I never thought I’d hate Monday even more.
Clutching my bag and readings, I ran to the library to avoid him and those three. I was too anxious to step inside the campus today because of what had transpired last week to the point that I couldn’t even sleep properly. Now, I need to cram these readings before our class.
Luckily, there was an empty seat at the right corner. I sat there and was about to get some dictionaries but my phone vibrated. Notifications from both the admin group chat and Kingdom Nook were displayed on my screen and I immediately looked around if there were people near me. When I was sure that I was safe, I sneakily opened my phone and read the messages.
cafemocha: hoy ang cute nung video ni Gisel haha
moonlight: ‘di ba? grabe ito yata ang first solo article natin sa kanya
mugiwara: wala na ba siyang ibang news-worthy activities?
cafemocha: ano ka ba, hirap-hirap kaya makahanap ng pwedeng isulat tungkol sa kanya
cafemocha: pwede na 'yan, kita mo nga, ang taas agad ng engagements ng article niya
moonlight: hahaha paano once in a blue moon lang nakikita ang name niya sa portal
Fortunately, there were no details regarding that short clip of him. The writer didn't mention anything about Kingdom Nook or whatever he was laughing at.
I drew a shaky breath as I opened my Nook account and his message last week came into view. It was already hard for me to avoid the spotlight with two of my friends being Campus Princesses. I don't want to get involved with him, too.
My head was starting to ache after thinking about what could happen today so I put down my phone and decided to focus on my readings first.
With the help of a few dictionaries and context clues, I managed to finish reading them and wrote some notes in case our prof asked questions about these. There was still enough time for me to type some update for my story but I didn’t want to open my account here, even though this area was quite hidden.
I remembered the little space beside the references shelf so I cleared my things and went to that direction with the dictionaries on my right arm. There was a group of students gathered around the shortest route so I had to take a detour. After returning the dictionaries I got a while ago, I went to the side and peeked to make sure I could work there but I almost yelped when I saw someone lying on the floor.
It was Gisel.
My mind went blank. I wanted to get away but my feet wouldn’t even move. I was afraid to make any noise because that would just attract unwanted attention. When I was about to turn around, he suddenly opened his eyes and met mine.
“Hey,” he called in a muted tone as he got up.
It looked like I couldn’t run away anymore.
With a dejected sigh, I nodded at him. He started looking around and I could see the worry on his face. For someone as carefree as him, seeing that expression was quite a surprise.
“Uhm, I don’t think anyone knows you’re here,” I whispered and that got his attention. “Sorry. I saw the article about you.”
He looked at me with a curious expression and I suddenly regretted what I just did. I shouldn't have said that.
"I was actually reading your story that time," he said and I almost choked in shock.
I crouched and put my index finger on my lips, gesturing him to keep quiet. Thank goodness this spot was hidden well and nobody heard that. I hope.
"Why are you doing this?"
"Doing what?" he asked innocently.
Giving me a hard time, I wanted to say, but I didn't.
"I don't want them to know about me being a writer on Kingdom Nook,” I responded. That place was my haven. I don’t want to lose my serenity there.
He gave me a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry. Your secret is still safe.”
I was about to reply but a conversation nearby cut me off and it got our attention because they mention Gisel’s name. There was a hint of panic on his face and I almost squealed when he pulled me beside him.
“Right? Gisel’s really cute,” one of the girls said and their voices was getting nearer.
The space was just enough for our bodies but we had to bend our knees because they might see us from their position. It would be much better if I was facing the same direction as him but I ended up facing him when he pulled me.
“Come to think of it, ngayon lang siya nagka-article na siya lang mag-isa.”
“Yup. He’s really elusive. Kaya bawat galaw niya, minamanmanan ng portal writers.”
“For sure, marami na namang magkaka-interes sa kanya.”
“Right? Especially Campus Princesses. Gano’n naman lagi. Sila-sila lang ang nagkakatuluyan.”
“Well, baka gusto nila ng ka-level nila. Aasa ka pa bang magugustuhan nila ang mga hindi elite tulad nila?”
I was looking down the whole time but after that exchange, I was tempted to look at his expression. As if on cue, we met each other’s gaze and I could feel that he wasn’t comfortable with what he just heard and with our position but he gently pulled me closer to the wall.
“Careful,” he whispered. “They’ll see you.”
Anxiety, fear and tension were kicking in and my heart wouldn’t be able to handle this kind of stress. I could do nothing but keep quiet until the two girls finally walked away.
“Sorry,” he said as we got away from each other.
I nodded and immediately ran. My class would be in five minutes and I didn’t want to be late. My heart was still beating crazily as I got out of the library.
“Michyeosseo!” (Crazy!) I grunted, recalling all that happened few minutes ago.
Calming my heart down, I went to my class and pushed the thoughts at the corner of my mind.
My presence of mind went back to the present when Jess tapped me on the shoulder. She was looking at me suspiciously as she continued flipping the pages of her notebook.
“What? Did you say something?”
“Kanina ka pa nakatulala,” she said. “You’re bothered about something.”
“Huh? No. I’m just . . .”
“May tinatago ka talaga sa amin, eh. Spill it.”
It’s hard to have a friend who’s good at reading someone. Jess and Steff would always know what’s up and once they got suspicious, it would be hard to clear their doubts.
“Wala,” I answered, trying to distract her with talking in Filipino. “It’s just . . . m-mahirap ang readings. Nakalilito? Is that right? I mean . . . maraming salitang . . . uhm . . . malalim?”
Jess chuckled as she repeated what I just said. I sneakily let out a sigh of relief when she shifted her focus on helping me with my new set of readings.
“In fairness, ha, you’re improving,” she remarked. “Tama lang talaga na kumuha ka ng Filipino GE. Good choice.”
“But there are too many readings,” I pouted. “I’m getting headaches.”
“Alam ko na.” She stopped reading her notes and smiled at me. “I will talk to you in Filipino and you need to answer me in Filipino, too. Para naman masanay ka na.”
“Masabi nga kay Steff para may katulong ako—”
“Eh?! Wait, wait wait!” She was about to call her on her phone and I had to grab it or else those two would turn me into a guinea pig. “That’s unfair! Besides . . .”
Our conversation came to a halt when we saw Steff and Alice on their way here. The topic immediately shifted to our betrayal and how Tito invited Kevin to their dinner tomorrow but she didn’t know how to tell him. I was about to suggest something but I saw Kevin a few meters away from us and I gestured for him to come closer. Steff and Jess saw him, too, and both of them silently went with my plan.
“Call him now,” I suggested.
"Anong sasabihin ko? Uhm, hello, pwede ka bang sumama sa family dinner namin bukas kasi 'yong tatlo kong pahamak na kaibigan ay binuking ako sa tatay ko na boyfriend daw kita kahit hindi pa naman?"
"Exactly," I said as Steff and Jess were already having a hard time holding back their laughter.
"Why not?" Kevin answered and that was our cue to walk away.
The three of us took care of the spectators and watched as Kevin pulled Alice away from the garden.
“Mukhang may magandang mangyayari,” Jess snickered.
“I just hope he won’t do anything stupid,” Steff added.
“Between them, baka si Alice pa nga ang may gawing katangahan. Alam mo na, marupok ‘yon pagdating sa kanya.”
My brows furrowed upon hearing that word. “Marupok?”
“Easily swayed,” they both answered.
“Ahh. Right. Alice is marupok,” I said but both of them started smiling and chuckling. “You’re making fun of me again.”
“No, no. You’re just too cute.”
“For real. Ayaw pa kasi pumayag sa gusto ko, eh.”
Before they could plan anything for me, I escaped from both of them and went to one of my safe places. Well, not so safe, since my secret was discovered here.
I carefully observed the surroundings, checking if somebody was here, especially the window where I could see few students passing by. Once I was sure it was safe, I plopped on the grass and leaned against the wall.
This was a tiring day. I thought I could type about half of my update for today but I couldn’t even start because I was distracted for the whole day.
I just hope I won’t see him today.
Everything happened so fast that I was a few seconds late from reacting. The next thing I knew, Gisel was already beside me and he, too, was shocked when he saw me here.
Wait, did he just jump from the window?
“Nasaan na si Gisel?” a voice from the hallway asked.
“Ang bilis tumakbo ng lalaking ‘yon!” another one complained.
Two girls peeked from the window and saw me. Gisel was right below them, only the sill of the window was preventing them from seeing him.
“May nakita ka bang lalaki rito kanina?”
“W-wala,” I answered and I could feel his gaze looking right through me.
The two girls sighed in frustration and was about to walk away when they suddenly pointed somewhere.
“Oh my god! ‘Di ba si Kevin ‘yon?”
Hearing his name suddenly caught my interest. True enough, he was behind the building next to this one, and he was with Alice.
“Sila na ba?”
“So, totoo nga talaga ‘yong articles doon sa portal.”
“What are you doing?”
“Taking pictures. Look, may iba ring kumukuha ng pictures. Whoa, this will be a big news for sure.”
I wasn’t able to do anything to prevent them from taking their pictures and I realized I was holding my breath until they left. Gisel and I sighed at the same time and stared at each other for a few seconds but immediately averted our gazes when it became too awkward.
“Thank you,” he whispered as he leaned against the wall, relieved that he was finally safe.
“Why are they chasing you?” I asked.
“Ah. Those were my elementary classmates. A senior Campus Princess asked for me and they sold me out. I had to escape.” He looked like he was already out of energy. “This is that article’s fault,” he muttered.
It must be hard for him to be running around while all eyes were on him. He said he wanted to stay out of the spotlight and I could see why. He values his personal space and peace of mind more than his position as the Campus Prince.
“Don’t worry,” I said as I looked at Kevin and Alice’s direction. “I’m sure a lot of articles about them will be posted after what just happened.”
Alice was already getting too much contempt and mockery these past few weeks and I felt sorry for her that I could only filter the articles about her and Kevin. I just hope this time, there wouldn’t be hate articles and messages directed to her.
“It must be hard for her,” he commented while looking at them. “Everybody is putting these Campus Princes and Princesses on a pedestal and they think these people can only be with someone with the same status as them, especially since most of them are in a relationship with each other.”
“It is,” I replied. “But it’s also her choice.” Looking at Alice from afar, she looked surprised but happy as Kevin gave her flowers. “She knows the consequences of being with Kevin and she chose to be with him. I guess her feelings are stronger than her fears.”
Uh oh. What did I just say?
I peeked at him and he gave me a sincere smile which caught me off-guard.
“That was a line from your story, Miss notaroyalty,” he remarked and I didn’t realize it until he commented that.
“Please do not call me that,” I mumbled in frustration, worried that someone might hear us from the hallway behind us.
He suddenly stood up and started walking away but halted when he was already several meters away from me.
“Ah. I’m looking forward to your update,” he said with a huge grin on his face. “I think I’m turning into one of your fans, Miss Yna,” he chuckled. “See you around!”
After saying those words, he ran away and left me dumbfounded.