"So, nasaan na ang pasalubong namin?"
That was the first thing Jess asked when Steff arrived at Alice's house.
We learned about what happened between them a few days ago and went here to cheer her up. It was rare to see Alice breaking down and that was the first time she cried because of a guy. After what she told us, Jess immediately badmouthed Kevin and almost called Patrick. Thank goodness she calmed down before realized that it would be better for the two of them to talk first.
"You should've brought a casket for Alice's heart," I joked and she rolled her eyes at me.
We continued teasing Alice but it was apparent that she was still distraught over what happened.
"Okay, dahil new year na, hanap ka na lang ng bagong crush," said Jess.
"Can she?" I asked. "I mean, Kevin's different. She actually likes him a lot."
Steff just sighed while Alice stared vacantly at her tea.
"Hello? Earth to Alice?" I said while waving my hand in front of her.
Steff and Jess started lecturing her about Kevin and Alice couldn't retaliate because she knew they were right. This was the first time she looked defeated and it was worrying.
"Bakit puro ako? Si Yna naman ang i-hotseat n'yo," Alice complained as she looked at me.
"Hmm? Why me?"
Jess squinted her eyes at me. "You know, may naaalala ako. Remember that time when you wrote something on my notebook?"
I had to maintain my poker face but I was restless after remembering I wrote Gisel's name before. That was the time he helped me on our Kas assignment and I was really grateful toward him but I couldn't tell it to him in person.
"Eh? I did that?" I innocently asked.
"Kapag talaga nagka-crush si Yna, magpapa-party ako," Alice said.
Steff chuckled. "Ihanda mo na wallet mo," she said. "Feeling ko meron."
I wasn't sure if Steff was just teasing or she was perceptive but that was anxiety-inducing . . . wait, do I have a crush on someone? Why would I be nervous--
"P-please look after me."
I shuddered when his image flashed in my mind. Fortunately, Jess and Steff were back on scolding Alice.
After several hours, the three of us went home since classes would already resume tomorrow.
When I got home, I started typing some updates for my stories and it was already 8 P.M. when I posted two chapters of my current ongoing.
I had been drafting another one offline but I was scared to start writing the first chapter because the character I had in mind was a bit similar to him. Just the thought of him reading it made me anxious.
I just hope I would have the courage to write it.
The classes just resumed today and I was already late for my first class.
I wanted to finish my ongoing stories that I didn't notice the time and just realized it when it was already 1 A.M. I wasn't able to attend my first class since I was already thirty minutes late so I went straight to the library.
Browsing through the dictionaries and Filipino reference materials, I thought it would be nice if I could write a story in pure Filipino but I also knew that it would be impossible.
I find it frustrating, actually. I mean, I had been in this country since I was a kid yet I could only speak English and Korean fluently because those were the language we were using in our home. I was also enrolled in schools where students mainly use English as their primary language in conversing.
After getting some references, I sat on my usual spot. I was about to start studying when I received a notification from our group.
moonlight: happy new year guys!
moonlight: we'll be busy as hell today lol
moonlight sent an attachment
cafemocha: i'm already tired for this month
mugiwara: hahaha too much traffic on the site
cafemocha: aga-aga tsismis agad ang gustong almusal ng mga tao
kingtrex: goes to show how shallow people are
moonlight: luh akala mo hindi siya admin eh
moonlight: ano pala tingin mo sa sarili mo
mugiwara: i'd be the referee
cafemocha: ikaw masusuntok ng dalawang 'yan pag 'di ka tumigil
I wasn't able to reply and just went to the website but I had to refresh repeatedly because of the traffic. After a few minutes, I finally accessed it and I couldn't believe how many "scoop" the writers had gathered over the break. Some were shocking and it felt like announcing them simultaneously would cause an uproar.
I remembered how chaotic it was last year, revealing couple after couple in a span of a week, and it was personally distressing because Steff and Jess were always on the trending articles.
This time, Alice got the most attention after the rumors about her and Kevin circulated around the campus. If I could only convince them not to publish anything about her . . . but they would surely get suspicious.
I sighed in frustration but got distracted when I saw a group of people entering the library. My face turned into a frown when I saw Stan, the guy who almost hit Alice before. But what surprised me was the familiar face beside him. We met each other's gaze and we didn't know what to do or how to react.
That was King.
I knew it. That was why he was familiar. He was friends with that jerk.
I thought he was kind. That was my first impression of him. But that quickly changed when I saw him with Stan. I'd be disappointed if he was tolerating his actions before.
My eyes shifted to the books I was supposed to read and started studying. It would be better to ignore them anyway.
Thank goodness I was able to focus on reading. There were words and phrases I couldn't understand despite checking the meanings in the dictionary so I wrote them down and I'd try figuring them out later.
Someone sat across me and I was startled when I saw King nonchalantly flipping the pages of a book.
It felt strange. Yes, we bumped into each other before and had acknowledged our existence and identities but I didn't expect him to cross the barrier between virtual and physical.
"Sorry," he softly said.
"For what?" I asked.
"You looked angry a while ago."
Hearing his voice, seeing him talking and realizing we were interacting in person felt weird. It seemed like the mutually exclusive worlds I created started colliding into each other and that made me uneasy.
I averted his gaze and stared at the page I was currently reading. Suddenly, a notification appeared.
kingtrex: sorry for talking to you
kingtrex: I just realized it was awkward
yeoshin: i'm more used to this
I was tempted to take a peek at him but I managed to hold myself back.
kingtrex: is it because of Stan?
So he knew. Of course, he should know that. His friend caused a lot of trouble last year.
yeoshin: so he's your friend
yeoshin: did you know about the things he did? especially to Karla and Alice?
kingtrex: we already scolded him and he's already reflecting on his actions
I wasn't sure if I could believe his words, but he seemed to be telling the truth.
kingtrex: it's hard to be an admin if your friends are involved, isn't it?
Ah. Right. He must have had a hard time, too, since Stan was also the subject of several articles after those incidents. I suddenly felt ashamed. I knew how some articles exaggerate stories and how frustrating those could be to people who were close to the subject or to those who knew the truth.
yeoshin: it's just that I felt angry after remembering what he did before
kingtrex: it's okay. you have the right to get angry
kingtrex: he did bad things so he should own up to his mistakes
yeoshin: sorry for thinking you tolerate his wrongdoings
kingtrex: i'm his friend but that doesn't mean I condone his actions
kingtrex: he needs guidance so that's what we're doing
yeoshin: i see
yeoshin: he's lucky that he has a friend like you
kingtrex: haha not really
I glanced at him and saw him looking at me. It was still awkward but he flashed a quick smile, which surprised me.
"I'm glad we have sorted the misunderstanding," he said, "if there was."
He stood up and nodded. "I'll be going then."
He didn't wait for my reply and quietly left my table. I was staring at his back until I couldn't see him anymore but I almost yelled when Jess suddenly appeared on my sight, a teasing smile pasted on her face.
She sat in front of me, looking impishly, as if she just witnessed something interesting.
"So, sino 'yon?" she asked.
"Kunwari ka pa! Kanina pa kaya ako nakatayo ro'n sa likod ng shelf," she said as she pointed the bookshelf behind me. "
"Just an acquaintance," I replied.
"Are you sure? Bakit parang more than that?"
Ugh. Why did she have to witness that? It would be hard to fool Jess without a believable story. Might as well tell some of the truth.
"Okay, fine, I'll tell you." She looked excited but I knew that would be short-lived. "That's a friend of Stan."
Upon mentioning his name, Jess' expression quickly turned into disgust, which was a bit funny.
"It's because I glared at them when I saw them here," I explained. "Maybe they know that I'm Alice's friend so that guy approached me and said sorry for his friend's behavior before."
"Hah! That jerk should be the one apologizing. And he should direct that to Alice," she muttered.
"Yeah. I'm sure he will."
We attended our classes and told her to keep it a secret first until Stan apologize to Alice. Fortunately, she agreed.
I was getting ready to go home after my last class ended but I halted when I saw a DM on my instagram . . . from him.
calvingisel: Hey, I'm free this afternoon. We can start today :)
My heart started racing after reading that. I still couldn't believe I agreed with this. Could I still back out? But . . . but learning from him would be beneficial.
After minutes of contemplating, I finally replied.
He replied right away.
calvingisel: Alright. Let's meet in this cafe.
He sent a picture and I realized it was one of my favorite coffee shops. Good thing it was a bit far from the campus.
See you later, I wanted to add but I didn't have the courage to send it.
calvingisel: See you later :)
I hailed a taxi when I got out of the campus and created a secret instagram account out of impulse on the way there. When I arrived, I saw him sitting beside the window. He smiled when he saw me walking toward him and somehow, it felt like this would be the last time I could step back . . . but I didn't. I continued moving forward.
"Hi," he greeted with a warm smile.
"H-hi," I replied as I sat down across his seat.
"Uhm, ayos lang."
"Sige, order ka muna. Hihintayin kita."
I went to the counter and ordered coffee and cake. When I went back to our seat, it felt so uncomfortable. There was a tension, the kind that could make you nervous and make you insecure about everything. And I knew it was just me because he looked composed and calm.
"Magsimula na tayo?" he asked.
He started asking me questions in Filipino and proceeded to the journals I read a while ago. I couldn't focus at first but thanks to his approach, I learned a lot of things.
I was thankful that he was willing to help me but at the back of my mind, there was a looming terror. I was afraid that people might find out about this. I was afraid that we'd be thrown into the spotlight. And most of all, I was afraid that I'd start feeling something for him.
"Thank you," I said after the session.
He snickered. "Ano ulit?"
"Err, I mean, maraming salamat."
"Walang anuman," he responded.
"Uhm, m-mauna na ako. It's getti—I mean, madilim na."
We spent two hours in the cafe and it was already 7:30 P.M. My brother would be worried and he might ask stupid questions if I got home late.
"Wait, ihahatid na kita," he suddenly said and I stared at him, hoping that I just misheard his words.
"Madilim na. Ihahatid na kita."
Other's hearts might flutter if they heard that but the first thing I felt was fear. People seeing him with me outside or near my house scared me.
"H-huwag na!" I said in panic. "Magta-taxi naman ako."
"Oh, okay. Sige, hintayin na lang kitang makasakay," he said.
We went outside and just like what he promised, he stayed with me until I got in the taxi. I glanced at him and he smiled in returned.
"Ingat," he said while waving his hand.
I smiled in return. "Ikaw rin."
During the ride, I posted a photo on my account and another one on my secret account
ynashin: time well spent
notaroyalty: You are too kind. I'm scared.
And that night, I started writing a new story.