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Chapter 9

Returns.“That was fun.” He says. He hands back her ID card and she gives him his.

“We’re lucky the guards don’t check the pictures.” She replies.

“Good thing my classmates didn’t check on it, either.” She adds.

“My friends have seen your picture hanging on my neck.” He says, rather too enthusiastically.

“What the hell. And what did you tell them?”

“I told them you asked me to swap IDs.”

She hits him with the cord.

After-Visits. He sits at home on his laptop like he usually does. Tomorrow is his birthday and tomorrow they have a retreat. His mom comes through the door and asks him something.

“How was the visit in the hospital?”

“She looks fine.” He says, eyes on his screen. “I don’t think she’ll be discharged tomorrow though.”

Her mom doesn’t answer. He eyes her and sees her doing something in the kitchen. A few seconds later she hands him a plastic bag containing food. He purses his lips because though he doesn’t ask, he has an idea of what it was about. His house is near the hospital, and he can walk just fine.

“You and your friends didn’t bring her something when you visited earlier, didn’t you?”

“We did!”

“Well, it’s your birthday tomorrow.”

He doesn’t answer. He continues to play the game. It gets a little dark outside, so he looks at the plastic bag. He goes out and doesn’t change his clothes. When he reaches the hospital, he stood outside the doors, quite unsure if he could really go back to seeing her without company. He sees her cousin instead. The cousin is a classmate of his sister. That cousin recognizes him too.

“Hey.” The cousin says first.

“Hey.” He replies. “Ah, this is for her.” He hands the food.

“I think you should give it to her.”

“I don’t really think so.” He replies.

“I really do think so.” The cousin replies.

“I’m… kind of in a hurry.” He says, and smirks to himself after realizing it was a stupid comeback. If he was in a hurry, he wouldn’t have tried to walk from his house at all.

The cousin thankfully doesn’t push. Though there was a hint of something on his face: the thing he sees on most of his classmates. The cousin accepts the food and goes back inside.

“Thanks.” The cousin says. “I’ll tell her you can’t come alone because you’re shy.”

“Oh, please don’t.” He replies.

The cousin laughs. “Just kidding.”

He waits for a moment before leaving. He walks back to his home. When he arrives, he finds a text message.

“Thanks.” She says. His hands lock on the keypad for a moment. He purses his lips and puts the phone down instead. He gets his things ready for the retreat.

Visitors. There were visitors in his house. They were people in suits and dresses waiting for his sister. They were invited to a debut, and his sister was still not ready. He was in his room when the sister peeks inside.

“Heeeeey.” His sister says. “You’re classmate’s here, why don’t you come out?” She says teasingly.

He doesn’t respond to her. A few minutes later, he gets hungry. He decides to come out. He sees her there in a simple white dress. Why was she there, anyway?

She remembers the debutante’s little sister was her friend. It isn’t much of a surprise.

But he was still surprised, anyway. Well, kind of. He doesn’t show it, though.

“Woah you actually look decent.” He says, teasing her.

She doesn’t say anything but she looks at him cautiously. He looks away a little too fast and heads to the kitchen. When he goes back to his room, he doesn’t look at her direction.

A few minutes later, her sister was finally ready. His father starts up the car so they will be taken to the party. He becomes their assistant. They were in formal outfits and he was wearing shorts. He opens up the car door and they get inside. She was last to enter. They both don’t say anything as they get close. Before he closes the door, he looks at her for some time.

Plain white dresses suit her, he thinks. But he doesn’t tell her that.

First Days. “How was your first day of school?” He asks as they sit by the stairs one late afternoon.

“Neutral.” She replies.

“I have a friend from the other class that I think you’ll like.” He says teasingly.

“You don’t know my type.”

“No. He’s pretty much like me. So I know you’ll like him… A lot”

He is nudged by the shoulder, but he can feel her laugh.

Studying. She watches him one afternoon. He was goofing off with his friends in the hallways, and she was sitting on the floor along with hers. They were studying. She was holding the periodic table of elements in her hand and she was familiarizing it. A few seconds later, her friends go inside because they claim it was too noisy. It’s too hot inside, she comments.

He sits down quite far from her and she doesn’t notice him until he speaks. “You look lonely.”

“I’m not lonely.” She replies. Her eyes turn away from the bunch of boys and she looks at him for the first time.

He doesn’t reply and his eyes focus on his own periodic table of elements.

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