I thought eating some snacks would distract me from my thoughts but his expression during that song kept on flashing inside my head. The takoyaki was delicious but it didn’t relieve my stress.
It was nearing midnight, too, so I had to go to the main entrance. I messaged our group chat and said I’d be going home since Xander would arrive soon.
Jess: Hindi ka na babalik dito?
Alice: Wala pa tayong picture!
Yna: Sorry haha
Yna: I’m already at the gate haha ang my feet hurt
Jess: Ano ba ‘yan! Pero ingat
Alice: Huhu ang duga mo Yna!
Yna: see you tomorrow
Yna: or not haha
The truth was it would still take me around five minutes before I could reach the main gate. Most were still enjoying the night and I felt at ease knowing that only a couple of people were walking with me.
I sat on one of the benches near the gate, waiting for Xander to pick me up. Resting my head on the back plank, I realized how clear the sky was. Stars were twinkling brightly and I thought this view was a good way to end the night.
Xander finally texted me and he said he just woke up. I almost talked back to him but I held back since he might not fetch me.
I’ll be there in 20 mins
I breathed a deep, long sigh. Twenty minutes, huh?
It was already getting cold and I wished I didn’t pick this dress because the slit was exposing my right leg to the freezing wind. Why didn’t I bring any jacket?
My eyes darted to the paperback I was carrying. I took the panda out and hugged it but suddenly remembered what happened a while ago. My face felt hot and I had to think of other things to push that thought at the back of my mind.
“My crush looks good tonight,” a girl said while passing by, catching my attention.
Her friend smirked. “’Di ba he likes someone na?”
“Ano naman? Crush lang naman.”
“Crush lang pero bakit parang nasasaktan?”
The girl lightly pushed her. “I’m not.”
She snorted. “Okay. If that’s what you think.”
Even before I started writing stories, I had always enjoyed listening to strangers’ conversations. Sometimes, I’d use them as reference for my characters and their dialogues and hearing those two made me think of my new story . . . as well as him.
As if fate was playing a game on me, I saw his figure walking toward the main gate. People seemed not to recognize him, maybe because of the gray parka and black cap hiding his outfit and face. My heart thumped a little when he sat on the bench right across me. I was about to turn on the right but our gaze met before I could do it.
It felt like the everything and everyone around us was fading and I could only hear my racing heart while staring at him.
He broke into a grin and I quickly averted his gaze. However, it was hard to focus on anything besides him. I tried to pretend looking busy with my phone but I yelped when I saw his name on the notifications.
calvingisel: I thought you were with your friends. Uuwi ka na?
I had to will myself not to look at his direction, keeping my eyes on the phone.
ynashin: Yup haha I need to be home by midnight.
calvingisel: Cinderella, is that you?
His reply made me smile for a second.
ynashin: Haha I will return to my normal self. Bye bye princess outfit.
calvingisel: Honestly, you look more like a fairy than a princess.
calvingisel: in that dress, I mean.
I remembered his talk on the stage a while ago and thank goodness I was in a dimly lit area or else he’d see my burning red cheeks. I didn’t have any idea on what to reply but he sent another message.
calvingisel: Ah. Is that the panda from the stall?
I glanced at the panda sitting on my lap and gently pulled it closer. He was also carrying a paperback so I guess the other panda was inside.
ynashin: Yes. Thank you :)
calvingisel: You’re welcome :)
ynashin: I was so bad at that game I thought I would never have the panda set.
calvingisel: Haha yeah I saw you struggling before I played the game.
Taking a quick peek at his direction, I saw him chuckling while looking at his phone. I remembered how frustrated I was while playing the game and realizing he was watching that unsightly view made me want to run away.
calvingisel: you were stomping your feet every time you miss the pole haha
ynashin: nooo stop it’s embarrassing
calvingisel: it’s cute haha
Ahh. I couldn’t take it anymore. I raised my head and looked at him, pleading to stop teasing me. He grinned in return and even though I couldn’t see his eyes clearly due to his cap, I knew it was already disappearing into squints.
Somehow, this was more comfortable than when he was on the stage. The way everyone who passed by ignored him, not realizing he was a campus prince felt calming. If only he was a normal student . . .
Xander’s message disrupted my train of thoughts. He said he was already nearby so I placed my panda inside the paperback and stood up but I received another message from him.
calvingisel: Ingat sa pag-uwi :)
I replied after reading it.
ynashin: Ikaw rin :)
I finally saw Xander’s car in front of the gate but before I walked away, I turned to his direction. He smiled and nodded at me and I did the same.
“How was your night, Milady?” Xander teased as I got inside the car.
“Unexpectedly good,” I replied.
He turned his head so quick I thought he’d break his neck.
“W-what?” I asked, still in shock.
He narrowed his eyes at me. “Don’t tell me you got yourself a boyfriend?”
“He should introduce himself to me first.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I don’t know. Something just feels strange.”
Good thing Xander didn’t push the topic that much and continued driving silently. I checked my phone and contemplated for a few minutes. In the end, I gave in and messaged him.
ynashin: Thank you for keeping me company.
ynashin: By the way, you look good tonight.
I inhaled sharply after pressing send, regret following right after. Oh god I shouldn’t have sent the second one.
My mind was buzzing with what-ifs when I received a reply from him.
calvingisel: That’s a first
Before I could ask what he was talking about, another message came.
calvingisel: Good night, Yna :)
A smile escaped my lips upon reading his last message. There were a lot of worries and fear in my head every time I talk to him in person but this time, his words were giving me comfort.
For the first time, I wanted to be honest with myself.
ynashin: Good night
ynashin: Calvin :)
That night, I slept with a smile on my face.
The night was still young but I already wanted to go home.
After Kevin named Alice as his date and ‘princess,’ the crowd went wild and all the attention was on them. Thank the heavens.
The performances I was anticipating were already finished and all of them were having their moment so I left our table and walked around. Xander said he’d pick me up around midnight since he was still at Ate Mau’s house. I checked the time on my phone and sighed. What should I do for three hours?
Luckily, there were a lot of entertaining carnival game stalls inside. I tried playing some games but I couldn’t win anything.
“No!” I grumbled as the plastic hoop missed the pole.
The staff chuckled, placing more hoops in front of me.
“You really want to win the panda plushies, Milady?” he teased.
“They are cute,” I remarked while staring at the pandas behind him.
The goal was simple: shoot at least three plastic hoop bands through the mini poles on the table from a distance. I thought it would be easy given that each turn has seven bands but I couldn’t even place a single one.
It was getting frustrating and I was about to give up but someone stood beside me and asked the mechanics. My shoulders tensed when I heard his familiar voice.
“Ah. Kailangan lang ma-shoot?” Gisel asked.
“Yes, Sir! Kapag nakatatlo kayo, pwede kang pumili ng prizes from here,” the staff enthusiastically said as he pointed at the variety of stuffed toys behind him.
“Oh. Okay, understood.”
After stealing a glance, I realized he really looked like a prince. He was wearing a white tunic and cloak, decorated with embroideries, medals and extravagant embellishments. The crown he got on the stage wasn’t on his head anymore but that didn’t make him look less of a royalty.
“Last try, Milady?” the staff queried and I realized I got distracted.
“Y-yeah,” I softly answered.
“Alright. Good luck!” he cheered. “The pandas are waiting for you.”
The concentration and determination I had a while ago dwindled in his presence. After what he did on the stage, I’m sure people would be keeping an eye on him.
“If I win, may I take those pandas?” he suddenly said.
The staff and I looked at him, puzzled. “Uhm, of course,” he said as he glanced at me with worried eyes.
His smile curved upward and prepared throwing the bands. I was staring at him for a few seconds, unsure of what he was thinking or trying to do. Of course, we didn’t acknowledge each other’s presence, and I tried to regain my focus and composure, but the way he was enjoying the game was hard to ignore.
“Yes!” he cheered as one of the bands went through the pole.
How did he do that? Why couldn’t I?
His actions ignited my competitiveness. With the remaining hoop bands in front of me, I tried my best to shoot them through the poles . . . but I guess I didn’t have enough luck and skill to even score once.
Gisel suddenly clapped when the third band went through the pole, and even did his own victory pose, much to the staff’s dismay.
“Sorry,” he muttered, realizing he was too excited for his own good.
The staff sighed. “Alright, Your Highness, what do you want among these?”
“The panda, of course.”
“They come as a set,” the staff commented as he reached for the two cute panda stuffed toys.
He was all smile as the staff placed the prize in front of me and honestly, I was quite envious. I realized I was staring at the toys for too long when he pushed the smaller one toward me.
“I only want one,” he said. “At kanina pa nakakunot ang noo mo sa akin, Miss.”
The staff chuckled. “O, ayan naman pala. Mabait naman,” he commented. “Gusto niya rin ‘yang panda set, eh.”
“Sa’yo na ‘yan,” he insisted while pinching the cheeks of the larger panda on his arms. “You’ve worked hard.”
Woah. This guy is incredible in acting. My heart was ready to burst, afraid that someone might see and discover us, but he was acting like he just knew me as the girl who couldn’t win this game. Meanwhile, I was bad at this. It was hard to control my expression but I tried hard not to get flustered.
“A-are you sure?” I mumbled.
“Yes,” he smiled.
He fished the phone out of his pocket and read something on the screen. He let out a short, defeated sigh, and turned to the staff.
“Pwede bang iwan ko muna rito?” he asked. “Balikan ko na lang mamaya.”
“Alright, Your Highness,” the staff answered, even bowing to him like he was a real prince.
He glanced at me and subtly smiled before walking away. The whole situation left me dumbfounded, unsure if he was teasing me or not.
“Congrats,” the staff said, grinning.
My heart fluttered as I stared at the cute panda in front of me. I pulled it toward me and hugged it, thankful that I got what I wanted despite not winning the game.
“Yeah,” I mumbled.
I received a text from Jess, asking where I was so I headed back to our table. The guys were preparing to leave, probably for another performance. Ah. That must be the message he received.
“Hoy, Yna, saan ka ba nagsusuot?” Alice greeted.
“I just played some games.”
Steff pointed at the stuffed toy I was holding. “Ang cute.”
Jess squealed. “Omg, saan mo ‘yan nakuha? Ang cute-cute!”
“Uhm, this is the prize from a game,” I answered.
I pointed the direction of the stalls I went to earlier. “There. Actually, there are a lot of carnival games in that area.”
Alice and Jess excitedly went toward that direction, even challenging each other of who could win more prizes. Steff chose to stay behind and accompanied me here.
“You know what,” she said, breaking the silence.
“You seem happier these days.”
“Wala lang. Napansin ko lang.” She smiled while intently staring at me. “So . . . is the—”
My heart was racing so fast, afraid that Steff would ask something about the things I was keeping inside my quiet world. Fortunately, Darryl’s voice blared from the speakers, prompting us to look at the stage. I quietly sighed in relief.
They just finished setting up, but this time, Gisel was at the center with his keyboard.
Darryl introduced them once again, and that would be the fifth time since he does it whenever they come to the stage, receiving laughter and cheers from the crowd.
“Kevin’s already done with his special stage,” he added while giving Kevin a teasing look. “Princess, huh?”
They started teasing him again until he almost threw his drumsticks at Patrick and Darryl’s direction. Few seconds later, they finally got serious and introduced Gisel’s special stage.
“Just a reminder, huwag kayong masyadong mafo-fall,” Darryl said while pointing at Gisel. “This guy loves sleep more than girls.”
Gisel chuckled as he shook his head at Darryl’s silly comments. He started playing a familiar tune, and there I was, back again at the practice room, watching him sing that song.
The crowd, especially the girls, collectively cooed ‘aww,’ creating a romantic and sentimental atmosphere. Some started swaying their bodies from their seats, others raising their hands in the air as the beautiful melody filled the place.
“♪ No one ever saw me like you do
All the things that I could add up to
I never knew just what a smile was worth
But your eyes say everything without a single word ♪”
Almost everyone was singing with him during the chorus, their hearts melting from his pretty and sincere voice. My heart wasn’t in its right state either. It was getting hard to breathe and I had to hug the panda plushie to prevent my heart from racing too much.
Everyone was squealing when he reached the song’s climax.
“♪ I don't know how or why I feel different in your eyes
All I know is it happens every time ♪”
I don’t know why but my eyes were quite tearing up when he sang those lines. His voice could really stir a person’s emotions even though, technically, Darryl and Patrick were better vocalists than him.
The audience erupted in cheers after he finished the song. Even his bandmates charged at him, praising him for the excellent performance.
Everyone was busy listening to Darryl’s teasing, and I too was laughing at his remarks, but during that moment, for a splitsecond, Gisel looked at our direction and my heart skipped a beat.
An unfamiliar expression flashed on his face but smiled right after. He turned quickly to Kevin who was trying to shift the teasing to Darryl.
Why? Who did you look at me with that expression?
I was still puzzled but the lyrics of the song he just sang rang inside my head . . . and maybe, it resonated with what I am afraid to feel for him.
I never liked wearing heels.
This dress was comfortable, but my footwear wasn’t. I felt like I would tumble every time I stepped onto something uneven.
The sun was already setting, hues of red, orange and yellow cast down upon the open field, giving it a picturesque view. There was a photobooth set up near the entrance and thank goodness the photographers with busy with the arrival of some Campus Princes and Princesses that I was able to get in quietly.
I saw Jess and Patrick walking several meters in front of me but I didn’t call them because they wouldn’t hear my voice anyway. The people around us were talking excitedly and the music was too loud.
We passed through the castle’s garden and I saw Steff, Darryl, Kevin and Alice sitting around the table on the leftmost area. Following Jess and Pat, I heaved a sigh of relief when we arrived at the table.
Like Kevin, I was gaping at Alice. She looked like a princess and her dress accentuated her beauty and body. On the other hand, Steff looked regal as usual, and Jess looked like a fairy.
“Yna, oh my god bagay!” Jess squealed. “May pa-slit!”
“Kinda like a nymph,” Steff added.
Everyone was excited and watching them talk to their partners was amusing. They were too busy these past few weeks that they couldn’t even see each other despite being in the same space.
“Uhm, I’m just going to look around,” I said and Jess suddenly stood up.
“Sama!” she exclaimed. “Magiging busy na naman later. Walang time umikot.”
The two of us started walking around and I could see people stealing glances at Jess. We went to a nearby stall and they were selling mini cotton candies. Jess and I bought blue and pink cotton candies, respectively. I was about to get mine but the guy beside us reached for it, too.
I looked at the guy and almost gasped when I realized it was King. He also stared at me, maybe in disbelief, because we just ran into each other despite the size of this place.
“Ah!” Jess blurted while pointing at him and looking at me a second after. She pulled back her hand after realizing how rude it was. “Sorry.”
King looked different. He wasn’t wearing his eyeglasses and his slicked-back hair brought out his nice eyes, which were usually hidden by his fringe and eyeglasses. He was donning a knight attire, and he looked good at it.
“Ladies first,” he said while gesturing at the cotton candy and I felt Jess’ nails digging through my skin.
“Oh. Thank you,” I replied, getting the blue one. “Let’s go,” I whispered to Jess but she suddenly pulled me back.
“Wait,” she mumbled. “Uhm, ‘di ba ikaw ‘yung friend ni Stan? Anong name mo?”
I inhaled sharply, wishing Jess would just shut up, but she stared expectantly at King. He looked tensed but after a few seconds, he flashed a subtle smile.
“Jervin,” he replied. “Nice meeting you. Sorry, I have to go.”
“Oh, okay. Nice meeting you rin, Jervin.”
He glanced at me and nodded a little. I did the same and after that, he started walking away. When we couldn’t see him anymore, a teasing smile escaped from Jess’ lips.
“He’s handsome,” she giggled.
“I’m gonna tell that to Patrick.”
“Sira! Ang sinasabi ko, baka gwapo rin sa paningin mo.” She squinted her eyes. “You know what, he looks at you differently.”
“Basta! Feel ko lang!”
“We should head back,” I said, changing the topic. “My feet hurt.”
Invited bands started playing on the stage and thank heavens Jess finally agreed to go back to our table. However, I was worried as we got nearer. Jess would surely spill and twist everything that happened.
“Ngayon na?” asked Darryl to a staff when we got back.
Jess looked at them, confused. “Anong meron?”
“Sila raw ang next na tutugtog,” Steff answered.
The guys started checking themselves and we all glanced at Darry when he suddenly raised his hand, waving at someone.
“Gisel!” he yelled. “Here!”
My body froze upon hearing his name. All of them looked at his direction, but I couldn’t. My heart started racing after remembering what happened in the morning.
I saw him from my peripheral view and he stood beside Darryl.
“Tara na raw,” he said and the guys stood up, ready to go to the stage.
One of the staffs approached Jess and Steff this time and it looked like they have to prepare as well. All of them were preparing to leave and it was quite cute when the couples got busy with each other, telling words of encouragement and stuff before they perform.
While everyone was busy, I tried glancing at his direction and I panicked when our gaze met each other. He flashed a quick smile and I had to turn away, embarrassed that he had caught me looking. There was a second of silence and then he cleared his throat.
Quickly peeking, I saw him left with the rest, and only Alice and I remained seated.
That felt more unnerving than the spotlight and I had to take deep breaths to calm myself. After drinking a glass of water, I glanced at Alice and she seemed fretful.
“How’s the princess?” I asked.
She sighed and smiled. “Ayon, kaalis lang nila,” she replied while looking at Jess and Steff.
Good thing she looked less worried now than earlier. We stayed silent for a while but I almost yelped when my phone lit up. I opened it below the table and saw a direct message from him.
calvingisel: bagay sa’yo :)
My heart thumped upon reading his message. Watching him walk toward the stage as people cheered for them, I realized how famous he was in the campus.
They were given crowns, which made the cheers louder, and they all looked like real princes with their attire. We were already anticipating their performance when a staff suddenly approached us.
“Uhm, excuse me,” she murmured. “Sorry, for faculty members po pala ang side na ‘to.” She pointed at the right side of the garden. “Doon po ang side ng students.”
“Oh. Okay. Sorry po,” Alice said.
We stood up, got our friends’ things, and went to the assigned tables for students. However, some of the spotlights suddenly pointed at our direction, throwing us into an unwanted attention.
I immediately sidestepped, and almost sprained my ankle, to evade the avoid the spotlight. Fortunately, my heels weren’t as tall as Alice’s. She couldn’t steer clear of the sudden illumination and those who were near us stared at her.
People started murmuring about her and she looked really embarrassed, but I guess it turned out well. With lights shining on her white dress, she looked like a fairy tale princess.
After several seconds, which felt like forever, we finally found an empty table. Alice looked like she was about to pass out after what happened and her hardships didn’t end there. Students around us started talking about her in hushed voices, though we could still hear some of them.
A guy approached our table and sat beside Alice, but before he could say his intention, a loud sound from the stage made almost everyone look at that direction.
“Just checking the sound’s quality. Sorry,” Kevin said.
The guy tried talking to Alice again and Kevin hit the drums.
“This drum sounds good, too,” he added and students started laughing at his actions.
“♪ I’d be jealous, too, if she was with you ♪”
Darryl suddenly sang a line as he strummed his guitar. He gave a teasing look to Kevin and both Patrick and Gisel were trying to hold back their smiles.
“♪ If you felt the way it feels the way she looks at you
I'd be jealous too, I'd be jealous too ♪”
Patrick finished the line and Gisel started laughing.
“Looks like all the instruments are in tune,” he noted while they grinned at Kevin’s childish action. He was clearly jealous of the guy.
I started teasing Alice until Jon and Karla arrived. It seemed like Alice also knew about them but she looked a bit confused when I didn’t have the reaction she was expecting. Well, I knew it months ago. It was too obvious.
They sang With A Smile and everyone was singing along with Darryl and Patrick. It was fun watching them enjoying the stage as they entertain the crowd but my eyes would always drift at his direction.
He looked cool playing the piano, smiling at his bandmates and at the crowd, and nodding enthusiastically when someone yelled his name. He said he hated attention but I guess he, too, enjoyed singing and playing for the crowd.
“Good evening everyone!” Darryl greeted with a big smile pasted on his face. “Kumusta? Nag-e-enjoy naman ba kayo? I heard the food in the stalls are good.”
“What? Hungry already?” Patrick asked, receiving laughter from the crowd.
“Hungry? I’m not hungry. Someone else is,” Darryl retorted while looking at Kevin’s direction.
“Oh, Kevin’s angry?” Gisel teased. “I mean, hungry.”
“A little bit,” answered Kevin.
“Hungry or angry?” Patrick asked again.
“Maybe both,” Gisel said.
“Definitely angry,” added Darryl as he looked at our direction. “Right?”
Kevin getting teased by them was such a funny sight, especially when the cause was beside me, who was trying to be calm but her face was already as red as tomato.
They started talking about a lot of things but it ended up in relationships after someone yelled, asking Kevin and Gisel’s ideal type.
“Ayan. Tanungin natin ang aming resident single,” Darryl said while grinning at Gisel. “Did someone catch the most elusive prince’s attention tonight?”
Cheers erupted the moment he smiled. Girls started screaming, some raising their hands while others pointing at themselves.
“I think everyone looks beautiful—”
“Ah. A safe answer,” Patrick said, cutting him off. “Kinda expected it.”
“Right. Kumusta naman si Sleeping Beauty?”
Darryl and Patrick continued pressuring him, and in the end, he gave up. He heaved a sigh and for a moment, he looked serious.
“I just had a glimpse a while ago,” he started. “She looks like a fairy or a nymph instead of a princess.”
Someone shouted, “Ako ‘yon!” and the crowd erupted in laughter. Right at that moment, when everyone was busy laughing and trying to find who he was talking about, he looked at our direction and smiled.
“Yup. A fairy, indeed.”
For a second, I wondered if he was talking about me. But fear started creeping in and I wished he wasn’t. Because catching his attention meant being dragged into the spotlight. And I don’t want to be in that kind of place.
There were no classes today, and it was just 8:30 A.M., but the campus was already filled with people. They released the theme a few days ago and a lot of students was already looking forward to what the Fair would look like later.
Steff and Jess were probably at the backstage, getting ready for stage rehearsals. Alice, on the other hand, decided to just stay at home since Kevin would escort her later.
I took a picture of the green field, amazed at how it drastically changed from its previous look. It felt like I was in a royal garden just outside of a palace. Trees, bushes and flowers were cleanly shaped, trimmed, and arranged; stone paths were set out, creating routes to different areas of the field; stalls with majestic designs and layouts; and the eye-catching, immense stage that looked like the interior of a castle with its marble floor, elaborate ornaments, fancy staircase and regal chairs.
The theme was kind of “big deal” this year so almost all students were preparing seriously. Well, not me. I wasn’t fond of extravagant setting and dressing up like royalties would pull you into the spotlight.
I could hear some students talking about their boyfriends and girlfriends, and I’d surely be surrounded by couples later. I’m sure Alice would be with Kevin later so I guess I’d be left alone.
After checking the open field, I went to one of my sanctuaries—behind the Arts and Letters building. Most of the students were preparing for later and those who were in the campus were roaming around the open field so this place was empty, and I liked that.
My phone vibrated and I grunted after seeing my brother’s message.
Where are you? I want to see you in your dress. Lol
Mom was excited about the event and she bought at least three dresses that she would like me to try on. When he heard about it a couple of days ago, he went straight to our house just to taunt me after what I did to him last time.
I opened our group chat after several days and there were already 234 unread messages. They were talking about how it would be a busy week since a lot of articles would be about new and old campus couples, especially those involving the Campus Princes and Princesses. I remembered how chaotic it was when Steff and Darryl’s relationship became the hottest news on the portal before. Fortunately, most of the articles were positive but I felt bad when some of the negative ones still got published.
The number of articles we need to review had been giving me stress and anxiety for the past few days. I closed the chat box and exited the portal. I’d just think about it tomorrow. For now, I want some peace of mind.
The cold, gentle wind brushed my skin and made my body tingle. My eyes fluttered open and I realized I just fell asleep. I still felt groggy, but I inhaled sharply when I hear someone humming softly and someone’s lower body in my line of sight. I sat bolt upright, realizing I was leaning on someone.
“S-sorry! I . . . I didn’t—”
“Oh. Gising ka na pala.”
Stealing a glance at my left, I saw Gisel who was wearing my cap again, and munching on some snacks. He flashed a gentle smile, his eyes disappearing into squints.
“Hindi ko akalaing natutulog ka rin dito,” he said.
“Ah. N-no . . . I just . . . I didn’t know I fell asleep,” I mumbled, still embarrassed about what just happened.
“Nakatulog ako pala.”
He suddenly chuckled. “Yeah. Muntik ka nang mahiga kanina r’yan. Buti na lang.”
I breathed deeply to calm myself, and at the same time, quietly wishing that I could just disappear to save myself from further humiliation. Why did he have to see me sleeping here?
He turned his body to my direction and I had to lean a little bit away from him.
“Bakit pala nandito ka pa? Hindi ka a-attend mamaya?” he asked.
“U-umaga pa naman,” I replied, still not looking at him. “Besides, uhm, lahat ng attention ay sa campus princes at princesses.”
“But you’re going to attend, right?”
I nodded. “I want to try the food and watch the performances.”
I stole a glance at his direction and saw him staring at the clouds while smiling. He looked tired but he seemed to be in a good mood.
There was a comfortable silence between us but it was broken when my phone started ringing. I saw my brother’s name and I mentally grunted as I contemplated whether to answer it or not. I looked at Gisel to excuse myself and he nodded. When I was already a few meters away from him, I finally answered him.
“Where are you?” he greeted.
“I’m here in front of the main gate.”
“Pinapasundo ka na ni Mommy,” he said and I could hear him holding back his laughter. “She wants to doll you up.”
Frustrated, I tried calming myself to think rationally, but his mocking snickers weren’t helping.
“I’ll go home later—”
“Ah. Should I present my old ID? Alumni can enter the campus today, right? Oh, here comes the guard—”
“Arasseo!” (I got it!) I yelled in annoyance. “I’ll go with you.”
I hung up before he could finish his sentence, and I remembered Gisel was still there. He got up, brushed the dirt on his pants, and looked at me.
“I need to go,” he said.
He smiled and adjusted his cap. “See you later.”
He started walking away and I just watched him until I couldn’t see him anymore. Heaving a sigh, I went to the main entrance and I immediately saw Xander’s car. He was standing near the gate, busy with his phone, as some students stared at him. What a show-off.
I marched toward his car, ignoring his existence. Xander was chuckling as he went inside his car and I glared at him in return. He kept on teasing me during the ride but I stayed quiet. When we got home, Mom dragged me to my room excitedly, saying she couldn’t wait to see me look like a princess. Of course, my brother was happy that I was suffering, and I promised myself to tell some of his most embarrassing moments to ate Maureen later.
“How about this one?” Mom beamed as she pushed me in front of my mirror. “It looks good on you!”
Seeing myself in such a fancy dress sent shivers down my spine. The flower embroideries complemented the pastel pink color of the gown and it looked lovely. In fact, too lovely, and oh god, people would surely look at the dress. That would be the last thing I want.
“Mom, it’s too fancy,” I whined.
“This isn’t even that fancy, child. Come on.”
“It is,” I retorted.
“Okay, then try the next one.”
Mom gave me the second dress and I almost dropped it the moment I saw it.
“Just try it! I want to see you in that dress, honey.”
“Come on, princess,” Xander chimed in. “Let me see it, too.”
I sighed dejectedly, knowing I would just lose if I continued arguing. Mom was too stubborn and the fact that my brother was enjoying it made me feel sorry for myself.
The dress was too stuffy and I couldn’t even walk properly due to its length. Mom dragged me to the mirror again and gasped as if I just transformed into something out of this world. The low cut was uncomfortable and even Xander looked bothered that he pushed me back to the dressing area.
“Nope. That one’s a no-no,” he said. “Try the last one.”
I rolled my eyes, tired of trying the dresses they wanted to see me wearing. Well, at least this would be the last one.
The third dress was much simpler than the second one, but a lot similar to the first. The material was soft and light, and the fit was comfortable. However, I still felt like it would attract attention.
Mom and Xander had the same expression when I got out of the dressing area, and I wish they would say something because it was too embarrassing.
“Honey, this is the right dress,” Mom commented, teary-eyed.
“Not bad,” Xander added.
“Time for some make-up.”
I didn’t know preparing for a fair would be this tiring. Somehow, I missed and appreciated the simple themes that didn’t require such preparations.
“You ready, Your Highness?” Xander mocked, and I would like to throw my heels at him, but I had no energy left.
He drove me to the campus and my heart raced faster when I saw the main gate. Part of me wanted to go back and just sleep the night away, which, I would very much like to do right now, but I also don’t want to miss the performances.
“We’re here,” Xander said.
I breathed deeply, prepared my mind, and nodded, convincing myself that everything would be okay.
“Ah. Whatever,” I mumbled as I got out of the car.
I couldn’t wait for this night to be over.