Chapter 16 - The Confrontation
• 6 years old •
"You're Daniel right?" I asked the weird kid sitting near the big tree. "I'm Kristopher."
He looked up from his boring book to look at me and then he went back to his boring reading again. I sighed really really big. I mean, I so don't wanna talk to him. He's so quiet. He's a weirdo.
He moved in with his dad last week and he still won't talk to us. Daddy said he was my cousin. Well I don't believe him.
I saw Anne with her demonic twin cousins. They were friends. But that kid, Daniel. We're not friends.
So that means we're not cousins. Obviously.
I groaned really really loud. He just reads that boring book everyday in our garden and he won't talk to me or Anne.
He's a super mean kid.
I didn't know I was making a lot of annoyed groans until Daniel sighed. I stopped. He looked like he was about to say something.
I watched his mouth in slow motion, and I heard his voice for the first time.
I shut up and stared at him. Oh man. He talked! I mean, I made him talk!
I looked behind me and smiled excitedly at Anne. She was the one who forced me to talk to him. And I did it!
"Go on!" She whispered. She looked pretty happy when she saw him finally not ignore me. I smiled stupidly. She's really pretty.
I nodded and looked at Daniel again. Okay. I gotta make him talk again. And make Anne make that pretty smile again.
"So why are you hanging around here?" I asked. "It's hot out here."
He stopped for a second and looked kinda sad. I dunno.
I scrunched my nose. "What? You wanna poopy?"
He was quiet. Why is it so hard to talk to him?
"Soo," I mumbled, thinking of what to say next. "Do you like it out here? In our garden?"
He didn't say anything but he nodded. Well, at least we're, ugh, what was the word... commuting? No, it has something to do with Kate. Kate? Huh? Who the heck was Kate?
Ah! I meant communicating. We're communicating. That's right. I'm a genius. Mrs. Jennings would be so proud of me for remembering that word.
"Why?" I asked. "I think flowers are too girly and lame. Why would you like a place like this?"
"Poopy." He said again.
Ehh. He's really a weirdo.
I wanna give up but Anne told me to be friends with him. Ughhhhhhh. So I did what she told me to.
"What 'cha reading?" I asked, trying to get his attention.
He ignored me.
I sat down beside him and peeked at the page he was reading. I made a blech sound.
"Ew, why are there no pictures?"
He ignored me again.
I pouted. He's so weird. I remembered something and then I thought of a really really smart plan.
I stood up and ran to my room, took my favorite manga out and ran back to the weirdo. I'm gonna show him what a real fun book looks like.
I dropped them in front of him. He was about to ignore me again but I didn't let him. I snatched his boring book from his hands and threw it away.
He slowly looked up at me with his zombie eyes, like he was asking me why the heck I did that.
I wonder why though. I just saved him from extreme boringness. He should be thankful.
"Read those." I said, pointing at my mangas called, Dark Magician. Daddy bought me these 'cause he thought they were cool. Well they were.
Well, I don't actually read them 'cause reading is hard. I just like the pictures and I get the story with just the pitures.
It took him a minute before he finally picked one up. He flipped through the pages and his eyebrows went up.
"Why are there pictures?" He looked at them weirdly.
And then I looked at him weirdly. "Because they're not boring?"
He wasn't listening to me. I rolled my eyes. Weirdo meanie.
"You're reading it wrong." I said. "You're supposed to read it backwards."
He ignored me but he did what I said anyway. I waited for some time and then I saw his zombie eyes look not zombie anymore.
"Do you like it?" I asked, getting excited. This is the first time I let someone read my favorite manga other than Anne. But Anne didn't like it. I hope he does.
He ignored me but kept reading anyway.
Me and Anne looked at each other and just giggled.
I think I just made a friend.
• Twelve years old •
"Bloody chicken! Dude, how are you even-- ugh." I groaned as I dropped my controller. He beat me again!
No emotion was on his face as he set down his controller too. I just showed him how to play the game once but he got the hang of it real quick!
I climbed up to my bed and lied down. I'm bored of playing video games. I always lose anyway. I wonder what we should do next.
"Tops," I heard an angelic voice call my name from the door. Anne was there, a light smile on her pretty face. "Mom said your lesson's gonna start in ten minutes."
I nodded. Her mom was my private tutor. Mrs. Jennings taught me stuff since I was six and I honestly don't remember most of them.
I wanted to go to school so I can be with Anne and Danny too but dad won't allow it. He wanted me to concentrate on my education by staying at home. Or something like that.
When she left, I just kept staring at the door. She's so pretty. Anne's so pretty. She gets even prettier every time I see her. I'm so glad she tags along with her mom to come here and play.
I heard a snort. It was my dumb cousin, making fun of me again.
"You can never say no to her."
"Well duh," I said, throwing my pillow at him. "That's because she's right."
"Oh yeah?" He threw the pillow back.
"Anne's always right." I caught the pillow and set it on my lap. "Even when she's wrong, she's right. Girls are always right."
Danny looked confused. He made a face before he yawned, making it look obvious that he was getting bored at where this was going. "You're kidding."
"I'm not!" I argued, gripping the pillow on my lap. "Dad said, if we want to keep the girl, we should always agree with them. And let them win at stuff."
He didn't look convinced in the slightest. He shook his head a couple of times. "Lame. If you like her, shouldn't you just tell her?"
I felt my cheeks heat up. Oh man. Why is this conversation so embarrassing?
"It's not that easy you stupid jerk." I spat childishly. Then I sighed. "What about you? Have you ever confessed to a girl before?"
He was quiet for a while. I sat up straight and observed his actions. He had that same sad look in his eyes whenever I ask him about stuff like this.
"Yeah. But it wasn't serious. I was still a kid back then."
I nodded quietly. If he's thinking about the same girl every time we enter this topic, then he must be miserable. I mean, the same girl ever since he was six?
I shuddered. I could say the same about myself but... ughh.
We're so lame.
"Is it that Poopy?" I asked carefully. He always said her name when we were little, but he barely spoke about her.
Honestly though, I used to think it was a code when he wanted to take a dump or something.
A small smile appeared on his face, which was pretty creepy since he rarely smiled but whatever. He only showed that expression whenever we talked about her.
"Yeah. That Poopy."
"Hm," I mumbled, playing with my fingers. "Did you say you liked her or did you say you loved her?"
He looked at me weirdly. "Why does it matter?"
"Well there's a difference right? I wanna say it right the first time I confess." I explained. But another reason was because I was curious.
His ears turned red and I wanted to tease him but I held back because he might not tell me if I did tease him.
I think he was about to tell me but Anne knocked again. "Tops! Mom's waiting!"
I made a mental groan. Almost had him.
"Coming." I mumbled.
As I made my way out my room, Anne went in and sat beside Danny. They started talking about stuff that happened in their school and as usual, I felt a tiny hurt in my chest.
I'm jealous at Danny for getting to spend time with her at school and even here in my own house.
I wanted to stay and butt in in their conversation so I won't feel left out, but I had no choice. I had my own lessons to attend to.
It wasn't fair.
But I trusted Danny. He knew how much I liked Anne, and he didn't show any interest in her or any other girl, ever. I'm thinking he's still hung up on that Poopy chick. Weird nickname but whatever.
I left them and went downstairs, where Mrs. Jennings was frowing at me already for being late.
• Fifteen years old •
"Are you serious?" Danny asked as the three of us sat around the dining table. I just told them some surprising news. "Someone actually thinks you look good?"
I hit his arm as Anne giggled. Oh, God. Her smile.
"But isn't this awesome?" She said, smiling her gorgeous smile at us. "You were scouted to be a model or actor or whatever without that agent knowing who your dad was!"
I nodded, matching her enthusiasm. I'm so proud at myself for making her proud of me.
"So?" Danny inquired. "You gonna accept the offer or what?"
I held the back of my neck. "I don't know honestly. I don't really like all the attention. And being famous is a bother, isn't it?"
I directed the question at the both of them. Danny was famous throughout the UK for his brains-- he was a prodigy. And Anne was pretty well-known too because she was the niece of a huge tycoon.
They often went home with a swarm of people behind them, taking pictures and stuff. There was like, zero privacy.
I don't think I can get out of my comfort zone and handle stuff like that.
Anne shrugged her shoulders as Danny sighed.
Even though it's a bother, I still want to belong in the same league as them. I want to make a name for myself.
I want to impress Anne.
"If I do accept his offer though," I recalled what the guy told me. "He said I'd be making my debut in New York."
When I said that, my best friends stopped and looked at me surprised. Subconsciously, I became defensive.
"I mean, that's only if I accept his offer. You know I rarely go out of the house, much more go to another country. Don't worry."
They nodded quietly. I think I made a mistake telling them. Maybe? Because they looked so upset right now.
"I'm not going to accept his offer." I said with finality.
"No Tops," Anne said, holding my hand. I felt my skin tingle from her touch. Her hand was so soft. "If you want to do it, go for it."
I nodded quietly. Even though she said that, her expression looked like it was forced out of her.
I clenched my fists.
I'm not going anyway. There's no need to think much of this. There's no need to get upset over what she said and didn't say.
Honestly, no need.
But still, I thought she'd be genuinely happy for me.
After that discussion, Mrs. Jennings called Anne and told us they were going home. We said our goodbyes and then Danny and I went to my room to hang out.
I felt like my chest was getting heavier by the minute. Did I do something wrong?
Weeks passed since that happened. I found articles in the internet about Danny and Anne together.
The media was bursting with curiosity if the prodigy and the niece of a tycoon were going out or not.
I knew they were just tabloids, baseless rumours, but still.
I wanted to be a part of it.
I shook my head. No. Stop thinking about stupid stuff. Ugh. If only I could just confess.
But I'm scared.
If she doesn't feel the same, she might not come here anymore. Our years of friendship might go to waste.
It was a huge risk, and I didn't want to take it just yet. Not when I'm not worthy enough to confess to someone like her.
And about those rumors.
I trust Danny. I know he won't lay his hands on her. He wouldn't. He's Danny. Of course he wouldn't.
He'd never betray me.
And just right after I convinced myself of that trust, a week later, I saw him and Anne in a warm and tight embrace.
In my own house.
I didn't know what happened, but he just held her like that, not knowing I was in the room.
Anne even said something like he understood her better than me.
He was better than me.
I was confused, hurt, angry.
Only one thing came to mind, and it echoed until I finally let out a frustrated tear.
I trusted him.
I trusted him.
I trusted him.
Everything just fell apart at that moment. And at that moment, everything changed among the three of us. Things...
Things just changed.
I made up my mind and called that agent, since the offer was still up. I packed my bags and went to New York after that event. I didn't speak or meet with Anne or Danny since.
I decided. The next time I see them, I'll be successful. And I'll be worthy enough to stand beside them.
Anne won't say Danny's better than me ever again. I'll show Danny I can do a whole lot more if I put my mind to it. He only had to watch.
• Present •
I got up from bed lazily before yawning. What time is it? I think I had a dream. What was it again? I don't remember at all.
I prepared for school in about fifteen minutes and then I had my driver drop me off at school.
I'm still a bit weak in the morning, but I have to keep my energy up to achieve my goal.
Students greeted me as I entered the gates. The crowd wasn't as big as the first time I entered, but it was at least bearable now.
I was used to it.
I saw Danny and Tinz walking a few meters in front of me, but I didn't make my presence known just yet.
They claimed to hate each other, or annoyed at each other or something, based on my sources (girls' gossip) but they were always together. Why?
"Because I'm her fiance, that's why." His words echoed inside my head.
I snorted. Fiance. Sure.
Do they realize how unbelievable that sounds?
It goes against this country's culture. Asian countries and other countries, sure, since it was their culture and tradition to arrange marriages, but this country? Yeah, no.
And this school.
I used to think it was weird for everybody to just accept the fact that there were students in this school engaged in an arranged marriage, but then I thought again.
Nobody is fazed at the fact that those two are engaged because they all think it's a huge joke, or that it was just Danny teasing their student council president to the extreme.
It all made sense that way.
After building up the confidence I already had in me, I dashed towards those two wearing my perfectly practiced smile.
"Good morning Tinz!" I greeted cheerily as I stopped running and started walking beside her. She quietly groaned but I heard it and chuckled. This was fun.
I began some pointless chatter on our way to our classroom when a small crowd of students surrounded her.
They were all reporting stuff and giving her some papers and blah blah stuff that's making me dizzy.
She looked used to it though, and she went ahead with that crowd following behind her.
Danny and I were left behind.
This is gonna be awkward.
As usual, he was quiet as he walked forward. His expression didn't show any sign of annoyance or even interest now that it was just the both of us.
I stifled a sigh.
It's been a while since we walked together like this. The last time was ages ago. Both of us got taller, I noticed.
I was almost about to smile at him like the usual but then I remembered what he did.
Neither of us were the same people anymore.
I gathered more confidence. I'm always intimidated by him. But I won't back down.
I put a hand on his shoulder, making him slow down and look at me curiously. I sent him a sly grin. "Let's talk after class. School garden."
And with that, I went ahead. I think he looked surprised or annoyed-- I don't know, because I didn't dare look back.
I'm never looking back again.
What was that guy scheming? What did he want to talk about? Was he gonna pick a fight?
I walked to my desk without looking at him. I know I'd just glare at him anyway. He's become a rather annoying guy in the two or three years we haven't seen each other.
Was he serious yesterday? Did he really like Poopy? Or was it just to taunt me? Idiots are harder to predict than simpletons.
I was about to take a short nap since it was still a bit early, but then I noticed Poopy enter the classroom, carrying a stack of papers.
She put those papers on the teacher's desk as she began writing something on the word. I can't help thinking...
She looked prettier than usual.
After she was through writing some announcements on the board, two girls from the student council entered our room and talked to her about some stuff.
The way her brows knitted slightly whenever she discussed about council matters was interesting if not appealing.
Her eyelashes were so long that it even brushed her lower lashes whenever she closed her eyes.
And the way she blinked. It was slow, elegant, lovely.
Wasn't I observing her a little too much? Am I getting really bored? How come I noticed those things more than usual? No, I think I've always noticed those things about her, but why am I acknowledging it just now?
I shook my head. This is crazy.
But despite that, I continued staring at her. I found it quite calming and pleasing whenever I look at her. It's a strange yet nostalgic sensation.
My eyes traveled from her eyes, down to her nose and to her lips. Her lips.
She was talking about something to those girls and she let out a small laugh.
I felt my insides clench. She laughed.
I wonder why time seemed to slow down, why I was becoming deaf to my surroundings and why everyone just blurred out of my vision, and my vision was focused on her.
Was I close to faint? Was I sick? Was I still sleepy? Daydreaming? Somehow I feel lightheaded. But my chest was tightening.
Is this some kind of symptom to a disease?
I watched her carefully as she said goodbye to those girls and went back to her seat beside me. I didn't realize she was talking to me because I just kept staring at her.
She was so beautiful. Why am I so amazed?
"Are you sleeping with your eyes open, you zombie?" She said, snickering.
I snapped out of my daze and casually turned around so I won't have to look at her. I don't think I can look at her right now.
What the hell am I so flustered about? Was it because of what happened last night?
I get it. I was just carried away last night because I found out she kept my stuff. And I mean, who wouldn't be touched by something like that?
Ah, my subconscious has spoken. Shut up.
Maybe Aunt Lizzy drugged me? Did she put something in my food while I wasn't looking? I shouldn't be feeling this weird. It's super weird. And tingly.
I risked a glance at her from the corner of my eye. She was looking at me curiously, as if she wanted to ask something.
I think my heart jumped all the way to my throat. I don't how how to explain this. My breathing doesn't seem normal too.
I'm not an idiot. I know I make up a lot of excuses but I don't want to acknowledge something I'm not sure of. And I'm always sure about things.
Do I like her? Is this what liking feels like? I mean, I liked her when we were kids, but it was a different matter now. And that arranged marriage thing is too hard to believe.
Well, do I... like her? Since when? I don't think so. I'm not sure.
I think I had the experience of liking someone at the early age of six, but as a seventeen year old, I doubt the feeling is the same.
Maybe this is just the hormones that comes out during puberty?
I mean what.
I hit my head on my desk. Why am I analyzing it too much? It's all that Tops' fault for making me think like this.
The pain on my head as I hit the hard desk was delayed, and when it arrived I groaned. It hurt. Damn it I'm so stupid.
I heard a sigh beside me and I didn't have to guess to know it was Poopy. She thinks I'm lame. Great.
Did I really like her? Seriously? Or am I just thinking about it too much?
Give me answers, useless brain.
While I was staring blankly into nowhere, waiting until my head stops hurting and hoping some neurons recover from the impact, I noticed Sean.
His eyes were in a daze.
He was always the loudest guy in the room and usually in the center of a group of loud people, usually making really loud noise.
But now, he was silent.
Curious, I followed his gaze and I wasn't too surprised to see that he was staring at Ella, who was currently laughing with some friends.
I looked at Sean again. There was a kind of longing in his eyes that I found somehow familiar. Is that also what I looked like while I was staring at Poopy earlier?
Sean noticed that I was looking at him. He flinched and quickly looked away, red traveling up to his ears.
So he really did like Ella.
I laid my head against against my arms and closed my eyes.
My head hurts.
"Here," I gave my keys to Poopy as I started to exit the council room. "Just start the car and wait for me."
She looked at me confused, her hand still open, as if she still didn't want to accept my precious car keys. "Why? Where are you going?"
Hm. Didn't think this one through.
"Gonna collect the mangas I lent to some boys in other classes."
She looked suspicious. "Since when did you become friends with--never mind. Alright fine. I'll wait in the car after our meeting."
I nodded as I left the room. Of course that was a lie. But I can't tell her I was meeting with Tops. She'll worry. Or she'll get mad. Or she'll tag along in case we fight or something.
I made my way to the garden at the back of the school, preparing for what that fool had in mind. I didn't trust him. After that event three years ago, I didn't know what to think of him.
When I got there, he was already waiting for me. I had a feeling this was gonna take a while. Good thing Poopy still had her student council duties to attend to.
When he saw me, he put on that annoying fake smile and waved his hands as if he was actually excited to see me. "Hey Danny!"
I just looked at him like the idiot that he was.
"Oh c'mon, stop frowning. Your face looks like steriods gone wrong."
I scoffed. "Do you even know what you're talking about?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "Nah, but it sounds offending doesn't it?"
He just promoted himself into Idiot Level Two.
"Just tell me what you want." I said. He didn't look like he was going to get serious any moment now. But I shouldn't be so sure. After all, he's an actor.
I don't know who this guy is.
He chuckled before walking towards the wall, then leaning his back against it. His expression didn't change. He still wanted to goof around. Was he mocking me?
"Tinz. Cool name ain't it?" He said.
"Lame name." I replied. He laughed.
"At least it's better than Poopy. Seriously." He shook his head in amusement. Before I could say anything else, he continued. "She's actually quite the chick huh?"
Where was he going with this? And I felt highly offended. Calling her a chick was degrading. I feel like I should punch him over something like that.
He rolled his eyes while laughing, as if he was talking to an idiot. "She's got the brains, the pretty face and the perfect body. Yet... pretty as she is, she's also pretty dense."
I let him finish his talk. He knew this was getting to me.
The corner of his lip twitched up as a malicious grin formed on his face. He folded his arms and then he pressed a finger to his bottom lip.
"But that doesn't matter. Dense girls are easier to snatch. She'll be easy."
I could feel anger boiling inside me. My fists balled up and I had to hide them inside my pockets to stop myself from hitting him.
I tried to keep my cool, but it was just too damn hard to do.
When he noticed my reactions, he looked amused. "Oh! I'm sorry, did I hit a nerve? Sorry, sorry."
He will be if he keeps this up.
"I've been traveling throughout the country and even overseas due to my job. I've seen and worked with all types of girls, but I gotta tell you Danny," he smirked, his eyes narrowed. "Tinz was the one to spark my interest. Maybe sparked something else in me. Something she's clearly not used to."
"Get to the point Walls." I said through clenched teeth.
Was this really Tops? Who was this guy?
My face was turning numb from knitting my brows too much, and my eyes were starting to hurt for glaring at him too hard. My knuckles were probably turning white inside my pockets too.
Don't let him get to you.
He seemed so pleased with my reactions. And it annoyed me all the more.
"You asked me what I wanted," he said, stepping forward, still wearing that amused smile. When we were face to face, he raised his head and narrowed his eyes, as if he was looking down on me. I held my breath and restrained myself. I want to beat him up. "Her."
I released my hand from my pocket. Resist. He's doing this on purpose.
He repeated what he said with more malice in his tone. I deserve an award for restraining myself this much.
"I want her Danny. I want that girl. And you're gonna watch me take her away from you. You're gonna see your whole world get snatched away by the person you thought you trusted the most." His cold eyes turned into a glare, matching my own. "Just like what you did to me years ago."