Gray and I have never been closer. Every morning before classes start, we talk about dogs. We both go to school early, so we usually have some alone time before our classmates start appearing. She gives me advice on how to handle Percy and how to train him so that the little incident on my room wouldn’t happen again. I see her smile more often, and I can tell she's finally beginning to get comfortable with me.
Our team has less than a month left to prepare for the upcoming interschool competition and our training has been more intense as of late. Coach Martin is very strict when it comes to disciplining his team, and he doesn’t give any exceptions to anyone—not even Diane. If one of us misses a training day, all of us has to do twice the drills. This way, Coach ensures that no one will skip training.
On the days I don’t have training, she lets me stay in the editorial office to edit our documentary. Her colleagues there are also beginning to warm up to me—including Thea. At first, it was awkward, probably because everyone knew she had a crush on me but, she’ll get over it.
She also told them the truth about the kiss and Gwen, her best friend, apologized for making that dare upon learning that it was supposed to be Thea’s first kiss.
The others left early today to review for the upcoming exams, leaving Gray and me alone in the office. I stood up and stretched for a bit; my body feels sore because of the workout we did yesterday.
“You okay?” Gray asked as she was making her usual cup of coffee. “Should I make one for you?” She offered.
I had gotten used to the smell of freshly brewed coffee that it makes me wonder what makes Gray like them so much, so even though I’m not a fan of coffee, I accept her offer. “Yeah, sure.”
After stretching, I sat back down and turned to my laptop. I volunteered to do the editing of the chess documentary despite the fact that I had no idea how to edit a video because I basically did nothing to contribute to the task. Gray taught me the basics and how she wants the video to look.
Gray put the coffee on the table and sat next to me. “Thank you,” I muttered.
“We can leave early if you’d like. You seem exhausted.” Gray suggested.
I took a sip of the coffee. The flavor immediately assaulted my tastebuds and I nearly spat it out. My face scrunched up because of the bitterness.
“You don’t like it?” Gray asked, her eyebrows knitted together.
“It’s too bitter,” I said, making an unpleasant face to get the taste off my tongue. “How do you even drink that?” I asked, my eyes wide with bewilderment.
She took another sip of her drink as if to check the taste and said, “It tastes fine. I even added a little sugar on yours because I don’t know how you like your coffee.”
I shook my head and made my way to where the creamer and sugar were. “You have a strange taste.” After making the blend that suits my preference, I went back to my seat.
Gray took a peek inside my cup. “That’s nearly white.” She took a teaspoon of my coffee and tasted it. Her expression was much like mine a minute ago, contorted into disgust. “Can you even call that coffee?! That’s basically sugar!” She gave me an incredulous look and immediately took a sip from her cup to get rid of the taste in her mouth.
I shrugged. “We have different tastes.”
“Yours is definitely weirder.”
We went back to our respective tasks for the documentary after ridiculing each other’s coffee preference—me editing the video and Gray beside me telling me what to do. I don’t know if it was the coffee or the bickering with Gray that gave me the energy to continue working, but whatever it is, I’m thankful for it.
I was almost through editing when I came across the video that wasn’t supposed to be part of the film. The video featured me and Jimmy playing against each other—the full video of our first game and a few clips of every game that followed. I turned to Gray who was reading a book beside me. “You filmed us?”
Her head snapped up. She looked at the laptop screen in front of us and bit her lower lip. “Yeah. Anything wrong with that?”
“You could’ve at least told me.”
She put down the book she was reading. “You were focused on the game. I didn’t want to disturb you.” She slid the laptop from my side to hers. “I’ll edit this part. You can go home.”
“No, it’s fine. I’ll wait for you,” I glanced at my wristwatch. “It’s only six. Want to have dinner together?”
The corners of her mouth turned up. Her eyes danced with amusement. “I’m craving for ramen,” she suggested.
“No, you’re not,” I countered. “You just want to make fun of me because I don’t know how to use chopsticks.”
Gray chuckled. She didn’t even deny it. “I’m having dinner with my dad today, so I can’t.” In a more serious tone, she added, “And don’t get too friendly with me, Alvarrez. We’re not close.”
I smirked. It was actually an upgrade from being someone she despised. Before, she wouldn’t even consider me as a friend, so I guess I’m in the friend zone now. “I’ll take my chances with you, Julia,” I said her name on purpose to annoy her.
Her eyes glinted dangerously. “Call me that again and this will be the last time you set foot in this office.”
I find it amusing how her emotions shift so easily. One minute she’s making jokes with me, and the next, she’s throwing me empty threats. After spending a lot of time with her, I can tell she only says that to serve as a boundary as to what I can and cannot do with her.
The two of us sat in silence, only the sound of the mouse clicking and the keyboard pressing echoed in the office. It wasn’t the uncomfortable kind of silence—it was more like, a contented silence.
Gray did all the work while I stared at her. I observed her every move, her features, her mannerisms. The way her fingers gently press the keyboard buttons and the way she nods her head a little when she’s satisfied with the output. Her hair was swept to one side, making me notice that she has 3 moles on the left side of her face—one in the jaw, one beside her throat, and one at the bottom of her neck.
I wanna kiss her.
I shook my head, appalled by the sudden, inappropriate thought. This—us—it’s impossible. I’m contented with just watching her from the side. And even if she doesn’t admit it, it’s obvious she still feels something for Janelle. They still have unfinished business with each other and I don’t want to get in the way of that.
After some time, she took a deep breath and looked at me, her expression was neutral but her gray eyes were sparkling, telling me otherwise. “It’s done.”
I sat up straight as we watched the video together to see the fruit of our hard work. From start to end, there was no dead air. The scenes were perfectly cut and the transitions were flawless. “Wow,” was all I could say after the video finished.
“Well, that’s one down and two more to go,” Gray said. “Next week Wednesday, we’re going to the ice skating rink. I talked to the person in charge and they gave me the ‘okay’.”
I frowned. “I have training on Wednesday.”
“I know. We’ll go after. Is that okay with you?” She looked at me, waiting for an answer.
I wanted to tell her that it was not a good idea. Every training day saps the life out of me. I’d probably look like a walking zombie if I had to go to the interview after it. But after considering the amount of effort Gray must’ve exerted just to get an interview with the figure skaters, I figured I could at least push myself a little. “Alright, sure,” I agreed with a smile.
I feel my phone vibrate from my pocket. I pull it out and the caller ID displayed, "Diane”. Gray’s gaze was also focused on the phone screen and when she saw who it was, her eyebrows rose. “Hold on, let me take this,” I said and went out of the office before answering the call.
“Alex?” Diane’s voice sounded relaxed at the other end of the line.
“Hey. What’s up?”
“Are you done packing?” She asked.
I heard her sigh. “I knew you’d forget,” she said. “We have a team building tomorrow, remember?”
“Shit. I forgot,” I ran a hand down my face. We have a team building out of town from Friday to Sunday, it’s a yearly event before the interschool competition to raise the team’s morale and to get to know each other better. “But thanks for reminding me. I’ll pack my things as soon as I get home.”
“You’re not home yet? Where are you?”
“School,” I answered. “Did you call just to remind me to pack?”
“Actually..” she began. She told me about a little plan to surprise Alyssa since it’s her birthday on Saturday.
I found myself smiling while listening to her. This is one of the things I love about her—she cares. No one could’ve done a better job at being our captain other than her. “It’s our last year together, let’s make it count.” She said before disconnecting the call.
Our last year huh? Then an idea popped into my head. Since it is our last year, why not go all out?
I entered the office with a grin on my face, feeling pleased with myself for thinking about such a brilliant idea. Gray welcomed me with a questioning look on her face. “It really blows my mind how you and your ex could stay like that after you guys broke up.”
I took a sip from my half-empty coffee cup and leaned against one of the computer tables before answering, “We’re teammates, and we were friends before we became lovers. I don’t see why we should throw away all of the good things that happened between us just because we broke up.”
Gray looked at me, her eyes not leaving mine. “If you don’t mind me asking, why did you guys break up?”
It’s a question I’ve been asked a hundred times and the answer I’ve always given is, “It’s a long story.” Most of them just wanted something to gossip about during lunch and even after everything that happened, I don’t want people talking shit about Diane. She doesn’t deserve that.
But surprisingly, I found myself telling Gray the truth. “She cheated on me.”
Gray tried to hide the shock on her face, “So the rumors were true.”
I shrugged, not knowing how to reply to her.
“Do you still love her?”
The question caught me off guard. It wasn’t something Gray would ask under normal circumstances.
I smiled. “Of course I do,” and for a second I swear I saw her flinch. “A part of me will always love her. Because once you love a person you never really stop.”
The expression on Gray’s face became unreadable. “You’re the stupidest person I’ve ever met.”
“I would like to think of myself as honest,” I corrected. ” And who knows, maybe you still love your ex, too. You’re just too scared to admit it.”
“Don’t speak of the things you know nothing about,” Gray stood up abruptly, her voice defiant.
I zipped my mouth shut before I could even say something that would just escalate this argument.
“Let’s go. We’re done here.” She made her way to the door and turned towards me as she gripped the doorknob. “Lock the door when you leave.” She said as she slammed the door shut.
See, this is why I don’t like talking to Gray about personal things—it always ends up like this. She’s too sensitive about the things concerning Janelle and it’s getting annoying. I just want to have one decent conversation with her. Is that too much to ask for?