“Pagod na ako,” Alice complained as she plopped on the bench and rested her head on my right shoulder.
It had been only three days since the semester started and it was already tiring. They were right when they said the third year in college would be the most hectic.
“May practice pa kami later,” she muttered and drew a long breath. “Buti na lang kasabay ko later si Kevin.”
“Hatid niya ikaw?”
She nodded. “Alam mo ‘di pa rin ako sanay na nagta-tagalog ka, but you’re definitely improving.”
I snickered in response. “Salamat.”
We spent our vacant period in the garden, talking about our class schedules, and of course, her love life. It was cute to see her still squealing while talking about Kevin even though they were already together for months.
As if on cue, her phone chimed and I saw Kevin’s name on the screen. She excitedly answered the call and excused herself for a while. I watched how her smile returned as she talked to him and that made me smile, too.
It was quite a peaceful moment but my heart suddenly did a summersault when I saw Gisel from the corner of my eye. The day when I last saw him instantly replayed in my mind and I had to lower my head because my face was flushed.
I couldn’t believe I confessed to him . . . well, not really, but still, it was embarrassing. I remembered how overwhelming the feelings were that it felt like I would combust and how I ran away after.
We didn’t have the chance to talk again after that day. Besides, he was busy with his advanced courses and I didn’t want to take risks anymore.
“Yna!” Alice’s voice jarred me back to reality. “Alis na ako. Malapit na next class ko. Ikaw ba?”
“Two hours ang vacant pa,” I answered. When I took a quick glance at Gisel’s direction a while ago, he was already gone.
“Anong gagawin mo?”
I shrugged. “I’ll just stay in the library, I think.”
“Okay. See you later na lang!”
The library was quite crowded today but fortunately, my usual seat was unoccupied. I started checking the requirements for some of my subjects and it looked like most of them would have reading assignments and journal discussions. Good thing was this would be the last sem for my Arts & Humanities elective courses requirements. I took Pan Pil since that was the only subject available when I enlisted online.
I heaved a sigh upon looking at the syllabus. There would be a lot of reaction papers. Despite improving and learning a lot last semester, I’m still not confident with my capability to write in Filipino.
Thinking about that subject was making my head hurt so I opened my Nook account to de-stress. I started typing the next chapter as I recalled what happened in the library. My heart fluttered while writing their scenes but I suddenly noticed some students throwing curious glances at my direction.
My apprehension heightened when I realized most of the people near me where silently observing me; some even tried taking photos secretly. I immediately closed my laptop and opened my phone to check what was happening.
“Is that really her?” one of the girls from the table behind asked in a hushed voice.
“She looks like the girl in the photos.”
“Oh my god, for real?”
My heart raced in worry as I heard the whispers around me. Just when I was about to go to the portal, a chat notification popped on my screen.
Jervin: I’m sorry it got out of hand
Jervin: moon and the others don’t know it’s you so they approved the articles as they are about Gisel
Reading his messages made my fingers restless. I checked the portal and almost dropped my phone when I saw the trending articles.
A Girl Approached Campus Prince Gisel While He Was Sleeping
Princess Charming to the Sleeping Prince? Who Is the Mysterious Girl?
She Who Dares Approaching the Elusive Prince
The article titles and the photos attached to them were enough to start a witch hunt. I wanted to disappear and hide from the eyes that were watching me but my body just froze in fear.
“Is she expecting Gisel to be here again?”
One of the girls chuckled. “Desperate move.”
My body started trembling as more students seemed to shift their attention to my direction. It took me a few minutes and several deep breaths to finally stood. I tried to look unfazed as their gazes follow me. My knees felt weak but I managed to leave the library unscathed.
I ran to one of my safe havens, behind the Arts and Humanities building, and slumped against the wall. I was still in dazed, trying to process everything that happened.
When everything was slowly sinking in, I scrunched down and hugged my knees. There were people who saw what I did that day. I knew it. I shouldn’t have let my feelings control me. Now, I would be facing the consequences of my carelessness.
My body flinched when I saw Alice calling but I ignored it and turned my phone off. I was just staring vacantly into space, hoping that everything was just a bad dream. I couldn’t believe things had turned out the way I didn’t want it to be.
I was in deep thoughts that I had almost forgotten about my schedule. With a worried heart, I went to my next lecture class and immediately felt the hostility of some of my classmates. It was hard to focus on the lesson when everyone was stealing glances at you every minute. Honestly, I was contemplating whether to run away in the middle of the class because I couldn’t deal with the attention I was getting.
After our prof reminded us about the journals that we should read for tomorrow’s recit classes, he dismissed the class and I was one of the first to leave the room. Walking through the corridor made me realize the reach and influence of the portal to the students. They were all eyeing at me as if I was an interesting species.
I realized I had been holding my breath for too long that my chest hurt the moment I heaved a sigh. It was hard to remain nonchalant when everyone was judging you through their stares, so I tried opening my phone to pretend I was not affected.
A lot of notifications popped once I turned it on but I ignored everything and tried to book a car so I could go home. However, even luck wasn’t on my side. No drivers were accepting me. I was about to exit the gate when a familiar figure standing near the exit caught my eye.
Gisel was frustratingly fiddling with his phone while most of the students around were stealing glances at him. I wanted to avoid him at all cost but his gaze landed on me before I could even move.
For a second, it felt like we were the only people in this place. Everything just faded in the background and all I could hear was the painful thumping of my heart against my chest. He was wearing an expression I had never seen before—an expression that made my heart heavy.
For a second, I wanted to forget everyone around us and just walked toward him. I wanted to tell him that I was sorry for being careless. That I was scared of the attention I was getting.
But this wasn’t the right place and time to let my emotions control me. This wasn’t the situation the two of us wanted to be in.
I drew a quick breath and started walking without looking at his direction. Some students were carefully watching me and Gisel but I didn’t want to give them more reasons to gossip about us. I wanted to stay away from the limelight. I didn’t want to be in that place.
My knees were shaking as I passed by him and fortunately, he didn’t do anything that could make our situation worse. I didn’t know where to go but I continued walking until I was sure I was away from everyone’s eyes. The next thing I knew, I was already in front of a nearby café.
It took me a few seconds before deciding to get inside. I don’t want to go home yet because my brother might sense something and I don’t want to make him worry. To make matters worse, Steff had been calling me every ten minutes while Alice and Jess were sending messages nonstop. They must be worried but I didn’t want to talk to them about anything coming from the portal after what happened before.
Ignoring everything, I went to the farthest table at the corner where no one from the outside could see me after quickly ordering a cake and latte. My body slumped against the cushion and the composed façade I had completely disappeared.
My body trembled as I recalled everything that happened a while ago. I knew the rumors wouldn’t die down quickly because Gisel was one of the Campus Princes that everyone was interested with. Being the subject of articles with him along with those photos would shift the attention to me. I had been an administrator for so long that I knew what my fate would be.
My train of thought dissipated when I was called for my order. I wanted to at least cheer myself up with some sweets but before I could even grab the fork, I saw a notification that I dreaded the most.
Seeing his name on the screen stirred several emotions inside me. I didn’t want to read anything from him but my hand moved against my wishes. With an anxious heart, I slowly opened his message.
calvingisel: I’m sorry. I should’ve been more careful.
calvingisel: Are you okay?
I felt more guilty after reading his messages because it was fault, not his. If only I were cautious. If only I were attentive enough to realize that there were people watching us that time. If only I didn’t allow my emotions take over my reasoning.
ynashin: No, it’s my fault. I’m sorry.
ynashin: Don’t worry, I’ll just stay away so I won’t create any misunderstandings anymore.
A few seconds later, I received a reply.
calvingisel: Was it a misunderstanding?
I suddenly remembered what happened that day. How I confessed my feelings while he was asleep. How he tenderly held my fingers between his. How he smiled so dearly that it nearly melted my heart. How I felt so happy and scared at the same time.
And this . . . this situation was what I was scared of.
If I continue liking him, I’d be thrown in the spotlight. To a world where I don’t belong. To a place where you’d be judged for being ordinary. And I couldn’t handle that. I couldn’t survive there.
My heart sank as I replied to him and reading his response made me realize how coward and selfish I was.
calvingisel: I see.
calvingisel: I’m really sorry for dragging you into this mess.
calvingisel: More than anything, I want you to be safe and comfortable. If staying away from me will make you feel at ease, I understand.
calvingisel: But I will surely miss your presence, Yna :)
That moment, it felt like I was not worthy of anything.
Of his kindness.
Of his warmth.
Of his feelings.