Chapter 36 - Kristopher's Apology
"I wanna go home already." I said, directing my words towards my cousin.
It was after school hours and we were sitting on the school's rooftop. This was Tops' brilliant idea.
"Just stay with me until she comes." He pleaded, squinting his eyes and clasping his hands as if he was praying.
I stifled a groan.
"You're such a wuss."
He rolled his eyes at me before turning to Kristina's direction. He sent her an apologetic smile. "Sorry to take some of your time, Tinz. I know how busy you are."
She just shook her head and smiled at him kindly. "It's fine. Anne actually asked Ella and I this morning to help set you two up too. So, I'm kinda doing this favor for her."
Why would they even need us to set them up? They could just arrange their meeting all by their selves. What are we, their secretaries?
Wusses, the both of them.
"Really?" He asked her, his eyes widening in glee. It was the first time he was hearing this. "Wow. I mean. Wow. She herself asked that? She wanted to meet with me today without knowing I wanted to meet with her today too?"
Kristina gave him an encouraging smile as she nodded. I sighed.
The two of them have been planning this for weeks. They dragged it too long. I already know they were gonna make up. I don't need to witness any more unnecessary drama.
Release me from this boredom. I wanna go home and sleep.
"I feel so positive all of a sudden." Tops' smile was so wide. I sighed again.
"When Anne comes, can I slam your heads together?"
Because you two are just ridiculous.
He looked like he was about to retort but then Kristina narrowed her eyes at me; a look of disapproval forming on her face.
She was rooting for them so much. I was just tired of all the drama because I already knew the outcome.
"Don't say that." She said, folding her arms against her chest.
I suppressed a sigh, and after staring at that expression for a few seconds, I lowered my head unknowingly.
"...sorry," I mumbled under my breath.
"I still can't believe it." Tops began again, his excitement so clear in his voice. "It's finally happening. After three long years of ignoring each other. We're gonna talk. But will it be alright? Will we be alright? I mean, I don't wanna get my hopes up too high or anything but..."
"Calm down Kristopher," she laughed lightly. "You guys are gonna be fine. You'll make up. Ella's gonna be bringing her here any minute. They just stopped by somewhere first."
"What do you plan on telling her anyway?" I asked, stretching my legs on the floor. "After apologizing to her, are you gonna confess?"
I'm kinda sure he was.
I mean, I know this idiot.
He made a weird chuckle before shaking his head slowly, his head lowering in guilt. "Being her best friend again is enough for me. I thought about everything I want to tell her. I hope I can tell her everything and apologize properly. She deserves it. And besides. That small crush I had on her was like what, three years ago? I'm already over it."
I want to take my shoe off and slap it right across his face.
"Small crush my foot." I scoffed.
"It's true." He insisted. "I just want us to make up. I don't have any other motive."
I shook my head and stared at my cousin seriously. He did the same and kept being stubborn.
"You still like the same girl after twelve years. Don't deny it. You're whipped, Tops."
I can still remember him gushing about Anne like it was yesterday.
He scoffed a few times, awkward scoffs, and cleared his throat as he sent me a weak glare. "Like you're any better."
I raised a brow. "What's that supposed to mean?"
A triumphant grin then appeared on his features as he motioned to the girl beside me. Don't go there. "It means we're just the same, stupid."
Silently glaring at him due to my defeat, Kristina suddenly rested her chin on my shoulder.
She then looked up to my face, her eyes batting slowly and the corners of her lips curling up into an innocent smile.
"Danny is whipped?" She asked in a teasing manner; her hand setting on my other shoulder.
Did she... Did she just call me Danny?
Why do I feel embarrassed all of a sudden?
I gulped as I stared at her. Her face was so near mine, and she didn't seem to care that there was practically no space between us anymore.
What is she doing to me?
I felt my face heat up when she smiled, emphasizing her gorgeous features.
Why did she have to look so pretty?
When I realized that she was doing this on purpose, I narrowed my eyes at her, but my heart was beating so fast. She was teasing me.
She just stuck her tongue out in reply.
"My point exactly." Tops spoke up, giving her a look of approval. I almost forgot he was still there.
Kristina took her hand and chin off my shoulders and scooted over to a reasonable distance. She was quietly laughing at my reaction to her actions.
Tease or not, I wish she didn't move away.
"Anyway," Tops said again. "I admit it. I am whipped. But only because I'm willing to do anything to be friends with her again. We've known each other since we were kids. I don't want our friendship to go to waste."
I wasn't convinced in the slightest.
Has he seen what Kristina's done to me? He's in no better position than I am. I'm pretty sure that if I'm going down, he's going down with me.
Not that it's such a bad thing.
"You sure that's the only reason?" I asked with a suggestive tone.
"Cut it out Danny." He sighed. He paused for a few seconds before he continued. "I used to love her, okay? I wanted to confess back then. You know that. But that was years ago. When I saw that she kept our picture, it gave me hope. We can finally make up and be just like before. Maybe. Maybe she'll forgive me, maybe she won't, but that's okay. Because I'm going to drop my pride and do everything I can just so she can come back to being my best friend again. Just like before. I'm over my little infatuation, please. That was years ago."
He had a point so I nodded at his words, but I knew better. I'm his cousin and I grew up with him. And like he said, we were just the same.
"Twelve years later and you're still messing up with your words, Tops." I shook my head. He looked confused.
"And why is that?"
I shot him a triumphant grin as I folded my arms against my chest. "Because you still love her."
As soon as I said that, the door behind us opened. Ella just came in with Anne.
The look on Tops' face when he saw her was indescribable. He looked too surprised. I thought he was prepared?
Anne walked towards our direction as confident as she always was and looked at my cousin with a calm expression.
You can cut the air with this kind of tension.
"Tops." She said.
He stood up quickly, his eyes not leaving hers for even a moment. It was the first time she called him his nickname in front of him after three years.
"Anne." He said.
They were looking at each other in silence for a rather long time. I sighed lazily.
I took Kristina's hand and pulled her up. "Finally we can leave."
"Be friendly you two!" Ella said as the three of us exited the scene.
Just right before closing the door, I called my cousin's attention and nodded at Anne. She looked calm, but calm Anne usually wasn't very safe. She looked like she was ready to skewer him alive.
But that's his problem.
"I'll collect your bones later. Bye."
She's here. Oh my God. She's here.
She called me Tops.
I was prepared with everything I wanted to say in an organized fashion but as soon as I saw her face, my mind completely went blank.
I was too stunned. It felt like I was hit by a brick.
We've been in the same classroom for weeks, but this exact moment felt like I was meeting her again after a long, long time.
I held my breath. She's even more beautiful now than ever.
"Because you still love her."
Damn it Danny.
You know me too well.
It was so quiet, and I couldn't breathe. I lost all my words. I forgot what I was supposed to say.
Anne approached me and folded her arms, her eyes not leaving mine. She looked determined, and that scared me for some reason.
Was she determined to make up, or was she determined to tell me to get lost and never bother her again?
All my positivity from earlier disappeared just like that.
"I have a lot of things I want to say." She started, coming off a little too strongly.
I was intimidated. My heart was pounding. This doesn't sound so good.
And she has every right to be.
She took a deep breath as I held my own. I had to stop myself from wincing. Here it comes.
"Tops, you're an idiot."
Well, after everything that happened, I kinda agree. I slid my hand inside my pocket and clenched my fist.
"Elaborate." I replied. I wanted to hear her side of the story. The most important one.
She raised her brows while her eyes stayed doe. She took a deep breath again before continuing. Was it hard to breathe for her too?
"You were an idiot for getting mad at me three years ago." She started.
I nodded as I lowered my head. Where was she going with this?
"You were an idiot for thinking I was in love with Danny. You were an idiot for blaming him and kicking him out of your house, your own cousin. You were an idiot for saying all those things and leaving without a proper goodbye."
Her words were like knives, stabbing me every time she threw them at me. Remembering my mistakes hurt enough, but hearing it from her had twice the impact.
But she never tore her eyes off me. I wanted to look away but I couldn't. She was too dazzling.
"I'm not finished." She said, hardening her gaze. I nodded as I lowered my head again. I deserved this. If she wasn't planning on forgiving me, then I deserved it.
"You were also an idiot for accepting that agent's offer, thinking it'll impress me and Danny somehow."
She was so straigtforward with her words. She hasn't changed a bit. Why can't I be like her? Why can't I just tell her everything and get it over with?
Why am I such a coward?
"But yeah, you did make us proud." She said. "For discovering your talent and polishing it all on your own."
A warm smile softened her expression. The transition made my heart skip as I quietly listened.
"You got this far. You did a great job, Tops. I'm proud of you. I'm sure everyone back home is proud of you too. You did great."
She was smiling at me with such kind eyes. I felt like my chest was getting pricked by a thousand needles. My throat was getting tighter.
She shouldn't be kind to me. She shouldn't be showing me that smile. I was horrible to her. I was horrible.
"I'm happy you achieved your dream, and your goals are higher now, I suppose." She said, looking up as if to think. "You're a big star in the entertainment industry. I heard you're helping Danny in their company by buying their stocks too. You've come a long way, Tops."
I knitted my brows and held my breath. Her kind words were killing me.
I can't breathe.
She sighed and the smile never left her face. "What happened between us... Let's forget about it."
How could I just forget about it? I'm guilty as hell and I can't forgive myself for making her go through all that.
"Let's pretend it never happened."
I winced, because to me it sounded like she was telling me to forget about the times we spent together in the past.
It sounded like she wasn't just telling me to forget about the bad times, it was as if she was telling me to forget about the good times as well.
I didn't want that.
"I'm sorry." I said, cutting her off. I was panicking. "Anne, I'm sorry. I didn't mean those horrible things I said to you. I was angry and I wasn't thinking. I'm sorry for pushing you away so many times. I'm sorry for accusing you of things you weren't and things you didn't do. I'm sorry for always being jealous of Danny because he was closer to you. And that jealousy led me to do what I did. I'm a jerk. I'm a stupid jerk. I'm sorry. Anne I'm so, so sorry."
My head kept lowering and lowering every time I said sorry. I was this close to bowing down. I was even prepared to get on my knees. The guilt was too strong. It intensified when she sent me those kind words and showed me those kind eyes.
I didn't deserve it.
I was staring at my feet, still panicking. I said it was okay if she didn't forgive me, but it wasn't okay to forget everything.
Before I could continue because I still had a lot more things to apologize for, I felt a pair of warm arms wrap around me.
My eyes widened in shock when I realized that Anne was hugging me. Her hand was on the nape of my neck and the other was on my back.
"You didn't let me finish." She said, her voice gentle. I nodded, too stunned to speak. My face was buried on her neck. My whole body was filled with complex emotions. I almost felt like crying. "Mom misses you. She said you never call her anymore."
I held my breath.
That was because I was ashamed to. After what I did to her daughter? What mother would want to talk to me?
"The staff in your house miss you a lot too." She continued. "They said you never came back home after you left. You didn't even tell them you were leaving."
Anne pulled me closer. She sighed as she clenched her fist on my uniform. I could tell she was just trying her best to stay composed. That's how she's always been.
"I miss you." She said, her voice breaking into a sob. A lump formed in my throat when she said this.
"I miss you, you idiot. I hate you for hurting me. I hate you for leaving me. But I miss you. I freaking miss you."
My hands that seemed lifeless just a while ago reached to her face. I slightly broke the hug so I could look at her.
Her eyes were brimming with tears as she looked into my own, but I could tell she was holding it in. Her lips were quivering.
I cupped her cheeks and felt my chest tighten. I don't deserve this girl at all. She's too good for me.
"I'm sorry." I said, unable to control my breathing. "I miss you too. You have no idea how much I miss you. I hate myself for making you cry when I left. I swear I'm never doing that again. I'm sorry. Anne, I'm sorry."
She didn't say anything after that. She just pulled me into another hug. She was burying her face on my shoulder, and I could feel her wiping her eyes on my uniform.
I made her cry again.
It had been a few minutes of silence since we remained in that position. The hug made me both happy and sad. I can't understand this feeling right now.
She then slowly pulled away from the hug. I loosened my hold on her. "I still have something to say."
She was sniffling. I just felt guiltier by the second.
"Go on," I said, carefully.
She looked at me dead in the eye and said with such seriousness in her tone, "you're still an idiot."
And with that, the both of us broke into a small fit of laughter.
It wasn't because it was funny, but because we both knew we were okay now. It was a laugh to release all the tension from all those years.
It was a small laugh because the both of us were emotionally exhausted. How long have we waited for this moment?
"You were an idiot for leaving even after I went after you." She said, sadly.
I recalled that moment in my room and released a frustrated sigh.
"I know. I'm sorry." I apologized.
"It's been three years," she sighed heavily, as if she was releasing the breath she's been holding. "We're not kids anymore. We realize a lot of things as we grow older. And growing up sucks."
I just smiled as I quietly listened to her. She was just too lovely despite having just cried.
"I'm not kidding." She said, smiling with tears in her eyes. "You're still an idiot."
My insides twisted into knots. The guilt was killing me. What hurt me most was seeing her smile after getting hurt that much. I felt so sorry to her, and sorry for myself.
I was such a coward back then. After all those years of thinking, I know I changed. It took a lot of time, but I changed. I didn't want to be the same old coward anymore.
I changed, for her.
It had always been for her.
I ran a thumb across her cheek to wipe away a tear. I've never held her like this before, yet it felt so natural. "I know, and I'm still in love with you."
When I said that, her eyes widened in surprise. The smile she had on turned into an o shape.
Everything I've done back then until now was childish and foolish. If this was some other girl, she probably wouldn't want to speak to me ever again.
But this was Anne. Anne was a kind person, a very forgiving person to people who didn't deserve such things. People like me.
I'm glad the person I'm in love with isn't just some other girl. I'm glad it's Anne.
"I don't deserve you." I chuckled weakly. She was just staring at me in anticipation like a lost puppy.
I held her shoulders and leaned forward so I can look at her eyes better. They were damp, glassy, beautiful.
"I don't get why you look so surprised. I was so obvious since back then." I laughed, shaking my head. She was petrified in my arms. "I love you, Anne. Not as a kid anymore, but as a man. But I guess, you're only finding out about it now, huh?"
She was just silent so I continued.
"I still have that t-shirt you bought for me that I stupidly threw on the ground back then. I kept it. It doesn't fit anymore, but it's still in my closet. It's precious to me because it was from you."
She was just staring at me, her lips still quivering and the tears flowing down her cheeks once again. I hope that was a good thing.
I smiled warmly at her as I placed the loose hair on her face behind her ears.
Only now did I realize how tall I've gotten. Because right now, she looked so small in my arms.
She sniffled again as I held back a laugh. God, this was the best day of my life.
"I'm not the little prince anymore," I told her, teasing her a bit. She used to call me that when we were kids. "But I remember promising that I'll take care of you when we get older. May I keep that promise?"
She bit her lip, unable to stop the quivering. She just nodded in reply.
She had no idea how happy I was right now.
"Tops... Are you being serious right now? Please don't joke around..." She asked, her voice shaking. Her cheeks were flushed and I was still rejoicing at the fact that she was flustered because of me.
I nodded and laughed slowly. I hate how Danny always figured what was in my mind. He totally predicted what I'd do. This wasn't part of my plan.
"Yes." I said. "And if you'd allow me to, I want to court you. Old-fashioned as it may seem, it's the best way to show you my sincerity."
She was speechless.
I bet it was hard to process everything that I was saying. I apologized and confessed all in one day. Danny predicted it. Damn him.
"I don't know if you feel the same way for me," I mumbled, a bit shy in my words now. "But I'm going to make you fall for me whether you like it or not. So be prepared."
She seemed like she finally snapped out of her trance when she gently punched my chest. "Stop saying your cheesy lines from your movies."
I held her hand and looked her in the eyes. I've never felt this determined in my life. "Anne, I'm serious. I love you."
It took her a little while to process everything. And after that, she looked at me with the same determined expression.
"Well if that's the case," she said, clearing her throat and looking at me quite smugly now. Uh-oh. "I'm going to give you a pretty damn hard time."
I laughed, hugging her tighter. "That's what I'm expecting. But you're totally worth it."
She laughed as well and returned my hug.
All the weight inside my chest lifted. I felt like I could breathe again. And there was this huge bubble of excitement growing inside me.
Anne was wrong when she said I had achieved my dream. I haven't yet. I was still chasing my dream.
She was my dream.
And I'm sure she's gonna make it one hell of a chase.
"I hope they made up." I said as I climbed to my bed and kicked my slippers off.
We just had dinner and were now relaxing in my room. I keep thinking about Anne and Kristopher. I really hope it went well.
Daniel sat on my chair near my study desk and sighed. He was playing with one of my plush toys again. When did he take it?
He seemed so fond of them. Maybe I should just give it to him.
"I'm sure they're in a crying and hugging mess right now. Don't worry." He said, squeezing my bunny plush toy. "Tops must have also confessed his undying love to her as well, since he's corny like that."
"How are you so sure?" I asked, still feeling a bit worried. What if they didn't make up? It'll be so awkward in class. And their friendship would go to waste.
He stopped playing with the bunny and sent me a lazy grin. That expression strangely comforted me of my worries. "Because I know them."
That short and simple answer made me sigh in relief. He was right. He knew them.
That's the reason why those two keep sticking to him. He may look and sound like he doesn't care, but I know he does. More than anyone.
Seeing my relieved smile made him smile too. I can't help but feel happy whenever he mirrors my smiles.
"So," he started, sounding all casual and nonchalant. The previous topic was settled, so he tried to jump into the next one. His gaze was fixed on the plush toy. "Do you love me?"
I almost burst into tears.
Tears of laughter.
He said it smoother than the cream cheese on the bagel I had for dessert.
I let out a snort because I couldn't completely hold in my laughter. It was so hilarious. And it was so fun having the upper hand this time.
I don't know where I suddenly got this wave of confidence to tease him about it, but I was certainly enjoying it. I didn't know how long it'd last until he's had enough but oh well.
Taste your own medicine, you butthead.
"Let's see." I said, pressing my finger to my chin and pretending to think. Without even a few seconds of thought, I shook my head. "Huh. I don't even like you."
"Owww." He said, at the same time clutching his chest. The plush toy fell on the floor but he was too distracted acting out his feelings to notice. "That nearly hurt as much as my heart when you just ripped it out."
I stifled my laughter again but maintained a cool expression as I shrugged at him.
He was being sarcastic, but I could feel the weight of those words. I could tell the pout on his face was genuine too.
It's fine. I'm just gonna have him wait a bit more until I give in. This was just too fun a time to pass up.
I motioned for him to come closer and lay down with me because I was already getting sleepy. He sent me a stubborn look because of what I said but complied to my wishes anyway.
I laid my head against his shoulder and draped my arm and leg on his body. He was my human-teddy bear.
His expression was still too serious.
He was sulking.
I hid a laugh as I looked up at him again, smiling. He saw what I was doing from the corner of his eye but cleared his throat and ignored it.
He's resisting but I know he's not gonna last long.
So I snuggled closer to his chest and kept looking at him, my eyes batting ridiculously. I almost laughed at my actions but Daniel's reactions were much, much funnier.
I could feel his heavy breathing since my head was on his chest. I placed my hand there and patted him gently.
A few more seconds and he was still ignoring me. Not for long though.
I was feeling both brave and happy, and I myself couldn't control my actions anymore.
I carried my weight slightly to reach his face and then planted a quick kiss in his cheek.
He sighed heavily and turned his head to tell me off but I didn't give him the chance to. As soon as he turned his head, I kissed his lips quickly.
He didn't blink.
Oh God I wanna laugh so bad.
My hand was on his chest so I could feel how fast his heartbeats were. Mine was beating just as fast but he didn't need to know that.
After sending him an innocent smile, he sighed heavily and placed his hand on the back of my head. He then pulled me closer and hid my face on his neck.
Probably because he was weak and couldn't look at me right now.
"Good night, Danny," I teased, my voice muffled because my face was buried between his neck and shoulder.
"You're horrible." He mumbled. I giggled in reply as I tightened the hug.
I know, but you love me anyway.