The situation instantly turned us as the center of attention, forcing me to stand up and drag him where we could be alone.
“What the heck, Darryl?” bungad ko nang makalayo kami sa garden.
“What?” he nonchalantly shrugged. “You said I should beg.”
“Not in front of everyone!”
“Oh. Hindi mo naman sinabi.”
Napahawak na lang ako sa noo ko dahil pakiramdam ko ay umaakyat na ang dugo sa mukha at ulo ko. What was he even thinking? Gumagawa na naman siya ng scene at dahil do’n ay may kakalat na namang rumors. And I couldn’t stand that any longer.
“Okay, look. I’m thankful that you and your family saved me and my sister’s lives. But this game between us, or whatever it is, it’s getting out of hand.”
He must have realized I was serious because the impish smile on his face disappeared.
“I accept your proposal,” pagpapatuloy ko. “Let’s be partners for this project, but after this, promise me you won’t bother me again. Ever.”
Darryl was silent for a few seconds. “Alright. Deal.”
Nang makapag-settle na kami ay bumalik kami sa garden para i-discuss ang plan namin for the music project. Although it was quite uncomfortable because everyone was stealing a glance at our direction.
We had the same subject, but different prof and schedule. The gist of the project was to film a video playing an instrument, while having an accompaniment. I could play the piano while he said he could play the guitar.
“We need to schedule a practice,” he suggested.
Honestly, I was taken aback. Hindi ko alam na grade-conscious din pala ang isang ‘to. I thought he was one of those smart kids who don’t care about their grades. It turned out I was wrong.
Natigil ang discussion nang dumating sina Alice, and frankly, I had forgotten about our lunch time since we were both focused on what to do with the project.
The three sat right across us and they were looking at me with playful smiles.
“So in good terms na pala kayo ngayon,” pang-aasar ni Jess.
“Parang kahapon lang LQ kayo ah?” dagdag ni Alice.
Yna chuckled. “Cuties.”
Sinamaan ko sila ng tingin dahil nakuha pa talaga nilang mang-asar habang nasa harap nila si Darryl. Meanwhile, he seemed to be enjoying this because he was trying to suppress a grin.
Thankfully, umalis na rin siya after a while dahil may 1 P.M. class siya. Ang problema lang ay kami pa rin ang naging topic ng tatlo pagkaalis niya.
“I thought you didn’t want to be associated with him anymore, Steff?” Tanong ni Jess.
“This will be the last time,” I said and explained that the deal we had agreed upon.
“You sure that will work?”
“Hopefully. Napapagod na ako sa rumors.”
The day went on smoothly, but Darryl called after class. I was skeptical at first, but he might be calling to talk about the project.
“I’m hanging up—“
I heard him laughing on the other end of the call. “Joke lang naman. Anyway, let’s meet on Friday for a thorough discussion.”
Napaisip naman ako kung ano ang schedule ko that day. Bukod sa classes ay wala naman masyadong academic load sa araw na ‘yon, although may pasok ako sa make up classes kinabukasan.
“Alright. Pero hindi ako puwedeng gabihin.”
Pagbaba ko sa phone ay napatitig ako rito. I was still not used to this Darryl. Feeling ko anytime ay manti-trip siya. Still, I wanted this to end already. Might as well go with the flow. Mahirap na at baka mauwi na naman kami sa petty revenge.
One thing about being a campus princess was that people expect you to be both presentable and smart even though you were already stressed. Sa dami ng pinapagawa sa akin ay gusto ko na lang sumuko. I was in the library during most of my vacant periods so I could do my missed reading assignments and requirements. Tina-try ko na rin mag-aral for midterms dahil for sure ay mawawalan na ako ng time for the next few weeks.
When Friday came, my eyebags were already noticeable.
“Kaya pa ba, Steff?” Tanong ni Alice habang kumakain kami sa garden.
I heaved a long sigh. “I want to rest already. Pero may classes pa ako tomorrow.”
“It must be too tiring to be a campus elite,” commented Yna.
“Agreed,” singit ni Jess.
Buti na lang at wala akong afternoon class for today since nag-cancel ang prof namin. I thought I could rest for a few hours, but Ven suddenly called me.
“They need models daw for today, ate,” she said. “May conflict sa schedule pala ‘yung dalawa. Are you free today?”
“Yeah. Cancelled classes this afternoon.”
“Yay! Papunta na kami ni Dad.”
Before I could reply, Ven already ended the call. Wala ba siyang pasok?
Nagpaalam naman ako sa tatlo at sinabi kong may unplanned schedule for modeling ngayon, to which they teased me for.
About thirty minutes later, she messaged me that they were already at the parking lot. I ran toward their direction and Ven was already talking to the director when I boarded the car. Dad drove us to the studio and we immediately got busy upon arrival.
We were dressed in different clothes and accessories, and got dolled up. Nag-enjoy naman ako dahil gusto ko ang style namin ngayon. I was monitoring Ven’s shoot when my phone suddenly rang.
A surprised gasp escaped my lips upon seeing Darryl’s name. Oh my god, mag-mi-meet nga pala kami ngayon for our project. I totally forgot about that!
I walked away from the staffs and answered the call when they were out of earshot.
“Hello? Sorry,” I immediately said.
“Uhh . . .”
He already knew about my modeling job, but I didn’t want him to know that I was currently doing one right now.
“Puwede bang mag-meet na lang tayo sa coffee shop?” I suggested. “I’ll message you the address. Meet me there at 5 p.m.”
“Alright. See you later.”
The shoot was finished around 4:30 p.m. Luckily, Dad was on waiting for us outside kaya nagpahatid ako sa kanya sa coffee shop na one block away from the studio.
“Who are you meeting?” tanong niya.
“Classmate, Dad,” sabi ko. “Partner ko for a course project.”
“Okay. Call me when you’re already finished.”
Halos saktong 5 p.m. na ako nakarating sa café at medyo na-conscious ako dahil hindi ko na nabura ang makeup ko. I immediately saw Darryl waiting on the table near the corner. He met my gaze and waved at my direction.
He stared a long moment that I felt quite awkward. Besides, this was the first time we were alone together that we weren’t at each other’s throat.
Darryl was wearing a white sweatshirt and denim jeans, a stark contrast to my bright and floral dress. I sat right across him and he told me to order my food. Pagkababa ko ng bag ko ay tumungo ako sa counter. I just ordered café latte and a slice of chocolate cake. Pagbalik ko ay nandoon na ang order niya: iced americano and cheesecake.
He took out a bunch of papers from his bag while we were drinking our coffee. “Let’s just discuss the general concept of our project. Kung anong gagawin natin at kung paano natin i-e-execute.”
I was just listening the whole time since I did agree to most of his points, much to my surprise. Basically, we were going to practice the each other’s chosen piece separately first, then we’d try to arrange them to suit the accompaniment.
Hindi pa kami nakakapag-decide sa piece na gagawin namin, but we set a deadline so that we could start practicing already. At para matapos na rin ang project for this elective.
I stole a glance at him while he was finalizing our schedule. In fairness, this Darryl was likeable compared to his usual conceited demeanor. Although I hate to admit it, he looked cool when he’s serious about something. If he could only behave like this on a daily basis, perhaps we’d be friends.
“Are we okay?” tanong ko dahil medyo dumidilim na. “May I go home already? Baka kasi hinahanap na ako ng dad ko.”
Dad had imposed a curfew for Ven and I after our accident. Ayaw na niyang nale-late kami ng uwi at dapat siya ang susundo sa amin from school. I saw a missed call from him a minute ago and I wasn’t able to answer it because we were busy talking about the project.
“Okay naman na,” sagot niya. “So, paano, kita na lang tayo next week for the practice?”
Nagsimula akong magligpit after that pero napakunot ang noo ko nang inayos niya rin ang gamit niya. Was he about to leave, too?
“Saan ka ba susunduin?” He asked as we left our table.
My brows knitted in confusion. “Why?”
“Hatid na kita ro’n.”
“No!” I exclaimed. “I mean, no need, but thanks for the offer.”
Dad didn’t know that my project partner was a guy. He would surely make a fuss if he sees him with me.
Naglakad ako palayo sa kanya pero agad akong napahinto at muling lumingon. I saw him staring at me with that wistful expression again.
“Hey, today was kind of fun,” I remarked, earning a raised eyebrow from him. “You’re much more tolerable when you’re like this.”
He chuckled at my comment. “Baka ma-in love ka talaga sa akin n’yan, bebe girl.”
Suddenly, I wanted to take back the words I just said. “Nevermind. You’re still insufferable.”
“Ingat. Baka madapa ka kakalingon sa akin.”
Dad and Ven were complaining how hungry they were already when I got there kaya nag-sorry agad ako dahil medyo natagalan ako. As he drove to a nearby restaurant, my mind recalled what happened earlier.
Huh. Somehow, today felt weird.