It felt so different. I am not being targeted by paralyzing glares whenever I walk down a corridor for a month now. Not that I really know of it, but it felt that everything is so perfect. Though, Zec kept saying that I'm only on my first stage of enlightenment, whatever that meant. He kept digging holes on my head, like plating seedlings, saying that I am only a kid. And that I still have a lot to learn in life. It piqued my curiosity and I asked him about it, only to get a response that Chloe would kill him if he answered.
Anyway, enough of Zec and his cryptic nonsense; Chloe kept bugging me for plans for summer vacation. And we settled at Charles' plan on taking us to their father's home-province, to the house they inherited to their father's parents. Now, if only I could voice out my concerns regarding my custodians and her older brother.
Chloe kept droning on and on about Charles' fondness of me, very ignorant of the guy's obsessive liking to bully me.
Charles would lift my chin to his eye-level, and look at me in the eyes. He would then say, "Listen here kid. I don't want you getting weird ideas involving my little sister. Clear?" He would say that almost every time we meet with variance in words. But one time I unwittingly responded. I tried to take Chloe's advice, and get on her older brother's good side. I put on a cheery smile. Chloe told me that it puts people off. I just hope that means that it would put off Charles of his current mood. "What weird ideas? I don't get it." Instantly after saying that, I got glared at. I quickly thought of a follow up. "But I'm pretty sure I haven't done or even thought up of anything weird." It might have sounded a little too defensive as Charles did not loosen up.
"Listen here, kid. If you're joking around, you better stop now," he smiled, menacingly, as I'm aware of, and he patted my head like one would have to a dog. "Because, I can think of lots of ways to console Chloe or make her forget you if you ever go missing all of the sudden," and my entire body had turned icy solid. Then, Chloe would come back with snacks and curiously ask what we were talking about. In her eyes, we would look like brothers having a moment of bonding.
"Eh, nothing much, I really like this one, Chloe. I guess you'll never be bored with him around, huh?" I had just witnessed an outstanding exchange as Charles playfully ruffled my hair so very different when Chloe was not around. The unaware Chloe probably thought that my life was not in danger whenever I'm with her older brother.
I told Chloe about this, one time. While I wait for her response, I was standing there thinking that Chloe would have to inevitably choose his older brother over me. But she just laughed it off.
"Charles- he likes to joke around but he's really nice. His jokes can be a tad mean," Chloe admitted. "But I stand by what I said. He's fond of you." His fondness of me scares me a lot, though. "Are you not happy about it? He's already approved of you. You would have one less problem with in-laws, if you ever decided to marry me, that is,"
Yeah, but I'm a lot more worried that Charles' humor would end me long before I could even come in terms with his acceptance of me, if that's even true, that is.
I might never be ever able to find out.
March 3, 2014
It was a random afternoon, a slightly spent month left before an April. Chloe and I were talking in a middle of doing an activity in Foreign Language class. (Well, Chloe was the only one talking). The teacher abruptly cleared his throat. A reprimand was on its way to us.
"Miss Garcia," I almost laughed at Chloe's sudden shift of expression to a snobbish serious one. "I've just been informed that you're wanted in the faculty room." The tone in teacher's voice made me worried all of the sudden.
"What!? I haven't done anything!" Chloe's indigence was probably because of guilt over spilling coffee at the teacher's files that she hasn't told anyone besides me and Mel.
Mr. "Foreign Language" raised an eyebrow. "Well, I hope you haven't. Anyway, it's about a phone call for you."
And I did found out later that she should be worried. She didn't come back to class for the rest of the day. Well, it was only two classes left, anyway…nothing that she would really miss.
The moment class hours ended, I went straight to the general direction of the faculty. Midway, I came across a classmate of Mel and/or Zec. I asked the harassed girl for their whereabouts only to find out that they were in different faraway places. Knowing that, I quickly scratched the idea of asking for them to come with me to the faculty.
I sighed at my inability to create a slight intrusion in the office just to ask for Chloe. Yeah, right. So, I decided to wait at least half an hour for Chloe to come out, knowing full well of the possibility that she has already gone home. It was another ten minutes when a teacher came out. I looked up, only to meet her frustrated gaze. She glared at me. Not a threat, as she usually has that permanent scowl on her face whenever she's inside a classroom. Nonetheless, I was forced to step back when she neared me.
"Mr. Vera is it?" I nodded in agreement even though I know full well that she, Ms. Local Language, knew perfectly well who I am. "Please, see to it that Ms. Garcia goes straight home." I can't seem to read the expression on her face. I just nodded at her request without saying a word. "Straight home," she repeated and not until I nodded again that she tore her scowl away from me.
She came back inside their office. And it wasn't long until I saw Chloe come out of the faculty with an expression almost matching Ms. "Local Language". It was silent for too long, just staring at each other. It was Chloe who made a first move to leave.
As soon as we're out of school grounds to her usual path home, I had to ask. "What was all that about?" Chloe did not answer. I just sighed and I took her things from her.
"You don't need to do that." Chloe said and I swear I heard a sob in the middle of that sentence. I tried to reason to myself that it was just my imagination.
"Zec told me that it should be second nature for guys to carry things for girls. I feel bad about not even knowing that." I smiled to ease the mood, but it quickly faded, realizing that Chloe won't be able to do that for a while. I tried my best to revoke that.
It was an unfamiliar walk. Our roles are reverse. I feel awkward every time something comes out of my mouth. It didn't suit us. It was much more natural when she was the talker and I was the listener.
We finally reached her family's building after the quickest yet most tiring walk from school I ever had with her. Probably red-faced and out-of-words, I said the last thing I could think of.
"Hey, promise me something, Chloe." I even surprised myself for saying this. Apparently, I surprised Chloe as well.
"Depends on what it is, Miles." I felt joy that I finally got through. Chloe smiled.
"Promise me, you'll tell me what's wrong when we reach your floor." I braced myself for the contingent response she's going to give me.
"Of course," she said as she fastened her hand to mine. "-when we got home."
On our way up, dread also held my arms. I don't know why but I felt that it had a grip much tighter than Chloe's hand clasped against mine. But I needed to know whatever it is.
And next thing I know, we were in front of her door. It finally came.
"Miles, let's end this." I heard it clearly but I didn't listen, like it was some street noise pointlessly echoing in my ears. "Thanks for walking me home," she said as she embraced me in her arms for some reason. In her mind, it was finally the last one.
"You promised." I protested as I retrieved myself from her arms.
"Charles, he died." Chloe looked so eerily and insanely happy about it but the riverful of tears made her looked like she's crying out of joyous relief. That she achieved something, no, that she managed to keep something from happening.
"Chloe, I," I stopped there not truly knowing what to say. I started to cry myself, but like Chloe mentioned to me at one time, I didn't make a single sound. I wasn't sure for how long I was crying. So, I don't know exactly why I'm crying. Sympathetically mourning about Charles' sweet but short brotherly gestures? Is it pity, for the broken Chloe in front of me? Or is it selfishly thinking that Chloe will end whatever that is between us?
Chloe forced herself to stop sobbing, like she was matching my silent tears.
"First, it was my father when I was just seven years old. I didn't even know what dying means." A sob betrayingly escaped from her. A cold chill went down my spine. "Then, Creevie followed when I just turned eleven. The years made me understand what it means but I'll never truly accept. Now, today, Charles—I'm not even surprised. It's like, I already accepted the fact that he would die before it could even happen." And another sob escaped from her. My vision started to blur out of focus. "It's like I know that I'm cursed that every single man I'll ever love will be gone, because of me. They would die, all of them. And you'll be next, Miles!"
She looked wide-eyed, so desperate. Desperate for what? She's scaring me. No, and it's not all because she declared that I'm next in her death roster. I feel so tired, so numb. And her piercing cackle suddenly roused my whole alertness.
"Chloe, please calm down!" I didn't know what to do. As I clamp my hands in her shoulders to hold her in place, I listen to her laugh. That was the last thing I heard from her, before she fall collapsed in my arms. Her maniacal grin not leaving her face.
Her last whispers too were echoing in my ears. "Please, leave me and save yourself."