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.