“I desperately want to move on, but I don’t know how. Please help me.”
I couldn’t even concentrate on my readings because his words kept on echoing in my head. Worse, it had already been two weeks!
“May kasalanan ba sa ‘yo ‘yang readings mo, Steff, at sobrang sama ng tingin mo r’yan?” Jess said, pulling me from that thought.
“N-no, nahihirapan lang akong kabisaduhin,” I hurriedly said as an excuse.
“Ayan, paano two weeks ka nang nag-aaral. Wala nang space sa utak mo for new information,” sabat ni Alice.
“Oh, our orders are ready. I’ll just get them.”
Nandito kami ngayon sa isang café para mag-aral dahil next week na ang finals. Ayaw nila sa library dahil hindi raw kami makakapag-usap kaya naghanap na lang kami ng coffee shop na wala masyadong tao at hindi ganoon kaingay.
True, I was studying for two weeks already, but the distractions were far stronger. Every time I read the word move from my notes and readings, I would remember his plea and what happened in the library that day. Ni hindi ko nga alam kung paano ako nakaalis nang hindi nagpa-panic dahil hindi ko in-expect ‘yon mula sa kanya.
I had been confused about my own feelings for quite some time now, and hearing that sent me to a higher level of perplexity.
Isang malalim na buntonghininga ang pinakawalan ko dahil hindi na naman ako makapag-focus. Come on, Steff, the final exams are a week away. Be a good student and study hard!
To say that the finals week was a period of maelstrom was an understatement. Almost everyone had dark circles under their eyes. Students were walking like zombies, and some were already in a state of giving up. Even the campus princes and princesses were no exemptions.
It was a big deal because most students came from affluent families, and it would be an embarrassment if they couldn’t pass their subjects. Especially those who were on the top ranks.
The pressure was incredibly high, and even though Dad said I would do well, it was still nerve-racking. I had to pull simultaneous all-nighters to make sure I could ace every test and during the last day, I was ready to pass out.
Gustung-gusto ko nang matulog pero walang susundo sa akin dahil magkasama si Dad at kuya Ronald. He had to attend a conference in Baguio, and because it would be a long drive, kuya Ronald had to take the wheels.
I went to the library, hoping that there would be a free space to nap, but it was full, and some were already sitting on the floor. Dahil desperado na akong matulog ay nagtungo ako sa music room. Walang gumagamit no’n ngayon dahil tapos na kahapon pa ang practicals ng BS Music students. Fortunately, the room was unlocked.
Halos pabagsak na akong humiga sa couch at sobrang bigat na ng mga talukap ko. I didn’t even bother removing my bag. The moment my body hit the couch, my consciousness immediately slipped away.
I suddenly felt a little chilly, so I pulled the comforter closer to my neck. Did I lower the temperature of the aircon in my room?
It took me a moment to realize that I wasn’t in my room, and I had fallen asleep somewhere. Napabalikwas ako nang bangon nang makita ko ang jacket na nakapatong sa katawan ko at nakita ko ang isa pang tao sa may kabilang dulo ng couch.
Darryl was sleeping on a sitting position. His arms were crossed over his chest and his head was laying uncomfortably on the couch’s headrest.
I wasn’t sure how to react. Was he here before me? O saka siya pumasok noong tulog na ako?
Bababa pa lang sana ako sa couch nang bigla siyang gumalaw. His eyes fluttered open and met mine. For a moment, we just stared at each other.
“S-sa ‘yo ba ‘to?” sabay hawak ko sa jacket.
“Ah, oo.” Agad ko namang inabot ‘yon sa kanya. “You look cold earlier.”
“Why are you here?” tanong ko habang nakatingin sa kabilang side.
“To rest and hide.”
Napakunot naman ang noo ko. “Hide? From whom?”
“Some girls who were trying to confess to me.”
I grimaced at his reply, and he chuckled in response. Hindi ko alam kung dapat ba akong matuwa dahil parang bumalik na siya sa dati o mainis dahil hindi ko gusto ang ugali niyang ‘yon.
“This is your fault,” he said, and that made me raise my eyebrow.
He flashed a teasing smile. “Because you broke up with me.”
Great. The annoying Darryl was back.
“Ha-ha, very funny.”
“Pagkatapos ng supposed breakup natin ay dumami bigla ang nag-text sa akin,” sabi niya.
Oh, so we had the same predicament. Since both of us had become “single,” some used that opportunity to show their intentions.
“Then find another fake girlfriend,” I sardonically suggested. “That’s your forte, isn’t it?”
“No way. Too burdensome. Paano kung na-fall talaga sa akin?”
“Sure na sure?”
“Malay mo lang naman.”
“Then why did you do it to me?”
“Because I knew you would retaliate,” he said. “And it was fun teasing you.”
Ilang segundong katahimikan ang namagitan sa amin matapos iyon. The awkwardness had somehow dissipated, and I could only feel a slight annoyance because of what he was saying. However, something had been bothering me since that day.
“It’s really because of Tricia, isn’t it?”
His shoulders tensed upon the mention of her name. Huh. I knew it.
When he started setting me up for that fake relationship, I thought he was just a narcissistic jerk who liked intimidating people that didn’t like him. But after knowing pieces of his personal life, I realized there must be a reason why he was doing that.
He was trying to get Tricia’s attention by creating rumors about himself. Perhaps he thought she would get jealous or would pay attention to what he was doing. Or maybe he just wanted to get even with her, although it was such an immature act.
He forced a chuckle. “You got me.”
The playful look on his face suddenly turned solemn and I had a feeling the topic would shift into something more serious.
“Hey, about what I said a few weeks ago . . .” Oh god, I knew it. “I’m serious.”
I guess I couldn’t run away this time.
“Why me?” tanong ko. “We have already broken up, so that doesn’t make sense. Bakit hindi ka na lang maghanap ng ibang—”
“It won’t work if it’s not you.”
Napatigil naman ako pagkarinig ko no’n. I had to move back because I was afraid he’d hear my racing heart. Agad din akong napaiwas ng tingin dahil pakiramdam ko ay pulang-pula na ang mukha ko.
“W-what does that even mean?” I retorted, trying to hide my discomposure.
“You’re the only one around me and comfortable enough for me who knows the truth,” he replied. “And putting aside our pettiness, I think you’d be a great adviser.”
Ah. So that was the reason . . .
“What do you think?” muli niyang tanong pero nag-panic ako nang bigla siyang umusog palapit sa akin.
I was already leaning against the handrest of the couch, and he was sitting just a few inches away from me. He might hear the loud pounding of my heart if he came much closer. How come I had gotten this flustered around his presence? This had never happened before!
“This may sound like a lame excuse but,” he suddenly mumbled. When I took a glance, he was fumbling with his fingers, and his ears were starting to get red. “I also want to make amends for my behavior toward you for the first few months. If you help me, I will do everything you ask for.”
Alright, that somehow sounded like a pretty nice deal. But it would be hard for me to be around him knowing that I still couldn’t sort out my feelings.
His gaze suddenly shifted to me, and a faint smile crossed his lips. “Also, I kinda missed your presence, Steff.”
My heart did a little summersault after hearing that, and that moment, I realized why my chest sting whenever Tricia was around, and why I get flustered when he does things like this. This unfamiliar feeling that had overwhelmed me these past few weeks was attraction.
I was attracted to him.