It’s been three weeks since we went to Tiolo’s. Three weeks since I met the sexy brunette named Janelle. Three weeks since I saw Gray cry. I still can’t get her crying image out of my head. The other party, however, is indifferent.
The day following the incident, I tried to talk to Gray. She was back to her old antisocial self. There was no trace left of the fragile girl who cried the night before.
“How are you?” I ask her first thing in the morning.
“Forget everything that happened last night.” She says sharply.
“Whoa chill.” I raise my hands and did a calm down motion. “It’s nice to see that you’re back to your old grouchy self,” I lean on my chair. I mean it. I’d choose a cute grumpy Gray over a sad and crying Gray any day.
She shoots me a look. “And it’s not nice to see that you’re back to your old annoying self.”
I turn to her, “Yeah, annoyingly hot and sexy.” I say with a smirk.
“Mind your own business, Alvarrez,” she says and diverts her attention back to the notebook she was writing in. I’ve always wondered what she’s writing in it. I never had the chance to ask.
Since then, we’ve never had a decent conversation. The only time she talks to me is when we’re doing an activity. Or when I ask her a question related to academics. Every time I open up the topic about that night, she pretends like she didn’t hear me or she’ll proceed to do something else.
I even tried cornering her on lunch because I know she rarely goes to the caf. All I had to do was go back to the classroom earlier than the others so we’d be alone. However, I was surprised when I didn’t see her there. The following days were also like that. I don’t see her around in the caf so I wondered where she goes during lunch.
It may sound stupid but I thought I could get close to Gray after what happened. Turns out it was the opposite. She was colder, more distant than when we first talked, never letting her guard down.
The seatmate in question has been absent for 2 days now. I was debating on whether I should text her or not when someone pats me on the back. “Hey, can we talk later?” I look up to see Diane, holding a water jug in her hand, sweat dripping down her forehead. Her blonde hair is tied up in a tight ponytail.
Shaken from my thoughts, I answer without thinking. “Yeah, sure.”
She smiles at me before heading back to our teammates. Alyssa glances at me with a curious look on her face. I shrug.
“Water break’s over, let’s get back to the game!” Diane’s voice echoes in the gym. I stand up lazily from my seat and jog over to them.
We play a game where Diane and I are on different teams. We always do, because together, we’re unstoppable. Our opponents don’t stand a chance. On her team is our regulars while I’m assigned to the lower years including the newbies. The game is to assess whether our players have improved and our regulars are still in tune.
The first half ends and we were down by 14 points. My teammates were exhausted from running back and forth in the court. Diane’s team were attacking us relentlessly, not giving us a chance to relax.
“I forgot to tell you, the loser’s team will do twice the regimen next training!” Diane shouts from the opposite side of the court.
A chorus of groans erupts from my team. This is not good. I don’t wanna do twice the regimen, I can even barely keep up with the training. What more if they double it.
“You guys seriously think we’re gonna lose?” I turn to them. It wasn’t really a question. “Huddle up.”
We form a circle and I start talking. “Here’s the plan.”
While I was in the middle of explaining, I catch a glimpse of Diane. She was looking at me, her lips tugged up into a smile. It’s the kind of smile she gives me when she knows I’m about to kick her ass. The kind I see only when I’m playing basketball.
When I was done explaining to my team, their downcast faces were now replaced with confusion.
“Is this really gonna work?” Mia asks.
“Trust me.” I wink at her. “I’ve been playing with those girls for 3 years. I know how they attack, how they defend, how they play.”
We step on the court with renewed confidence. I put the three newbies in and a junior, Rein, for support. Everyone in the team knows how I work, except for our new players. I guess it’s time to show them how the best point guard in the district plays.
We started our counterattack when the second half began. With every point the other team scored, we scored back. When my team finally got the hang of their playing style, I gave them specific instructions to follow that led us to our victory. It was a close call, the match ended with a score of 72-75, in favor of my team.
“How the hell did you do that?” Mia asks incredulously. Her eyes were brimming with awe.
Someone put an arm around my shoulder. “She’s amazing, right? But you haven’t seen the best of it yet.” I look up to see it was Alyssa, smiling wickedly as if they didn’t just lose.
“What’s with that stupid smile? You’re going to do twice our regimen next training.” I remind her.
“What are you talking about?” She turns to Diane. “Captain, did you say anything about that?”
Diane feigns ignorance. “No, I don’t remember saying something like that.”
It takes me a moment to realize what they’re playing at. “You guys are so unfair!”
They all start laughing. Mikaela elbows me lightly, “Let it slide, it’s just for fun.” She says with a twinkle in her eyes.
I let out a defeated sigh, “Fine, but you guys will pay for my lunch next week.”
“Whatever you say.”
“Huddle up!” Diane’s voice echoes in the gym. We follow her and after she says some words of advice, training was finally over. “That’s all. Take care on your way home.”
Diane and I are always the last ones out of the gym. After the others leave, we make sure that everything is in place, nothing’s missing and the gym is clean. But today’s the last time I’m going to be alone with her. Coach is coming back next week, which means I don’t have to stay after training anymore. It felt like a heavy burden was lifted off my chest.
“You didn’t need to hold yourself back in that game.” Diane criticized.
“Says the person who didn’t take a single shot in the game.” I counter.
Her lips spread into a sly smile.
“So what did you want to talk about?” I ask her as I was changing into my slippers.
“Why have you been avoiding me?” She asks, suddenly serious.
Crap. Ever since that time I heard her confess to David that she’s still in love with me, I’ve been lowkey avoiding her. Especially at times when there’s no one else around. Times like now, when we’re alone inside the locker room.
But since this is our last day, I decide to just go with the flow. I put on an innocent face. “Huh? I’m not.” I deny.
“You really think I’d buy that?” She raises an eyebrow at me. “You’ve been avoiding me for the last three weeks.”
“Uhh, maybe?” I shift awkwardly, looking at everywhere but Diane.
“Talk to me, Alex. Did I do something wrong?” Her voice was filled with worry.
“No, it’s not like that. It’s just..” I falter, not finding the right word to explain what I’m feeling. I rub the back of my neck before speaking again. “It’s complicated.”
Her hands snake around my waist, pulling me closer to her. The feeling of her body pressed against mine made the feelings I’ve worked so hard to contain resurface. Surprised by the motion, I made the mistake of looking into those soft, soft brown eyes. “I want you, Alex. Come back to me.”
Funny how at that moment I remembered the first time she said those words to me.
The first time I saw Diane was the first day of my freshman year. The moment she stepped into the classroom all eyes turned to her. She was oozing charm and confidence. Our eyes met, she smiled at me, and I swear I could’ve swooned right then.
I considered myself lucky because she’s my classmate. Little did I know that our involvement doesn’t end in the classroom—it appears she also want to join the basketball team. I thought my crush on her would end with just her looks but damn when I saw her play, I must have fallen in love.
Naturally, we both made it to the team. We eventually became close after weeks of hanging out together. Even back then, Kris never liked Diane, but she would put up with her for me.
Diane treated me the way she treated others, nothing special. Although there were rare moments when I’d catch her staring at me during training, I didn’t give them any special meaning so as not to get my hopes up. I’ve also heard rumors about seeing her making out with different people but I ignored them.
But it turns out, the rumors were true. Diane confessed to me about being a player. She said she gets bored easily so she never takes anybody seriously. “They’re all just fun and games,” she would say.
She was popular. A lot of people wanted her attention, boys and girls, alike. It’s no wonder she won’t notice someone like me. I’ve accepted my fate as only her friend and nothing more. As long as she’s happy, I’m happy.
I thought my feelings were completely one-sided until one day after school. She had been acting strange all day. She looked like she wanted to say something to me but as soon as she opens her mouth, she closes it again and shakes her head. I thought something was up so I asked her out that afternoon to hang out in a cafe. She thought about it for a moment before suggesting that we go to her place instead.
She was an only child and her parents were not yet home that time. She led me to her bedroom and we watched a movie. I kept on convincing her to tell me what’s bugging her until she finally gave in. We were sitting on her bed with our backs pressed to the headboard. Her head was resting on my shoulder. I may have looked calm on the outside but inside I was screaming. My heart was beating so fast and my mind couldn’t focus on the movie we’re watching.
“Alex?” she whispered next to me.
“I like you.” My body froze. I swear I died 32 times that moment.
Thinking I misheard her I asked, “H-huh?”
Her hand found its way to my cheek and she tilted my head so I was facing her, our noses almost touching. “I want you, Alex. Be mine.”
Before I knew it her other hand has traveled to my chin, tilting my head upwards and she was kissing me.
Inside the locker room.
I was instantly overwhelmed by the rush of emotions she poured into that single kiss. It wasn’t like our normal kisses. It was pure and raw, needing and wanting. Her lips lingered for a moment before she pulled away.
If I was still my old naive self, I’d jump at any chance to get back together with her. But I’ve changed. I learned from my mistakes and I know now not to make them again. I can’t let this happen again. I can’t fall into her trap. Gathering all my courage, I shake my head and utter, “You’re not playing fair.”
“I know you still want me, too.” Her eyes were searching me as if looking for any sign of empathy.
“I love you, Diane. I always have. Ever since the day you asked me to be yours, I dedicated myself to you. I gave you everything.” There’s no stopping it now. Every word that came out of my mouth were the things I buried deep inside me. Things I never thought about letting out. “When you told me you love me, I thought I could die of happiness. I knew you loved me, I felt it. I was convinced that you had changed for me.”
I rest my head on her shoulders and continued, “Until you cheated on me again. I know I was an idiot for letting you go but I also know that I’d be an even bigger idiot if I didn’t. After all, I wasn’t enough for you anymore.” I was barely holding myself together. If it wasn’t for Diane’s hand on my waist I would’ve fallen on my knees long ago.
“Seeing you happy with someone else broke my heart into pieces. But I told myself that if I really loved you, I will let you go. Who am I to stand in your way of happiness?” I wanted to laugh at the absurdity of this situation.
“Breaking up with you was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made in my life. And I don’t think you’re even aware of all the damage you’ve caused me. You hurt me in ways I never even thought possible.” I hear my voice crack. “You broke me.”
Diane’s eyes were brimming with tears. I don’t want to hurt her but there’s no other way. If I don’t do something about it, we will end up destroying each other. I have to let her know that there’s nothing more I could offer than friendship.
I lean back and look at her straight in the eye. “You’re strong, I know that. You’ll find a person so much better than me. You will love that person will all your heart that the thought of cheating will never cross your mind. And I will be happy for you.” My vision was getting blurry. I will myself to stand tall and stay strong.
But all of that went down the drain when Diane started crying. “I’m sorry,” she mutters, tears flowing down her face. “I’m so sorry.”
I pull out my handkerchief and wipe her tears away, wishing I could also wipe the pain away. This is the first time I’ve seen her like this. Diane never cried in front of me, ever. Seeing her in this state made me feel even worse. “I will always be here for you, you know that. But we can’t be together anymore.”
“Did it feel like this?” She asks in between sobs. “When I cheated on you did it also hurt like this?”
It was so much worse, I wanted to tell her. I ate almost nothing for a week, I would randomly cry whenever the thought of another’s lips pressed against yours crossed my mind. I cried and slept and cried again. It hurt so much that I was physically impaired. I wanted to tell her this doesn’t even compare to what I felt back then. But I tell her none of these things, I kept my mouth shut. I don’t want to cause her any more pain than necessary.
“It will get better,” I promise her.
She held on to me tightly. Clutching a fistful of my shirt, she buried her face in my chest. I stroked her hair as a way of comforting her.
Not a single word followed. She cried until my t-shirt was soaking wet from all her tears. She cried until the silent tears on my cheeks have dried. She cried until she couldn’t anymore.