“Himala, you’re early,” Steff commented as she sat down right across me.
I forced a smile. “Yeah, I woke up early.”
She pulled out a chocolate bar from her bag and started nibbling it. Unlike Alice and I, Steff preferred to be early so I already expected to see her here even though her class would start at 11:30 A.M.
“Ah, I have a question,” I said. “What’s nakaka . . . bago? Wait, was that the right word?”
She chuckled. “You mean, nakakapanibago?”
“Yeah!” I beamed after hearing that word. “That’s it.”
“Hmm, it’s kind of like you’re not used to that kind of setup or attitude or whatever you just encountered.”
“Ohh.” I see. But why would he say that?
“Did you hear that somewhere?”
Uh oh. I wouldn’t be able to escape once Steff started asking questions.
“Alam mo, feeling ko talaga may something sa’yo ngayon,” she said with a suspicious look. I could pretend I couldn’t understand but she used basic Filipino words so she would see through that.
“Eopseo (Nothing),” I retorted. “You know that I’m busy surviving our subjects.”
She finally stopped questioning me but her eyes were still doubtful. We spent our remaining time talking about Alice’s situation and she looked pissed because of the articles and rumors about Alice and Kevin. This was one of the reasons why I couldn’t tell them my secrets. I knew they would get hurt and feel betrayed because most of the articles on the portal were about Campus Princes and Princesses.
“Do you know that Gewena—”
She wasn’t able to finish his question because Darryl hugged her from behind. I find it cute that she still gets flustered whenever Darryl does things like that.
“May strawberry cake sa cafeteria,” Darryl said and Steff’s eyes twinkled.
Both of them looked at me and I already knew what they were thinking.
“Yna, do you want to—”
“Ka (Go),” I said, dismissing what they wanted to say. “It’s okay, I have a group meeting in ten minutes.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yup. Go and be with your bebeboy,” I teased.
They were still hesitating but after repeatedly telling them to go, Steff slowly got up and I signaled Darryl to pull Steff away.
Heaving a sigh, I, too, left the garden since it looked like it would rain. Somehow, it felt strange to be alone in the campus. Before, I would always be with those three but things had already changed. I knew our time together would be less compared before because of their boyfriends.
That’s okay. I completely understand that. Besides, they know when to prioritize our friendship and their love lives and that’s what matters the most.
After checking some notifications in my phone, I went to one of my favorite places—behind the Arts and Letters building. However, I suddenly remembered a scene that sent me into cold sweat.
“Oh, so you’re notaroyalty?”
If only he wasn’t behind me . . . he wouldn’t know my identity. Well, as long as he doesn’t say anything to anyone, I’m safe. But waiting for his next move was making me more anxious. Would he really be able to keep my secret? Could I really trust him?
Turning around, Jess’ face came into view. She flashed a playful smile and I had to calm myself to keep her from asking weird questions.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
“I forgot my umbrella,” I replied.
“Bakit hindi ka sa library?” She looked at me suspiciously. “May hinihintay ka ba?”
“No way,” I scoffed. “And you? Why are you here? Where’s your unknown particle?”
“Busy,” she sighed. “Steff and I will be busy, too, starting this week. Iniisip ko pa lang, napapagod na ako.”
We were quiet for a few seconds but she suddenly gasped and pointed at something.
“Hoy! Gisel!” she yelled while marching toward the opened window and I saw the person I was hiding from.
“Kanina ka pa hinahanap ni Sir Santos! May orientation mamaya for taking the advance courses. Alam mo na ba ‘yon?”
“Ah. Oo nga pala.”
Jess sighed. “Magpakita ka nga kay Sir, para hindi ka niya sa amin hinahanap. Ang hirap mo pa man ding hagilapin.”
“Okay,” he smiled. “A-attend ako mamaya. Thanks for reminding me.”
I kept my back turned against them, hoping he wouldn’t see or recognize me but Jess called my name. Oh, great.
“Yna! Let’s get inside. Lumalakas na ‘yong ulan,” she commented as she pulled me closer to her.
“Yna?” he muttered innocently, as if he didn’t know my name.
“Ah, best friend ko, si Yna,” Jess said. “Anyway, um-attend ka later, ha?”
“Yeah,” he responded. “Saan nga ulit?”
“Okay. See you later.” He smiled. “And nice meeting you, Miss Yna.”
After saying that, he leisurely walked away, and Jess dragged me inside the building.
“Cute ni Gisel, ‘no?” Jess remarked.
“Hala? Cute kaya lalo na kapag naka-smile.”
“I’m telling that to Patrick.”
“Grabe, I was just complimenting him! Besides, minsan ko lang naman siya makausap. Mailap ‘yon.”
My forehead furrowed. “What’s mailap? Ah, and the word you used earlier . . . uhm . . . hagipalin?”
Jess chuckled. “Cute mo! Well, mailap means elusive. And it’s not hagipalin. It’s hagilapin. Meaning, to look for someone or to catch hold of someone.”
I immediately typed the words and their meanings on my phone. Speaking Filipino was always a struggle for me but those three kept on encouraging me. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to converse in Filipino because I was still awkward with some words, especially when using the tenses.
“For example, si Gisel. Mahirap hagilapin ‘yon kasi mailap sa mga tao,” she explained. “Come to think of it, among the Campus Princes in our batch, parang never pa akong nakarinig ng kahit anong issue o rumor about him.”
I agreed in silence. Darryl, Patrick and Kevin would always be in articles because of their antics and they were always linked with Campus Princesses but that guy would only be mentioned as one of the Campus Princes and as part of their band.
Jess and I parted ways since our classes would start in a few minutes. I just wish my class would end early.
“I’ll leave your reading assignment at the photocopy station later. We’ll have our quiz about that next week. Maliwanag?”
We answered in chorus but I was already imagining how low my score would be. We had to read a journal about how the Filipino language started and it was written in Filipino. I already gave up after reading the first few sentences.
I wanted to consult Steff or Jess but I also didn’t want to disturb them since they were probably preparing for their advanced courses. I could ask Alice but she sucked at explaining so we would just waste both of our time.
One hour. That was the longest time I stayed inside a library and that was because I fell asleep when I accompanied Steff during our freshmen year. I never thought I’d stay longer than that until today.
Roaming around the references section, I found some Filipino-English dictionary and I stayed in front of that shelf as I read the first sentence of our reading.
“Pinakamahalagang yugto ng kasaysayan . . . what is yugto?” I muttered and I immediately flipped the pages of the dictionary to check its meaning
“Stage,” somebody said. “An act or part.”
Peeking from the shelf in front of me was the most elusive Campus Prince of our batch. He smiled when our gaze met each other.
“We meet again, Miss Yna.”
Maybe it was just me, but I was starting to see and notice him more often, as if fate was playing a bad joke on me.
“You need help?” he asked while pointing at my readings and that moment, my desperation won over my pride.
The only people I could rely on with stuff like these were Steff, Alice, Jess and my brother, but their hands were full at the moment. Maybe I was really that desperate because I accepted his offer.
“Yes,” I whispered. “Please?”
He smiled once again. I thought he was just mocking me and would make a run for it, but this time, he didn’t slip away.
The most elusive prince stayed.