I stop my car in front of a breathtakingly beautiful contemporary styled house. After making sure that I have the correct house—the big house with a black gate with horizontal slats, according to the guard in the village entrance—I step out of my car.
I roll up the sleeves of my light blue button-down shirt. To complete my boyish outfit, it’s paired with khaki chino shorts and sneakers. Most of my wardrobe consists of men’s clothes, I like them better than girls’.
I was about to ring the doorbell when someone steps out of the door. I could see someone walking towards me through the gaps in the gate.
The gate opens, revealing a beautiful girl with raven-black hair and piercing gray eyes. I still can’t believe I’m gonna be spending most of my senior year with this gorgeous girl in front of me.
My eyes scan her outfit. She’s wearing a white loose v-neck t-shirt and denim shorts that flaunts her flawless legs. My eyes linger on there for a second longer before I hear her clear her throat.
“Learn to be more discreet when you’re checking someone out.” She points out.
I sheepishly smile at her. “Can’t help it. You look gorgeous, Gray,” I beam. “And most of the time they’re checking me out too.”
“I’m not, am I?” She raises an eyebrow at me.
“That’s why I said most.” I chuckle and open the passenger door for her. She seemed surprised by the gesture. She mutters a ‘thank you’ before going in. “Seatbelt please,” I add before going over to the driver’s seat.
“Is my outfit appropriate?” she asks.
“Yeah, don’t worry,” I assure her. “The first time I went there was after a game. I was just wearing a t-shirt and my jersey shorts.” The recollection makes me smile.
“Where exactly are we going?” she asks again.
I glance at her before answering, “It’s a restaurant just outside town. It’s a nice place, I think you’ll like it.”
She doesn’t say anything but I see her nod from my peripheral vision.
“So,” I begin. “Do you have any siblings?”
“I have 3 older brothers,” she replies while looking out the window.
That’s unexpected. I nod my head even though I know she can’t see me. “Now I see why you seem to give off the spoiled rich brat aura.” I joke.
“Yeah sue me.” She says flatly.
I shake my head in astonishment, grinning to myself. This girl really is something.
“Are we there yet?” she asks shifting in her seat.
“We’re near. Why do you look bored all of the time?”
“Is there anything interesting in this particular conversation?”
I nod my head slowly. “Point taken.”
And we reach our destination at last. At the front of the restaurant is the word “Tiolo’s” in a cursive font.
I’ve eaten several times with my family and friends here and this place never disappoints me.
“Table for 2 please,” I tell the man at the entrance.
“This way ma’am.” He indicates for us to follow him inside.
I chose this restaurant because it has a comfortable ambiance that makes you feel at home. The food tastes good without being pricey, the staff is friendly and the service is great. Paintings of forests and mountains lined the beige walls. The man leaves us after leading us to a table covered in white.
After examining the menu for a few minutes, I call for the waiter.
“I’ll have a chicken barbeque and mushroom soup side. And a lot of extra barbeque sauce please.” I happily tell the waiter. He turns to my companion to take her order.
“I’ll have a medium-rare rib-eye steak with roasted garlic lemon broccoli side,” Gray states. The waiter repeats our orders and leaves us alone.
There weren’t many people eating so the place was unusually quiet. I decide to break the silence. “Are you really not going to talk to me?”
“There’s nothing to talk about,” she says casually.
“We should at least talk to each other, we’re going to be partners for the whole year after all. How about this, let’s ask each other questions in turn. You can go first.” I grin at her.
“I’m not interested,” she responds. I was kind of expecting that.
“I am so I’ll go first. Are you single?”
That catches her off-guard. She raises an eyebrow at me before replying, “That’s none of your business.”
I smirk. “So you’re in a relationship. If you were single you would’ve just said so. Is that the reason why you’ve been rejecting everyone who confesses to you?”
“Stop making things up, I’m single,” she admits before rolling her eyes at me.
“Have you ever had a boyfriend?” I asked curiously.
I narrow my eyes at her, “Really? Never?”
She nods once, “Never.”
Our conversation was shortly interrupted when our orders arrived. I mumble a “thank you” before dismissing the waiter.
“Does you not having a boyfriend have anything to do with you having 3 older brothers?” I continue interrogating her.
She scoffs. “As if. I don’t let anyone decide what I want to do with my life.”
I take a bite of my food before proceeding to my next question. “Why do you distance yourself from everyone?”
“Why do you ask so many questions?” she asks, annoyed.
I lean forward, “I’m curious,” I say looking into those deep gray eyes. “And you said you weren’t interested.”
“That doesn’t mean I have to answer every question you throw at me.” She slices a portion of her steak. “It’s unfair if you’re the only one asking questions so I’ll play along.”
“Shoot,” I make a go-ahead gesture with my hand, urging her to ask.
She thinks for a moment before asking, “You aren’t fully American, are you? Sometimes your accent is different. And I hear you speak a different language.”
I chuckle. “I’m surprised you noticed. My mom’s a Filipina. I was born and raised in the Philippines. We moved here when I was, I don’t know, 14 maybe? I can’t remember. But I got here freshman year.” I explain.
She nods her head slowly, satisfied with my answer. “Why did you move here?” She follows.
“It was always the plan. Pops wanted us to live here when we grew up.” I say a matter of factly.
“Do you ever miss it there?” She asks softly.
“A little,” I tell her, not wanting to explain any further.
The night went off with us asking and answering questions. But I felt like even if we continued talking for hours I still wouldn’t feel closer to her at all. She has built a wall around her that doesn’t allow anyone to get too close. She never answered anything that’s related to her feelings. Never said a word about friends, never smiled. Not once. She didn’t even seem entertained. It felt like she was just tolerating me for the sake of our paper. I didn’t think I’d care at all but it stung. A part of me was hurt.
I ask the waiter for our bill. Gray insists on paying for her meal but I refuse. She got pissed at me and says, “I can pay for my own meal.”
“I know, but consider this a bribe, for putting up with me.” I force myself to give a smile but my voice gives me away. In the end, I paid for everything. Gray said she’ll write the review.
As we were leaving the restaurant, I notice a matte black Lamborghini parked next to my car. It made my C-Class Sedan look cheap. I let out an appreciative whistle. “Nice ride,” I say to no one in particular.
Two girls emerge from the vehicle. The one that came out of the passenger seat was a girl with auburn hair and brown highlights. The other girl was a sexy brunette. They were equally stunning.
As they were heading to the restaurant, our eyes mee and the brunette instantly freezes. She stops in her tracks and her eyes go wide with shock. The redhead notices her companion was acting weird and I hear her ask, “Janelle, what’s wrong?”
Does she know me? Because I’m pretty sure I don’t know her. I would’ve remembered that pretty face anywhere.
The girl, Janelle, wasn’t paying attention to her friend but instead, her eyes were glued in my direction. I thought she was gonna stay like that forever until her lips parts and utters a name, “Alex.”
Now I’m confused. How does she know my name? Is she supposed to be someone I know? And why does she looked so surprised? I was about to speak up but Gray speaks beside me.
“Janelle,” her voice was strained. As if just muttering that name was causing her pain.
I look at Gray and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Her gray eyes were full of sadness. So much sadness that it was painful for me to look. Her eyes were glistening as if any moment now she’s going to cry.
Then it dawns on me. The girl wasn’t looking at me, she was looking at Gray. They must’ve known each other.
Before I can fully understand the situation, Janelle rushes to Gray and pushes me out of the way. I almost fall to the ground. She hugs Gray fiercely. For a moment, everyone was too stunned to speak.
Gray doesn’t move an inch. She doesn’t hug her back nor does she make any move to break free. “Get away from me.” She orders, her voice threatening to crack.
“I missed you,” Janelle whispers in Gray’s ear, barely audible for me to hear.
“I said get away from me!” Her voice was louder, firmer and angrier this time, making Janelle’s hold on her loosen. She uses this opportunity to break free from the embrace.
Janelle looks stunned. She squeezes her eyes shut and opens them again before saying, “I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me.”
Gray’s expression hardens. Her eyes were glinting dangerously like the clouds before a thunderstorm. It felt like thunder could flash from her eyes at any moment. “How dare you.” She hisses in a low voice.
“Please, Alex, let me explain.” Janelle’s eyes were pleading.
“I don’t need your explanation,” Gray says through gritted teeth. She turns her attention towards me, “Let’s go.” She orders.
It takes me a second to register her words. I was taken out of my trance and moved swiftly to open the door for her. I could feel Janelle’s eyes carefully watching every move I make.
“Is she your new girl?” Janelle asks and I almost trip over my own foot.
Before I could deny her accusation, Gray responds, “It’s none of your business,” she says in an apathetic tone. She seemed more composed now. She goes in without another word.
I give an awkward smile to the two girls standing at the entrance before hopping into my car and driving off.
I let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding when we were a distance from the restaurant.
What the fuck just happened?
Who was that girl? Why is Gray mad at her? What is she to Gray? A million thoughts are running through my head faster than my car can go. I want to know. I wanted to ask Gray even though I know that there’s no way she’ll tell me. I know it’s none of my business but after what had just transpired in front of me, I can’t help but wonder.
I steal a look at my companion. She was looking down at her hands which were gripping the pouch she brought with her tightly. She was trembling.
“Are you okay?” I ask her for the second time today.
Maybe she didn’t hear me. I was about to repeat the question but the words got stuck in my mouth as I see a single tear run down her cheek.
I pull over without a second thought. I stop in front of an old playground. My footsteps echo in the dead of the night as I quickly went out and went over to her side.
She wipes a tear with the back of her hand. I bend down to the point where I was almost kneeling. “Hey, don’t cry,” I say as I carefully wipe her tears with my handkerchief.
I can’t bear to see this. I hate seeing girls cry. I unbuckle her seatbelt so she can breathe properly. As soon as her belt was unbuckled, she does something I would never have imagined in a million years. She hugs me.
My breath hitches. I feel her body vibrate on every sob. My hands move automatically, caressing her back. “It’s okay. I’m here,” I say softly.
I run my hand through her silky black hair, tucking it away from her face. Her hair smells nice. I wonder what shampoo she uses. She feels so warm. I internally scold myself for thinking about these things while she was crying.
I hate that girl for making Gray cry. Every sob I feel is my heart breaking into pieces. I want to go back to the restaurant and make her apologize to Gray. I want to punch her. I want to hurt someone.
I kept whispering soothing words to her as she cried silently until I felt the dampness in my shoulders. We stayed like that until she finally calmed down. To my dismay, she pulls away from the hug. I immediately feel cold, already missing her warmth. “Drive me home.” Her lips slightly brush my ear as she said the words. It made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.
I offer her my handkerchief. She takes it without saying anything.
For the rest of the ride, the windows were open. The chilly night air seemed to comfort Gray. Before I knew it, we were already in front of their house.
Gray grabs my hand to stop me from getting out of the car. They were soft like I knew they would be. “Stay here.” I was about to argue but she speaks again. “Thank you, I really appreciate it.” Both her eyes and her words were full of sincerity.
I had no choice but to stay inside the car. I waited until she was safe inside the gate before driving off. I drove until her house was only a blur in the distance. I drove until I had lit a cigarette and felt the familiar texture of the filter touch my lips. I drove until my thoughts threaten to consume me.
And I let them.