tumugtog.
“The song we’re going to sing is special,” sabi ni Darryl habang patuloy pa rin sa pags-strum.
Bakas pa rin sa mga labi nila ang ngiti at napahinga ako nang malalim nang ngumiti na rin si Kevin. They started playing their instruments and the next thing I knew, Kevin was already singing the first verse while looking straight at me.
♪ Ain't got no time for love,
that's what I said,
before I met you girl ♪
Bumilis naman ang tibok ng puso ko dahil nakatitig lang siya sa akin at hindi ko rin maalis ang tingin ko sa kanya. It felt like we could only see each other and nobody else mattered.
♪ And I can't believe this is happening
It's a dream come true for me
What more can I ask for? ♪
Bigla naman siyang tumayo mula sa drums at pumunta sa mic stand kung nasaan si Darryl. He smiled at me and people began looking at my direction, too. That moment, I became the center of attention.
“Oh my god, so the rumors are true!”
“Are they already together?”
“Wow, I didn’t know she looks good.”
♪ You're the light that shines on me
And all I can do is to love you ♪
The way he sang the song . . . the words . . . his stares . . . they stirred something inside me and I was having a hard time holding back my tears.
Bigla naman siyang bumaba sa stage kaya nakarinig ako ng ilang pagtili at pagbubulungan. Our eyes were still fixed on each other and the moment he smiled while walking toward our table, the tears I was trying to hold back streamed down my face.
Noon, hiniling ko na habang nahuhulog sila sa kanya, gusto kong mahulog siya sa akin. It was just a hopeless wish that time but I didn’t know I’d see it coming true right at this moment.
♪ Everything's so right
Everything's so fine
Everything's so cool
It's like a paradise
When you're here with me ♪
After the last line, the music stopped and he stood in front of me while flashing the most genuine smile I saw from him. He reached for my hand and my skin tingled when he kissed it.
“Everyone,” he called while still staring at me. “I want you to meet my princess, Alisson Jane Diaz.”
Pagkasabing-pagkasabi niya no’n ay halos mabingi ako sa reaksyon ng mga tao. Some yelled and giggled, some gasped in surprise, while the others talked in hush voices. Lalo akong naiyak dahil hindi ko akalain na gagawin niya ‘to.
Kevin gently wiped the tears off my face as the music changed. The emcee announced that there would be a slow dance and she also commented that this might be the people’s chance to dance their crushes.
Kahit papaano ay nawala ang ilang atensyon mula sa amin at agad akong napayakap sa kanya pero nagulat ako nang maramdaman kong may nilagay siya sa ulo ko. Saglit akong humiwalay mula sa pagkakayakap at muli ko siyang tiningnan.
“Chin up, Alice,” he said. “Your crown will fall.”
Natawa na lang ako habang may tumutulo pa ring luha sa mga mata ko. So he was serious about getting me crowned. I thought he was just joking a while ago. Pinunasan ko naman ang pisngi ko at muling humarap sa kanya. I wanted him to see me at my best.
“May I?” sabay lahad niya ng kamay niya sa harapan ko kaya kinuha ko agad ‘yon.
He positioned his other hand on my waist and we started dancing.
It felt strange and familiar at the same time. We were used to dancing but not this kind. There was no beat or choreography to follow. We were just letting ourselves get lost in the music and the eyes of each other.
“You’re too beautiful,” he commented and I got flustered once again. “It’s hard when guys keep on staring at you.”
Natawa naman ako sa sinabi niya. “Bakit? Selos ka?”
“No,” he immediately responded. “Because I trust you. But not them.”
It was getting harder harder to breathe because of the little distance between our faces and his straightforward answers but I remained resolute. With the last stroke of my courage, I pulled his face closer and kissed him quickly on the lips.
“Will that ease your worries?” I asked as my voice quivered, but looking at his stunned expression, the embarrassment I felt turned into adoration.
He was too cute. Hindi siguro siya makapaniwala na ginawa ko ‘yon. Well, ako rin naman.
My words got cut by his lips. He kissed me in return but this time, it was longer and I could feel his soft and gentle lips against mine. My heart felt like it would explode anytime and my stomach kept on churning but I didn’t mind.
He gently pulled back and looked into my eyes. We chuckled upon meeting each other’s gaze and he started leading me to dance again. I could see the flashes of cameras toward us but somehow, I wasn’t uncomfortable. Maybe because of him. Because he was with me.
“I’m glad I took the risk,” he whispered. “Thank you for choosing me.”
It all started with a simple crush when I saw him in a basketball match during our senior year in high school. I thought I would never see him again but it turned out he was also in this university. Noong nalaman ko na isa siyang Campus Prince, lalo lang akong namangha sa kanya. I was just one of the people who admired him and I knew there was just a slim chance for him to notice me.
Sino ba naman ako, ‘di ba? Hindi naman ako isang Campus Princess katulad nina Steff at Jess. Hindi rin ako kapansin-pansin. Hindi niya rin alam na nag-e-exist ako sa campus na ‘to.
But look at us now, holding each other as lovers. It still felt surreal. Pakiramdam ko panaginip lang ang lahat. I never imagined someone like you would end up with me.
I was never a princess but I got a prince.
I was never a princess but you made me into one.
I was never a princess but you made me feel that I am.
I was never a princess but tonight, I am.
And I promise that I would never let the crown fall.