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.