The Face of Reality

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Chapter 8

Jessica was already home when I finally stepped into our apartment, dragging my feet behind me. It had been a long day and with the air thick and gloomy, all I could think of was snuggling into my bed and drifting off to sleep. Jessica was lounging on the couch, phone over her eyes and a towel wrapped around her head. She glanced up my way when she heard me step inside.

“Whose shirt are you wearing?” She cocked an eyebrow.

I looked down to see the huge dark-green shirt clinging onto my body like a cloak. “Oh, I’ve forgotten to give it back!” A soft gasp escaped my lips the moment I saw it. “It’s Augustine’s.”

“You can give it back tomorrow.”

“Right.” I dropped my shoulders at the realization.

“You hungry?” She asked.

I fell into the couch next to her, saying, “No really.”

“Let’s cook something after a while. I’m not that hungry either yet.”

“Sure.” I groaned while stretching out my body and yawning sleepily. Then with both hands, I took hold of the collar of Augustine’s sweatshirt and inhaled a long, drugging breath.

“What’re you smelling at!” Jessica exclaimed with laughter, tickling the side of my stomach with her toes.

I wriggled on the couch as I too broke out laughing. “I just love his cologne!”

“You are so fucking weird!” She chortled. “Imagine if he saw that.”

“He’ll probably fire me.” I laughed again.

I checked into wattpad and began performing my ritual of replying to comments and messages. I had just finished typing a reply to a very sweet comment with a giddy smile plastered on my face. And just when I pressed on the send button, I received a call and accidentally pressed on the receive button instead.

“Oh shoot.” I cursed.

Nevermind.

“Hello?”

“Soph.”

Double shoot.

My eyebrows immediately pulled together like a reflex action to the sound of Benjamin’s voice and I stared down at my phone screen. Unknown number.

My teeth clenched shut and I muttered under my breath, “Shit.”

I had forgotten to save his number last night.

“Soph?”

“Yeah, what?”

“Can we meet?”

“No.”

“Come on, pliz.” He groaned. “Don’t you miss me at all? I miss you.”

“Nope.”

“I’ll tell you what. I’m in Sioux right now but, I’ll fly over to Coasuta to see you. How’s that?”

Air stuck on my throat at the thought of him coming to see me, my heart seemingly jumping to my throat and I swallowed hard.

“I don’t wanna see you.” My voice dropped to be barely audible and my eyes sting.

“Babe. . .” he sighed softly into the phone and I snapped at him with a burst of tears. “Stop calling me that!”

All that pain resurfacing.

I bolted up from the couch and strode into my room lividly leaving Jessica gaping at my back in shock. I shut the door after me and slumped into my bed. Benjamin was still trying to woo me back by using words he knew I liked to hear him say. But, I told him to shut it and hung up the call. This time, I made sure to save his number and even block him. Wiping my tears which had managed to pool around my eyes, I pulled the collar of Augustine’s sweatshirt over my head and ducked inside. I lay very still, eyes closes and breathing long and deep, trying to calm down.

The smell of Augustine’s cologne took over my senses, the stormy greenness of his eyes slowly slipping into my mind and despite my anger towards Benjamin, the thought of Augustine and his siblings made my lips curl up to a tiny smile beneath the cover of his shirt.

Another day passed by just as it should in a mixture of college, work, wattpad, reading, writing, daydreaming. Four days later on a Tuesday, to my absolute horror, I found Benjamin waiting for me at the college parking lot. More like, he found me. I had no clue he was there. Jessica and I came walking to college, sharing jokes and laughing, when I heard his distant voice call out for me out of nowhere.

The bright gleam on my face from all the laughing completely drained off at the sound of his voice and I stopped short on my track. My heartbeat racing ahead without waiting for a moment, I looked about left and right to spot him coming towards me from a sleek silver car parked just few meters up the road.

No shit.

Even from this distance and after a year of not seeing him, Ben Carter still looked as familiar as my own breath to me. Soft blonde locks which he had brushed back, piercing blue eyes that always seemed to read past my soul and full of promises. . . he looked sharper and more sophisticated than ever. Probably because he was wearing a suit and sporting stubble.

My mouth slightly agape in shock, I watched him approach me, my senses numb and unaware of the world about me. In that short moment, I saw my past rushing back to me and flashing in front of my eyes like a movie trailer – short flashes of happy and painful moments that seemed to cut you more than remind you of the memories worth cherishing. Because there really is none worth cherishing anymore. Everything was a big, fat lie.

“Soph.” He smiled at me dotingly when he stopped to stand right in front of me, gazing into my eyes with all the tenderness he could afford.

“What are you doing here?” I questioned in shock.

His lips tilted towards the side to a small smile and he said, “I told you I’d come to see you.”

“You’re kidding.” I narrowed my eyes at him.

“I’m here now.” He flashed a radiant smile and took one step closer. “Come one, Soph. Just gimme a hug.”

“Hold it there!” I commanded as I took a step back and put my right arm up as a shield.

His footsteps stopped short and he heaved in a sigh of disappointment.

“Uhh. . . I’m gonna go inside. See ya later, girlfriend.” Jessica said awkwardly from my right, reminding me that she was still with me. For a moment there, I had completely forgotten she was still around.

“No!” I grabbed her wrist. “I’m coming too.”

“Soph, can we just talk for a moment?” Benjamin sought. “I’m already here for you after all.”

“Nope. Just get out of here. I don’t want you anywhere for me.”

His lips closed shut. Then, he grabbed my left arm and made me face him direct, his face hardening now. All that bright, sunny smile gone. I stared back at him with more rigidity on my face, ready to face him off.

“I said I want you back, Sophia.” He see the through clenched teeth.

“I said I don’t want you anymore, Benjamin.” I returned under my breath, eyes locked on his hard and stern, chin up.

“I said I want to make things right to you. There are a lot of things you misunderstood.”

“Forget it. I’ll never love you again.”

“Are you sure?” He smirked, eyes softening and leaning closer to me.

I shoved him away from me. His confidence annoyed me to the point I imagined snapping his head off. I wanted him gone as soon as possible. And just at that moment, I saw Augustine’s car roll past us, his eyes catching mine in a brief moment. I watched him drive a few meters further up and park at an open spot just under the shade of a tree.

“Get out of here, Benjamin.” I said in a hurry with half of my mind concentrated on the fact that Augustine had gotten out of his car, threw his backpack over his shoulder, locked his car with a beep. Also that he was wearing black jeans, white T-shirt and a faded denim jacket, which marked the first time I ever saw him wearing something else which wasn’t his gym clothes.

Damn, if he isn’t sizzling hot.

Then, when his gaze brushed past mine again, my heart jumped to my throat. I was sure of it. There was no more lingering around after that. I pulled Jessica behind me as I made way to the college building, eyes on the ground.

“Soph! Baby, come on!!” Benjamin groaned loudly behind me.

God. Just why?!

I frowned in embarrassment and shook my head in frustration, hissing incoherent words, as my footsteps picked up speed. It was beyond embarrassing to even think that Augustine heard him too. . . calling me baby out there in the yard like a lunatic. I didn’t even dare look up from the ground. Our college had a huge, green yard in front of the first building and I loved it. But in this current situation, all I wanted was for it to shrink so that I could reach the building faster.

“SOPH!!” Benjamin shouted again.

“What the fuck!” I shrieked in the tiniest voice as I threw a glance toward Augustine, who was also walking up the yard toward the building not too far from me.

I saw him look over at Benjamin once and then at me, his expression passive as ever. By then, I was literally sprinting across the yard. Pulling Jessica behind me, I ran into the building. Cheeks burning hot.

Once I got out of sight, the morning went by just as usual, some classes and stuffs. But by 12:15 at noon, during the college hour, the yard was flocking with people like a festival. It was a Tuesday and the beginning of a new semester, so everyone had gathered at the yard to advertise and recruit new members to the various college clubs or either to join a club. This would last for exactly an hour. I had volunteered for a club called “Penny For Your Thought”, which is kind of like a support group but, we had game time over the talk.

This club was initiated by a group of friends from the Social Work department three years ago and it had been functioning strong since. The club moreover had back up from both the department of Sociology and Psychology as well. In fact, one Psychology teacher, Prof. Bryan Goode, would be leading the support circle itself.

The sun was warm and brilliant on the busy yard where club executives were busy advertising and explaining the purposes, the fun part and why-you-should-sign-up reasons of their own clubs to the people around. I sat on a stool behind a colorful, decorated desk. My job was to register the name of those interested in our club. Shirley White, a senior from Social Work was busy explaining what goes about in our club to three girls.

With a tiny smile on my face, I looked about the yard feeling happy and at ease. I just loved the vibe there. Sunny, warm and everybody appeared to be having a good time. From across my table, a small crowd jumped and then laughed. Smoke fuming from a test tube one guy was holding. Science experiment gone wrong. I chuckled too.

And further down on my left, I saw Marlon with a camera clinging onto his neck coming toward us, as and when dragging the uninterested Augustine behind him by his arm. I tugged on my lower lip and bit it. I didn’t want to see him just yet after the morning incident. I was still a tad bit embarrassed.

“Hey, Sophia!” Marlon approached us with a huge smile.

“Hi!” I smiled back at him and glanced over for a brief moment at Augustine, just meeting his eyes.

That was all. That was our greeting.

“Care to explain what your club is about?”

“Oh sure! Shirley will do it.” I replied, looking up to Shirley, a beautiful brunette with olive skin, tall and smart.

“Hey! So, our club, Penny For Your Thought, basically is – Talk. Share. Fun.” Shirley began. “We’ll have a circle which will come together to meet every Tuesday during college hour. I know we get Thursdays too but, we’re leaving that day for other clubs you would want to take part in. So, we’ll be meeting once a week. It’s basically like a support group but, we’ll also play some interesting games, talk about anything that excites you. We’ll play a short, very simple, thought-provoking video clip every time we get together. From that clip, you’ll get a few questions and you get to answer them. Don’t worry. It’s won’t be scary. . .” She chuckled. “And it’s still your choice if you wanna talk about it or not. You’re always welcomed to sit with us and have a great time. It’s all about fun and you and getting to know yourself more. . .”

And so went Shirley while I quietly watched Augustine just standing there, listening to Shirley with a subconscious frown on his forehead, his intense green eyes shimmering under the sun. And I was not quite over how intensely hot he looked in his outfit. Casually screaming he deserves an Oscar for his. . . well hotness.

He just stood there looking neither interested nor disinterested. You really can’t read him at all. It’s just impossible.

Does he think this is all bullshit?

Either way, I didn’t think he would sign up for our club. He certainly was not the kind of person who would easily open up just by watching a short video clip no matter how cool and thought-provoking it could be. Let alone strangers.

When Shirley finished explaining, Marlon exclaimed enthusiastically regardless he understood the whole point or not, “Well, why not?! This is just awesome. Put my name in there, Sophia.” He turned to me grandly. “And August’s too.”

August?

I looked up to him to see what he thought. He was already frowning at Marlon.

“It’s just talking, dude.” Marlon assured him under his breath in secret and casually slapped him on his back.

In return, Augustine simply rolled his eyes. He didn’t object either when I wrote his name in the register.


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