It’s not easy to avoid your ex when she’s your schoolmate and team captain. Well, I’m not really avoiding her. But she’s everywhere I look.
I’m getting things from my locker when I smell a faint scent of strawberries. Another second later and a tall figure looms over me. “Thank you for bringing me home the other night.” She tucks a stray hair behind her ear as she says the words. She’s wearing light skinny jeans and a pink sweater.
“Sure, it’s not a big deal. Just be careful next time. Not everyone has good intentions.” I close my locker and start walking. She falls in stride next to me. People were glancing in our direction. I ignore them the same way I ignore the way our hands lightly graze with every step.
We continue walking until we pass by my classroom. Diane stops and turns to me, asking, “Isn’t that your room?”
“Yep, but I’ll walk you first,” I say and smile at her.
A hint of a smile plays on her lips. “You never change, do you?”
I shrug and give her a smirk. By the time I get to my room, the second bell is already ringing. The moment I take a seat, the sweet scent of green apple fills my senses. “Morning, Gray.” I beam a smile at my seatmate as I had done for the past week. And, as she had also done for the past week, she ignores me.
Her eyes were focused on the pocketbook that she’s reading. This is our morning routine. The only thing that varies is what she’s doing while ignoring me. Sometimes she’s writing, but most of the time she’s reading. And I’ve never seen her read our textbooks, which is surprising considering she’s the top of our class. One would expect her to study in her free time.
Mr. Castor enters the room carrying a bunch of papers. He clears his throat and announces, “I’ll be giving you your first activity today. I want you to go to a cafe or a restaurant with your partner. Then write a review about the place. The food, ambiance, everything.” He beams at us. “One review per pair, and it will be graded. Questions?” The room is silent. “None? Good. Deadline is on Friday. Have fun, kids.” He waves us goodbye before anyone has even had a chance to react.
There’s no arguing with him. He always comes up with crazy ideas. Better to just follow them. I realize I have to go with my partner. I turn to her, smiling. She doesn’t look pleased. “So,” I start. “May I take you out on a date?” I ask with a smirk.
“No.” She answers without batting an eyelash.
I flinch. “Ouch. Now I’m on the list of people who got rejected by Alexis Gray.” I put a hand over my heart to add to the dramatic effect. She stares at me, her gray eyes doing nothing to portray her emotions.
“It’s an activity. Not a date.” She emphasizes.
I lean back in my chair and ignore her remark. “When are you free?”
“Tomorrow after school.”
“Ayt, I’ll pick you up at 7.”
“No, thanks. I’ll go there by myself.” She responds in a clipped tone.
“Go where, exactly?” I smirk. She pauses and raises an eyebrow at me. “I know a good place, okay? Leave this to me.” I assure her.
“Then why don’t you do the report alone? You already know the place.” She scoffs.
“I can’t. We have to go together. I need your opinion.” She was about to argue more, but I cut her off. “And honestly, I’m no good at those things. I suck. So unless you want a D on your first activity, you have to come with me.”
She seemed reluctant at first, but I eventually got her to agree. I take my phone from my pocket and hand it to her. “Your number, please.” She rolls her eyes before punching in her number. I call her and drop the call on the first ring so she could have mine as well.
She narrows her eyes at me. “I’ll text you my address later. This better be good, Alvarrez.”
I give her a toothy grin. “You bet.”
I join my friends’ table at lunch. The ones sitting are the people on the team I’m close with. Leah, from the party. Alyssa, our center who is a flat six-footer. Both her and Leah have the same baby blue eyes. And Mikaela, our shooting guard. Diane’s also a part of this table, but she’s not here right now. So basically, we make up the first five of the team.
“So what happened the other night?” Leah asks me as I bite down on my burger.
“I escorted her home.” I shrug.
“Are you guys back together again?” Mikaela asks, and I almost choke on my burger. All three of them were looking at me with curious faces.
I take a sip of my lemonade before replying, “No.”
She nods slowly. “You sound disappointed.” She smirks.
“But wait, why were you the one who took her home? Was David drunk too?” Alyssa interjects.
“Uh, yeah about that..” I put my burger down and rub the back of my neck. “She told me she broke up with him.”
“What?!” All three of them shouts in unison.
People in the cafeteria were now looking in our direction. “Sshh geez keep it down man.” I hiss at them.
“Aw, seems like you beat me to it.” Someone suddenly speaks behind me.
It’s Diane, holding a vegetable salad on her tray. She sits down on her spot next to me.
“Explain,” Mikaela demands.
Diane shrugs. “There’s nothing to explain. I broke up with him. That’s it.”
Mikaela put a hand to her face, “Unbelievable.”
Diane looks at me intently. “I realized I’m still in love with Alex, after all.” Her light brown eyes were full of conflicting emotions.
Everyone at our table was speechless. Then she snorts. She starts laughing out loud. “God,” she says in between laughs, “You should’ve seen your faces.”
However, I knew better. She wasn’t joking. I felt the sincerity in her words, the meaning in her eyes. I couldn’t say the same for our friends, though.
Alyssa shoots Diane a look. “That’s insensitive of you.”
Diane raises her hands. “Whoa easy tiger. You look more affected than Alex.” She turns to me. “We’re good, right?”
To prevent the issue from escalating, I agree. “Yep, we’re good.” I nod.
I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket. It’s Gray; she texted me her address. My lips tug up into a smile.
“Who’s that?” Diane beside me, asks. She was trying to peek into my phone.
“Why?” I ask her as I slide my phone back into my pocket.
She seemed surprised by my reply. “Nothing, nevermind.” She went back to eating her salad.
I’m having a hard time being around Diane. She keeps on giving me mixed signals. One moment, she’s making out with her boyfriend. Then she says she misses me and the next thing I know she already broke up with him. And now this? It makes my head hurt.
As soon as I finish my meal, I stand up and head for the classroom.
“Where are you going?” Diane shouts from behind me.
“Back to my room.” I try my best to act normal and smile. “See you later.”
Literally later because we have training every MWF. I let out a loud groan before entering the classroom. To my surprise, my seatmate is inside, reading a book.
“What are you doing here alone?” I ask as I take my seat beside her.
“Reading.” She answers without looking up from her book.
“I can see that.” I raise my eyebrow at her.
“Then why did you ask?”
I open my mouth to reply, then close it. Open it again. “Just, gaaaah.” I run my hands through my hair. “Nevermind.”
I rest my chin on my palm and stare openly at Gray. Her jet black hair is swept neatly into one side. Her gray eyes were topped with long and thick dark lashes. She is so damn beautiful. “You’re so pretty.” I blurt out.
“You sound like a kid,” was her reply.
“I am. You can call me baby.” I was trying to sound cute, but it all came out wrong.
She finally looks up from her book and looks at me. “You’re distracting me. Go bother someone else.” She says in an irritated voice.
A frown makes its way into my face. “But you’re the only one around here.” I look around the room to prove my point; we were the only ones inside.
“Okay then.” she stands up from her seat and grabs her things.
I grab her hand instinctively. “Wait, I was kidding. Don’t leave me alone.” She looks at our joined hands. Her hands were soft, unlike mine. My hands are rough like a guy’s. I quickly let go, and she sits back down in her seat. I grin at her, “Thanks.”
“Let me read in peace, Alvarrez.”
I nod and put my lips together, making a zipping motion with my fingers.
I decide to play on my phone to pass the time, occasionally glancing at Gray. I didn’t notice that the room was filling with students until Kris came in and raised an eyebrow at me. She tilted her head to Gray and gave me two thumbs up, laughing on her way to her seat. I give her the finger.
I was changing in the locker room when I heard someone arguing in the gym. I hurriedly put on my jersey and check the source. It’s Diane and David. I could barely understand what they were saying, but it looks like David wants to get back together with Diane.
“I already told you, I don’t love you. I never did!” Diane fumes.
David looked taken aback by her statement. “You’re kidding, right?” his voice was filled with disbelief.
“I love Alex,” Diane says clearly. “It has always been her,” she adds softly.
David’s expression changes from disbelief to anger in an instant. “That fucking dyke?” he spat the last word like it was venom.
Before I knew it, Diane’s hand comes flying to David’s face. The sound of her slap echoes in the gym. “Go fuck yourself,” were the words she left before leaving David dumbfounded.
I make myself scarce before she manages to get a glimpse of me. What was that all about? She said she loves me. Out loud. In front of the guy she left me for. That was all kinds of fucked-up. And now I’m also all kinds of fucked-up. I can’t bear to see her right now. There are a million thoughts in my mind, and I need some time to think. I run to the locker room to pick my things up. I have to get out of here before the other players arrive.
I bring out my phone and text Diane. “Can’t attend training today. I feel sick. Sorry.” Then I hit send. After a few seconds, my phone vibrates. She’s calling.
I answer after a few rings. “Hey, you okay?” was her greeting.
“Yeah, it’s just a headache,” I respond, which is partly true.
I hear her sigh on the other end. “Okay, rest well. Take care.” Then she hangs up.
I head straight home, and my mom greets me the moment I arrive. I give her a peck on the cheek.
“You’re home early. Don’t you have training?” she asks, drying her hands with a towel.
I sit in one of the bar stools and fix myself a sandwich. “I skipped, I wasn’t in the mood,” I confess.
She sits next to me. “What’s wrong, anak? It’s not like you to skip training.” Her brown eyes were full of kindness.
People always told me that I look more like my father than my mother. With my light brown hair and sea-green eyes, they tell me I look like a female version of Pops. But he always told me that I got my personality from mom—kind, soft-hearted, and very charming. I doubted it.
“Is it Diane?” She asks when I don’t say anything. I flinch at the sound of her name. “That reaction tells me I’m right. What happened?”
I’m pretty open to my family. They know I like girls. And girls like me too.
Because why wouldn’t they?
When I first told my mom that Diane and I were dating, she didn’t seem surprised at all. Her reaction was more like ‘I was wondering when you were gonna tell me.’ When I talked to her afterward, she told me not to underestimate a mother’s intuition or something like that. It seems she’s already known for a while. She said that if that was what makes me happy, I should go for it, as long as I’m not stepping down on other people.
I let out a sigh. “It’s complicated.”
She rests a hand on my back, “I’m here if you need someone to talk to, okay?”
“Thanks, Ma," I hug her before heading up to my room.
My room is my safe haven. It’s the place where I’m most comfortable in. Here I can do whatever I want. I can chill, play games, workout, read, sleep. Whatever fits my mood.
And as much as I wanna lie down on the bed and rest my pounding head, I have better things to do. Quickly changing into a sando and boxers, I open my laptop and log in to my chess account.
There have been a lot of new challenges since I last played this morning. I scroll through them until I find a worthy challenger. With 5,546 wins and 99 losses, he might prove to be a decent opponent. Before the game starts, I send him a message, “Hey, you ready to play your hundredth loss?” With a smirk on my face.
This is gonna be fun.
Anak is an endearment used by Filipinos to address their children. It literally translates to child but it’s equivalent to calling kids ‘honey,’ ‘sweetheart,’ and the like.