The Face of Reality

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Chapter 17

The beginning part edited.


I spent the rest of the evening doing laundry, writing and, most of the time, mulling over all the opinions that we had exchanged in the circle during the afternoon. Lying on my bed after a cool shower with a brand new Red diary in front of me, I stared at the ceiling for long moments as a million strings of thought rushed about inside my head. Rolling onto my side, I picked up my pen and scribbled the name, Augustine Urban, on the front page of the diary. Then I stared at it for a good ten minutes.

Finally, I groaned out loudly and kicked up my legs in the air in frustration. I was dying to know what the hell was going on in his mind. I was dying to know what exactly he wanted to say back there in the yard. Maybe he liked me too, maybe not, I didn’t really know but there was not a pinch of doubt to me that despite my fears, my soul was aching to get closer to him, to know him more. I felt an urge to open up to him and I almost felt confident that I could be happy with him. To realize that I was feeling that way frightened the life out of me.

Ever since Benjamin, I had decided to be very careful with boys, to think a thousand times before anything.

I needed to vent somewhere to reduce the load of constantly thinking about him. So, I picked up my phone and went straight to my wattpad account. I had never done this before. I always kept my private life out of wattpad and only talked about books and the little funny things that wouldn’t risk my privacy.

Eyes glued to my phone screen, I thought ten times more about venting before I finally started typing. I kept it very short and very simple with no dramatic descriptions to attract as less attention and drama as possible. And finally I pressed send. Then I stretched out on my bed with a relieved sigh.

*

“I swear I’m a reader.” Timothee asserted from across the table earnestly like he was taking an oath.

“You could read other better books. Don’t waste your time on mine!”

“Come on, Sophia. We’re friends, right?” He implored softly.

“Yeah. We are, Timothee. But, it’s just so embarrassing!” I sighed and ran my palms over my face as I leaned onto the table with my elbows.

“With me? Come on.” He rolled his eyes and then grinned at me. “I’m sure it’s going to be great. I know you’re good at it.”

“Don’t say that. I don’t wanna disappoint you.”

For a good twenty minutes in Frosty Spoon, we had been going on and on about this. He wanted to read my writings. And for the life of me, I wasn’t at all willing to let him read. Neither did I feel my book was ready to be read by someone I knew personally. It just felt too embarrassing. I didn’t think I would be able to face Timothee again if I knew he was reading my book. I mean. . .

“If you feel so maybe I can read and help you out. . .” he offered desperately. “You know, offer some feedbacks. I could be a critical reader too if you want me to be.”

That had me thinking twice and my spine jerked up straight on the chair in enthusiasm. I was attracted to constructive criticism like a magnet. In fact, the core reason I actually started writing online was to see what people thought about my writing and gain feedback. Now, Timothee was offering just what I wanted to me on a silver platter. And I could even talk and discuss my works with him face to face. What could possibly be better than that?

God knows every cell in my body was so damn tempted by his generous offer.

“So?” He gave the most inviting drawl and I could hardly resist.

My teeth sunk into my lower lip and my gaze rolled up at the ceiling, thinking hard. His eyes lingered on my face as my toes curled inside my shoes.

I stared at him hard and breathed out, “Just don’t laugh at me later on.”

“Laugh? You gotta be kidding me.” He leaped up on his chair and moved in toward me across the table, brimming with excitement.

I opened Wattpad and tabbed on my profile. Then, I showed my phone screen to him to present the hopelessly wonderful book I had written – Faded. I had used a very erotic picture for its cover and Timothee wiggled his eyebrows at me the moment he saw it.

“Hmm. Looks interesting.”

I chuckled in return. “The content isn’t that sexy but, it’s a horny world so. . .”

“This could be my next favorite,” he joked. “That’s your username?”

“Yeah. @uglycryer_sophia.”

He stared at me incredulously, “Really?”

I grinned at him. “It’s a fact.”

-------

The next time I met Augustine in college, which was the following day in the parking lot, he was half-running across the lawn. I was sitting in one of the benches near his car and reading a novel under the shade of an oak tree.

When I noticed the alarmed look on his face, I called out to him, “August!”

He looked my way and said in a hurry, “Hey.”

I stood up from my bench and went over to him. “Everything alright?”

“Yeah. It’s. . . fine. Listen. You don’t have to come today. Maybe even tomorrow.”

“Why. . . Is Ari okay?” I questioned back when I started to feel my heart race in worry within me.

With a deep frown on his face, he quickly got inside his car and slammed the door after him. “Yeah. She’s good.”

He ignited the engine and with my other hand that wasn’t holding my novel, I immediately grabbed the window frame. “Wait!”

With the intense look on his face and the fact that he was in such a hurry, there was no way I wouldn’t panic.

“I.. Is everything really alright? You don’t look that good to me. . .”

“Everything’s fine! Just don’t talk to me right now!” He snapped back and my heart seemed to stop in shock as I met his furious gaze.

That immediately left me speechless and I faltered with my words, “I. . . I’m sorry. I. . . just wanted to make sure. . .”

“Everything is fine,” he asserted rigidly once more with harsh eyes before screeching out of the parking lot.

I felt my heart tear a little inside me as I stood there shocked. He had never been so furious and rude to me before. I thought maybe I had annoyed him with my questions but, it had come from a good place and I just wanted to make sure things were fine with him, especially Ari. It hurt that he couldn’t understand that, that I genuinely cared about him and his family.

Nonetheless, I decided not to make too much of it. So, I slowly traced my footsteps back to the bench I previously sat and resumed reading where I left off.

Not too long after, I heard Marlon call for me. I looked up and saw him striding towards me with a gleaming smile.

“Hey.”

“What are you up to, Miss Writer?”

I smiled back and lifted my novel for him to see what I was up to. He came and plopped down on the bench next to me, spreading his arms across the back of the bench and throwing his head back to inhale a deep relaxing breath.

“Your classes over?” He asked.

“I have one more. You?”

“Me too.”

“I saw August just a moment ago and he looked worried,” I told him.

“Really? Did you ask him why?” He jerked up on the bench concerned.

“I did. About twice or three times and he yelled at me not to talk to him. I was just concerned,” I sulked while I complained about his best friend and Marlon broke out smiling.

“Maybe something is really bothering him,” Marlon said. “He could be pretty short-tempered if he’s tensed or worried. You shouldn’t believe half the things he says when he’s like that. But if he says don’t talk to me, he probably means it.” He laughed. “He just can’t stand it if people keep talking to him when he’s trying to figure out something in his mind.”

I dropped my eyes to the ground. “Yeah. Maybe I annoyed him. But you know, I was just worried about Ari. I thought something bad happened to her. . .”

“Yeah. Don’t worry. He’ll realize that and come around. I’ll just give him a call.” He pulled out his phone from his jeans pocket and rang up Augustine.

“Don’t tell him I told you about this!” I quickly added to Marlon as he put the phone to his ear.

He nodded to me and with a small frown on his face, he looked down at his phone screen and said a moment later, “He’s busy talking to someone. Maybe I’ll go over to his house later.”

“Okay.”

“What about you? Are you coming today?”

“August told me I don’t have to come today. Maybe even tomorrow.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“What’s up with him?” He mumbled to himself and I shrugged in return.

He stood up from the bench and said, “Alright then, I’ll see you next time. Oh, wait! We could go out today in the evening after I meet August. What do you say?” He smiled at me hopefully and my mind whirled for a moment, looking for an excuse.

“Uh. . . I might be busy today. I have to write and update my book. I’m falling behind schedule so. . . maybe another time. Thanks, though.”

“Okay. Cool. You let me know when you’re free.”

“Sure.” I managed to smile at him as he walked away.

*

The next day, I called Augustine in the afternoon to ask if I should come over. He told me that I didn’t need to for a couple of days.

“I’ll call you probably after a day or two,” he said. “I’ll be home for a couple of days.”

“Okay. . .”

I felt the urge to ask him again if things were going fine but, I thought I best not. With the way he had raved at me the other day, I assumed he would get irritated again.

“Sophia,” he called softly through the phone and the smoothness in his voice tugged in my chest.

I swallowed and answered, “Yeah.”

“I’m sorry about yesterday. I shouldn’t have shouted at you. I was wrong.” I couldn’t believe my ears. I could hardly speak. “I know you only wanted to make sure we were okay. . . I was. . . We met when I was stressed and with high tension so, I got frustrated quickly.”

“Yeah. You didn’t look too good so. . .”

“Yeah. I’m sorry,” he breathed and paused for a while before he told me, “Jared died yesterday. Tomorrow’s the funeral.”

My mouth instantly fell open and my head seemed to grow two-times in size at the news. I felt my heart hammer in fear and my mind immediately raced toward the thoughts of Arizona, the pictures I’d seen of the kids together. It dawned on me then that Augustine hadn’t been in his proper mind because of the same reason.

“I’m so sorry to hear that. I know he means a lot to your family too. How’s his family holding up?”

“I don’t know what to say. . . It’s like the end of the world for them.”

Even though I had never met the boy in person, to think that he had been so close with Ari, my eyes prickled with tears.

“How’s Ari?”

“I haven’t told her yet,” he replied, “I don’t know, Sophia. I’m afraid to. I don’t even know how I should. . . do you have any idea how to?”

“I don’t know,” I garbled. “I’ve never had to do that before.”

“Can you come over? I think I might need your help. I’m lost,” he sighed worriedly through the phone. “Ari likes you a lot too. Maybe you can help her understand. I really don’t know how I should break it to her.”

“I don’t really know what I should say either but, I’ll surely come over.”

“Thanks.”

Once we closed the call, I moved out of my apartment and took a bus straight to Walnut Lane. As time passed day after day, my love for the family had grown bigger and at this point, I wanted to be there for them as much as I would for any friend or family. My attachment to the Urbans had grown deeper than I could ever imagine.

Augustine answered the door and he gave me a quiet, soft smile the moment he saw me.

“Thanks for coming over,” he said.

“Anytime,” I responded with a smile and followed him inside the house.

“Where’s Ari?”

“She’s sleeping in my room.”

“Did you go to college?”

“No. I stayed with her for the whole day.”

He led me inside his room and I saw Arizona fast asleep on his king-sized bed, arms spread wide open like she owned his entire room. Augustine went ahead and sat down beside her on the bed. He had a neat, comfortable room adorned with a cupboard filled with books, a study table next to the cupboard, closets on the left wall and a 3/4 bathroom attached at one corner.

“Sit down,” he gestured with his chin to the space in front of him.

I settled down on the bed quietly and carefully lest I should wake Ari up. Augustine leaned toward her and adjusted the quilt over her.

“She’s fine for now, right?”

“Yeah. I’m just too afraid to keep her out of my sight,” Augustine replied lowly and ran his palms over his face. “I even slept in her room with her last night.”

“Where’s Romeo?”

“He’s taking bath upstairs.”

I watched his face and noticed that his eyes were as red as blood and the eyelids were nearly drooping close. And with the 5 O’Clock beard growing on his face, he looked like he hadn’t slept for days. His hair was in a mess too from him running his hand through it and pulling onto the roots like he was seriously planning to rip his head off.

“Did you even sleep last night?” I asked him.

He nodded vaguely, eyes on Arizona. “Yeah. A while.”

“I think you need to rest, August,” I suggested. “It looks like you’ve smeared chili in your eyes.”

“I’m fine,” he returned bluntly.

“I can see you’re not. Why don’t you take some rest now? I’ll look after Ari. If something seems to go wrong, I’ll wake you up.”

“No. I’m fine. . .”

“Of course, you’re not. Sleep!” I ordered and he looked up to me with a tiny, tired smile traced on his lips.

“Aren’t you feisty.” He let out a low chuckle.

When I realized that I had literally commanded the Master of the House, Augustine Urban, to do something against his will, I couldn’t help but smile back. Come to think of it, we both found it amusing. I was sure he didn’t get to be treated that way very often.

“I can be if it’s necessary.” I smirked back at him. “Now, try to get some sleep.”

“I don’t think I’ll sleep but, I’ll lie down.”

I got up from the bed and moved toward the door. “You know, you actually won’t be able to look after her if you don’t sleep at all.”

“For the record, I do sleep,” he corrected me lazily as he stretched out on the bed next to Ari. “Where the hell you going?”

“I’m going to go drink some water and maybe even bring a glass for you too. Would you like that? Your Majesty?” I replied calmly with a professional smile and he chuckled in return.

“Thanks. Just don’t you dare leave this room if I actually fall asleep.”

“Of course, your Majesty.”

He rolled his eyes and fell back on the bed, “You should be in drama club.”


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