My eyes looked like they were bitten by mosquitoes. They were swollen from too much crying yesterday.
I went to the library and tried to get some sleep before my first class. My thoughts and anxiety kept me awake last night. I hadn’t checked my messages yet because I was too afraid to see their replies.
Fortunately, my usual seat was unoccupied. I placed my things on the side and slumped over the table. The drowsiness caught up on me after hours of worries and what ifs. Few seconds later, I drifted to sleep.
I thought I was falling.
My body jerked me awake and I got disoriented because of the blinding light. That was when I realized I was in the library and . . .
“Oh my god!” I gasped as I checked the time.
It was already 8:30 A.M. and my class had started. I was contemplating whether to attend it or just skip it since I was already thirty minutes late. Besides, this would be our last week. Maybe it would be alright to be not attend it since we already took our final exam.
Just when I was about to get my phone, I saw King holding some books while searching for a seat. I waved my hand at him and thank goodness he saw me immediately.
He smiled at me and walked toward my direction.
“Your eyes are swollen,” he said as he put the books on the table.
“Good morning, too,” I replied while trying to hide my eyes.
He chuckled in return. “Sorry.”
It felt weird because somehow, after what happened yesterday, we became closer. Besides my brother, he was the only one who stayed by my side and comforted me when I needed it the most.
“Kumusta?” he asked.
I fiddled with my phone which I was turned off since last night. “I . . . I told them the truth.”
He shifted on his seat and leaned closer. “Are you okay now?”
“I haven’t opened our group chat yet,” I admitted. “I’m scared to see their replies.”
“Hmm. Have you seen them today?”
I smiled as I shook my head. “I’m scared to see them in person, too.”
Tears were threatening to fall from my eyes again and I had to choke back the lump forming in my throat. Thinking about them made me lonelier, especially after what happened yesterday.
I remembered typing everything while crying last night. I told them about how I got into the portal and how it works. It was hard to tell them about the malicious articles but I managed to tone it down a bit. It felt like I was just making some excuses but it was the only way for them to understand what I did.
I’m sorry for keeping it a secret. I’m sorry for lying. It’s okay if you won’t forgive me. I’ll understand. Lastly, thank you for reading/listening. I hope you are all okay.
Those were the last words I sent after flooding them with paragraphs of explanation.
My heart raced as I stared at my phone. I was curious about what they replied but at the same time, I was scared to know how they feel about it.
“Why are you scared?” King suddenly asked while flipping the pages of the book he got.
“I don’t know,” I muttered. “Maybe because I feel guilty?”
Tears started to well up in my eyes. I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself but having someone here with me made me feel more vulnerable.
“Here,” he said and offered his black handkerchief. “Don’t worry, I haven’t used it yet.”
I accepted it and wiped my tears off my eyes. He shifted his gaze to the book and continued studying whatever the book was about. I was grateful that he didn’t ask any questions anymore. We were silent for quite some time, minding our own business, until I heard his stomach rumbling.
A smile escaped my lips as he tried to look unaffected.
“Hindi pa ikaw kumain ng breakfast?” I asked.
For a second, he looked baffled. “Not yet. Ikaw?”
“Hindi pa rin.”
“Akala ko hindi ka marunong mag-Filipino,” he commented. “This is quite surprising.”
Gisel’s image flashed in my mind and I remembered how he would always encourage me to speak in Filipino confidently. I wasn’t sure how to tell everything to him . . . or if I even need to tell my side to him.
He clearly hated the articles in the portal. Knowing that I was part of that must have been a shock to him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hates me now.
“Hey.” King’s voice snapped be back to reality and he was already preparing to leave. “Tara, breakfast?”
Upon leaving the library, my heart started to race. I was anxious the whole time we were walking to the nearest cafeteria, afraid that I might see anyone of them. I still couldn’t face them head on and I will surely cry if they appear in front of me.
Fortunately, we didn’t cross paths . . . but Gisel was in the cafeteria.
My knees almost buckled when our eyes met each other. For a second, I thought his eyes looked sad and wistful which made it harder to watch. I quickly averted his gaze and hid behind King, feeling more dejected.
“Gusto mo sa ibang building na lang?” asked King.
“No!” I protested in a mumble. “I mean . . . n-no, it’s okay.”
I wasn’t sure what was wrong with me. I didn’t want him to see me but at the same time, I wanted to at least know how he was doing. It looked like he would ignore me anyway.
King ordered for the both of us and I picked the farthest table from where he was seated. He seemed to be eating alone and some students kept on stealing glances at him as he stared pensively at his phone.
My heart suddenly felt heavy as I waited for King. Just then, I remembered how he saved me after I passed out and how he got involved in rumors because of that. The guilt was starting to eat me again.
Just when I thought this wouldn’t get worse, the left door of the cafeteria opened and I stifled a gasp when I saw Alice standing in the doorway. When she looked at my direction, I couldn’t hold back my tears anymore.
Run, I told myself, but she was still in the doorway. The door on the right was on the other side and I would passed by Gisel if I chose that way.
My mind went blank. I just wanted to disappear this instant.
Alice’s voice made me whimper. It was just a day yet I already missed how they call my name. Hearing it this time stirred a lot of emotions inside me and it was hard to choke back the sobs to the point that my throat and eyes hurt.
I didn’t notice she was already in front of me. I kept my head down, afraid to see the expression on her face.
“Binasa mo ba ang replies namin?” she asked.
I slowly shook my head. My phone was turned off since I sent them my explanation. My plan was to read it during the break. At least, we wouldn’t see each other anymore. I didn’t have the courage to face them head on.
My body tensed when I felt her hand around my wrist. She gently pulled me toward her and that made me cry harder.
“Kanina ka pa namin hinihintay,” she softly said.
She pulled me along with her. For a second, I wanted to protest and tell her that I didn’t want to, and I was with someone but at the back of my mind, I was yearning for this—for my friends to approach me again. To be with them again.
I quietly moved along with her, my tears streaming continuously on my face. When we got out of the cafeteria, I kept my head down and used my hair to cover my face.
“Nakakainis ka, huwag ka ngang umiyak,” she sniffed, “naiiyak din ako.”
Instead of holding it back, hearing those words made me sob more. Fortunately, King gave me his handkerchief a while ago because I looked like a mess right now.
Few minutes later, she gradually slowed down and I realized we were already in the garden. My heart was pounding painfully against my chest and negative thoughts crowded my mind.
Were they disappointed? Did they get mad? Would they still consider me as a friend?
I was afraid to hear the answers. I was afraid to look into their eyes and see their emotions directed at me.
Alice stopped walking and she let go of my wrist. My body stiffened as I saw their feet right across us. The scene yesterday replayed in my mind like a nightmare.
“Yna,” Jess called as she stood in front of me. “Okay ka lang ba?”
Her question shattered the remaining wall I had put up and made me weep like a child. I wasn’t okay but I didn’t want them to know that. I didn’t want them to worry about me.
What happened next almost made me collapse. Steff hugged me and I heard her suppressing her sobs. I hugged her back and cried on her shoulders.
“I-I’m s-sorry,” I whimpered, clinging to her tighter.
The worries in my head slowly dissipated as they surrounded me and gave me comfort. For once, I was the one being consoled.
“Is your friendship that shallow for you?”
My brother’s words echoed inside my head as I continuously mumbled ‘sorry.’ The questions I had earlier were flooded by the good and happy memories I spent with them.
Even without uttering a word, I knew they understood. I knew the answers to my questions.
This time, I wasn’t alone anymore.
I wasn’t sure how I managed to walk away from that place. My eyes were stinging from the tears. My heart felt like it was being torn apart. I wanted to explain everything to them but I was afraid. Too afraid to even call their names.
This was supposed to be my last day as an administrator. This day was supposed to be freeing. But it turned out this would be the day I’d lose everything I treasure.
“I-I’m sorry . . .” I mumbled as I trudged purposelessly.
I just wanted to disappear. I wanted to get away from here.
My feet steered me away from the building, but I started hearing students around me. I wished I had my cap to conceal my face because my tears weren’t stopping. I kept my gaze on the ground, hoping nobody would see that I was crying . . . but I almost stumbled when I bumped into someone.
“Angel . . .”
I abruptly looked at him when I heard that familiar voice. His gaze met mine and he looked surprised when he saw my face.
“What happened . . .”
Before he could finish his question, I hang onto his shirt, and bawled my eyes out. I felt so alone that I thought I wouldn’t have anyone to hold onto.
I didn’t know how long I was clinging onto him. The next thing I knew, he was already draping a jacket over me. He held my wrist and gently pulled me along with him.
All I could see were the grass and pavement since I was too scared to lift my head up. I wasn’t sure how long we were walking but he abruptly stopped that I bumped into his back. Despite the creeping fear, I carefully looked around and realized we were in front of a café.
He pulled me inside and we went to the farthermost table from the door. He pulled out the chair and let me sit while he went to the counter.
Realizing that I was in a café made it more painful. Gisel and I were supposed to go to a café later, but I knew that wouldn’t happen anymore.
King placed a glass of water in front of me and sat on his chair. Despite my throat getting hoarse and dry, I remained still and just stared at the glass.
“If you’re going to cry, please keep yourself hydrated,” he said.
His comment made me smile a little despite the tears coming out of my eyes. He sounded concerned but the way he worded it was kind of logical.
I drew a deep breath and reached for the glass. Gulping down the water, I realized how thirsty I was. I had been crying for almost an hour and the heat worsened it.
He let me calm down and minded his own business, which I was really grateful for.
“S-sorry . . .” I mumbled after minutes of silence.
He looked with a confused expression. “For what?”
“F-for . . . bothering you . . .”
“You aren’t bothering me,” he reasoned.
“But . . .”
He flashed a subtle smile. “At least, now, you’ve calmed down.”
I stared at him, wondering what would happen if I didn’t bump into him a while ago. Surely, I’d be in the home page for--
Ah. The portal. Despite quitting, my mind was still lingering there, especially after what happened earlier.
“Tiffany Damian . . .”
The mention of her name made my heart sink a little more. I looked at King and it seemed like he already knew what was going on.
“I saw her a while ago,” he continued. “I wasn’t sure what was happening but . . . she was crying. Then, I bumped into you and you were crying, too.”
The tears I was trying to hold back were threatening to come out again. I said I would protect them but in the end, I was one of the reasons why they got hurt.
“Is this because of . . .” His voice trailed off. I slowly nodded as my eyes welled up with tears. “I see.”
“S-she found out.”
“I’m sure they will understand if you explain your side,” he said.
Tears streamed down my cheeks. “B-but she walked away.”
He started fiddling with his phone and a few seconds later, he showed it to me. On the portal, several new articles were posted and one of them was about her.
“What . . .”
The writer was curious about her and Darryl’s relationship status because they were photographed away from each other, as if they just had a fight. Then there was a photo of her and Gisel talking and laughing during a meeting, maybe the advanced courses orientation they had to attend, while Darryl was out of the picture.
I felt bad and guilty even though I wasn’t part of it anymore. No wonder Steff just left.
“The new articles are all about gossips and theories regarding the campus elites,” he added.
I remained silent, trying to process everything. Honestly, I just wanted to run away. Confrontation had never been my strong suit especially with matters like this.
King didn’t say anything anymore after talking about the portal. I thanked him for everything and returned his jacket. I booked a car and waited with him outside the café. Few minutes later, the car arrived.
“Hey,” he called as I was about to get in the backseat. I turned to him and he smiled at me. “Everything will be okay.”
I pressed my lips and managed a subtle smile. “Thank you.”
When I got home, Xander asked what happened but I didn’t answer him and just walked straight to my room. I also didn’t check my phone because I was afraid of what I would read.
I wanted to sleep because I was emotionally and mentally drained but my brain wouldn’t let me so I opened my laptop and tried to type. However, I couldn’t focus on the stories. I just got frustrated and ended up shutting it down.
Just when I was about to return to my bed, I saw Xander leaning against the door sill. I didn’t even hear him opening my door.
“Gusto mo ng ice cream?” he asked as he walked toward my direction.
“No,” I flatly said.
“Sure? Looks like you need one.”
He sat on the edge of my bed and stared at me. I tried to avert his gaze but I was already too late. Seeing him reminded me of my friends and tears just fell down my face.
“Those three, I guess?” he asked and I nodded while sobbing.
I didn’t know how he figured out my problem but him being here and trying to comfort me triggered the happiest memories I had with them. And remembering them this time hurt more than what happened earlier . . . because I knew it wouldn’t be the same again.
I wasn’t sure how I managed to tell him the story and if he understood because I was sobbing every few seconds, but he continued listening. That time, it felt like he was really an older brother, just like how the three of them treat him.
“You won’t resolve anything by running away,” he said after hearing everything. “If I were Steff, I would also get disappointed, especially after seeing my name in those malicious articles. But they don’t know that your intentions are good. Just tell them the truth. Those girls will surely understand. You’re friends after all.”
“B-but what if they don’t?”
“Is your friendship that shallow for you?”
I was taken aback by his question and he just stared at me, waiting for my response.
“N-no . . .”
“I’ve seen how you treasure each other. I know how much they mean to you. So don’t let these misunderstandings ruin the very thing you tried to protect.”
Hearing his words made me cry harder and gave me a new perspective. I was about to say thank you but he suddenly pulled out his phone from his pocket and took a photo of my face.
“Ah. You look ugly here. Pwedeng pang-blackmail,” he snickered as he ran away from me.
I didn’t have the energy to yell at him or chase him so I just let him be. When he got out of my room, I lay down my bed and stared vacantly at the ceiling.
My head was throbbing and my eyes were already swollen from too much crying. I reached for my phone and carefully opened it. The first thing that came into my view was the notification for unread messages from our messenger group chat.
My heart pounded painfully against my chest as I stared at the screen.
Just tell them everything, Xander advised.
I breathed deeply and opened the chat without reading the ongoing conversation. It’s time to tell them the truth.