Chapter Nine: Hitting the Heart
Wednesday morning, four days after the incident, the decision for the punishment from the higher-ups came. And all thanks to Coach Allan’s diplomatic skills, it was unexpectedly lenient.
“Okay. Listen up people!” The Coach hit his ruler on the table repeatedly to call the attention of the almost forty students in the room, including Mike and Jane, although technically Jane shouldn’t be there. “I don’t know what convinced the higher-ups but, they’ve decided your punishments, and you’re really not worth it. In my opinion, you deserved more. You should be ashamed of yourselves after that stunt you pulled. All of you are DESI students! You should have known better, especially the seniors. I cannot believe that you would even initiate it.” He glared particularly at Mike.
Everyone looked down guiltily. Coach Allan had always been one of the cool teachers that the students respect a lot. He may act a bit idiotic sometimes, but he understands the students and that’s what really matters. And he rarely gets angry or gives sermon, so when he does it he really is serious.
“You, representing DESI doesn’t stop on the compound of this school, nor in doing well on the competitions you participated. It stays even outside, even if you’re not wearing your uniforms. The moment you enrolled in this institution, you take it upon yourself to bear its pride and protect it.” Coach Allan didn’t really sound angry, but the tone of his voice made the students’ guilt run deeper. No wonder the principal decided to just let him talk to them instead. “I am not saying that DESI’s reputation is more important than your feelings, all I’m saying is that you have to balance and choose carefully to either follow from what you think is right and what you feel is right.” He pointed to his head and his heart.
“I have been a student myself, I know the feeling of being blinded by emotions and doing things that makes one regret later. So I will not really blame you. I just want you to understand the fact that you have to think very carefully the decisions you make, because you’re not the only one who’ll be affected; the people around you, the people you care about could also be hurt, and it could be too late to make things right. This school molded you to have the ability to make mature decisions, even for your age, and take responsibility.”
He looked at his students, and the expressions they wore somehow mellowed him a bit and made him guilty himself instead.
“I’m sorry. I’ve said too much.” He sighed.
“No, Coach. Everything you said is right.” Mike said, looking at the elder man sincerely. “If anything, I should be the one apologizing to you, to everyone here…” He looked around to the students in the room, and then stopped at Jane. “I jumped into conclusions, didn’t listen and let my emotions get the better of me. I’m sorry.”
The Coach sighed in relief when he saw that Jane smiled, as if telling Mike that everything’s fine. From what he had observed the past few days, the girl was ignoring Mike.
“As long as you understand, that’s okay.” Finally he cracked a smiled that slowly lifted the heavy atmosphere in the room. “Anyway, as I was saying earlier, the punishments they gave are here. And I expect you to accept it, the least you could do to pay for what you did.” He held up a piece of paper and started reading from it. “Each and every one of you will have a month’s worth of detention, but you won’t be spending it lazing around in the detention room.” He grinned at them mischievously. “I will assign you on different areas in the school, perhaps some of you will be doing cleaning duties, help Mrs. Sita in the canteen or be errand runners for the teachers.” Most of the students frowned at his words, while the other looked panicked. There are teachers in the school that students avoid as much as they can. “In addition to that, Mike, I will have to pull you out in the team.” He looked at his student seriously.
“I understand, Coach.” He nodded, accepting the decision whole-heartedly.
“And I won’t let anybody else involved in the incident to participate either.” He looked at the other YDC members who also got into the fight, who all looked disappointed. “Jane, I will have you lea– ”
“Please pull me out too, Coach.” She interrupted, her voice full of conviction.
“Despite what others may think, I know in my self that all of this happened because of me.” She shook her head. “Coach, please, as I’ve said before, I want to take responsibility for my actions.” She looked at him seriously and somehow pleading. “I made this decision myself, Coach. So please…”
Coach Allan looked at Jane, searching for any sign of reluctance but he didn’t find any. “Fine.” He sighed heavily. “But I’ll have you choose the new participants, and be held responsible for preparing them for the championship.”
“Yes, Coach.” She smiled. “Thank you.”
“The championship was postponed this Saturday, as requested by the principals of both schools. So do everything to get them as ready as they can by that time.”
“I understand, Coach. I’ll do my best.”
“Good.” He smiled genuinely at her. “As for the rest of you, your punishment will start tomorrow. I posted the list for your assigned areas in the blackboard.” He pointed to the board behind him. “Check it later.”
“Yes, Sir.” Everyone said simultaneously.
“I think that’s it. You’re dismissed.” The students started getting up. “Ah, Mike, Jane…please stay.”
When everyone had already seen their assigned areas and finally left the room, some looking relieved while others looking like devastated, the Coach faced the two and smiled at them mischievously.
“I have wanted to ask this the minute I heard about it…”
“I have a bad feeling about this.” Jane mumbled.
“Not you too, Coach.” Mike face-palmed himself.
“What?!” He pouted at them. “It’s been a hot topic all-over the school, and even to the other schools. And you’re not saying anything about it.”
“Because there’s nothing to say.” Jane sounded exasperated. Why is she surrounded with immature adults? Even at home with her mom is the same. She knew Karen would rat about it on her mom.
“Exactly. None of it were true, Coach.”
“Jane really didn’t beat you and Mark?! And Mark…isn’t really gay?!” Both of them shook their heads in disagreement; with Jane even having a disgusted look in her face.
“You should know better, Coach.” Mike frowned. “He’s an ass, but he’s straight. It’s just a misunderstanding.”
“I see.” Coach Allan was thoughtful for a while. “Then can you tell me what really happened?!” The two blinked at him. “What really happened between you and Mark, Jane?! Why sent those two into a fistfight?!”
Jane suddenly blushed and bit her lip. “I…Oh, look at the time, I forgot I still have to do something…somewhere…I’ll see you later guys. Bye.” She hurriedly left the room.
“Well?!” Coach Allan raised a brow at Mike.
“I’d rather not say anything, Coach.” He grinned. “I don’t want to get on Jane’s bad side again.”
“Fine. Fine. Do it your way.” He pouted. “I’ll find out myself.”
“It really isn’t that serious, Coach. Thinking about it now, it really made me feel stupid. I think Mark felt the same.” He chuckled heartily.
The days passed like a blur. The rumors about Jane, Mark and Mike didn’t die of course, but it mellowed a bit after the students saw that it always sent Jane into a nervous wrecked whenever directly asked about what happened. It was something that the students are not at all used to seeing she does. And although it made them as curious as ever, it also softened their hearts. Whatever happened made their cold princess act more girly, more human. And for them, although new and kind of unsettling that needs a lot of getting used to, is still welcome.
When the day of the championship came, for the second time that school year, there were more people at the auditorium compared to the past years; not that the past championships had few audiences. It’s just that more students from the other high schools in the area came. Perhaps they were hoping that something like what happened a week before could happen again. Too bad nothing did.
Mark and Mike reconciled, and had even laughed together about the rumors that had been flying around. And although Jane and Mark had not spoken to each other after what happened, they were in civil terms; and that was enough for the students of both schools to not want to cause any trouble.
So when the DESI high was proclaimed the winner by one point, no one was really that surprised. Because even without their aces, both teams did great that either team deserved to bring home the trophy. It was a really good show and opted for a new friendly-rivalry.
“I really wanted to be part of the championship team.” Sighed Jane sadly. She and Karen were now leaving the auditorium where the event was held. She was supposed to be with the team, celebrating, but she’s just not in the mood for celebrations at the moment.
“Then you shouldn’t have withdrawn.” Answered Karen lazily.
“I am responsible for what happened…I have to.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Yes, I am. And if it happens again, I won’t think twice do–”
The two girls looked back to the owner of the timid voice, and saw a sophomore SLI student.
“Um…aren’t you…” Jane frowned, trying to remember where she’d seen the boy. He looked really familiar.
“I’m Luke Sheon. I…uh…got into a fight with Dave last month.”
“Oh, yeah!” Exclaimed Jane. “I’m so sorry about that, I was such an idiot. I–”
“No! No! Um…you had a point…um…”
“Just tell us what you want, punk.” Was Karen’s indifferent comment. She still can’t get herself be civil with students from SLI high. Except Mark, of course, she’d known him almost all her life. And he’s Karen’s ‘boyfriend’, so she’ll be seeing a lot of him soon.
“I…uh…I want to give this to you.” Luke showed them a medal for Best Speaker.
“Wha– Huh?!” Jane gave him a confused look; so as Karen but then started to stifle her giggles when she recovered.
“Please take it.” Luke thrust the medal to Jane’s hands and turned to leave them in a hurry.
“What the– Hey!” Jane gaped after him. “What was that supposed to mean?!”
“God, Jane! You’re so dense sometimes.” Barked Karen amusedly. “Didn’t you see how red his face was?!” She laughed hard.
“It’s not funny, Kar.”
“For all your eccentricity, your charm knows no bounds. Good for you, eh?! You even fished ‘The Mark’.”
“Stop babbling nonsense, Kar.”
“It’s not nonsense, look.” Karen gestured to a guy standing ahead in their path, obviously waiting for them – or her. “Go on, Jy-Jy, I’m still waiting for Gene, anyway. See you tomorrow at school.” Karen pushed Jane, grinning.
Jane walked ahead, looking passively at Mark when he met her halfway.
Mark revealed a bouquet of flowers from his back and offered them to Jane. “Your mom said they were your favorites.” He immediately said after Jane raised a brow at it. “Um..I…uh…I want to properly court you this time.”
Jane was held speechless at this; she never expected this, although she should have. When she recovered, she returned his tender and determined look with cold ones. “And what makes you think I’ll let you?!” Suddenly she took the bouquet.
Mark was prepared to be hit by the flowers when she did, but was surprised when Jane just walked pass him, clutching the bouquet close to her. Mark smiled at her, and although he can’t see her face, he knows that she’s blushing.
He ran after her and held her hand, which for the first time, she didn’t swat away; and whispered something in her ears.
Jane blushed harder and looked away from him. “Whatever.” Was all she said, but for Mark, that’s more than enough.
“You okay, cousin?!” Karen asked Mike who was watching the whole time, not far from where she and Jane were.
“I’ve long since accepted everything.” He said, smiling genuinely and somehow relieved. Now he can finally let go for good.
“If you say so.” She smiled. “Although I have to make you promise not to pull Mark into another riot if they do ‘it’ for the first time.”
“Wha–” Gene blushed. “Karen!”
The girl just giggled.