Among the three of us, they said I was the most mature. I also thought that was the case, but these past few days, I realized I have some childish thoughts, too.
Katulad na lang ngayon. I just ran away from some stupid stunt I did. Kung kailan ko na nagawa ay saka ko naman biglang pinagsisihan. Pero wala na rin naman akong magagawa dahil nagsipagkumpulan na ang mga tao sa bulletin board.
Agad akong lumayo mula ro’n at mabilis na tumungo sa klase ko. Nang mag-lunch break ay kinuha ko ang phone sa bag ko at nagpunta sa portal. As expected, what happened earlier was already on the trending list.
Childhood photos of a campus prince, revealed!
My cheeks reddened upon reading the article. There was that sense of satisfaction pero parang nangibabaw ang kahihiyan ko sa ginawa ko. I couldn’t believe I did such immature thing!
Halos mabitiwan ko ang phone ko nang lumitaw ang pangalan ni Alice sa screen.
“Nasa garden ka ba?” bungad niya. “Omg ikaw ba gumawa no’n, Steff? As in the model student Steff?”
I grumbled at her remark. Was I obvious? “Oo nasa garden ako. And stop talking loudly! Pumunta ka na muna rito.”
Narinig ko ang pagtawa niya sa kabilang linya. “Omg so ikaw nga?! Wait, ito na, tumatakbo na.”
Few minutes later, natanaw ko siyang naglalakad nang mabilis papunta sa table kung nasaan ako.
“Sinend sa akin ni Yna ‘yung article sa portal,” sabi niya kahit hindi pa siya nakakaupo. Isang nakakalokong ngiti ang ibinigay niya sa akin. “Grabe, I didn’t expect you to play along!”
Napabuntonghininga na lang ako sa komento niya. “Actually, ako rin. I want to redo this day.”
Alice laughed. “Bakit kasi may pag-post ng baby pictures? Parang hindi naman ‘yon ganti.”
Even Jess made fun of me. “Feeling ko gaganti ulit ‘yang si Darryl. Parang hindi naman ‘yon nagpapatalo pagdating sa ganyan.”
I was in the middle of defending my actions when an unknown number suddenly called me. Since nawala mostly ang contacts ko ay baka important call iyon kaya agad ko ring sinagot.
“Hello?” bungad ko. “Who’s this?”
“What the hell did you do?” The voice on the other end grumbled. My eyes rolled as soon as I realized who it was. Right. I didn’t save his number when I called him while I was in the hospital. “How did you even get my pictures?”
“What are you saying?” I said, feigning innocence.
“I know it’s you.”
“Do you even have a proof?”
“I just know.”
“You’re an honor student, yet you don’t even do research?” I retorted.
“So, this is how you play this game, huh? Fine. Let’s see who will win.”
Medyo natakot naman ako sa sinabi niya at nang sasagot na ako ay bigla naman niyang in-end ang tawag. Huh. Should I ready myself for his retaliation? Pero aba, siya naman ang nagsimula!
I suddenly heard Alice chuckling. “Mukhang mag-e-enjoy kami sa pinaggagawa n’yo.”
“I am not,” I muttered. “God, why did I even associate myself with him?”
“But you two bickering look cute,” Yna commented.
Jess agreed. “True. Akala ko susuko ka agad sa antics niya dahil napaka-immature. Didn’t know you have this side, Steff.”
I was worried the whole day at nadala koi yon hanggang kinabukasan. Buti na lang at Friday na kaya wala na ako masyadong iniisip sa acads.
Pagpasok ko sa campus ay parang may commotion na nagaganap sa harap ng bulletin board kaya napakunot ang noo ko. I thought he already removed his photos after knowing what I did. Don’t tell me hinayaan niya lang na naka-display ro’n?
Nakita ko naman si Yna na naglalakad papunta sa akin kaya tinanong ko siya kung ano ang nangyayari.
“Someone got his revenge,” she said while pointing at the announcement board. “Jess and Alice are already there.”
The uneasiness I felt a while ago immediately intensified upon seeing the crowd that was getting larger. Mabilis akng tumakbo roon at halos hawiin ko na ang ilang estudyante para makadaan. After wading through the crowd, my feet stopped as soon as I saw what they were looking at.
“Steff!” Tawag nina Jess at Alice pero nakatingin lang ako sa pictures na nakadikit do’n.
My modeling photos were posted on the board and before I could even react, the students were already taking pictures and recording the source of my embarrassment.
Everyone was taking a glance at me as I walked through the hallway. If I could only disappear right now, I would have done it in a heartbeat. Naririnig ko pa ang bulungan ng iba tungkol sa pictures ko. Paano ay ibang-iba ang itsura ko sa ilan sa mga iyon dahil sa heavy makeup.
I was almost running when I was meters away from the classroom. Darryl had an annoying grin on his face when I met his gaze and I immediately marched toward his direction.
“Where did you get those photos?” I murmured.
A self-satisfied smile escaped his lips. “As you have said, I researched.”
Something clicked in my head. Crap. It must be Venice. Siya lang naman ang may copies ng mga ‘yon bukod sa company na kumukuha sa amin.
“LQ ba sila?”
“Probably. Steff looks pissed.”
“Darryl’s still looking at him lovingly though.”
I almost gagged when I heard some of my classmates’ comments. Where was the loving look? He had a smug expression on his face!
Hindi naman natuloy ang pakikipag-usap ko sa kanya dahil dumating na ang prof namin. I thought he would start the class, but I was surprised when he called my name.
“Please meet me after class. Let’s talk about your missed lectures.”
Right. Kahit na may medical excuse ako about my excess absences, of course, may make-up classes pa rin akong kailangang attend-an.
The class started peacefully. Isinantabi ko muna ang inis ko sa katabi ko dahil kailangan kong mag-focus sa acads lalo pa’t ang dami kong na-miss and magmi-midterms na rin next month. Iniisip ko pa lang ang dami ng kailangan kong basahin at habulin ay napapagod na ang utak ko.
After class ay agad akong pumunta sa faculty office ng bawat department na kailangan kong mag-take ng make-up class. I had to sacrifice my weekends to attend them, and I wasn’t sure if I should be relieved that I could catch up with the lessons, or sad because I wouldn’t have rest days anymore.
I met up with the girls during lunch. As usual, sa garden kami pumuwesto. And of course, they just had to talk about what happened earlier.
“Nakakaloka talaga ‘yang gantihan n’yo,” tawa ni Alice. “I’m not sure if matatawa ako sa inyo o maaawa dahi lang petty.”
“Pero in fairness, ang gaganda ng pictures na pinili niya, ha?” commented Jess.
“Right?” seconded Yna. “Maybe he picked the prettiest ones?”
I scoffed at their remarks. “As if.”
Naramdaman ko na naman ang inis dahil doon. My part-time job as a model was a secret because I didn’t want anyone to see that side of me, and yet he just revealed everything. Well, I did provoke him by posting his photos, but still!
As if on cue, I saw the devil walking toward our direction.
Agad akong tumayo at naglakad papunta sa kanya.
“Hoy, Steff! Where are you going—oh.”
Hindi ko na narinig ang mga pinagsasabi ng tatlo dahil nakalayo na ako sa kanila, but I was sure they were taking photos so they could tease me later.
“Bebe girl,” tawag niya kaya kinilabutan ako.
“Come with me,” I coldly replied.
He did not complain and quietly followed me.
To avoid any spectators, dumiretso ako sa likod ng CAL building. Nang makita kong wala na masyadong tao ay lumingon ako sa kanya at nadagdagan pa ang inis ko nang makita ko siyang nakangiti nang nakakaloko.
I drew a deep breath to calm my emotions. “Can we please just stop these petty retaliations?”
“You sure? It’s quite fun, bebe girl,” he teased.
“Ew, stop that.”
He chuckled in return. “You started the endearment thing.”
“And I’m asking you to stop it.”
Instead of a reply, his gaze shifted a little. The smile on his lips faded and it was replaced by a wistful expression. That was the second time I saw him wearing that melancholic look and it felt so unfamiliar. I was about to look at whatever he was looking, but what he did next made me stand rigid.
“Steff,” he softly said while looking at my eyes. “Please don’t move.”
Even if he didn’t say that, my feet were already planted firmly on the same spot. I was about to ask what was happening, but no words came out of my mouth when he stepped closer. Suddenly, we were just inches apart.
“Let’s stay like this for a few seconds,” he whispered.
For a moment, the annoyance I felt a while ago melted as I stared at the longing expression on his face. And then I wondered what or who could be the reason of such rare view.