I dial the phone number of Jimmy as soon as class was dismissed. When he didn’t pick up after 2 calls, I decide to try again later. Maybe he’s busy.
I make my way to the editorial office and the smell of brewed coffee wafts as I open the door.
Three cheerful faces greet me when I enter.
“Hey guys,” I smile slightly at them.
Being with people from the editorial club for 3 years, their contagious smiles have rubbed off on me. They get back to what they were doing after they acknowledge my presence.
One of the reasons I joined this club is that I absolutely love writing, and being with people who share the same passion is overwhelming.
As I make my way to my desk, I catch a glimpse of the features and opinion editor, Leandro, watching anime on one of the computers.
“Leandro,” I call out to him. He tears his gaze off the computer screen after pausing the anime and looks up at the sound of my voice. “How many times have I told you that the computers are for academic-related matters only?”
“Come on, chief, I already finished my task for the day,” he tries to reason with pleading eyes. “Let me just finish this episode.”
I shoot him a warning look. “No,” I say firmly, making him flinch. “Shut that thing off and go home if you’re already done.”
While most people would already be sweating and nervous because of the tone of my voice, Leandro only smiles unapologetically at me, “Yes ma’am.”
This is the downside of being amiable to my editors—they hardly take me seriously anymore. They still follow my orders but they aren’t scared of me anymore. I’m still contemplating whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
A small figure appears in front of me with a warm smile on her face. “As strict as ever.” Maxine, the managing editor and the closest thing I can call a friend in this school, speaks.
With her 5′0 flat height, most people usually mistake her for a middle schooler. She looks like it too, with an innocent expression and a cheerful smile always on her lips.
“I don’t condone breaking the rules,” I say sharply and continue to my desk.
The small workspace situated in the corner of the room is where I do most of my work. The edge of the monitor perched on top of it is covered with sticky notes. A coffee mug which says ‘get shit done’ that I made into a pen holder is sitting beside the stack of paper that I need to go through.
After putting my things under the table, I examine the papers stacked on top of it. Before I could even start reading an article, my phone vibrates. It’s Jimmy.
“Hey, princess. Sorry I missed your call. Did you miss me?” My brother’s cheery voice greets from the other end of the line.
“Come home this weekend, I’m going to do a documentary about chess,” I order him, sitting down on my rolling chair.
“Why me? I’m busyyy,” he groans.
“Why not? You’re a master of some sort, right? It will be a good material for us.”
“It’s FIDE Master, princess, don’t forget that.” He pauses. “Say you miss me first.”
I roll my eyes knowing he can’t see me. “You suck.”
“I’m hanging up.”
I chuckle. “I’m kidding, I miss youuu. Come home, pleaseeee,” I use the most childish voice I can muster without my clubmates hearing it. I have a reputation to uphold.
“You’re such a spoiled brat.” I hear him laugh. “Fine, but you’re going to bake me a cake. If there’s no cake when I get home I’ll drive back to my apartment. Deal?”
“Deal,” I say excitedly.
“I gotta go, princess, lots of girls—er, I mean things—things to do. I’ll see you on Saturday, love you!” Then he hangs up.
That’s one of the perks of being the only daughter in the family—my brothers do everything to make me happy. They hardly ever say no to me and when they do, they make up for it by spoiling me even more. Sounds great, right?
Growing up with 3 misbehaved brothers is not all rainbows and sunshine. Boys are messy and loud and most of the time, annoying.
If it wasn’t for Jace, I probably would’ve murdered one of the twins already. Being the eldest, he’s the one who takes charge when our parents aren’t around. He can be strict when he wants to, but most of the time, he’s the mastermind behind all the pranks they play.
The twins, Jimmy and Joshua, are a nightmare.
Josh is the meanest to me. Mean in a way that he always makes fun of me and tells me I’m adopted—which we all know isn’t true. I’m the spitting image of my mom. His favorite pastime is hiding my baking materials and laughing at me while I’m turning over all the furniture in the house. It’s one of the rare moments I ever make a mess outside of the kitchen. My brothers, in turn, will clean up after the mess I made.
Jimmy is the playboy in the family. Back when he was still in high school, he brought home a different girl almost every week. I couldn’t count all the girls he introduced me to with my fingers and toes combined. Now that he’s in college and has his own apartment, I couldn’t even begin to imagine how many girls already fell into his trap. He isn’t that handsome but he’s smart and very charismatic. He would stay up with me to study for my exams and give me advanced lessons on my subjects.
The door to the office cracks open and Thea, the sports and graphics editor, steps in with a huge smiled plastered on her face. “Sorry I’m late, the teacher wouldn’t let us go early.”
We were all taken aback by the sudden shift in her character. Thea was the shiest person from the club. She rarely talks to anyone other than her best friend, Gwen, and mostly kept to herself. The articles she writes, however, are amazing. I could tell she pours her heart into whatever she writes, the way I also do.
“Something good happened?” Leandro asks, waggling his eyebrows.
“You bet something did,” Gwen, the copy and news editor who was doing something in the computer a few seconds ago, was now beside Thea with her arms around her shoulders. “She got kissed by her crush.”
Thea’s cheeks turn pink and she covers Gwen’s mouth with a hand. “Shut up Gwen!”
“Good for you!” Leandro cheers.
“And who is this crush you speak of?” Maxine chimed in. “Is he from this school?”
Gwen removes Thea’s hands off her mouth without difficulty, her dark curly hair falls on the side of her face. “Oh, it’s a she.” She points a thumb to her friend. “She’s bi.”
The room goes silent. Thea put her head down and was fiddling with her bag strap.
Something tugs at the back of my mind. I have a feeling that once I ask this question, I wouldn’t like the answer. But I inquire anyway. “Who’s the girl?”
Thea pushes the black-rimmed glasses on the bridge of her nose and smiles slightly. “Alex Alvarrez from the basketball team.”
I knew it. That fucking Alvarrez. I’ve had a hunch that Thea had a crush on her for a while now. When she joined the club last year, she became the official photographer for the school paper. As I helped her choose the photos to be featured, I noticed that a great number of pictures were of Alvarrez and every time we come across it, a faint blush would show on her face. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what was going on there.
“Well, she is hot. I’d totally do her if given the chance.” Max declares and I roll my eyes at her. She knows how I feel about that overbearing ass.
“Right?” Gwen agrees animatedly. “I’ll tell you guys the story but first, let’s take a seat.”
They all gather on the rectangular table in the middle of the room. I’m surprised at the interest they are showing about the topic.
Max holds up a notebook. “Is this yours, Alex?”
I squint my eyes at the thing and immediately recognize whom it belonged to. The idiot left her notebook. “That’s Alvarrez’s.” Max raises an eyebrow at me, asking for an explanation. “I asked her to help me with Calculus, I didn’t realize she left it here.”
“Come to think of it, I saw her at lunch and she asked us for directions to the editorial office,” Gwen recollects.
“But wow, the running valedictorian of the graduating class asking help from someone in the school’s varsity? That’s unheard of.” Leandro muses. “Looks like your crush got more than the looks.” He smirks at Thea who now looked like a ripe tomato.
Alvarrez is smart. I found proof of that when she tutored me this morning. Although the way she explained things to me were more like ‘do this and this and you’ll get this’, she answered every question I threw at her without hesitation. Math is the only subject she bests me in. Not that I’ll ever admit that out loud.
I stand up from my chair to make myself a cup of coffee before going over the articles.
“You don’t wanna listen?” Max asks.
“I’m not interested,” I tell her.
They proceed with their discussion as I read some of the articles. As much as I tried to concentrate, Gwen’s loud voice was doing a good job at distracting me. Thanks to that, I was up to speed with the story.
Apparently, the girl whom Alvarrez was denying about kissing was Thea. I can’t believe I almost fell for the lies she fed me with. She looked so sincere when she implied that I have it all wrong. She must be a professional liar.
Gwen also mentioned the ‘crazy sexy chick’—as she had called her—who caused a scene about it. She said the girl grabbed Alvarrez by the shirt and started calling her a cheater. At least she wasn’t lying about Janelle harassing her.
“She handled the situation like a pro,” Gwen says. “If I was in her position I’d probably start a catfight.” I’d do the same. No one picks a fight with me and gets away with it unscathed.
“But isn’t that actually cheating?” Max butts in. “Isn’t she dating Diane?”
“They broke up a few months ago.” Gwen corrects. “Diane immediately dated David from the soccer team after that. But according to my sources, they also broke up a couple of weeks ago, around the time school started.” Leave it to the news editor to know the latest gossips of the school.
At this point, I wasn’t even trying to read the articles anymore. I’d already turned my chair around and was listening openly to their irrelevant discussion.
“That’s a lot of information to process.” Leandro chimed in. “Does that mean Diane cheated on Alex with David?”
Gwen shrugs. “Who knows. The parties involved refuse to talk about it.”
The conversation was interrupted when the door bursts open. All eyes turned to the source where a panting Alvarrez emerged.
Speak of the devil and he shall appear.
She places her hands on her knees, catching her breath. The blue and gold jersey she was wearing is soaking with sweat, her light brown hair is tied up in a ponytail. “I-I thought you went home already.” She says between breaths. “I left my notebook here.”
No one dared to speak.
When her breathing finally returned to normal, she looks up for the first time. She looks around the room and smiles awkwardly. “I’m sorry, did I interrupt something?”
“You did.” I rise up from my seat and pick her notebook up from the table. “Can I have a word with you?”
The tension in the air was palpable, but the person who just came in was unfazed. “Sure.” She says coolly with a smile and starts walking towards me.
“Outside.” I put as much contempt on my voice as I can.
She finally took the hint and stops midmovement. “Oh. Okay.”
The eyes of my associates followed our every move until the door closed with a click behind me.
“This is your last chance to redeem yourself,” I warn her as soon as we’re alone. “Did you or did you not kiss the girl in the bar?”
A lying person would hesitate. They will look at everywhere except for the eyes of the interrogator. They might fiddle, take a step backward, or break into a cold sweat. A lying person will reveal themselves unknowingly especially when backed into a corner, caught off-guard.
I watch Alvarrez intently, looking for any indication that she’s lying. But much to my surprise, she just furrows her eyebrows at me and answers without batting an eyelash, “I already told you, I didn’t.”
“How can you do that?” I ask her, completely revolted. “How can you look at someone straight in the eye and lie?”
She shifts her weight and places a hand on her hips. “Did you even consider the fact that maybe I wasn’t lying?”
I wanted to let her continue the facade she’s going to great lengths to keep. It’s always fun to let someone make a fool of themselves watching them lie in front of your face when you already know the truth. But I didn’t want to spend a minute more alone with a liar. “Thea, the girl you kissed, is sitting inside that office,” I point to the door behind me. “They told me exactly what happened. Now if you still insist you’re telling the truth, why don’t we call her out here and settle this once and for all?”
Alvarrez’s face contorts in confusion. “She is?” Her face scrunches up as if recollecting the faces of the people inside the office. “Was she the girl who was wearing eyeglasses? I knew she looked familiar.”
This swine can’t even remember the face of the girl she kissed. I’m hating her even more with every second I spend with her.
“Okay, since I don’t want to embarrass you in front of your friends, why don’t we do it like this.” She smiles a sarcastic smile that made her sea-green eyes twinkle. “You go back in there like nothing happened, and whenever you get the chance to be alone with Thea, ask her what really happened. While I—” She plucks the math notebook from my hand and waves it under my nose. “—Will take this back and go back to the tune-up game I sneaked out of, thank you.”
Alvarrez gave me no time to comprehend the words she just said and hurriedly jogs in the opposite direction. “Oh and Gray?” She calls out just as she was about to turn around the corner. Her playful smile seemed to radiate even in the dimly lit corridor. “I’ll forgive you once you treat me out to a meal.” She prompts before disappearing from view, leaving me completely dumbfounded.